The TableMate

reproduced by kind permission of the Hindsfoot Foundation

A valuable work entitled  The Tablemate was an early AA set of beginners lessons entitled "Alcoholics Anonymous:  An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps," put out in the form of a little pamphlet. It was (and still is) the most successful set of A.A. beginners lessons ever devised. It breaks the twelve steps down into four groups, which are studied over a period of four weeks:

Discussion No. 1.  The Admission.  Step No. 1.
Discussion No. 2.  The Spiritual Phase.  Steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 11.
Discussion No. 3.  The Inventory and Restitution.  Steps No. 4, 8, 9 and 10.
Discussion No. 4.  The Active Work.  Step No. 12.

This little pamphlet was printed and published by AA groups all over the United States, where it became known under a variety of local names:  The Tablemate, the Table Leader's Guide, the Detroit pamphlet, the Washington D.C. pamphlet, the Seattle pamphlet, and so on. The basic text always remained the same. The only local variants came in the little poems and readings which were sometimes printed inside the front and back covers, or between the pages of the four sections.

AA old-timers who knew that period say that everyone acknowledged that it was the AA group in Detroit which originally wrote the lessons and used them, probably in mimeographed form. They began giving beginners lessons in Detroit in June 1943. The first printed version was produced by the AA group in Washington D.C., which sent a copy to Detroit. The AA people there sent that copy to a Detroit printer with instructions to set the type for an exact duplicate (except for putting a Detroit AA mailing address on the front cover).

AA newcomers in South Bend, Indiana, were asked to come to a newcomers meeting on Thursday evenings for a full year. At each meeting, the pamphlet (in the form in which it appears on this website) was passed around the table, with each person in turn reading aloud a small portion of one of the four lessons. Then there was a group discussion. By using a different lesson each week, by the end of the year each lesson had been read through and discussed thirteen times. Busloads of people from treatment centers and halfway houses started being brought in, as news spread of the marvellously successful new beginners lessons.**

The success rate? If newcomers made every week's meeting without fail, by the end of the year 90% of them had remained sober the entire year. Even now, many years later, 90% of those still have unbroken sobriety. That is an overall long term 80% success rate, comparable to the kinds of success rates that were being achieved in early AA times.

Bobby Burger, the secretary at the New York AA headquarters (then called the Alcoholic Foundation) wrote a letter on November 11, 1944, making it clear that the New York office heartily approved of AA groups using the little pamphlet. And if we want real old-time AA. we must read and study the actual words of the good old-timers in our AA meetings. Little pamphlets from the modern New York G.S.O. are not designed to be the kind of good solid meat-and-potatoes literature which must be read and studied and discussed in meetings in order to keep the spirit of original old time AA alive and still save alcoholics from destruction today.

**CAUTION:  To make the South Bend method work, it is necessary that at least three AA people be present at each meeting who have some quality time in the programme, are well founded in AA principles, and know how to speak about them effectively in group meetings. It requires a commitment on the part of the local AA community if they really want to make this work. Otherwise, in spite of the pamphlet, the tendency of the newcomers is invariably to want to spend all their time griping and complaining about minor irritations in their lives, grovelling in self pity about the fact that the people in the halfway house "aren't nice to them," and to go off into other diversions of that sort, until everything breaks down into total ineffectuality.

Can we teach this kind of A.A. today? Absolutely! It is being done by good AA Groups today, including northern Indiana where Hindsfoot is located. When newcomers faithfully attend the once-a-week meeting of an AA group which teaches this kind of A.A., we have found that at the end of the year 90% of them will celebrate a full year of sobriety. Even if they move away and start going to AA meetings elsewhere (based on what is now fifteen years of experience) 90% of those will still remain sober, for an overall long term 80% success rate. This is not based on speculative theories about what A.A. was like in the 1930's and 40's, but is being proven over and over right here in the twenty-first century, in the industrial cities and university towns and farming communities of northern Indiana.
 

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