Biography: “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare”

Biography: “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare” by Robert H. S., M.D., of Akron, Ohio via Silkworth

(OM, p. 183 in 1st edition, p. 171 in 2nd,3rd and 4th editions.
In the OM and 1st edition, it was titled “The Doctor’s Nightmare.”)

Pioneers of A.A.

Dr. Bob and the twelve men and women whose stories are in this section were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups. The third edition introduces this section by saying that they all had passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety. But it is known that Marty M. and Clarence S. were both still living when the third edition was published, and Marty had a later slip of which perhaps the editors of the third edition were unaware.

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“A co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our Society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10, 1935. To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the A.A. message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge. In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends our Fellowship will ever know.”

Dr. Bob met Bill W. and stopped drinking on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1935, but about three weeks later he drank again while on a trip to attend a medical convention. His last drink was June 10, 1935, (or perhaps June 17, 1935, according to some sources).

His son, “Smitty,” described him as a very sensitive man, who loved being a doctor, and as “a man’s man,” who was also very courteous, especially to women. “Women felt comfortable around him, because he so obviously loved my mom.” Smitty also describes him as having a great sense of humor.

He was born on August 8, 1879, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, about one hundred miles northeast of East Dorset, where Bill W. was born. He was the only child, of Judge and Mrs. Walter P. S., who were influential in business and civic affairs. He had a much older foster sister, Amanda Northrup, of whom he was quite fond.

His parents were pillars of the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury. They insisted Bob go to church not only on Sunday, several times during the week. He later rebelled against this and decided he wasn’t going into a church again except for funerals or weddings. And he didn’t — for about forty years. But the religious education stood him in good stead in future years. Smitty said his father was one of the few people he knew who had read the Bible from cover to cover three times.

He entered St. Johnsbury Academy at fifteen. At a dance during his senior year he met Anne Ripley of Oak Park, Illinois, a student at Wellesley on holiday with a friend. It was not a whirlwind marriage. They weren’t married until seventeen years later. He first had to finish his education, and later she may have been reluctant to marry him because of his drinking.

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