Selected Papers of William L. White

Senior Research Consultant

Chestnut Health Systems

Ernie Kurtz


Excerpt from: Ernest Kurtz Profile, Historian as Storyteller and Healer
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“History and imperfection are my specialties—not necessarily in that order.”
–Ernest Kurtz, 1996

The lives of Fr. Edward Dowling, Sr. Mary Ignatia Gavin, Fr. John C. Ford, Fr. Ralph Pfau, Dr. Austin Ripley, Fr. Joseph Martin, Sr. Therese Golden, and the history of Guest House constitute critical chapters in the larger story of the rise of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the role of spirituality in long-term recovery from alcoholism. It is thus quite fitting that Recovery Through Catholic Eyes is dedicated to Ernest Kurtz, the person most singularly responsible for uncovering and telling this larger story.

Ernest Kurtz published his seminal work, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1979 and has continued his writing and teaching on the topics of AA, spirituality, shame, and storytelling. This final chapter of Recovery Through Catholic Eyes explores and honors his ideas, activities, and sustained influence. The chapter contains four sections: 1) a brief biography, 2) a sampling of the topical themes that permeate Kurtz’s work, 3) a profile of Kurtz the man, and 4) an appendix containing a chronology of the Kurtz publications. The chapter is designed to let Kurtz, and those profoundly influenced by him, speak directly to the reader in their own words.

When I began writing a book in the early 1990s on the history of addiction treatment and recovery in America, several people directed me to Ernie Kurtz as the authoritative source. I had no way of knowing that what I expected to be a brief consultation on the history of AA would evolve into a prolonged mentorship, multiple professional collaborations, and an enduring friendship. Through these years, Ernie Kurtz communicated a number of crucial lessons to me about researching and writing history. He repeatedly challenged:

  1. Tell the story chronologically (do not confuse your reader).
  2. Tell the story in context (let your reader know what else is going on around the event you are profiling).
  3. Present the historical evidence (sources)—all the evidence.
  4. Separate statements of fact from conjecture and opinion.
  5. Tell the story from multiple perspectives.
  6. Localize and personalize the story.
  7. Stay connected to your readers—keep them wanting to turn the page to find out what happens next (for an elaboration of these, see White, 2004).

I will try to be faithful to these guidelines in telling Ernie’s own story.

Three sources form the foundation of this chapter: the complete publications of Ernie Kurtz (See appendix), taped and transcribed interviews conducted with Ernie Kurtz in 2008 and 2009, and comments solicited from those who have worked professionally with Ernie Kurtz over the past three decades.


Continue reading the full 22 page Ernie Kurtz profile: View File pdf

Ernie Kurtz at Hazelden, 1981

Personal Tribute

Personal Tribute: Ernie Kurtz (1935-2015) View File pdf
Roger C. Tribute to Ernie Kurtz View File pdf


Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1979

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Shame and Guilt, 2007

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The Collected Ernie Kurtz, 2008

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Kurtz & Ketcham The Spirituality of Imperfection, 1992

Book Link [ Amazon ]

Kurtz & Ketcham Experiencing Spirituality, 2014

Book Link [ Amazon ]


White & Kurtz Linking Addiction Treatment and Communities of Recovery: A Primer for Addiction Counselors and Recovery Coaches, 2006

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Ernie Kurtz at Bill Wilson Desk at Stepping Stones
ViewDownloadDate Name
View Filepdf1982 The Tragedy of Southern Religion
View Filepdf1982 Why AA Works: Intellectual Significance of AA
View Filepdf1986 AA as a Phenomenon of American Religious History
View Filepdf1988 Here's to Spuds
View Filepdf1988 Spiritual Rather than Religious: A Contribution of AA
View Filepdf1989 Bill W. Takes LSD
View Filepdf1990 The Spirituality of William James: A Lesson from Alcoholics Anonymous
View Filepdf1991 Shame in the Nineties
View Filepdf1992 Commentary on Lay Treatment
View Filepdf1992 Research on Alcoholics Anonymous: The Historical Context
View Filepdf1993 AA Grapevine History
View Filepdf1994 Drs. Miller & Kurtz on Models of Alcoholism
View Filepdf1994 Miller and Kurtz Models of Alcoholism
View Filepdf1996 Foreword Moderate Drinking
View Filepdf1996 Spirituality and Recovery: The Historical Journey
View Filepdf1996 What Ever Happened to Twelve Step Programs?
View Filepdf1997 Doing History
View Filepdf1997 Varieties of the Alcoholics Anonymous Experience
View Filepdf1998 Spirituality and Psychotherapy The Historical Context
View Filepdf2002 AA and the Disease Concept
View Filepdf2003 Robinson Brower & Kurtz Spirituality of Persons Entering Alcoholism Treatment
View Filepdf2007 Telephone/Internet Recovery Support
View Filepdf2008 White & Kurtz Twelve Defining Moments in the History of Alcoholics Anonymous
View Filepdf2010 White & Kurtz A Message of Tolerance and Celebration: Multiple Pathways of Recovery in the Writings of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson
View Filepdf2011 White & Kurtz The Varieties of Recovery Experience
View Filepdf2012 Strobbe and Kurtz Narratives of Recovery
View Filepdf2014 Flaherty, Kurtz, White, & Larson Secular, Spiritual, and Religious Pathways of Long-term Addiction Recovery
View Filepdf2014 Spirituality and Addiction Recovery
View Filepdf2015 Kurtz and White Recovery Spirituality
View Filepdf2020 Ernie Kurtz, Recovery, and the Power of Story


ViewDownloadDate Name
View Filepdf2001 The Combined Addiction Disease Chronologies of William White, Ernie Kurtz, and Caroline Acker
View Filepdf2014 Foreword, Don't Tell: Essays from AA Agnostica

Audio / Video Interviews

Bill White Interview with Ernie Kurtz

ViewDownloadDate Name
Go To Link2009 2009 Ernie Kurtz on the history of A.A., spirituality, shame and storytelling. Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (DVD of three interviews by B. White). []
Go To Link2014 A Reverence for History--Sedona []
Hear Filemp32014 Radio Interview—Experiencing Spirituality (Voice of American Radio Interview) [mp3 audio file]

Edited Transcripts

ViewDownloadDate Name
View Filepdf2009 Reflections on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous: An Interview with Ernie Kurtz
Page Credits
Selected Papers of William L. White