The AA Manuscript
We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one
hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of
mind and body. To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW THEY CAN RECOVER is
the main purpose of this book. For them, we think these pages will prove so
convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We hope this
account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the
alcoholic. Many do not yet comprehend that he is a very sick person. And
besides, we are sure that our new way of living has its advantages for all.
It is important that we remain anonymous because we
are too few, at present, to handle the overwhelming number of personal
appeals which will result from this publication. Being mostly business or
professional folk we could not well carry on our occupations in such an
event. We would like it clearly understood that our alcoholic work is an
avocation only, so that when writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism,
we urge each of our Fellowship to omit his personal name, designating
himself instead as "A Member of Alcoholics Anonymous."
Very earnestly we ask the press also, to observe
this request, for otherwise we shall be greatly handicapped.
We are not an organization in the conventional sense
of the word. There are no fees nor dues whatsoever. The only requirement for
membership is an honest desire to stop drinking. We are not allied with any
particular faith, sect or denomination, nor do we oppose anyone. We simply
wish to be helpful to those who are afflicted.
We shall be interested to hear from those who are
getting results from this book, particularly from those who have commenced
work with other alcoholics. We shall try to contact such cases.
Inquiry by scientific, medical and religious
societies will be welcomed.
(This multilith volume will be sent upon receipt of
$3.50, and the printed book will be mailed, at no additional cost, as soon
We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader
will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described
in this book. Convincing testimony must surely come from medical men who
have had experience with the sufferings of our members and have witnessed
our return to health. A well known doctor, chief physician at a nationally
prominent hospital specializing in alcoholic and drug addiction, gave
Alcoholics Anonymous this letter:
To Whom It May Concern:
I have specialized in the treatment of alcoholism
for many years.
About four years ago I attended a patient who,
though he had been a competent business man of good earning capacity, was an
alcoholic of a type I had come to regard as hopeless.
In the course of his third treatment he acquired
certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery. As part of his
rehabilitation he commenced to present his conceptions to other alcoholics,
impressing upon them that they must do likewise with still others. This has
become the basis of a rapidly growing fellowship of these men and their
families. This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered.
I personally know thirty of these cases who were of
the type with whom other methods had failed completely.
These facts appear to be of extreme medical
importance; because of the extraordinary possibilities of rapid growth
inherent in this group they mark a new epoch in the annals of alcoholism.
These men may well have a remedy for thousands of such situations.
You may rely absolutely on anything they say about
Very truly yours,
(Signed)- - - - - M.D.
The physician who, at our request, gave us this
letter, has been kind enough to enlarge upon his views in another statement
which follows. In this statement he confirms what anyone who has suffered
alcoholic torture must believe - that the body of the alcoholic is quite as
abnormal as his mind. It does not satisfy us to be told that we cannot
control our drinking just because we were maladjusted to life, that we were
in full flight from reality, or were outright mental defectives. These
things were true to some extent, in fact, to a considerable extent with some
of us. But we are sure that our bodies were sickened as well. In our belief,
any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is
The doctor's theory that we have a kind of allergy
to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of
course, mean little. But as ex-alcoholics, we can say that his explanation
makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise
Though we work out our solution on the spiritual
plane, we favor hospitalization for the alcoholic who is very jittery or
befogged. More often than not, it is imperative that a man's brain be
cleared before he is approached, as he has then a better chance of
understanding and accepting what we have to offer.
The doctor writes:
The subject presented in this book seems to me to be
of paramount importance to those afflicted with alcoholic addiction.
I say this after many years' experience as Medical
Director of one of the oldest hospitals in the country treating alcoholic
and drug addiction.
There was, therefore, a sense of real satisfaction
when I was asked to contribute a few words on a subject which is covered in
such masterly detail in these pages.
We doctors have realized for a long time that some
form of moral psychology was of urgent importance to alcoholics, but its
application presented difficulties beyond our conception. What with our
ultra-modern standards, our scientific approach to everything, we are
perhaps not well equipped to apply the powers of good that lie outside our
About four years ago one of the leading contributors
to this book came under our care in this hospital and while here he acquired
some ideas which he put into practical application at once.
Later, he requested the privilege of being allowed
to tell his story to other patients here and perhaps with some misgiving, we
consented. The cases we have followed through have been most interesting; in
fact, many of them are amazing. The unselfishness of these men as we have
come to know them, the entire absence of profit motive, and their community
spirit, is indeed inspiring to one who has labored long and wearily in this
alcoholic field. They believe in themselves, and still more in the Power
which pulls chronic alcoholics back from the gates of death.
Of course an alcoholic ought to be freed from his
physical craving for liquor, and this often requires a definite hospital
procedure, before psychological measures can be of maximum benefit.
We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that
the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an
allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never
occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never
safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and
found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their
reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become
astonishingly difficult to solve.
Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. The message
which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and
weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power
greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives.
If any feel that as psychiatrists directing a
hospital for alcoholics we appear somewhat sentimental, let them stand with
us a while on the firing line, see the tragedies, the despairing wives, the
little children; let the solving of these problems become a part of their
daily work, and even of their sleeping moments, and the most cynical will
not wonder that we have accepted and encouraged this movement. We feel,
after many years of experience, that we have found nothing which has
contributed more to the rehabilitation of these men than the community
movement now growing up among them.
Men and women drink essentially because they like
the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they
admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from
the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are
restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the
sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks -
drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed
to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops,
they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful,
with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over,
and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very
little hope of his recovery.
On the other hand - and strange as this may seem to
those who do not understand - once a psychic change has occurred, the very
same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever
solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for
alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few
Men have cried out to me in sincere and despairing
appeal: "Doctor, I cannot go on like this! I have everything to live for! I
must stop, but I cannot! You must help me!"
Faced with this problem, if a doctor is honest with
himself, he must sometimes feel his own inadequacy. Although he gives all
that is in him, it often is not enough. One feels that something more than
human power is needed to produce the essential psychic change. Though the
aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is perhaps
considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon
the problem as a whole. Many types do not respond to the ordinary
I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism
is entirely a mental condition. I have had many men who had, for example,
worked a period of months on some problem or business deal which was to be
settled on a certain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day or so
prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of craving at once became
paramount to all other interests so that the important appointment was not
met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a
craving beyond their mental control.
There are many situations which arise out of the
phenomenon of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather
than continue to fight.
The classification of alcoholics seems most
difficult, and in much detail is outside the scope of this book. There are,
of course, the constitutional psychopaths who are emotionally unstable. We
are all familiar with this type. They are always "going on the wagon for
keeps." They are over-remorseful and make many resolutions, but never a
Then there are those who are never properly adjusted
to life, who are the so-called neurotics. The prognosis of this type is
There is the type of man who is unwilling to admit
that he cannot take a drink. He plans various ways of drinking. He changes
his brand or his environment. There is the type who always believes that
after being entirely free from alcohol for a period of time he can take a
drink without danger. There is the manic-depressive type, who is, perhaps,
the least understood by his friends, and about whom a whole chapter could be
Then there are types entirely normal in every
respect except in the effect alcohol has upon them. They are often able,
intelligent, friendly people.
All these, and many others, have one symptom in
common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of
craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of
an allergy which differentiates these people, sets them apart as a distinct
entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar,
permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire
This immediately precipitates us into a seething
caldron of debate. Much has been written pro and con, but among physicians,
the general opinion seems to be that most chronic alcoholics are doomed.
What is the solution? Perhaps I can best answer this
by relating an experience of two years ago.
About one year prior to this experience a man was
brought in to be treated for chronic alcoholism. He had but partially
recovered from a gastric hemorrhage and seemed to be a case of pathological
mental deterioration. He had lost everything worth while in life and was
only living, one might say, to drink. He frankly admitted and believed that
for him there was no hope. Following the elimination of alcohol, there was
found to be no permanent brain injury. He accepted the plan outlined in this
book. One year later he called to see me, and I experienced a very strange
sensation. I knew the man by name, and partly recognized his features, but
there all resemblance ended. From a trembling, despairing, nervous wreck,
had emerged a man brimming over with self-reliance and contentment. I talked
with him for some time, but was not able to bring myself to feel that I had
known him before. To me he was a stranger, and so he left me. More than
three years have now passed with no return to alcohol.
When I need a mental uplift, I often think of
another case brought in by a physician prominent in New York City. The
patient had made his own diagnosis, and deciding his situation hopeless, had
hidden in a deserted barn determined to die. He was rescued by a searching
party, and, in desperate condition, brought to me. Following his physical
rehabilitation, he had a talk with me in which he frankly stated he thought
the treatment a waste of effort, unless I could assure him, which no one
ever had, that in the future he would have the "will power" to resist the
impulse to drink.
His alcoholic problem was so complex, and his
depression so great, that we felt his only hope would be through what we
then called "moral psychology", and we doubted if even that would have any
However, he did become "sold" on the ideas contained
in this book. He has not had a drink for more than three years. I see him
now and then and he is as fine a specimen of manhood as one could wish to
I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book
through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.
We landed in England. I visited Winchester
Cathedral. Much moved, I wandered outside. My attention was caught by a
doggerel on an old tombstone:
"Here lies a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his death
Drinking cold small beer
A good soldier is ne'er forgot
Whether he dieth by musket
Or by pot."
Ominous warning - which I failed to heed.
Twenty-two, and a veteran of foreign wars, I went
home at last. I fancied myself a leader, for had not the men of my battery
given me a special token of appreciation? My talent for leadership, I
imagined, would place me at the head of vast enterprises which I would
manage with utmost assurance.
I took a night law course, and obtained employment
as investigator for a surety company. The drive for success was on. I'd
prove to the world I was important. My work took me about Wall Street and
little by little I became interested in the market. Many people lost money -
but some became very rich. Why not I? I studied economics and business as
well as law. Potential alcoholic that I was, I nearly failed my law course.
At one of the finals I was too drunk to think or write. Though my drinking
was not yet continuous, it disturbed my wife. We had long talks when I would
still her forebodings by telling her that men of genius conceived their best
projects when drunk; that the most majestic constructions of philosophic
thought were so derived.
By the time I had completed the course, I knew the
law was not for me. The inviting maelstrom of Wall Street had me in its
grip. Business and financial leaders were my heroes. Out of this alloy of
drink and speculation, I commenced to forge the weapon that one day would
turn in its flight like a boomerang and all but cut me to ribbons. Living
modestly, my wife and I saved $1,000. It went into certain securities then
cheap and rather unpopular. I rightly imagined that they would some day have
a great rise. I failed to persuade my broker friends to send me out looking
over factories and managements, but my wife and I decided to go anyway. I
had developed a theory that most people lost money in stocks through
ignorance of markets. I discovered many more reasons later on.
We gave up our positions and off we roared on a
motorcycle, the sidecar stuffed with tent, blankets, change of clothes, and
three huge volumes of a financial reference service. Our friends thought a
lunacy commission should be appointed. Perhaps they were right. I had had
some success at speculation, so we had a little money, but we once worked on
a farm for a month to avoid drawing on our small capital. That was the last
honest manual labor on my part for many a day. We covered the whole eastern
United States in a year. At the end of it, my reports to Wall Street
procured me a position there and the use of a large expense account. The
exercise of an option brought in more money, leaving us with a profit of
several thousand dollars for that year.
For the next few years fortune threw money and
applause my way. I had arrived. My judgment and ideas were followed by many
to the tune of paper millions. The great boom of the late twenties was
seething and swelling. Drink was taking an important and exhilarating part
in my life. There was loud talk in the jazz places uptown. Everyone spent in
thousands and chattered in millions. Scoffers could scoff and be damned. I
made a host of fair-weather friends.
My drinking assumed more serious proportions,
continuing all day and almost every night. The remonstrance's of my friends
terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf. There were many unhappy scenes
in our sumptuous apartment. There had been no real infidelity, for loyalty
to my wife, helped at times by extreme drunkenness, kept me out of those
In 1929 I contracted golf fever. We went at once to
the country, my wife to applaud while I started out to overtake Walter
Hagen. Liquor caught up with me much faster than I came up behind Walter. I
began to be jittery in the morning. Golf permitted drinking every day and
every night. It was fun to carom around the exclusive course which had
inspired such awe in me as a lad. I acquired the impeccable coat of tan one
sees upon the well-to-do. The local banker watched me whirl fat checks in
and out of his till with amused skepticism.
Abruptly in October 1929 hell broke loose on the New
York stock exchange. After one of those days of inferno, I wobbled from a
hotel bar to a brokerage office. It was eight o'clock - five hours after the
market closed. The ticker still clattered. I was staring at an inch of the
tape which bore the inscription PKF-32. It had been 52 that morning. I was
finished and so were many friends. The papers reported men jumping to death
from the towers of High Finance. That disgusted me. I would not jump. I went
back to the bar. My friends had dropped several million since ten o'clock -
so what? Tomorrow was another day. As I drank, the old fierce determination
to win came back.
Next morning I telephoned a friend in Montreal. He
had plenty of money left and thought I had better go to Canada. By the
following spring we were living in our accustomed to style. I felt like
Napoleon returning from Elba. No St. Helena for me! But drinking caught up
with me again and my generous friend had to let me go. This time we stayed
We went to live with my wife's parents. I found a
job; then lost it as the result of a brawl with a taxi driver. Mercifully,
no one could guess that I was to have no real employment for five years, or
hardly draw a sober breath. My wife began to work in a department store,
coming home exhausted to find me drunk. I became an unwelcome hanger-on at
Liquor ceased to be a luxury; it became a necessity.
"Bathtub" gin, two bottles a day, and often three, got to be routine.
Sometimes a small deal would net a few hundred dollars, and I would pay my
bills at the bars and delicatessens. This went on endlessly, and I began to
waken very early in the morning shaking violently. A tumbler full of gin
followed by half a dozen bottles of beer would be required if I were to eat
any breakfast. Nevertheless, I still thought I could control the situation,
and there were periods of sobriety which renewed my wife's hope.
Gradually things got worse. The house was taken over
by the mortgage holder, my mother-in-law died, my wife and father-in-law
Then I got a promising business opportunity. Stocks
were at the low point of 1932, and I had somehow formed a group to buy. I
was to share generously in the profits. Then I went on a prodigious bender,
and that chance vanished.
I woke up. This had to be stopped. I saw I could not
take so much as one drink. I was through forever. Before then, I had written
lots of sweet promises, but my wife happily observed that this time I meant
business. And so I did.
Shortly afterward I came home drunk. There had been
no fight. Where had been my high resolve? I simply didn't know. It hadn't
even come to mind. Someone had pushed a drink my way, and I had taken it.
Was I crazy? I began to wonder, for such an appalling lack of perspective
seemed near being just that.
Renewing my resolve, I tried again. Some time
passed, and confidence began to be replaced by cocksureness. I could laugh
at the gin mills. Now I had what it takes! One day I walked into a cafe to
telephone. In no time I was beating on the bar asking myself how it
happened. As the whiskey rose to my head I told myself I would manage better
next time, but I might as well get good and drunk then. And I did.
The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next
morning are unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there. My brain
raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible sense of impending calamity. I
hardly dared cross the street, lest I collapse and be run down by an early
morning truck, for it was scarcely daylight. An all night place supplied me
with a dozen glasses of ale. My writhing nerves were stilled at last. A
morning paper told me the market had gone to hell again. Well, so had I. The
market would recover, but I wouldn't. That was a hard thought. Should I kill
myself? No - not now. Then a mental fog settled down. Gin would fix that. So
two bottles, and - oblivion.
The mind and body are marvelous mechanisms, for mine
endured this agony for two more years. Sometimes I stole from my wife's
slender purse when the morning terror and madness were on me. Again I swayed
dizzily before an open window, or the medicine cabinet, where there was
poison, cursing myself for a weakling. There were flights from city to
country and back, as my wife and I sought escape. Then came the night when
the physical and mental torture was so hellish I feared I would burst
through my window, sash and all. Somehow I managed to drag my mattress to a
lower floor, lest I suddenly leap. A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next
day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This combination soon landed me
on the rocks. People feared for my sanity. So did I. I could eat little or
nothing when drinking, and I was forty pounds under weight.
My brother-in-law is a physician, and through his
kindness I was placed in a nationally-known hospital for the mental and
physical rehabilitation of alcoholics. Under the so-called belladonna
treatment my brain cleared. Hydrotherapy and mild exercise helped much. Best
of all, I met a kind doctor who explained that though certainly selfish and
foolish, I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally.
It relieved me somewhat to learn that in alcoholics
the will is amazingly weakened when it comes to combating liquor, though it
often remains strong in other respects. My incredible behavior in the face
of a desperate desire to stop was explained. Understanding myself now, I
fared forth in high hope. For three or four months the goose hung high. I
went to town regularly and even made a little money. Surely this was the
answer - self-knowledge.
But it was not, for the frightful day came when I
drank once more. The curve of my declining moral and bodily health fell off
like a ski-jump. After a time I returned to the hospital. This was the
finish, the curtain, it seemed to me. My weary and despairing wife was
informed that it would all end with heart failure during delirium tremens,
or I would develop a wet brain, perhaps within a year. She would soon have
to give me over to the undertaker, or the asylum.
They did not need to tell me. I knew, and almost
welcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had thought
so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles,
was cornered at last. Now I was to plunge into the dark, joining that
endless procession of sots who had gone on before. I thought of my poor
wife. There had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make
amends. But that was over now.
No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I
found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in
all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my
Trembling, I stepped from the hospital a broken man.
Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of that first
drink, and on Armistice Day 1934, I was off again. Everyone became resigned
to the certainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, or would stumble
along to a miserable end. How dark it is before the dawn! In reality that
was the beginning of my last debauch. I was soon to be catapulted into what
I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness,
peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as
Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking
in my kitchen. With a certain satisfaction I reflected there was enough gin
concealed about the house to carry me through that night and the next day.
My wife was at work. I wondered whether I dared hide a full bottle of gin
near the head of our bed. I would need it before daylight.
My musing was interrupted by the telephone. The
cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was
sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that
condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committed for
alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have
dinner, and then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I
thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. There was that time we
had chartered an airplane to complete a jag! His coming was an oasis in this
dreary desert of futility. The very thing - an oasis! Drinkers are like
The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned
and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably
different. What had happened?
I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it.
Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn't
"Come, what's all this about?" I queried.
He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he
said, "I've got religion."
I was aghast. So that was it - last summer an
alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He
had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless
his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his
But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he
told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his
commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program
of action. That was two months ago and the result was self evident. It
He had come to pass his experience along to me - if
I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was
interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.
He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose before
me. I could almost hear the sound of the preacher's voice as I sat, on still
Sundays, way over there on the hillside; there was that proffered temperance
pledge I never signed; my grandfather's good natured contempt of some church
folk and their doings; his insistence that the spheres really had their
music; but his denial of the preacher's right to tell him how he must
listen; his fearlessness as he spoke of these things just before he died;
these recollections welled up from the past. They made me swallow hard.
That war-time day in old Winchester Cathedral came
I had always believed in a power greater than
myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people
really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this
universe originated in a cipher, and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My
intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolutionists,
suggested vast laws and forces at work. Despite contrary indications, I had
little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there
be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had
to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor
limitation. But that was as far as I had gone.
With ministers, and the world's religions, I parted
right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love,
superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped
shut against such a theory.
To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man,
not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching - most
excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and
not too difficult; the rest I disregarded.
The wars which had been fought, the burnings and
chicanery that religious dispute had facilitated, made me sick. I honestly
doubted whether, on balance, the religions of mankind had done any good.
Judging from what I had seen in Europe and since, the power of God in human
affairs was negligible, the Brotherhood of Man a grim jest. If there was a
Devil, he seemed the Boss Universal, and he certainly had me.
But my friend sat before me, and he made the
point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for
himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable.
Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete
defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken
from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever
Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had
not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at that
minute; and this was none at all.
That floored me. It began to look as though
religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human
heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were
drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a
miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings.
I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly
reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.
Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us
humans, when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed.
Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
The real significance of my experience in the
Cathedral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had needed and wanted God.
There had been a humble willingness to have Him with me - and He came. But
soon the sense of His presence had been blotted out by worldly clamors,
mostly those within myself. And so it had been ever since. How blind I had
At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the
last time. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs of delirium tremens. I
have not had a drink since.
There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then
understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly
under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I
was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and
became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch.
My school mate visited me, and I fully acquainted
him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt
or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to
approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical
of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.
I was to test my thinking by the new
God-consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I
was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to
meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except
as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to
receive. But that would be in great measure.
My friend promised when these things were done I
would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the
elements of a way of life which answered all my problems. Belief in the
power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and
maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements.
Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It
meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the
Father of Light who presides over us all.
These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but
the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense
of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known.
There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind
of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually,
but His impact on me was sudden and profound.
For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend,
the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked.
Finally he shook his head saying, "Something has
happened to you I don't understand. But you had better hang on to it.
Anything is better than the way you were." The good doctor now sees many men
who have such experiences. He knows they are real.
While I lay in the hospital the thought came that
there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what
had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn
might work with others.
My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of
my demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it
imperative to work with others, as he had worked with me. Faith without
works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if
an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work
and self sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and
low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he
drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is
just like that.
My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to
the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. It was
fortunate, for my old business associates remained skeptical for a year and
a half, during which I found little work. I was not too well at the time,
and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly
drove me back to drink. I soon found that when all other measures failed,
work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my
old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly
lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough
We commenced to make many fast friends and a
fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a
part. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty.
I have seen one hundred families set their feet in the path that really goes
somewhere; have seen the most impossible domestic situations righted; feuds
and bitterness of all sorts wiped out. I have seen men come out of asylums
and resume a vital place in the lives of their families and communities.
Business and professional men have regained their standing. There is
scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among
us. In one Western city and its environs there are eighty of us and our
families. We meet frequently at our different homes, so that newcomers may
find the fellowship they seek. At these informal gatherings one may often
see from 40 to 80 persons. We are growing in numbers and power.
An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature.
Our struggles with them are variously strenuous, comic, and tragic. One poor
chap committed suicide in my home. He could not, or would not, see our way
There is, however, a vast amount of fun about it
all. I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity.
But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. God has to work twenty-four
hours a day in and through us, or we perish.
Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia,
nor even for Heaven. We have it with us right here and now. Each day that
simple talk in my kitchen multiplies itself in a widening circle of peace on
earth and good will to men.
We, of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know one hundred
men who were once just as hopeless as Bill. All have recovered. They have
solved the drink problem.
We are ordinary Americans. All sections of this
country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many
political, economic, social and religious backgrounds. We are people who
normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a
friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are
like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck,
when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage
to Captain's table. Unlike the feelings of the ship's passengers, however,
our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual
ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the
powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us
together as we are now joined.
The tremendous fact for every one of us that we have
discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely
agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This
is the great news this book carries to those who suffer alcoholism.
An illness of this sort - and we have come to
believe it an illness - involves those about us in a way no other human
sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is
angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes
annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose
lives touch the sufferer's. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment,
financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of
blameless children, sad wives and parents - anyone can increase the list.
This volume will inform, instruct and comfort those
who are, or who may be affected. They are many.
Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with
us (often fruitlessly, we are afraid) find it almost impossible to persuade
an alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve. Strangely enough,
wives, parents and intimate friends usually find us even more unapproachable
than do the psychiatrist and the doctor.
But the ex-alcoholic who has found this solution,
who is properly armed with certain medical information, can generally win
the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an
understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.
That the man who is making the approach has had the
same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his
whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real
answer, that he has no attitude of holier than thou, nothing whatever except
the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to
grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured - these are the
conditions we have found necessary. After such an approach many take up
their beds and walk again.
None of us makes a vocation of this work, nor do we
think its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feel that
elimination of the liquor problem is but a beginning. A much more important
demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes,
occupations, and affairs. All of us spend much of our spare time in the sort
of effort which we are going to describe. A few are fortunate enough to be
so situated that they can give nearly all of their time to the work.
If we keep on the way we are going there is little
doubt that much good will result, but the surface of the problem would
hardly be scratched. Those of us who live in large cities are overcome by
the reflection that close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion every day.
Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then
shall we present that which has been so freely given us?
We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume
setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to the task our
combined experience and knowledge. This ought to suggest a useful program
for anyone concerned with a drinking problem.
Of necessity there will have to be discussion of
matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. We are aware that these
matters are, from their very nature, controversial. Nothing would please us
so much as to write a book which would contain no basis for contention or
argument. We shall do our utmost to achieve that ideal. Most of us sense
that real tolerance of other people's shortcomings and viewpoints and a
respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to
others. Our very lives, as ex-alcoholics, depend upon our constant thought
of others and how we may help meet their needs.
You may already have asked yourself why it is that
all of us became so very ill from drinking. Doubtless you are curious to
discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have
recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. If you are an
alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking - "What do I
have to do?"
It is the purpose of this book to answer such
questions specifically. We shall tell you what we have done. Before going
into a detailed discussion, it may be well to summarize some points as we
How many times people have said to us: "I can take
it or leave it alone. Why can't he?" "Why don't you drink like a gentleman
or quit?" "That fellow can't handle his liquor." "Why don't you try beer and
wine?" "Lay off the hard stuff." "His will power must be weak." "He could
stop if he wanted to." "She's such a sweet girl, I should think he'd stop
for her." "The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would kill
him, but there he is all lit up again."
Now, these are commonplace observations on drinkers
which we hear all the time. Back of them is a world of ignorance and
misunderstanding. We see that these expressions refer to people whose
reactions are very different from ours.
Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up
liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave
Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may
have the habit bad enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally.
It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently
strong reason - ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the
warning of a doctor - becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate,
although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical
But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off
as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker;
but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of
his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.
Here is the Fellow who has been puzzling you,
especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things
while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly
intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk. His disposition while
drinking resembles his normal nature but little. He may be one of the finest
fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes
disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has a positive genius for
getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important
decision must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and
well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect is
incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities,
skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his
gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, then pulls
the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees. He is the
fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around.
Yet early next morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced the
night before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed all over his
house to be certain no one gets his entire supply away from him to throw
down the waste pipe. As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination
of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to
work. Then comes the days when he simply cannot make it and gets drunk all
over again. Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him a dose of morphine or
some high-voltage sedative with which to taper off. Then he begins to appear
at hospitals and sanitariums.
This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the
true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should
identify him roughly.
Why does he behave like this? If hundreds of
experiences have shown him that one drink means another debacle with all its
attendant suffering and humiliation, why is it he takes that one drink? Why
can't he stay on the water wagon? What has become of the common sense and
will power that he still sometimes displays with respect to other matters?
Perhaps there never will be a full answer to these
questions. Psychiatrists and medical men vary considerably in their opinion
as to why the alcoholic reacts differently from normal people. No one is
sure why, once a certain point is reached, nothing can be done for him. We
cannot answer the riddle.
We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from
drink as he may do for months or years, he reacts much like other men. We
are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his
system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes
it virtually impossible for him to stop. The experience of any alcoholic
will abundantly confirm that.
These observations would be academic and pointless
if our friend never took the first drink thereby setting the terrible cycle
in motion. Therefore, the real problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind,
rather than in his body. If you ask him why he started on that last bender,
the chances are he will offer you any one of a hundred alibis. Sometimes
these excuses have a certain plausibility, but none of them really make
sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic's drinking bout creates. They
sound to you like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, beat
himself on the head with a hammer so that he couldn't feel the ache. If you
draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention of an alcoholic, he will
laugh it off, or become irritated and refuse to talk.
Once in a while he may tell you the truth. And the
truth, strange to say, is usually that he has no more idea why he took that
first drink than you have. Some drinkers have excuses with which they are
satisfied part of the time. But in their hearts they really do not know why
they do it. Once this malady has a real hold, they are a baffled lot. There
is the obsession that somehow, some day, they will beat the game. But they
often suspect they are down for the count.
How true this is, few realize. In a vague way their
families and friends sense that these drinkers are abnormal, but everybody
hopefully waits the day when the sufferer will rouse himself from his
lethargy and assert his power of will.
The tragic truth is that if the man be a real
alcoholic, the happy day will seldom arrive. He has lost control. At a
certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state
where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail.
This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long
before it is suspected.
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet
obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power
becomes practically non-existent. We are unable at certain times, no matter
how well we understand ourselves, to bring into our consciousness with
sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week
or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.
The almost certain consequences that follow taking
even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these
thoughts occur, they are hazy, and readily supplanted with the old
threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people.
There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from
putting his hand on a hot stove.
The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual
way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's how!" Or perhaps he doesn't
think at all. How often have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant
way, and after the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to
ourselves, "For God's sake, how did I ever get started again?" Only to have
that thought supplanted by "Well, I'll stop with the sixth drink." Or
"What's the use anyhow?"
When this sort of thinking is fully established in
an individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably placed himself
beyond all human aid, and unless locked up, is certain to die, or go
permanently insane. These stark and ugly facts have been confirmed by
legions of alcoholics throughout history. But for the grace of God, there
would have been one hundred more convincing demonstrations. So many want to
stop, but cannot.
There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the
self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings
which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that
it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness
and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were
approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing
left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our
feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth
dimension of existence, of which we had not even dreamed.
The great fact is just this, and nothing less: that
we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences, which have
revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows, and
toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute
certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way
which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for
us which we could never do by ourselves.
If you are seriously alcoholic, we believe you have
no middle-of-the-road solution. You are in a position where life is becoming
impossible, and if you have passed into the region from which there is no
return through human aid, you have but two alternatives: one is to go on to
the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of your intolerable situation
as best you can; and the other, to find what we have found. This you can do
if you honestly want to, and are willing to make the effort.
A certain American business man had ability, good
sense, and high character. For years he had floundered from one sanitarium
to another. He had consulted the best known American psychiatrists. Then he
had gone to Europe, placing himself in the care of a celebrated physician
who prescribed for him. Though bitter experience had made him skeptical, he
finished his treatment with unusual confidence. His physical and mental
condition were unusually good. Above all, he believed he had acquired such a
profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden springs,
that relapse was unthinkable. Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time.
More baffling still, he could give himself no satisfactory explanation for
So he returned to this doctor, whom he admired, and
asked him point-blank why he could not recover. He wished above all things
to regain self-control. He seemed quite rational and well-balanced with
respect to other problems. Yet he had no control whatever over alcohol. Why
He begged the doctor to tell him the whole truth,
and he got it. In the doctor's judgment he was utterly hopeless; he could
never regain his position in society and he would have to place himself
under lock and key, or hire a bodyguard if he expected to live long. That
was a great physician's opinion.
But this man still lives, and is a free man. He does
not need a bodyguard, nor is he confined. He can go anywhere on this earth
where other free men may go without disaster, provided he remains willing to
maintain a certain simple attitude.
Some of our alcoholic readers may think they can do
without spiritual help. Let us tell you the rest of the conversation our
friend had with his doctor.
The doctor said: "You have the mind of a chronic
alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of
mind existed to the extent that it does in you." Our friend felt as though
the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.
He said to the doctor, "Is there no exception?"
"Yes," replied the doctor, "there is. Exceptions to
cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there,
once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual
experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the
nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions,
and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men
are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and
motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some
such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods
which I employed are successful, but I have never been successful with an
alcoholic of your description."
Upon hearing this, our friend was somewhat relieved,
for he reflected that, after all, he was a good church member. This hope,
however, was destroyed by the doctor's telling him that his religious
convictions were very good, but that in his case they did not spell the
necessary vital spiritual experience.
Here was the terrible dilemma in which our friend
found himself when he had the extraordinary experience, which as we have
already told you, made him a free man.
We, in our turn, sought the same escape, with all
the desperation of drowning men. What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has
proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God. A new life has been given
us or, if you prefer, "a design for living that really works
The distinguished American psychologist, William
James, in his book, "Varieties of Religious Experience," indicates a
multitude of ways in which men have found God. As a group, we have no desire
to convince anyone that there is only one way by which God can be
discovered. If what we have learned, and felt, and seen, means anything at
all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed or color, are the
children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon
simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough
to try. Those having religious affiliations will find here nothing
disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us
over such matters.
We think it no concern of ours, as a group, what
religious bodies our members identify themselves with as individuals. This
should be an entirely personal affair which each one decides for himself in
the light of past association, or his present choice. Not all of us have
joined religious bodies, but most of us favor such memberships.
In the following chapter, there appears an
explanation of alcoholism as we understand it, then a chapter addressed to
the agnostic. Many who once were in this class are now among our members;
surprisingly enough, we find such convictions no great obstacle to a
There is a group of personal narratives. Then
clear-cut directions are given showing how an alcoholic may recover. These
are followed by more than a score of personal experiences.
Each individual, in the personal stories, describes
in his own language, and from his own point of view the way he found or
rediscovered God. These give a fair cross section of our membership and a
clear-cut idea of what has actually happened in their lives.
We hope no one will consider these self-revealing
accounts in bad taste. Our hope is that many alcoholic men and women,
desperately in need, will see these pages, and we believe that it is only by
fully disclosing ourselves and our problems that they will be persuaded to
say, "Yes, I am one of them too; I must have this thing."
Most of us have been unwilling to
admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and
mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising
that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain
attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that
somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his liquor drinking is the
great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this
illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or
We learned that we had to fully concede to our
innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in
recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be,
had to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who had lost the
ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever
recovered this control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining
control, but such intervals - usually brief - were inevitably followed by
still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible
demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in
the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get
worse, never better.
We are like men who have lost their legs; they never
grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which
will make alcoholics of our kind like other men. We have tried every
imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed
always by still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism
agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic.
Science may one day accomplish this, but it evidently hasn't done so yet.
Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics
are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of
self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves
exceptions to the rule, therefore non-alcoholic. If anyone, who is showing
inability to control his drinking, can do the right-about-face and drink
like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard
enough and long enough to drink like other people!
Here are some of the methods we have tried: drinking
beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never
drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the
house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties,
switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to
resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing
off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise,
reading inspirational books, consulting psychologists, going to health farms
and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums - we could
increase the list ad infinitum.
We do not like to brand any individual as an
alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest
barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly.
Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are
honest with yourself about it. It will be worth a bad case of jitters if you
get thoroughly sold on the idea that you are a candidate for Alcoholics
Though there is no way of proving it, we believe
that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking.
But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while
there is yet time. We have heard of a few instances where people, who showed
definite signs of alcoholism, were able to stop because of an overpowering
desire to do so. Here is one.
A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree
drinking. He was very nervous in the morning after these bouts and quieted
himself with more liquor. He was ambitious to succeed in business, but saw
that he would get nowhere if he drank at all. Once he started, he had no
control whatever. He made up his mind that until he had been successful in
business and had retired, he would not touch another drop. An exceptional
man, he remained bone dry for twenty-five years, and retired at the age of
fifty-five, after a successful and happy business career. Then he fell
victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has - that his long
period of sobriety and self- discipline had qualified him to drink as other
men. Out came his carpet slippers and a bottle. In two months he was in a
hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried to regulate his drinking for a
while, making several trips to the hospital meantime. Then, gathering all
his forces, he attempted to stop, and found he could not. Every means of
solving his problem which money could buy was at his disposal. Every attempt
failed. Though a robust man at retirement, he went to pieces quickly, and
was dead within four years.
This case contains a powerful lesson. Most of us
have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could
thereafter drink normally. But here is a man who at fifty-five years found
he was just where he had left off at thirty. We have seen the truth
demonstrated again and again: "once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic."
Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as
bad as ever. If you are planning to stop drinking, there must be no
reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday you will be
immune to alcohol.
Young people may be encouraged by this man's
experience to think that they can stop, as he did, on their own will power.
We doubt if many of them can do it, because none will really want to stop,
and hardly one of them, because of the peculiar mental twist already
acquired, will find he can win out. Several of our crowd, men of thirty-five
or less, had been drinking but a few years, but they found themselves as
helpless as those who had been drinking twenty years.
To be gravely affected, one does not necessarily
have to drink a long time, nor take the quantities some of us have. This is
particularly true of women. Potential feminine alcoholics often turn into
the real thing and are gone beyond recall in a few years. Certain drinkers,
who would be greatly insulted if called alcoholic, are astonished at their
inability to stop. We, who are familiar with the symptoms, see large numbers
of potential alcoholics among young people everywhere. But try and get them
to see it!
As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking
many years beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone
questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him try leaving
liquor alone for one year. If he is a real alcoholic and very far advanced,
there is scant chance of success. In the early days of our drinking we
occasionally remained sober for a year or more, becoming serious drinkers
again later. Though you may be able to stop for a considerable period, you
may yet be a potential alcoholic. We think few, to whom this book will
appeal, can stay dry anything like a year. Some will be drunk the day after
making their resolutions; most of them within a few weeks.
For those who are unable to drink moderately the
question is how to stop altogether. We are assuming, of course, that the
reader desires to stop. Whether such a person can quit upon a non-spiritual
basis depends somewhat upon the strength of his character, and how much he
really wants to be done with it. But even more will it depend upon the
extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will
drink or not. Many of us felt that we had plenty of character. There was a
tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible. This is the
baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it - this utter inability to leave
it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish.
How then shall we help our readers determine, to
their own satisfaction, whether they are one of us? The experiment of
quitting for a period of time will be helpful, but we think we can render an
even greater service to alcoholic sufferers, and perhaps to the medical
fraternity. So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a
relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.
What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who
repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink?
Friends, who have reasoned with him after a spree which has brought him to
the point of divorce or bankruptcy, are mystified when he walks directly
into a saloon. Why does he? Of what is he thinking?
Our first example is a friend we shall call Jim.
This man has a charming wife and family. He inherited a lucrative automobile
agency. He had a commendable world war record. He is a good salesman.
Everybody likes him. He is an intelligent man, normal so far as we can see,
except for a nervous disposition. He did no drinking until he was
thirty-five. In a few years he became so violent when intoxicated that he
had to be committed. On leaving the asylum, he came into contact with us.
We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the
answer we had found. He made a beginning. His family was re-assembled, and
he began to work as a salesman for the business he had lost through
drinking. All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual
life. To his consternation, he found himself drunk half a dozen times in
rapid succession. On each of these occasions we worked with him, reviewing
carefully what had happened. He agreed he was a real alcoholic and in
serious condition. He knew he faced another trip to the asylum if he kept
on. Moreover, he would lose his family, for whom he had deep affection.
Yet he got drunk again. We asked him to tell us
exactly how it happened. This is his story: "I came to work on Tuesday
morning. I remember I felt irritated that I had to be a salesman for a
concern I once owned. I had a few words with the boss, but nothing serious.
Then I decided to drive into the country and see one of my prospects for a
car. On the way I felt hungry so I stopped at a roadside place where they
have a bar. I had no intention of drinking. I just thought I would get a
sandwich. I also had the notion that I might find a customer for a car at
this place, which was familiar, for I had been going to it for years. I had
eaten there many times during the months I was sober. I sat down at a table
and ordered a sandwich and a glass of milk. Still no thought of drinking. I
ordered another sandwich and decided to have another glass of milk.
"Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were
to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk, it couldn't hurt me on a full
stomach. I ordered a whiskey and poured it into the milk. I vaguely sensed I
was not being any too smart, but felt reassured, as I was taking the whiskey
on a full stomach. The experiment went so well that I ordered another
whiskey and poured it into more milk. That didn't seem to bother me so I
Thus started one more journey to the asylum for Jim.
Here was the threat of commitment, the loss of family and position, to say
nothing of that intense mental and physical suffering which drinking always
caused him. He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic. Yet all
reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish
idea he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk!
Whatever the precise medical definition of the word
may be, we call this plain insanity. How can such a lack of proportion, of
the ability to think straight, be called anything else?
You may think this an extreme case. To us it is
not-far fetched, for this kind of thinking has been characteristic of every
single one of our group. Some of us have sometimes reflected more than Jim
did, upon the consequences. But there was always the curious mental
phenomenon, that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some
insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning
failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask
ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.
In some circumstances we have gone out deliberately
to get drunk, feeling ourselves justified by nervousness, anger, worry,
depression, jealousy or the like. But even in this type of beginning we are
obliged to admit that our justification for a spree was insanely
insufficient in the light of what always happened. We now see that when we
began to drink deliberately, instead of casually, there was little serious
or effective thought during the period of premeditation, of what the
terrific consequences might be.
Our behavior is as absurd and incomprehensible with
respect to the first drink as that of an individual with a passion, say, for
jay-walking. He gets a thrill out of skipping in front of fast- moving
vehicles. He enjoys himself a few years in spite of friendly warnings. Up to
this point you would label him as a foolish chap, having queer ideas of fun.
Luck then deserts him and he is slightly injured several times in
succession. You would expect him, if he were normal, to cut it out.
Presently he is hit again and this time has a fractured skull. Within a week
after leaving the hospital, a fast-moving trolley car breaks his arm. He
tells you he has decided to stop jay- walking for good, but in a few weeks
he breaks both legs.
On through the years this conduct continues,
accompanied by his continual promises to be careful or to keep off the
streets altogether. Finally, he can no longer work, his wife gets a divorce,
he is held up to ridicule. He tries every known means to get the jay-walking
idea out of his head. He shuts himself up in an asylum, hoping to mend his
ways. But the day he comes out he races in front of a fire engine, which
breaks his back. Such a man would be crazy, wouldn't he?
You may think our illustration is too ridiculous.
But is it? We, who have been through the wringer, have to admit if we
substituted alcoholism for jay-walking, the illustration would fit us
exactly. However intelligent we may have been in other respects, where
alcohol has been involved, we have been strangely insane. It's strong
language - but isn't it true?
Some of you are thinking: "Yes, what you tell us is
true, but it doesn't fully apply. We admit we have some of these symptoms,
but we have not gone to the extremes you fellows did, nor are we likely to,
for we understand ourselves so well after what you have told us that such
things cannot happen again. We have not lost everything in life through
drinking and we certainly do not intend to. Thanks for the information."
That may be true of certain non-alcoholic people
who, though drinking foolishly and heavily at the present time, are able to
stop or moderate, because their brains and bodies have not been warped and
degenerated as ours were. But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly
an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of
self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and reemphasize, to
smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of
bitter experience. Let us take another illustration.
Fred is partner in a well known accounting firm. His
income is good, he has a fine home, is happily married and the father of
promising children of college age. He is so attractive a personality that he
makes friends with everyone. If ever there was a successful business man, it
is Fred. To all appearances he is a stable, well balanced individual. Yet,
he is alcoholic. We first saw Fred about a year ago in a hospital where he
had gone to recover from a bad case of jitters. It was his first experience
of this kind, and he was much ashamed of it. Far from admitting he was an
alcoholic, he told himself he came to the hospital to rest his nerves. The
doctor intimated strongly that he might be worse than he realized. For a few
days he was depressed about his condition. He made up his mind to quit
drinking altogether. It never occurred to him that perhaps he could not do
so, in spite of his character and standing. Fred would not believe himself
an alcoholic, much less accept a spiritual remedy for his problem. We told
him about alcoholism. He was interested and conceded that he had some of the
symptoms, but he was a long way from admitting that he could do nothing
about it himself. He was positive that this humiliating experience, plus the
knowledge he had acquired, would keep him sober the rest of his life. Self-
knowledge would fix it.
We heard no more of Fred for a while. One day we
were told that he was back in the hospital. This time he was quite shaky. He
soon indicated he was anxious to see us. The story he told is most
instructive for here was a chap absolutely convinced he had to stop
drinking, who had no excuse for drinking, who exhibited splendid judgment
and determination in all his other concerns, yet was flat on his back
Let him tell you about it: "I was much impressed
with what you fellows said about alcoholism, but I frankly did not believe
it would be possible for me to drink again. I somewhat appreciated your
ideas about the subtle insanity which precedes the first drink, but I was
confident it could not happen to me after what I had learned. I reasoned I
was not so far advanced as most of you fellows, that I had been usually
successful in licking my other personality problems, that I would therefore
be successful where you men failed. I felt I had every right to be
self-confident, that it would be only a matter of exercising my will power
and keeping on guard.
"In this frame of mind, I went about my business and
for a time all was well. I had no trouble refusing drinks, and began to
wonder if I had not been making too hard work of a simple matter. One day I
went to Washington to present some accounting evidence to a government
bureau. I had been out of town before during this particular dry spell, so
there was nothing new about that. Physically, I felt fine. Neither did I
have any pressing problems or worries. My business came off well, I was
pleased and knew my partners would be too. It was the end of a perfect day,
not a cloud on the horizon.
"I went to my hotel and leisurely dressed for
dinner. As I crossed the threshold of the dining room, the thought came to
mind it would be nice to have a couple of cocktails with dinner. That was
all. Nothing more. I ordered a cocktail and my meal. Then I ordered another
cocktail. After dinner I decided to take a walk. When I returned to the
hotel it struck me a highball would be fine before going to bed, so I
stepped into the bar and had one. I remember having several more that night
and plenty next morning. I have a shadowy recollection of being in an
airplane bound for New York, of finding a friendly taxicab driver at the
landing field instead of my wife. The driver escorted me about for several
days. I know little of where I went, or what I said and did. Then came the
hospital with its unbearable mental and physical suffering.
"As soon as I regained my ability to think, I went
carefully over that evening in Washington. Not only had I been off guard, I
had made no fight whatever against that first drink. This time I had not
thought of the consequences at all. I had commenced to drink as carelessly
as though the cocktails were ginger ale. I now remembered what my alcoholic
friends had told me, how they prophesied that if I had an alcoholic mind,
the time and place would come - I would drink again. They had said that
though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial
reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I
had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that
moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and
self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had
never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them
hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow.
"Two of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous came to
see me. They grinned, which I didn't like so much, and then asked me if I
thought myself alcoholic and if I were really licked this time. I had to
concede both propositions. They piled on me heaps of medical evidence to the
effect that an alcoholic mentality, such as I had exhibited in Washington,
was a hopeless condition. They cited cases out of their own experience by
the dozen. This process snuffed out the last flicker of conviction that I
could do the job myself.
"Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program
of action which a hundred of them had followed successfully. Though I had
been only a nominal churchman, their proposals were not, intellectually,
hard to swallow. But the program of action, though entirely sensible, was
pretty drastic. It meant I would have to throw several lifelong conceptions
out of the window. That was not easy. But the moment I made up my mind to go
through with the process, I had the curious feeling that my alcoholic
condition was relieved, as in fact it proved to be.
"Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual
principles would solve all my problems. I have since been brought into a way
of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life
I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would
not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back
to it even if I could."
Fred's story speaks for itself. We hope it strikes
home to thousands like him. He had felt only the first nip of the wringer.
Most alcoholics have to be pretty badly mangled before they really commence
to solve their problems.
Most doctors and psychiatrists agree with our
conclusions. One of these men, staff member of a world-renowned hospital,
recently made this statement to some of us: "What you say about the general
hopelessness of the average alcoholic's plight is, in my opinion, correct.
As to two of you men, whose stories I have heard, there is no doubt in my
mind that you were 100% hopeless, apart from Divine help. Had you offered
yourselves as patients at this hospital, I would not have taken you, if I
had been able to avoid it. People like you are too heartbreaking. Though not
a religious person, I have profound respect for the spiritual approach in
such cases as yours. For most cases, there is virtually no other solution."
Once more: the alcoholic at certain times has no
effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare
cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His
defense must come from a higher Power.
In the preceding chapters, you have learned
something of alcoholism. We hope we have made clear the distinction between
the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic. If, when you honestly want to, you find
you cannot quit entirely, or if, when drinking, you have little control over
the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you
may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will
To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such
an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster
especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an
alcoholic hell or be "saved" - not easy alternatives to face.
But it isn't so difficult. About half our fellowship
were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue,
hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to
face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life - or else. Perhaps
it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like fifty of
us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need
If a mere code of morals, or a better philosophy of
life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered
long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no
matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be
philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our
might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshaled
by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.
Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find
a power by which we could live, and it had to be A Power Greater Than
Ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?
Well, that's exactly what this book is about. Its
main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself, which
will solve your problem. That means we have written a book which we believe
to be spiritual as well as moral. And it means, of course, that we are going
to talk about God. Here difficulty arises with agnostics. Many times we talk
to a new man and watch his hope rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems
and explain our fellowship. But his face falls when we speak of spiritual
matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject
which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.
We know how he feels. We have shared his honest
doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious. To
others, the word "God" brought up a particular idea of Him with which
someone had tried to impress us during childhood. Perhaps we rejected this
particular conception because it seemed inadequate. With that rejection we
imagined we had abandoned the God idea entirely. We were bothered with the
thought that faith and dependence upon a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat
weak, even cowardly. We looked upon this world of warring individuals,
warring theological systems, inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism. We
looked askance at many individuals who claimed to be godly. How could a
Supreme Being have anything to do with it all? And who could comprehend a
Supreme Being anyhow? Yet, in other moments, we found ourselves thinking,
when enchanted by the starlit night, "Who, then, made all this?" There was a
feeling of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon lost.
Yes, we of agnostic temperament have had these
thoughts and experiences. Let us make haste to reassure you. We found that
as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a
willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to
get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or
comprehend that Power, which is God.
Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to
consider another's conception of God. Our own conception, however
inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with
Him. As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative
Intelligence, A Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we
began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we
took other simple steps. We found that God does not make hard terms with
those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all
inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding. It is open, we believe, to all
When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean
your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual
expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may
have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what
they mean to you. At the start, this is all you will need to commence
spiritual growth, to effect your first conscious relation with God, as you
understand Him. Afterward, you will find yourself accepting many things
which now seem entirely out of reach. That is growth, but if you are going
to grow, you have to begin somewhere. So use your own conception, however
limited it may be.
You need ask yourself but one short question. "Do I
now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater
than myself?" As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing
to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been
repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully
effective spiritual structure can be built.
That was great news to us, for we had assumed we
could not make use of spiritual principles unless we accepted many things on
faith which seemed difficult to believe. When people presented us with
spiritual approaches, how frequently did we all say: "I wish I had what that
man has. I'm sure it would work if I could only believe as he believes. But
I cannot accept as surely true the many articles of faith which are so plain
to him." So it was comforting to learn that we could commence at a simpler
Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith,
we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and
unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual
reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. This sort of
thinking had to be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we found no great
difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Faced with alcoholic destruction,
we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on
other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally
beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious
process; we hope no one will be prejudiced as long as some of us were.
The reader may still ask why he should believe in a
Power greater than himself. We think there are good reasons. Let us have a
look at some of them.
The practical individual of today is a stickler for
facts and results. Nevertheless, the twentieth century readily accepts
theories of all kinds, provided they are firmly grounded in fact. We have
numerous theories, for example, about electricity. Everybody believes them
without a murmur of doubt. Why this ready acceptance? Simply because it is
impossible to explain what we see, feel, direct, and use, without a
reasonable assumption as a starting point.
Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of
assumptions for which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof.
And does not science demonstrate that visual proof is the weakest proof? It
is being constantly revealed, as mankind studies the material world, that
outward appearances are not inward reality at all. To illustrate:
The prosaic steel girder is a mass of electrons
whirling around each other at incredible speed. These tiny bodies are
governed by precise laws, and these laws hold true throughout the material
world. Science tells us so. We have no reason to doubt it. When, however,
the perfectly logical assumption is suggested that underneath the material
world, and life as we see it, there is an All Powerful, Guiding, Creative
Intelligence, right there our perverse streak comes to the surface and we
laboriously set out to convince ourselves it isn't so. We read wordy books
and indulge in windy arguments, thinking we believe this universe needs no
God to explain it. Were our contentions true, it would follow that life
originated out of nothing, means nothing, and proceeds nowhere.
Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent
agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and
atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the
alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn't
We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you to
lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. We have learned that
whatever the human frailties of various faiths may be, those faiths have
given purpose and direction to millions. People of faith have a logical idea
of what life is all about. Actually, we used to have no reasonable
conception whatever. We used to amuse ourselves as we cynically dissected
spiritual beliefs and practices; we might have observed that many
spiritually-minded persons of all races, colors, and creeds were
demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we
should have sought ourselves.
Instead, we looked at the human defects of these
people, and sometimes used their shortcomings as a basis of wholesale
condemnation. We talked of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves.
We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted
by the ugliness of some of its trees. We never gave the spiritual side of
life a fair hearing.
In the stories which follow you will find wide
variation in the way each teller approaches and conceives of the Power which
is greater than himself. Whether you agree with a particular approach or
conception seems to make little difference. Experience has taught that these
are matters about which, for our purpose, we need not be worried. They are
questions for each individual to settle for himself.
On one proposition, however, these men and women are
strikingly agreed. Everyone of them has gained access to, and believes in a
Power greater than himself. This Power has in each case accomplished the
miraculous, the humanly impossible. As a celebrated American statesman puts
it, "Let's look at the record."
Here are one hundred men and women, worldly and
sophisticated indeed. They flatly declare to you that since they have come
to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude
toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a
revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. They tell you that
in the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of
their human resources, that a new Power, peace, happiness, and sense of
direction has flowed into them. This happened soon after they
whole-heartedly met a few simple requirements. Once confused and baffled by
the seeming futility of existence, they will show you the underlying reasons
why they were making heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question,
they tell why living was so unsatisfactory. They will show you how the
change came over them. When one hundred people, much like you, are able to
say that consciousness of The Presence of God is today the most important
fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why you too should have
This world of ours has made more material progress
in the last century than in all the millenniums which went before. Almost
everyone knows the reason. Students of ancient history tell us that the
intellect of men in those days was equal to the best of today. Yet in
ancient times material progress was painfully slow. The spirit of modern
scientific inquiry, research and invention was almost unknown. In the realm
of the material, men's minds were fettered by superstition, tradition, and
all sorts of fixed ideas. The contemporaries of Columbus thought a round
earth preposterous. Others like them came near putting Galileo to death for
his astronomical heresies.
But ask yourself this: are not some of us just as
biased and unreasonable about the realm of the spirit as were the ancients
about the realm of the material? Even in the present century, American
newspapers were afraid to print an account of the Wright Brothers first
successful flight at Kittyhawk. Had not all efforts at flight failed before?
Did not Professor Langley's absurd flying machine go to the bottom of the
Potomac river? Was it not true that the best mathematical minds had proved
man could never fly? Had not people said God had reserved this privilege to
the birds? Only thirty years later the conquest of the air was almost an old
story and airplane travel was in full swing.
But in most fields our generation has witnessed
complete liberation of our thinking. Show any longshoreman a Sunday
supplement describing a proposal to explore the moon by means of a rocket
and he will say, "I bet they do it - maybe not so long either." Is not our
age characterized by the ease with which we discard old ideas for new, by
the complete readiness with which we throw away the theory or gadget which
does not work for something new which does?
We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn't apply to
our human problems this same readiness to change the point of view. We were
having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn't control our
emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make
a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were
unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people - was not a
basic solution of this bedevilment more important than whether we should see
newsreels of lunar flight? Of course it was.
When we saw others solve their problems by simple
reliance upon the Spirit of this universe, we had to stop doubting the power
of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did.
The Wright Brothers' almost childish faith that they
could build a machine which would fly was the mainspring of their
accomplishment. Without that, nothing could have happened. We agnostics and
atheists were sticking to the idea that self-sufficiency would solve our
problems. When others showed us that "God-sufficiency" worked with them, we
began to feel like those who had insisted the Wrights would never fly.
Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like it.
It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to examine the
evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions. That is one of man's
magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied
with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and
interpretation. Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith
is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe than not to
believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up
our hands in doubt and said, "We don't know."
When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed
crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the
proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either
is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?
Arrived at this point, we were squarely confronted
with the question of faith. We couldn't duck the issue. Some of us had
already walked far over the Bridge of Reason toward the desired shore of
faith. The outlines and the promise of the New Land had brought lustre to
tired eyes and fresh courage to flagging spirits. Friendly hands had
stretched out in welcome. We were grateful that Reason had brought us so
far. But somehow, we couldn't quite step ashore. Perhaps we had been leaning
too heavily on Reason that last mile and we did not like to lose our
That was natural, but let us think a little more
closely. Without knowing it, had we not been brought to where we stood by a
certain kind of faith? For did we not believe in our own reasoning? Did we
not have confidence in our ability to think? What was that but a sort of
faith? Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to the God of Reason.
So, in one way or another, we discovered that faith had been involved all
We found too, that we had been worshippers. What a
state of mental gooseflesh that used to bring on! Had we not variously
worshipped people, sentiment, things, money, and ourselves? And then, with a
better motive, had we not worshipfully beheld the sunset, the sea, or a
flower? Who of us had not loved something or somebody? How much did these
feelings, these loves, these worships have to do with pure reason? Little or
nothing, we saw at last. Were not these things the tissue out of which our
lives were constructed? Did not these feelings, after all, determine the
course of our existence? It was impossible to say we had no capacity for
faith, or love, or worship. In one form or another we had been living by
faith and little else.
Imagine life without faith! Were nothing left but
pure reason, it wouldn't be life. But we believed in life - of course we
did. We could not prove life in the sense that you can prove a straight line
is the shortest distance between two points: yet, there it was. Could we
still say the whole thing was nothing but a mass of electrons, created out
of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to a destiny of nothingness? Of
course we couldn't. The electrons themselves seemed more intelligent than
that. At least, so the chemist said.
Hence, we saw that reason isn't everything. Neither
is reason, as most of us used it, entirely dependable, though it emanate
from our best minds. What about people who proved that man could never fly?
Yet we had been seeing another kind of flight, a
spiritual liberation from this world, people who rose above their problems.
They said God made these things possible, and we only smiled. We had seen
spiritual release, but liked to tell ourselves it wasn't true.
Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in
every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be
obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form
or other it is there. For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and
miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as
We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a
part of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend.
Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there. He was as much a
fact as we were. And we are sure you will find the Great Reality deep down
within you. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It
was so with us; why not with you?
We can only clear the ground a bit for you. If our
testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly,
encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then you will have
joined us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail. The
consciousness that you do believe is sure to come to you.
In this book you will read the experience of a man
who thought he was an atheist. His story is so interesting that some of it
should be told now. His change of heart was dramatic, convincing, and
Our friend was a minister's son. He attended church
school, where he became rebellious at what he thought an overdose of
religious education. For years thereafter he was dogged by trouble and
frustration. Business failure, insanity, fatal illness, suicide - these
calamities in his immediate family embittered and depressed him. Post-war
disillusionment, ever more serious alcoholism, impending mental and physical
collapse, brought him to the point of self-destruction.
One night when confined in a hospital, he was
approached by an alcoholic who had known a spiritual experience. Our
friend's gorge rose as he bitterly cried out: "If there is a God, He
certainly hasn't done anything for me." But later, alone in his room, he
asked himself this question: "Is it possible that all the religious people I
have known are wrong?" While pondering the answer, he felt as though he
lived in hell. Then, like a thunderbolt, a great thought came. It crowded
out all else:
"WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THERE IS NO GOD?"
This man recounts that he tumbled out of bed to his
knees. In a few seconds he was overwhelmed by a conviction of the Presence
of God. It poured over and through him with the certainty and majesty of a
great tide at flood. The barriers he had built through the years were swept
away. He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love. He had stepped
from bridge to shore. For the first time, he lived in conscious
companionship with his Creator.
Thus was our friend's cornerstone fixed in place. No
later vicissitude has shaken it. His alcoholic problem was taken away. That
very night three years ago it disappeared. Save for a few brief moments of
temptation, the thought of drink has never returned; and at such times a
great revulsion has risen up in him. Seemingly he could not drink even if he
would. God had restored his sanity.
What is this but a miracle of healing? Yet its
elements are simple. Circumstances made him willing to believe. He humbly
offered himself to his Maker - then he knew.
Even so has God restored us all to our right minds.
To this man, the Revelation was sudden. Some of us grow into it more slowly.
But He has come to all who have honestly sought Him.
Draw near to Him and He will disclose Himself to
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly
followed our directions. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or
will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and
women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.
There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been
born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a way
of life which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.
There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders,
but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used
to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you
want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it -then you
are ready to follow directions.
At some of these you may balk. You may think you can
find an easier, softer way. We doubt if you can. With all the earnestness at
our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start.
Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil
until we let go absolutely.
Remember that you are dealing with alcohol -
cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for you. But there
is One who has all power - That One is God. You must find Him now!
Half measures will avail you nothing. You stand at
the turning point. Throw yourself under His protection and care with
Now we think you can take it! Here are the steps we
took, which are suggested as your Program of Recovery:
1.Admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our
lives had become unmanageable. 2.Came to believe that a Power greater than
ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3.Made a decision to turn our will and
our lives over to the care and direction of God as we understood Him. 4.Made
a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5.Admitted to God, to
ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6.Were
entirely willing that God remove all these defects of character. 7.Humbly,
on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings - holding nothing back.
8.Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make
complete amends to them all. 9.Made direct amends to such people wherever
possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10.Continued to
take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11.Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our contact with God,
praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that
out. 12.Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of
action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and
to practice these principles in all our affairs.
You may exclaim, "What an order! I can't go through
with it." Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain
anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The
point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles
we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather
than spiritual perfection.
Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the
agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after, have been designed
to sell you three pertinent ideas:
(a) That you are alcoholic and cannot manage your
(b) That probably no human power can relieve your
(c) That God can and will.
If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you
ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!
If you are convinced, you are now at step three,
which is that you make a decision to turn your will and your life over to
God as you understand Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we
The first requirement is that you see that any life
run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always
in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives may be
good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an
actor who wants to run the whole show: is forever trying to arrange the
lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.
If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he
wishes, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be
pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our
actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient,
generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be
mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is
more likely to have varied traits.
What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very
well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert
himself some more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or
gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he
may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He
becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not
really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the
delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if
he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that
these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish
to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in
his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?
Our actor is self-centered - ego-centric, as people
like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired business man who lolls in
the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the
nation; the preacher who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century;
politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of
the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has
wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever
their protestations, are not these people mostly concerned with themselves,
their resentments, or their self-pity?
Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is
the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion,
self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they
retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly, without provocation, but we
invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based
on self, which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own
making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is almost the most
extreme example that could be found of self-will run riot, though he usually
doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this
selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there is
no way of entirely getting rid of self without Him. You may have moral and
philosophical convictions galore, but you can't live up to them even though
you would like to. Neither can you reduce your self-centeredness much by
wishing or trying on your own power. You must have God's help.
This is the how and why of it. First of all, quit
playing God yourself. It doesn't work. Next, decide that hereafter in this
drama of life, God is going to by your Director. He is the Principal; you
are to be His agent. He is the Father, and you are His child. Get that
simple relationship straight. Most good ideas are simple and this concept is
to be the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which you will
pass to freedom.
When you sincerely take such a position, all sorts
of remarkable things follow. You have a new Employer. Being all powerful, He
must necessarily provide what you need, if you keep close to Him and perform
His work well. Established on such a footing you become less and less
interested in yourself, your little plans and designs. More and more you
become interested in seeing what you can contribute to life. As you feel new
power flow in, as you enjoy peace of mind, as you discover you can face life
successfully, as you become conscious of His presence, you begin to lose
your fear of today, tomorrow, or the hereafter. You will have been reborn.
Get down upon your knees and say to your Maker, as
you understand Him: "God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and to
do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may
better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may
bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of
life. May I do Thy will always!" Think well before taking this step. Be sure
you are ready; that you can at last abandon yourself utterly to Him.
It is very desirable that you make your decision
with an understanding person. It may be your wife, your best friend, your
spiritual adviser, but remember it is better to meet God alone that with one
who might misunderstand. You must decide this for yourself. The wording of
your decision is, of course, quite optional so long as you express the idea,
voicing it without reservation. This decision is only a beginning, though if
honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, will be
felt at once.
Next we launch out on a course of vigorous action,
the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which you have never in
all probability attempted. Though your decision is a vital and crucial step,
it can have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous
effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in yourself which have been
blocking you. Your liquor is but a symptom. Let's now get down to basic
causes and conditions.
Therefore, you start upon a personal inventory. This
is step four. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes
broke. Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing
process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. Its
object is to disclose damaged or un-salable goods, to get rid of them
promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be
successful, he cannot fool himself about values.
We do exactly the same thing with our lives. We take
stock honestly. First, we search out the flaws in our make-up which have
caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways,
is what has defeated us, we consider its common manifestations.
Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys
more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual
disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been
spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out
mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper.
List people, institutions or principles with whom you are angry. Ask
yourself why you are angry. In most cases it will be found that your
self-esteem, your pocketbook, your ambitions, your personal relationships,
(including sex) are hurt or threatened. So you are sore. You are "burned
On your grudge list set opposite each name your
injuries. Is it your self-esteem, your security, your ambitions, your
personal, or your sex relations, which have been interfered with?
Be as definite as this
Told my wife of my mistress.
Brown may get my job at the office.
Go on through the list back through your lifetime.
Nothing counts but thoroughness and honesty. When you are finished consider
it carefully. The first thing apparent to you is that this world and its
people are often quite wrong. To conclude that others are wrong is as far as
most of us ever get. The usual outcome is that people continue to wrong you
and you stay sore. Sometimes it is remorse and then you are sore at
yourself. But the more you fight and try to have your way, the worse matters
get. Isn't that so? As in war, victors only seem to win. Your moments of
triumph are short-lived.
It is plain that a way of life which includes deep
resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent
that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth
while. But with the alcoholic whose only hope is the maintenance and growth
of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave.
We find that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves
off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we
drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.
If we are to live, we must be free of anger. The
grouch and the brainstorm are not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of
normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.
Turn back to your list, for it holds the key to your
future. You must be prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle.
You will begin to see that the world and its people really dominate you. In
your present state, the wrongdoing of others, fancied or real, has power to
actually kill you. How shall you escape? You see that these resentments must
be mastered, but how? You cannot wish them away any more than alcohol.
This is our course: realize at once that the people
who wrong you are spiritually sick. Though you don't like their symptoms and
the way these disturb you, they, like yourself, are sick, too. Ask God to
help you show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that you would
cheerfully grant a friend who has cancer. When a person next offends, say to
yourself "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from
being angry. Thy will be done."
Never argue. Never retaliate. You wouldn't treat
sick people that way. If you do, you destroy your chance of being helpful.
You cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show you how to
take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.
Take up your list again. Putting out of your mind
the wrongs others have done, resolutely look for your own mistakes. Where
have you been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a
situation may not be entirely your fault, disregard the other person
involved entirely. See where you have been to blame. This is your inventory,
not the other man's. When you see your fault write it down on the list. See
it before you in black and white. Admit your wrongs honestly and be willing
to set these matters straight.
You will notice that the word fear is bracketed
alongside the difficulties with Mr. Brown, Mrs. Jones, your employer, and
your wife. This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives.
It is an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence is shot
through with it. It sets in motion trains of circumstances which bring us
misfortune we feel we don't deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball
rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing as a sin.
It seems to cause more trouble.
Review your fears thoroughly. Put them on paper,
even though you have no resentment in connection with them. Ask yourself why
you have them. Isn't it because self-reliance has failed you? Self-reliance
was good as far as it went, but it didn't go far enough. Some of us once had
great self-confidence, but it didn't fully solve the fear problem, or any
other. When it made us cocky, it was worse.
Perhaps there is a better way - we think so. For you
are now to go on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon
God. You are to trust infinite God rather than your finite self. You are in
the world to play the role he assigns. Just to the extent that you do as you
think He would have you, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable you to match
calamity with serenity.
You must never apologize to anyone for depending
upon your Creator. You can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of
weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages
is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their
God. Never apologize for God. Instead let Him demonstrate, through you, what
He can do. Ask Him to remove your fear and direct your attention to what He
would have you be. At once, you will commence to outgrow fear.
Now about sex. You can probably stand an overhauling
there. We needed it. But above all, let's be sensible on this question. It's
so easy to get way off the track. Here we find human opinions running to
extremes - absurd extremes, perhaps. One set of voices cry that sex is a
lust of our lower nature, a base necessity of procreation. Then we have the
voices who cry for sex and more sex; who bewail the institution of marriage;
who think that most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex causes.
They think we do not have enough of it, or that it isn't the right kind.
They see its significance everywhere. One school would allow man no flavor
for his fare and the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet. We
want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want to be the arbiter of
anyone's sex conduct. We all have sex problems. We'd hardly be human if we
didn't. What can we do about them?
Review your own conduct over the years past. Where
have you been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom did you hurt? Did
you unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where you were
at fault, what should you have done instead? Get this all down on paper and
look at it.
In this way you can shape a sane and sound ideal for
your future sex life. Subject each relation to this test - is it selfish or
not? Ask God to mould your ideals and help you to live up to them. Remember
always that your sex powers are God-given, and therefore good, neither to be
used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.
Whatever your ideal may be, you must be willing to
grow toward it. You must be willing to make amends where you have done harm,
provided that you will not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other
words, treat sex as you would any other problem. In meditation, ask God what
you should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if you
God alone can judge your sex situation. Counsel with
persons is often desirable, but let God be the final judge. Remember that
some people are as fanatical about sex as others are loose. Avoid hysterical
thinking or advice.
Suppose you fall short of the chosen ideal and
stumble. Does this mean you are going to get drunk? Some people will tell
you so. If they do, it will be only a half-truth. It depends on you and your
motive. If you are sorry for what you have done, and have the honest desire
to let God take you to better things, you will be forgiven and will have
learned your lesson. If you are not sorry, and your conduct continues to
harm others, you are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are
facts out of our experience.
To sum up about sex: earnestly pray for the right
ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the
strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, throw yourself
the harder into helping others. Think of their needs and work for them. This
will take you out of yourself. It will quiet the imperious urge, when to
yield would mean heartache.
If you have been thorough about your personal
inventory, you have written down a lot by this time. You have listed and
analyzed your resentments. You have begun to comprehend their futility and
their fatality. You have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness.
You have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men,
even your enemies, for you know them to be sick people. You have listed the
people you have hurt by your conduct, and you are willing to straighten out
the past if you can.
In this book you read again and again that God did
for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now
that He can remove the self-will that has blocked you off from Him. You have
made your decision. You have made an inventory of the grosser handicaps you
have. You have made a good beginning, for you have swallowed and digested
some big chunks of truth about yourself. Are you willing to go on?
Having made your personal inventory, what shall you
do about it? You have been trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship
with your Creator, and to discover the obstacles in your path. You have
admitted certain defects; you have ascertained in a rough way what the
trouble is; you have put your finger on the weak items in your personal
inventory. Now these are about to be carried out. This requires action on
your part, which, when completed, will mean that you have admitted to God,
to yourself, and to another human being, the exact nature of your defects.
This brings us to the fifth step in the Program of Recovery mentioned in the
This is perhaps difficult - especially discussing
your defects with another person. You think you have done well enough in
admitting these things to yourself, perhaps. We doubt that. In actual
practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient. We
strenuously urge you to go much further. But you will be more reconciled to
discussing yourself with another person if we offer good reasons why you
should do so. The best reason first: if you skip this vital step, you may
not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to
themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling
experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got
drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why
they fell. The answer is that they never completed their housecleaning. They
took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock.
They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought
they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility,
fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told
someone else all their life story.
More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double
life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage
character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a
certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it.
The inconsistency is made worse by the things he
does on his sprees. Coming to his senses, he is revolted at certain episodes
he vaguely remembers. These memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think
someone might have observed him. As fast as he can, he pushes these memories
far inside himself. He hopes they will never see the light of day. He is
under constant fear and tension - that makes for more drinking.
Psychologists agree with us. Members of our group
have spent thousands of dollars for examinations by psychologists and
psychiatrists. We know but few instances where we have given these doctors a
fair break. We have seldom told them the whole truth. Unwilling to be honest
with these sympathetic men, we were honest with no one else. Small wonder
the medical profession has a low opinion of alcoholics and their chance for
You must be entirely honest with somebody if you
expect to live long or happily in this world. Rightly and naturally, you are
going to think well before you choose the person or persons with whom to
take this intimate and confidential step. If you belong to a religious
denomination which requires confession, you must, and of course, will want
to go to the properly appointed authority whose duty it is to receive it.
Though you have no religious connection, you may still do well to talk with
someone ordained by an established religion. You will often find such a
person quick to see and understand your problem. Of course, we sometimes
encounter ministers who do not understand alcoholics.
If you cannot, or would rather not do this, search
your acquaintance for a close-mouthed, understanding friend. Perhaps your
doctor or your psychologist will be the person. It may be one of your own
family, but you should not disclose anything to your wife or your parents
which will hurt them and make them unhappy. You have no right to save your
own skin at another person's expense. Such parts of your story you should
tell to someone who will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is you must
be hard on yourself, but always considerate of others.
Notwithstanding the great necessity for discussing
yourself with someone, it may be that you are so situated that there is no
suitable person available. If that is so, you may postpone this step, only,
however, if you hold yourself in complete readiness to go through with it at
the first opportunity. We say this because we are very anxious that you talk
to the right person. It is important that he be able to keep a confidence;
that he fully understand and approve what you are driving at; that he will
not try to change your plan. But don't use this as a mere excuse to
When you decide who is to hear your story, waste no
time. Have a written inventory. Be prepared for a long talk. Explain to your
partner what you are about to do, and why you have to do it. He should
realize that you are engaged upon a life-and-death errand. Most people
approached in this way will be glad to help; they will be honored by your
Pocket your pride and go to it! Illumine every twist
of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once you have taken this step,
withholding nothing, you will be delighted. You can look the world in the
eye. You can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Your fears will fall from
you. You will begin to feel the nearness of your Creator. You may have had
certain spiritual beliefs, but now you will begin to have a spiritual
experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will come
strongly. You will know you are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand
with the Spirit of the Universe.
Return home and find a place where you can be quiet
for an hour. Carefully review what you have done. Thank God from the bottom
of your heart that you know Him better. Take this book down from your shelf
and turn to the page which contains the twelve steps. Carefully read the
first five proposals and ask if you have omitted anything, for you are
building an arch through which you will walk a free man at last. Is your
part of the work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place? Have you
skimped on the cement you have put into the foundation? Have you tried to
make mortar without sand?
If you can answer to your satisfaction, look at step
six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are you now
perfectly willing to let God remove from you all the things which you have
admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all - every one? If you yet
cling to something you will not let go, ask God to help you be willing.
When you are ready, say something like this: "My
Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I
pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which
stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength,
as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen. You have then completed
Now you need more action without which you will find
that "Faith without works is dead." Look at steps eight and nine. You have a
list of all persons you have harmed and to whom you are willing to make
complete amends. You made it when you took inventory. You subjected yourself
to a drastic self-appraisal. Now you are to go out to your fellows and
repair the damage you did in the past. You are to sweep away the debris
which has accumulated out of your effort to live on self-will and run the
show yourself. If you haven't the will to do this, ask until it comes.
Remember you agreed at the beginning you would go to any lengths for victory
You probably still have some misgivings. We can help
you dispel them. As you look over the list of business acquaintances and
friends you have hurt, you will feel diffident about going to some of them
on a spiritual basis. Let us reassure you. To some people you need not, and
probably should not emphasize the spiritual feature on your first approach.
You might prejudice them. At the moment you are trying to put your own life
in order. But this is not an end in itself. Your real purpose is to fit
yourself to be of maximum service to God and the people about you. It is
seldom wise to approach an individual, who still smarts from your injustice
to him, and announce that you have given your life to God. In the prize
ring, this would be called leading with the chin. Why lay yourself open to
being branded a fanatic or a religious bore? You may kill a future
opportunity to carry a beneficial message. But he is sure to be impressed
with a sincere desire to set right the wrong. He is going to be more
interested in your demonstration of good will than in your talk of spiritual
Don't use this advice as an excuse for shying away
from the subject of God. When it will serve any good purpose, you should be
willing to announce your convictions with tact and common sense. The
question of how to approach the man you have hated will arise. It may be he
has done you more harm than you have done to him and, though you may have
acquired a better attitude toward him, you are still not too keen about
admitting your faults. Nevertheless, with a person you dislike, we advise
you to take the bit in your teeth. He is an ideal subject upon which to
practice your new principles. Remember that he, like yourself, is sick
spiritually. Go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit. Be sure to confess
your former ill feeling and express your regret of it.
Under no condition should you criticize such a
person or be drawn into an argument with him. Simply tell him that you
realize you will never get over drinking until you have done your utmost to
straighten out the past. You are there to sweep off your side of the street,
realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished until you do so.
Never try to tell him what he should do. Don't discuss his faults. Stick to
your own. If your manner is calm, frank, and open, you will be gratified
with the result.
In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens.
Sometimes the man you are calling upon admits his own fault; so feuds of
years' standing melt away in an hour. Rarely will you fail to make
satisfactory progress. Your former enemies will sometimes praise what you
are doing and wish you well. Occasionally, they will cancel a debt, or
otherwise offer assistance. It should not matter, however, if someone does
throw you out of his office. You have made your demonstration, done your
part. It's water over the dam.
Most alcoholics owe money. Do not dodge your
creditors. Tell them what you are trying to do. Make no bones about your
drinking; they usually know it anyway, whether you think so or not. Never be
afraid of disclosing your alcoholism on the theory it may cause you
financial harm. Approached in this way, the most ruthless creditor will
sometimes surprise you. Arrange the best deal you can and let these people
know you are sorry your drinking has made you slow to pay. You must lose
your fear of creditors no matter how far you have to go, for you are liable
to drink if you are afraid to face them.
Perhaps you have committed a criminal offense which
might land you in jail if known to the authorities. You may be short in your
accounts and can't make good. You have already admitted this in confidence
to another person, but you are sure you would be imprisoned or lose your job
if it were known. Maybe it's only a petty offence such as padding your
expense account. Most of us have done that sort of thing. Maybe you have
divorced your wife. You have remarried but haven't kept up the alimony to
number one. She is indignant about it, and has a warrant out for your
arrest. That's a common form of trouble too.
Although these reparations take innumerable forms,
there are some general principles which we find guiding. Remind yourself
that you have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience.
Ask that you be given the strength and direction to do the right thing, no
matter what the personal consequence to you. You may lose your position or
reputation, or face jail, but you are willing. You have to be. You must not
shrink at anything.
Usually, however, other people are involved.
Therefore, you are not to be the hasty and foolish martyr who would
needlessly sacrifice others to save himself from the alcoholic pit. A man we
know had remarried. Because of resentment and drinking, he had not paid
alimony to his first wife. She was furious. She went to court and got an
order for his arrest. He had commenced our way of life, had secured a
position, and was getting his head above water. It would have been
impressive heroics if he had walked up to the Judge and said, "Here I am."
We thought he ought to be willing to do that if
necessary, but if he were in jail, he could provide nothing for either
family. We suggested he write his first wife admitting his faults and asking
forgiveness. He did, and also sent a small amount of money. He told her what
he would try to do in the future. He said he was perfectly willing to go to
jail if she insisted. Of course she did not, and the whole situation has
long since been adjusted.
If taking drastic action is going to implicate other
people, they should be consulted. Use every means to avoid wide-spread
damage. You cannot shrink, however, from the final step if that is clearly
indicated. If, after seeking advice, consulting others involved, and asking
God to guide you, there appears no other just and honorable solution than
the most drastic one, you must take your medicine. Trust that the eventual
outcome will be right.
This brings to mind a story about one of our
friends. While drinking, he accepted a sum of money from a bitterly-hated
business rival, giving him no receipt for it. He subsequently denied having
taken the money and used the incident as a basis for discrediting the man.
He thus used his own wrong-doing as a means of destroying the reputation of
another. In fact, his rival was ruined.
He felt he had done a wrong he could not possible
make right. If he opened that old affair, he was sure it would destroy the
reputation of his partner, disgrace his family and take away his own means
of livelihood . What right had he to involve those dependent upon him? How
could he possibly make a public statement exonerating his rival?
He finally came to the conclusion that it was better
to take those risks than to stand before his Creator guilty of such ruinous
slander. He saw that he had to place the outcome in God's hands or he would
soon start drinking again, and all would be lost anyhow. He attended church
for the first time in many years. After the sermon, he quietly got up and
made an explanation. His action met widespread approval, and today he is one
of the most trusted citizens of his town. This all happened three years ago.
The chances are that you have serious domestic
troubles. We are perhaps mixed up with women in a fashion you wouldn't care
to have advertised. We doubt if, in this respect, alcoholics are
fundamentally much worse than other people. But drinking does complicate sex
relations in the home. After a few years with an alcoholic, a wife gets worn
out, resentful, and uncommunicative. How could she be anything else? The
husband begins to feel lonely, sorry for himself. He commences to look
around in the night clubs, or their equivalent, for something besides
liquor. You may be having a secret and exciting affair with "the girl who
understands me." In fairness we must say that she may understand, but what
are you going to do about a thing like that? A man so involved often feels
very remorseful at times, especially if he is married to a loyal and
courageous girl who has literally gone through hell for him.
Whatever the situation, you usually have to do
something about it. If you are sure your wife does not know, should you tell
her? Not always, we think. If she knows in a general way that you have been
wild, should you tell her in detail? Undoubtedly you should admit your
fault. Your wife may insist on knowing all the particulars. She will want to
know who the woman is and where she is. We feel you ought to say to her that
you have no right to involve another person. You are sorry for what you have
done, and God willing, it shall not be repeated. More than that you cannot
do; you have no right to go further. Though there may be justifiable
exceptions, and though we wish to lay down no rule of any sort, we have
often found this the best course to take.
Our design for living is not a one-way street. It is
as good for the wife as for the husband. If you can forget, so can she. It
is better, however, that you do not needlessly name a person upon whom she
can vent her natural jealousy.
There are some cases where the utmost frankness is
demanded. Perhaps yours is one of them. No outsider can appraise such an
intimate situation. It may be you will both decide that the way of good
sense and loving kindness is to let by-gones be by-gones. Each of you might
pray about it, having the other one's happiness uppermost in mind. Keep it
always in sight that you deal with that most terrible human emotion -
jealousy. Good generalship may decide that you and your wife attack the
problem on the flank, rather than risk face-to-face combat. You have to
decide about that alone with your Creator.
Should you have no such complication, there is still
plenty you should do at home. Sometimes we hear an alcoholic say that the
only thing he needs to do is to keep sober. Certainly he needs to keep
sober, for there will be no home if he doesn't. But he is yet a long way
from making good to the wife or parents whom for years he has so shockingly
treated. Passing all understanding is the patience mothers and wives have
had with alcoholics. Had this not been so, many of us would have no homes
today, would perhaps be dead.
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way
through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are
dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have
kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that
sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone
cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, "Don't see
anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'?""
Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.
You must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that you are sorry won't fill
the bill at all. You ought to sit down with your family and frankly analyze
your past as you now see it, being very careful not to criticize them. Never
mind their defects. They may be glaring, but the chances are that your own
actions are partly responsible. So clean house with the family, asking each
morning in meditation that your Creator show you the way of patience,
tolerance kindliness and love.
The spiritual life is not a theory. You have to live
it. Unless your family expresses a desire to live upon spiritual principles,
however, we think you ought to leave them alone. You should not talk
incessantly about spiritual matters to them. They will change in time. Your
practice will convince them more than your words. Remember that ten or
twenty years of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone.
There may be some wrongs you can never fully right.
Don't worry about them if you can honestly say to yourself that you would
right them if you could. Some people you cannot see - send them an honest
letter. And there may be a valid reason for postponement in some cases. But
don't delay if it can be avoided. Be sensible, tactful, and considerate. Be
humble without being servile or scraping. As one of God's people you are to
stand on your feet; don't crawl on your belly before anyone.
If you are painstaking about this phase of your
development, you will be amazed before you are half through. You are going
to know a new freedom and happiness. You will not regret the past nor wish
to shut the door on it. You will comprehend the word serenity and know
peace. No matter how far down the scale you have gone, you will see how your
experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity
will disappear. You will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest
in your fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Your whole attitude and
outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity
will leave you. You will intuitively know how to handle situations which
used to baffle you. You will suddenly realize that God is doing for you what
you could not do for yourself.
You say these are extravagant promises. They are
not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes
slowly. They will materialize in you if you work for them.
This thought brings us to step ten, which suggests
you continue to take personal inventory and continue to set any new mistakes
right as you go along. You vigorously commenced this way of life as you
cleaned up your past. You have entered the world of Spirit. Your next
function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an
overnight matter. It should continue for your life time. Continue to watch
yourself for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop
up, ask God at once to remove them. Discuss them with someone immediately.
Make amends quickly if you have harmed anyone. Then resolutely turn your
thoughts to someone you can help. Love and tolerance of others is your code.
And you have ceased fighting anything or anyone -
even alcohol. For by this time your sanity will have returned. You will
seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, you will recoil from it as you
would from a hot flame. You will react sanely and normally. You will find
this has happened automatically. You will see that your new attitude toward
liquor has been given you without any thought or effort on your part. It
just comes! That is the miracle of it. You are not fighting it, neither are
you avoiding temptation. You feel as though you had been placed in a
position of neutrality. You feel safe and protected. You have not even sworn
off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for you. You
are neither cocky, nor are you afraid. That is our experience. That is how
we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of
action and rest on your laurels. You are headed for trouble if you do, for
alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have
is a daily reprieve. Every day is a day when you have to carry the vision of
God's will into all of your activities. "How can I best serve Thee - Thy
will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with you
constantly. You can exercise your will power along this line all you wish.
It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength,
inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If you
have carefully followed directions, you have begun to sense the flow of His
Spirit into you. To some extent you have become God-conscious. You have
begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But you must go further and that
means more action.
Step eleven suggests prayer and meditation. Don't be
shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It
works, if you have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to
be vague about this matter. Yet, we believe we can give you some definite
and valuable suggestions.
When you awake tomorrow morning, look back over the
day before. Were you resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid? Do you owe an
apology? Have you kept something to yourself which should be discussed with
another person at once? Were you kind and loving toward all? What could you
have done better? Were you thinking of yourself most of the time? Or were
you thinking of what you could do for others, of what you could pack into
the stream of life? After you have faced yesterday, ask God's forgiveness
for any wrong. Ask to be shown what to do. Thus you keep clean as you live
Next, think about the twenty-four hours ahead.
Consider your plans for the day. Before you begin, ask God to guide your
thinking. Especially ask that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or
self-seeking motives. Then go ahead and use your common sense. There is
nothing hard or mysterious about this. God gave you brains to use. Clear
your thinking of wrong motives. Your thought life will be placed on a much
In thinking through your day you may face
indecision. You may not be able to determine which course to take. Here you
ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. Relax and take
it easy. Don't struggle. Ask God's help. You will be surprised how the right
answers come after you have practiced a few days. What used to be the hunch
or the occasional inspiration becomes a working part of your mind. Being
still inexperienced and just making your contact with God, it is not
probable that you are going to be divinely inspired all the time. That would
be a large piece of conceit, for which you might pay in all sorts of absurd
actions and ideas. Nevertheless you will find that your thinking will, as
time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration and guidance. You
will come to rely upon it. This is not weird or silly. Most psychologists
pronounce these methods sound.
You might conclude the period of meditation with a
prayer that you be shown all through the day what your next step is to be,
that He give you whatever you need to take care of every situation. Ask
especially for freedom from self-will. Be careful to make no request for
yourself only. You may ask for yourself, however, if others will be helped.
Never pray for your own selfish ends. People waste a lot of time doing that,
and it doesn't work. You can easily see why.
If circumstances warrant, ask your wife or a friend
to join you in morning meditation. If you belong to a religious denomination
which requires a definite morning devotion, be sure to attend to that also.
If you are not a member of a religious body, you might select and memorize a
few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing.
There are many helpful books also. If you do not know of any, ask your
priest, minister, or rabbi, for suggestions. Be quick to see where religious
people are right. Make use of what they offer.
As you go through the day, pause when agitated or
doubtful. Be still and ask for the right thought or action. It will come.
Remind yourself you are no longer running the show. Humbly say to yourself
many times each day "Thy will be done." You will be in much less danger of
excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. You will
become much more efficient. You will not tire easily, for you will not be
burning up energy foolishly as you did when trying to arrange life to suit
It works - it really does. Try it.
We alcoholics are undisciplined . So let God
discipline you in the simple way we have just outlined.
But this is not all. There is action and more
action. "Faith without works is dead." What works? We shall treat them in
the next chapter which is entirely devoted to step twelve.
Practical experience shows that nothing will so much
insure your own immunity from drinking as intensive work with other
alcoholics. It works when other spiritual activities fail. This is our
twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help
when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail.
Remember they are fatally ill.
The kick you will get is tremendous. To watch people
come back to life, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to
see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends - this is an
experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent
contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.
Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who
want to recover. You can easily find some by asking a few doctors,
ministers, priests and hospitals. They will be only too glad to have your
help. Don't start out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately a lot of
prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if you arouse it. Preachers and
doctors don't like to be told they don't know their business. They are
usually competent and you can learn much from them if you wish, but it
happens that because of your own drinking experience you can be uniquely
useful to other alcoholics. So cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful
should be your only aim.
When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics
Anonymous, find out all you can about him. If he does not want to stop
drinking, don't waste time trying to persuade him. You may spoil a later
opportunity. This advice is given for his family also. They must be patient,
realizing they are dealing with a sick person.
If there is any indication that he wants to stop,
have a good talk with the person most interested in him - usually his wife.
Get an idea of his behavior, his problems, his background, the seriousness
of his condition, and his religious leanings. You need this information to
put yourself in his place, to see how you would like him to approach you if
the tables were turned.
Usually it is wise to wait till he goes on a binge.
The family may object to this, but unless he is in a dangerous physical
condition, it is better to risk it. Don't deal with him when he is very
drunk, unless he is ugly and the family needs your help. Wait for the end of
the spree, or at least for a lucid interval. Then let his family or a friend
ask him if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do
so. If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person
who has recovered. You should be described to him as one of a fellowship
who, as a part of their own recovery, try to help others, and who will be
glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.
If he does not want to see you, never force yourself
upon him. Neither should the family hysterically plead with him to do
anything, nor should they tell him much about you. They should wait for the
end of his next drinking bout. You might place this book where he can see it
in the interval. Here no specific rule can be given. The family must decide
these things. But urge them not to be over-anxious, for that might spoil
The family should not try to represent you. When
possible, avoid meeting a man through his family. Approach through a doctor
or an institution is a better bet. If your man needs hospitalization, he
should have it, but not forcibly, unless he is violent. Let the doctor tell
him he has something new in the way of a solution.
When your man is better, let the doctor suggest a
visit from you. Though you have talked with the family, leave them out of
the first discussion. Under these conditions your prospect will see he is
under no pressure. He will feel he can deal with you without being nagged by
his family. Call on him while he is still jittery. He will be more receptive
See your man alone, if possible. At first engage in
general conversation. After a while, turn the talk to some phase of
drinking. Say enough about your drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences
to encourage him to speak of himself. If he wishes to talk, let him do so.
You will thus get a better idea of how you ought to proceed. If he is not
communicative, give him a sketch of your drinking career up to the time you
quit. But say nothing, for the moment, of how that was accomplished. If he
is in a serious mood, dwell on the troubles liquor has caused you, being
careful not to moralize or preach. If his mood is light, tell him humorous
stories of your escapades. Get him to tell some of his.
When he sees you know all about the drinking game,
commence to describe yourself as an alcoholic. Tell him how baffled you
were, how you finally learned that you were sick as well as weak. Give him
an account of the struggles you made to stop. Show him the mental twist
which leads to the first drink of a spree. Do this as we have done in the
chapter on alcoholism. If he is alcoholic, he will understand you at once.
He will match your mental inconsistencies with some of his own.
If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic,
you may begin to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from
your own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first
drink prevents normal functioning of the will power. Don't at this stage
refer to this book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss it. And be
careful not to brand him an alcoholic. Let him draw his own conclusion. If
he sticks to the idea that he can still control his drinking, tell him that
possibly he can - if he is not too alcoholic. But insist that if he is
severely afflicted, there is little chance he can recover by himself.
Continue to speak of alcoholism as a sickness, a
fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it.
Keep his attention focused mainly on your personal experience. If doctors or
psychiatrists have pronounced you incurable, be sure and let him know about
it. Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament.
Doctors who know the truth are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the
whole story unless it will serve some good purpose, but you may talk to him
about the hopelessness of alcoholism, because you offer a solution. You will
soon have your friend admitting he has many, if not all, of the traits of
the alcoholic. If his own doctor is willing to tell him that he is
alcoholic, so much the better. Even though your protégé may not have
entirely admitted his condition, he has become very curious to know how you
got well. Let him ask you that question, if he will. If he does not ask,
proceed with the rest of your story. Tell him exactly what happened to you.
Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make
it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He
can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main
thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and
that he live by spiritual principles.
When dealing with such a person, you had better use
everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing
any prejudice he may have against certain theological terms and conceptions,
about which he may already be confused. Don't raise such issues, no matter
what your own convictions are.
Your prospect may belong to a religious
denomination. He religious education and training may be far superior to
yours. In that case he is going to wonder how you can add anything to what
he already knows. But he will be curious to learn why his own religious
convictions have not worked, and yours have given you victory. He may be an
example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient. To be vital, faith
must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.
Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion. Admit that
he probably knows more about it than you do, but call to his attention the
fact that however deep his faith and knowledge, there must be something
wrong, or he would not drink. Say that perhaps you can help him see where he
fails to apply to himself the very precepts he knows so well. For our
purpose you represent no particular faith or denomination. You are dealing
only with general principles common to most denominations.
Outline our program of action, telling how you made
a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past, and why you are now
endeavoring to be helpful to him. Make it plain he is under no obligation to
you, that you hope only that he will try to help other alcoholics when he
escapes his own difficulties. Show how important it is that he place the
welfare of other people ahead of his own. Make it clear that he is not under
pressure, that he needn't see you again, if he doesn't want to. You should
not be offended if he wants to call it off, for he has helped you more than
you have helped him. If your talk has been sane, quiet and full of human
understanding, you have probably made a friend. Maybe you have disturbed him
about the question of alcoholism. This is all to the good. The more hopeless
he feels, the better. He will be more likely to follow your suggestions.
Your candidate may give reasons why he need not
follow all of your program. He will rebel at the thought of a drastic
housecleaning which requires discussion with other people. Do not contradict
such views. Tell him you once felt as he does, but you doubt if you would
have made much progress had you not taken action. On your first visit tell
him about the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. If he shows interest, lend
him your copy of this book.
Unless your friend wants to talk further about
himself, do not wear out your welcome. Give him a chance to think it over.
If you do stay, let him steer the conversation in any direction he likes.
Sometimes a new man is anxious to make a decision and discuss has affairs at
once, and you may be tempted to let him proceed. This is almost always a
mistake. If he has trouble later, he is likely to say you rushed him. You
will be most successful with alcoholics if you do not exhibit any passion
for crusade or reform. Never talk down to an alcoholic from any moral or
spiritual hilltop, simply lay out your kit of spiritual tools for his
inspection. Show him how they worked with you. Offer him friendship and
fellowship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything to
If he is not interested in your solution, if he
expects you to act only as a banker for his financial difficulties or a
nurse for his sprees, drop him until he changes his mind. This he may do
after he gets hurt again.
If he is sincerely interested and wants to see you
again, ask him to be sure to read this book in the interval. After doing
that, he is to decide for himself whether he wants to go on. He is not to be
pushed or prodded by you, his wife, or his friends. If he is to find God,
the desire must come from within.
If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or
prefers some other spiritually approach, encourage him to follow his own
conscience. You have no monopoly on God; you merely have an approach that
worked with you. But point out that we alcoholics have much in common and
that you would like, in any case, to be friendly. Let it go at that.
Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not
respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to
find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. It's
a waste of time and poor strategy to keep chasing a man who cannot or will
not work with you. If you leave such a person alone, in all likelihood he
will begin to run after you, for he will soon become convinced that he
cannot recover alone. To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny
some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy. One of our
fellowship failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. He often
says that if he had continued to work on them, he might have deprived many
others, who have since recovered, of their chance.
Suppose now you are making your second visit to a
man. He has read this volume and says he is prepared to go through with the
twelve steps of The Program of Recovery. Having had the experience yourself,
you can give him much practical advice. Suggest he make his decision with
you and tell you his story, but do not insist upon it if he prefers to
consult someone else.
He may be broke and homeless. If he is, try to help
him about getting a job. Give him a little financial assistance, unless it
would deprive your family or creditors of money they should have. Perhaps
you will want to take the man into your home for a few days. But be sure you
use discretion. Be certain he will be welcomed by your family, and that he
is not trying to impose upon you for money, connections, or shelter. Permit
that and you only harm him. You will be making it possible for him to be
insincere. You will be aiding in his destruction, rather than his recovery.
Never avoid these responsibilities, but be sure you
are doing the right thing if you assume them. Self-sacrifice for others is
the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't
enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may
mean the loss of many nights' sleep, great interference with your pleasures,
interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your
home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police
courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle
at any time of the day or night. Your wife will sometimes say she is
neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your home, or burn a mattress.
You may have to fight with him if he is violent. Sometimes you will have to
call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction. Another time you
may have to send for the police or an ambulance.
This sort of thing goes on constantly, but we seldom
allow an alcoholic to live in our homes for long at a time. It is not good
for him, and it sometimes creates serious complications in a family.
Though an alcoholic does not respond, there is no
reason why you should neglect his family. You should continue to be friendly
to them in every way. The family should be offered your way of life. Should
they accept, and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better
chance the head of the family will recover. And even though he continues to
drink, the family will find life more bearable.
For the type of alcoholic who is able and willing to
get well, little charity, in the ordinary sense of the word, is needed or
wanted. The men who cry for money and shelter before conquering alcohol, are
on the wrong track. Yet we do go to great extremes to provide each other
with these very things, when such action is warranted. This may seem
inconsistent, but it is not.
It is not the matter of giving that is in question,
but when and how to give. That makes the difference between failure and
success. The minute we put our work on a social service plane, the alcoholic
commences to rely upon our assistance rather than upon God. He clamors for
this or that, claiming he cannot master alcohol until his material needs are
cared for. Nonsense. Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this
truth: job or no job - wife or no wife - we simply do not stop drinking
alcohol so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man
that he can get well regardless of anyone. No person on this earth can stop
his recovery from alcohol, or prevent his being supplied with whatever is
good for him. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.
Now, the domestic problem: There may be divorce,
separation , or just strained relations. When your prospect has made such
restitution as he can to his family, and has thoroughly explained to them
the new principles by which he is living, he should proceed to put those
principles into action at home. That is, if he is lucky enough to have a
home. Though his family be at fault in many respects, he should not be
concerned about that. He should concentrate on his own spiritual
demonstration. Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided like leprosy. In
many homes this is a difficult thing to do, but it must be done if any
results are to be expected. If persisted in for a few months, the effect on
a man's family is sure to be great. The most incompatible people discover
they have a basis upon which they can meet. Little by little the family will
see their own defects and admit them. These can then be discussed in an
atmosphere of helpfulness and friendliness.
After they have seen tangible results, the family
will perhaps want to join in the better way of life. These things will come
to pass naturally and in good time, provided, however, the alcoholic
continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful,
regardless of what anyone says or does. Of course, we all fall much below
this standard many times. But we must try to repair the damage immediately
lest we pay the penalty by a spree.
If there be divorce or separation , there should be
no undue haste for the couple to get together. The man should be sure of his
ground. The wife should fully understand his new way of life. If their old
relationship is to be resumed, it must be on a better basis, since the old
one did not work. This means a new attitude and spirit all around. Sometimes
it is to the best interests of all concerned that a couple remain apart.
Obviously, no rule can be laid down. Let the alcoholic continue his new way
of life day by day. When the time for living together has come, it will be
apparent to both parties.
Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has
his family back. This just isn't so. In some cases the wife will never come
back for one reason or another. Remind your prospect that his recovery is
not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.
We have seen men get well whose families have not returned at all. We have
seen others slip when the family came back too soon.
Both you and the new prospect must day by day walk
in the path of spiritual progress. If you persist, remarkable things will
happen to you. When we look back, we realize that the things which came to
us when we put ourselves in God's hands were better for us than anything we
could have planned. Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will
presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present
When working with a man and his family, you must
take care not to participate in their quarrels. You may spoil your chance of
being helpful if you do. But you may urge upon a man's family that he has
been a very sick person and should be treated accordingly. You should warn
them against arousing resentment or jealousy. You should point out that his
defects of character are not going to disappear overnight. Show them that he
has entered upon a period of growth. Ask them to remember, when they are
impatient, the blessed fact of his sobriety.
If you have been successful in solving your own
domestic problems, tell the newcomer's family how that was accomplished. In
this way you can set them on the right track without becoming critical of
them. The story of how you and your wife settled your difficulties is worth
any amount of preaching or criticism.
Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts
of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People have said we must not go
where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes; we must shun
friends who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which show drinking scenes;
we mustn't go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles if we go to
their houses; we mustn't think or be reminded about alcohol at all.
Experience proves this is nonsense.
We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic who
cannot meet them, still has an alcoholic mind: there is something the matter
with his spiritual status. His only chance for sobriety would be some place
like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a
bottle of scotch and ruin everything! Ask any woman who has sent her husband
to distant places on the theory he would escape the alcohol problem.
Any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to
shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic
tries to shield himself, he may succeed for a time, but will wind up with a
bigger explosion than ever. Our wives and we have tried these methods. These
foolish attempts to do the impossible have always failed.
So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is
drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes
bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee
parties. To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem
like tempting Providence, but it isn't.
You will note that we made an important
qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, "Have I any
legitimate social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Am
I going to be helpful to anyone there? Could I be more useful or helpful by
being somewhere else?" If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you
need have no apprehension. You may go or stay away, whatever seems best. But
be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your
motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of
the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are spiritually
shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!
You are not to sit with a long face in places where
there is drinking, sighing about the good old days. If it is a happy
occasion, try to increase the pleasure of those there; if a business
occasion, go and attend to your business enthusiastically. If you are with a
person who wants to eat in a bar, by all means go along. Let your friends
know they are not to change their habits on your account. At a proper time
and place explain to all your friends why alcohol disagrees with you. If you
do this thoroughly, no decent person will ask you to drink. While you were
drinking, you were withdrawing from life little by little. Now you are
getting back into the life of this world. Don't start to withdraw from life
again just because your friends drink liquor.
Your job now is to be at the place where you may be
of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go where there is
drinking, if you can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most
sordid spot on earth on such a mission. Keep on the firing line of life with
these motives, and God will keep you unharmed.
Many of us keep liquor in our homes. We often need
it to carry green recruits through a severe hangover. Some of us still serve
it to our friends in moderation, provided they are people who do not abuse
drinking. But some of us think we should not serve liquor to anyone. We
never argue this question. We feel that each family, in the light of their
own circumstances, ought to decide for themselves.
We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred
of drinking as an institution. Experience shows that such an attitude is not
helpful to anyone. Every new alcoholic looks for this spirit among us and is
immensely relieved when he finds we are not witch-burners. A spirit of
intolerance might repel alcoholics whose lives would have been saved, had it
not been for our stupidity. We would not even do the cause of temperate
drinking any good, for not one drinker in a thousand is willing to be told
anything about alcohol by one who hates it.
Someday we hope that Alcoholics Anonymous will help
the public to a better realization of the gravity of the liquor problem. We
shall be of little use if our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility.
Drinkers will not stand for it.
After all, our troubles were of our own making.
Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or
anything. We have to!
With few exceptions, our book thus far has spoken of
men. But what we have said applies quite as much to women. Our activities in
behalf of women who drink are on the increase. There is every evidence that
women regain their health as readily as men if they follow our suggestions.
But for every man who drinks others are involved -
the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the mother and father who
see their son wasting away.
Among us are wives, relatives, and friends whose
problem has been solved, as well as some who have not yet found a happy
solution. We shall let the wives of Alcoholics Anonymous address the wives
of men who drink too much. What they say will apply to nearly everyone bound
by ties of blood or affection to an alcoholic.
As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we want you to
sense that we understand you as perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes
we have made and help you to avoid them. We want to leave you with the
feeling that no situation is too difficult and no unhappiness too great to
We have traveled a rocky road; there is no mistake
about that. We have had long rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration,
self-pity, misunderstand, and fear. These are not pleasant companions. We
have been driven to maudlin sympathy, to bitter resentment. We have veered
from extreme to extreme, ever hoping that one day our loved ones would be
themselves once more.
Our loyalty, and the desire that our husbands hold
up their heads and be like other men have begotten all sorts of
predicaments. We have been unselfish and self-sacrificing. We have told
innumerable lies to protect our pride and our husbands' reputations. We have
prayed, we have begged, we have been patient. We have struck out viciously.
We have run away. We have been hysterical. We have been terror stricken. We
have sought sympathy. We have had retaliatory love affairs with other men.
Our homes have been battle-grounds many an evening.
In the morning we have kissed and made up. Our friends have counseled
chucking the men and we have done so with finality, only to be back in a
little while, hoping, always hoping. Our men have sworn great solemn oaths
they were through drinking forever. We have believed them when no one else
could, or would. Then, in days, weeks, or months, a fresh outburst.
We seldom had friends at our homes, never knowing
how or when the men of the house would appear. We could make few social
engagements. We came to live almost alone, unwanted by anyone. When we were
invited out, our husbands always sneaked so many drinks that they spoiled
the occasion. If, on the other hand, they took nothing, their self-pity made
There was never financial security. Positions were
always in jeopardy or gone. An armored car could not have brought the pay
envelopes home. The checking account melted like snow in June.
There were other women. How heart breaking was this
discovery; how cruel to be told they understood our men as we did not!
The bill collectors; the sheriffs; the angry taxi
drivers; the policemen; the bums; the pals; and even the ladies he brought
home - our husbands thought we were so inhospitable. "Joy killer, nag, wet
blanket" - that's what they said. Next day they would be themselves again
and we would forgive and try to forget.
We have tried to hold the love of our children for
their father. We have told small tots that father was sick, which was much
nearer the truth than we realized. They struck the children, kicked out door
panels, smashed treasured crockery, and ripped the keys out of pianos. In
the midst of such pandemonium they may have rushed out threatening to live
with the other woman forever. In desperation, we have even got tight
ourselves - the drunk to end all drunks. The unexpected result was that our
husbands seemed to like it.
Perhaps at this point we got a divorce and took the
children home to father and mother. Then we were severely criticized by our
husband's parents for desertion. Usually we did not leave. We stayed on and
on. We finally sought employment ourselves as destitution faced us and our
We began to ask medical advice as the sprees got
closer together. The alarming physical and mental symptoms, the deepening
pall of remorse, depression and inferiority that settled down on our loved
ones - these things terrified and distracted us. As animals on a treadmill,
we have patiently and wearily climbed, falling back in exhaustion after each
futile effort to reach solid ground. Most of us have entered the final stage
with its commitment to health resorts, sanitariums, hospitals, and jails.
Sometimes there were screaming delirium and insanity. Death was often near.
Under these conditions we naturally made mistakes.
Some of them rose out of ignorance of alcoholism. Sometimes we sensed dimly
that we were dealing with sick men. Had we fully understood the nature of
the alcoholic illness, we might have behaved differently.
How could men who loved their wives and children be
so unthinking, so callous, so cruel? There could be no love in such persons,
we thought. And just as we were being convinced of their heartlessness, they
would surprise us with fresh resolves and new attentions. For a while they
would be their old sweet selves, only to dash the new structure of affection
to pieces once more. Asked why they commenced to drink again, they would
reply with some silly excuse, or none. It was so baffling, so heartbreaking.
Could we have been so mistaken in the men we married? When drinking, they
were strangers. Sometimes they were so inaccessible that it seemed as though
a great wall had been built around them.
And even if they did not love their families, how
could they be so blind about themselves? What had become of their judgment,
their common sense, their will power? Why could they not see that drink
meant ruin to them? Why was it, when we pointed out these dangers, that they
agreed and then got drunk again immediately?
These are some of the questions which race through
the mind of every girl who has an alcoholic husband. We hope our book has
answered some of them. But now you will have seen that perhaps your husband
has been living in that strange world of alcoholism where everything is
distorted and exaggerated. You can see that he really does love you with his
better self. Of course, there is such a thing as incompatibility, but in
nearly every instance the alcoholic only seems to be unloving and
inconsiderate; it is usually because he is warped and sickened that he says
and does these appalling things. Today most of our men are better husbands
and fathers than ever before.
Don't condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what
he says or does. He is just another very sick, unreasonable person. Treat
him, when you can, as though he had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember
that he is very ill.
There is an important exception to the foregoing. We
realize some men are thoroughly bad-intentioned, that no amount of patience
will make any difference. An alcoholic of this temperament will be quick to
use this chapter as a club over your head. Don't let him get away with it.
If you are positive he is one of this type you may feel you had better
leave. It is not right to let him ruin your life and the lives of your
children, especially when he has before him a way to stop his drinking and
abuse if he really wants to pay the price.
The problem with which you struggle usually falls
within one of four categories:
One: Your husband may be only a heavy drinker. His
drinking may be constant or it may be heavy only on certain occasions. He
spends too much money for liquor. It slows him up mentally and physically,
but he does not see it. Sometimes he is a source of embarrassment to you and
his friends. He is positive he can handle his liquor, that it does him no
harm, that drinking is necessary in his business. He would be insulted if
called an alcoholic. This world is full of people like him. Some will
moderate or stop altogether, and some will not. Of those who keep on, a good
number will become true alcoholics after a while.
Two: Your husband is showing lack of control. He is
unable to stay on the water wagon, even when he wants to. He often gets
entirely out of hand when drinking. He admits this is true, but is obsessed
with the idea that he will do better. He has begun to try, with or without
your cooperation, various means of moderating or staying dry. He is
beginning to lose his friends. His business may suffer somewhat. He is
worried at times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink like other
people. He sometimes drinks in the morning, and through the day also, to
hold his nervousness in check. He is remorseful after serious drinking bouts
and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets over the spree, he begins
to think once more how he can drink moderately next time. This person is in
danger. He has the earmarks of a real alcoholic. Perhaps he can still tend
to business fairly well. He has by no means ruined everything. As we say
among ourselves, "He wants to want to stop."
Three: This husband has gone much further than
husband number two. Though once like number two, he became worse. His
friends have slipped away, his home is a near-wreck, and he cannot hold a
position. Maybe the doctor has been called in, and the weary round of
sanitariums and hospitals has begun. He admits he cannot drink like other
people, but does not see why. He clings to the notion that he will yet find
a way to do so. He may have come to the point where he desperately wants to
stop but cannot. His case presents additional questions which we shall try
to answer for you. You can be quite hopeful of a situation like this.
Four: You may have a husband of whom you completely
despair. He has been placed in one institution after another. He is violent,
or definitely insane, when drunk. Sometimes he drinks on the way home from
the hospital. Perhaps he has had delirium tremens. Doctors shake their heads
and advise you to have him committed. Maybe you have already been obliged to
put him away. This picture may not be as dark as it looks. Many of our
husbands were just as far gone. Yet they got well.
Let's now go back to husband number one. Oddly
enough, he is often difficult to deal with. He enjoys drinking. It stirs his
imagination. His friends feel closer over a highball. Perhaps you enjoy
drinking with him yourself when he doesn't go too far. You have passed happy
evenings together chatting and drinking before your fire. Perhaps you both
like parties which would be dull without liquor. We have enjoyed such
evenings ourselves; we had a good time. We know all about liquor as a social
lubricant. Some, but not all of us, think it has its advantages when
Your husband has begun to abuse alcohol. The first
principle of success is that you should never be angry. Even though your
husband becomes unbearable, and you have to leave him temporarily, you
should, if you can, go without rancor. Patience and good temper are vitally
The next rule is that you should never tell him what
to do about his drinking. If he gets the idea that you are a nag or a
killjoy, your chance of accomplishing anything useful will be zero. He will
use that as an excuse to drink some more. He will tell you he is
misunderstood. This may lead to lonely evenings for you. He may seek someone
to console him - not always another man.
Be determined that your husband's drinking is not
going to spoil your relation with your children or your friends. They need
your companionship and your help. It is possible to have a full and useful
life, though your husband continues to drink. We know women who are
unafraid, even happy, under these conditions. Do not set your heart on
reforming your husband. You may be unable to do so, no matter how hard you
We know these suggestions are not impossible to
follow, but you will save many a heartbreak if you can succeed in observing
them. Your husband will come to appreciate your reasonableness and patience.
This will lay the groundwork for a frank and friendly talk about his liquor
problem. Try to have him bring up the subject himself. Be sure you are not
critical during such a discussion. Attempt instead, to put yourself in his
place. Let him see that you want to be helpful rather than critical.
When a discussion does arise, you might suggest he
read this book, or at least the chapter on alcoholism. Tell him you have
been worried, though perhaps needlessly. You think he ought to know the
subject better, as everyone should have a clear understanding of the risk he
takes if he drinks much. Show him you have confidence in his power to stop
or moderate. Say you do not want to be a wet blanket; that you only want him
to take care of his health. Thus you may succeed in interesting him in
He probably has several alcoholics among his own
acquaintances. You might suggest that you both take an interest in them.
Drinkers like to help other drinkers. Your husband may be willing to talk to
one of them, perhaps over a highball.
If this kind of approach does not catch your
husband's interest, it may be best to drop the subject for a time, but after
a friendly talk your husband will usually revive the topic himself. This may
take patient waiting, but it will be worth it. Meanwhile you might try to
help the wife of another serious drinker. If you act upon these principles,
your husband may stop or moderate after a while.
Suppose, however, that your husband fits the
description of number two. The same principles which apply to husband number
one should be practiced. But after his next binge, ask him if he would
really like to get over drinking for good. Do not ask that he do it for you
or anyone else. Just would he like to?
The chances are he would. Show him your copy of this
book and tell him what you have found out about alcoholism. Show him that
the writers of the book understand, as only alcoholics can. Tell him some of
the interesting stories you have read. If you think he will be shy of our
spiritual remedy, ask him to look at the chapter on alcoholism. Then perhaps
he will be interested enough to continue.
If he is enthusiastic, cooperate with him, though
you, yourself, may not yet agree with all we say. If he is lukewarm, or
thinks he is not an alcoholic, leave him alone. Never urge him to follow our
program. The seed has been planted in his mind. He knows that over a hundred
men, much like himself, have recovered. But don't remind him of this after
he has been drinking, for he will be angry. Sooner or later, you are likely
to find him reading the book once more. Wait until repeated stumbling
convinces him he must act, for the more you hurry him, the longer his
recovery may be delayed.
If you have a number three husband, you may be in
luck. Being certain he wants to stop, you can go to him with this volume as
joyfully as though you had struck oil. He may not share your enthusiasm, but
he is practically sure to read the book, and he may go for the program at
once. If he does not, you will probably not have long to wait. Again, you
must not crowd him. Let him decide for himself. Cheerfully see him through
more sprees. Talk about his condition or this book only when he raises the
issue. In some cases it may be better to let the family doctor present the
book. The doctor can urge action without arousing hostility. If your husband
is otherwise a normal individual, your chances are good at this stage.
You would suppose that men in the fourth
classification would be quite hopeless, but that is not so. Many of
Alcoholics Anonymous were like that. Everybody had given them up. Defeat
seemed certain. Yet often such men have spectacular and powerful recoveries.
There are exceptions. Some men have been so impaired
by alcohol that they cannot stop. Sometimes there are cases where alcoholism
is complicated by other disorders. A good doctor or psychiatrist can tell
you whether these complications are serious. In any event, see that your
husband gets this book. His reaction may be one of enthusiasm. If he is
already committed to an institution but can convince you and your doctor
that he means business, you should give him a chance to try our method,
unless the doctor thinks his mental condition abnormal or dangerous. We make
this recommendation with some confidence. About a year ago a certain state
institution released six chronic alcoholics. It was fully expected they
would all be back in a few weeks. Only one of them has returned. The others
had no relapse at all. The power of God goes deep!
You may have the reverse situation on your hands.
Perhaps you have a husband who is at large, but who should be committed.
Some men cannot, or will not get over alcoholism. When they become too
dangerous, we think the kind thing is to lock them up. The wives and
children of such men suffer horribly, but not less than the men themselves.
As a rule, an institution is a dismal place, and
sometimes it is not conducive to recovery. It is a pity that chronic
alcoholics must often mingle with the insane. Some day we hope our group
will be instrumental in changing this condition. Many of our husbands spent
weary years in institutions. Though more reluctant than most people to place
our men there, we sometimes suggest that it be done. Of course, a good
doctor should always be consulted.
But sometimes you must start life anew. We know
women who have done it. If such women adopt our way of life, their road will
If your husband is a drinker, you worry over what
other people are thinking. You hate to meet your friends. You draw more and
more into yourself. You think everyone is talking about conditions at your
home. You avoid the subject of drinking, even with your own parents. You do
not know what to tell the children. When your husband is bad, you become a
trembling recluse, wishing the telephone had never been invented.
We find that most of this embarrassment is
unnecessary. While you need not discuss your husband, you can quietly let
your friends know what the trouble is. Sometimes it is wise to talk with his
employer. But you must be on guard not to embarrass or harm your husband.
When you have carefully explained to such people
that he is a sick person, little more to blame than other men who drink but
manage their liquor better, you will have created a new atmosphere. Barriers
which have sprung up between you and your friends will disappear with the
growth of sympathetic understanding. You will no longer be self-conscious,
nor feel that you must apologize as though your husband were a weak
character. He may be anything but that. Your new courage, good nature, and
lack of self-consciousness will do wonders for your social status.
The same principle applies in dealing with the
children. Unless they actually need protection from their father, it is best
not to take sides in any argument he has with them while drinking. Use your
energies to promote a better understanding all around. Then that terrible
tension which grips the home of every problem drinker will be lessened.
Frequently you have felt obliged to tell your
husband's employer and his friends that he was sick, when as a matter of
fact he was tight. Avoid answering these inquiries as much as you can.
Whenever possible, let your husband explain. Your desire to protect him
should not cause you to lie to people, when they have a right to know where
he is and what he is doing. Discuss this with him when he is sober and in
good spirits. Ask him to promise that he will not place you in such a
position again. But be careful not to be resentful about the last time he
There is another paralyzing fear. You are afraid
your husband will lose his position; you are thinking of the disgrace and
hard times which will befall you and the children. This experience may come
to you. Or you may already have had it several times. Should it happen
again, regard it in a different light. Maybe it will prove a blessing! It
may convince your husband he wants to stop drinking forever. And now you
know that he can stop if he will! Time after time, this apparent calamity
has been a boon to us, for it opened up a path which led to the discovery of
We have elsewhere remarked how much better life is
when lived on a spiritual plane. If God can solve the age-old riddle of
alcoholism, he can solve your problems too. We wives found that, like
everybody else, we were afflicted with pride, self-pity, vanity, and all the
things which go to make up the self-centered person; and we were not above
selfishness or dishonesty. As our husbands began to apply spiritual
principles in their lives, we began to see the desirability of doing so too.
At first, some of us did not believe that we needed
this help. We thought, on the whole, we were pretty good women, capable of
being nicer if our husbands stopped drinking. But it was a silly idea that
we were too good to need God. Now we try to put spiritual principles to work
in every department of our lives. When we do that, we find it solves our
problems too: the ensuing lack of fear, worry and hurt feelings is a
wonderful thing. We urge you to try our program, for nothing will be so
helpful to your husband as the radically changed attitude toward him which
God will show you how to have. Go along with your husband if you possibly
If you and your husband find a solution for the
pressing problem of drink, you are, of course, going to be very happy. But
all problems will not be solved at once. Seed has started to sprout in a new
soil, but growth has only begun. In spite of your new-found happiness, there
will be ups and downs. Many of the old problems will still be with you. This
is as it should be.
The faith and sincerity of both you and your husband
will be put to the test. You must regard these work-outs as part of your
education, for thus you will be learning to live as you were intended to
live. You will make mistakes, but if you are in earnest, they will not drag
you down. Instead, you will capitalize them. A better way of life will
emerge when they are overcome.
Some of the snags you will encounter are irritation,
hurt-feelings, resentments. Your husband will sometimes be unreasonable, and
you will want to criticize. Starting from a speck on the domestic horizon,
great thunderclouds of dispute may gather. These family dissensions are very
dangerous, especially to your husband. Often you must carry the burden of
avoiding them or keeping them under control. Never forget that resentment is
a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. We do not mean that you have to agree with
your husband wherever there is an honest difference of opinion. Just be
careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit.
You and your husband will find that you can dispose
of serious problems easier than you can the trivial ones. Next time you and
he have a heated discussion, no matter what the subject, it should be the
privilege of either to smile and say, "This is getting serious. I'm sorry I
got disturbed. Let's talk about it later." If your husband is trying to live
on a spiritual basis, he will also be doing everything in his power to avoid
disagreement or contention.
Your husband knows he owes you more than sobriety.
He wants to make good. Yet you must not expect too much. His ways of
thinking and doing are the habits of years. Patience, tolerance,
understanding, and love are your watchwords. Show him these things in
yourself and they will be reflected back to you from him. Live and let live
is the rule. If you both show a willingness to remedy your own defects,
there will be little need to criticize each other.
We women carry with us a picture of the ideal man,
the sort of chap we would like our husbands to be. It is the most natural
thing in the world, once his liquor problem is solved, to feel that he will
now measure up to that cherished vision. The chances are he will not, for
like yourself, he is just beginning his development. Be patient.
Another feeling we are very likely to entertain is
one of resentment that love and loyalty could not cure our husbands of
alcoholism. We do not like the thought that the contents of a book, or the
work of another alcoholic, has accomplished in a few weeks the end for which
we struggled for years. At such moments we forget that alcoholism is an
illness over which we could not possibly have had any power. Your husband
will be the first to say it was your devotion and care which brought him to
the point where he could have a spiritual experience. Without you he would
have gone to pieces long ago. When resentful thoughts come, pause and count
your blessings. After all, your family is reunited, alcohol is no longer a
problem, and you and your husband are working together toward an
Still another difficulty is that you may become
jealous of the attention he bestows on other people, especially alcoholics.
You have been starving for his companionship, yet he spends long hours
helping other men and their families. You feel he should now be yours. The
fact is that he must work with other people to maintain his own sobriety.
Sometimes he will be so interested that he becomes really neglectful. Your
house is filled with strangers. You may not like some of them. He gets
stirred up about their troubles, but not at all about yours. It will do no
good if you point that out and urge more attention for yourself. It is a
real mistake if you dampen his enthusiasm for alcoholic work. You should
join in his efforts as much as you possibly can. Direct some of your thought
to the wives of his new alcoholic friends. They need the counsel and love of
a woman who has gone through what you have.
It is probably true that you and your husband have
been living too much alone, for drinking almost isolated many of us.
Therefore, you need fresh interests and a great cause to live for as much as
your husband. If you cooperate, rather than complain, you will find that his
excess enthusiasm will tone down. Both of you will awaken to a new sense of
responsibility for others. You, as well as your husband, must think of what
you can put into life, instead of how much you can take out. Inevitably your
lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the old life to find one
Perhaps your husband will make a fair start on the
new basis, but just as things are going beautifully, he dismays you by
coming home drunk. If you are satisfied he really wants to get over
drinking, you need not be alarmed. Though it is infinitely better he have no
relapse at all, as has been true with many of our men, it is by no means a
bad thing in some cases. Your husband will see at once that he must redouble
his spiritual activities if he expects to survive. If he adopts this view,
the slip will help him. You need not remind him of his spiritual deficiency
- he will know of it. Cheer him up and ask him how you can be still more
Even your hatred must go. The slightest sign of fear
or intolerance will lessen your husband's chance of recovery. In a weak
moment he may take your dislike of his high-stepping friends as one of those
insanely trivial excuses to drink.
Never, never try to arrange his life, so as to
shield him from temptation. The slightest disposition on your part to guide
his appointments or his affairs so he will not be tempted will be noticed.
Make him feel absolutely free to come and go as he likes. This is important.
If he gets drunk, don't blame yourself. God has either removed your
husband's liquor problem, or He has not. If not, it had better be found out
right away. Then you and your husband can get right down to fundamentals. If
a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along with everything
else, in God's hands.
We realize we have been giving you much direction
and advice. We may have seemed "preachy". If that is so, we are sorry, for
we ourselves, don't care for people who preach. But what we have related is
based upon experience, some of it painful. We had to learn these things the
hard way. That is why we are anxious that you understand, that you avoid
these unnecessary difficulties.
So to you out there - who may soon be with us - we
say "Good luck and God bless you!"
Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes a
wife may take with the husband who is recovering. Perhaps they created the
impression that he is to be wrapped in cotton wool and placed on a pedestal.
Successful readjustment means the opposite. All members of the family must
meet upon the common ground of tolerance, understanding, and love. This
involves a process of deflation. The alcoholic, his wife, his children, his
"in-laws", each one is likely to have fixed ideas about the family's
attitude towards himself or herself. Each is interested in having his or her
wishes respected. The more one member of a family demands that the other
concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and
And why? Is it not because each wants to play the
lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not
unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life, rather
Cessation of drinking is but the first step away
from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said the other day,
"Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child
neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill." Let families realize,
as they start their journey, that all will not be fair weather. Each in his
turn will be footsore and will straggle. There will be alluring shortcuts
and by-paths down which they may wander and lose their way.
Suppose we tell you some of the obstacles a family
will meet; suppose we suggest how they may be avoided - even converted to
good use for others. The family of an alcoholic longs for the return of
happiness and security. They remember when father was romantic, thoughtful
and successful. Today's life is measured against that of other years and,
when it falls short, the family may be unhappy.
Family confidence in dad is rising high. The good
old days will soon be back, they think. Sometimes they demand that dad bring
them back instantly! God, they believe, almost owes this recompense on a
long overdue account. But the head of the house has spent years in pulling
down the structures of business, romance, friendship, health - these things
are now ruined or damaged. It will take time to clear away the wreck. Though
old buildings will eventually be replaced by finer ones, the new structures
will take years to complete.
Father knows he is to blame; it may take him many
seasons of hard work to be restored financially, but he shouldn't be
reproached. Perhaps he will never have much money again. But the wise family
will admire him for what he is trying to be, rather than for what he is
trying to get.
Now and then the family will be plagued by spectres
from the past, for the drinking career of almost every alcoholic has been
marked by escapades, funny, humiliating, shameful, or tragic. The first
impulse will be to bury these skeletons in a dark closet and padlock the
door. The family may be obsessed with the idea that future happiness can be
based only upon forgetfulness of the past. Such a view is quite
self-centered and in direct conflict with the new way of life.
Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect
that experience is the thing of supreme value in life. That is true only if
one is willing to turn the past to good account. We grow by our willingness
to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets. The alcoholic's
past thus becomes the principal asset of the family, and frequently it is
the only one!
This painful past may be of infinite value to other
families still struggling with their problem. We think each family which has
been relieved owes something to those which have not, and when the occasion
requires, each member of it who has found God, should be only too willing to
bring former mistakes, no matter how grievous, out of their hiding places.
Showing others who suffer how we were given victory, is the very thing which
makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought that, in
God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to
life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for
It is possible to dig up past misdeeds so they
become a blight, a veritable plague. For example, we know of situations in
which the alcoholic or his wife have had love affairs. In the first flush of
spiritual experience they forgave each other and drew closer together. The
miracle of reconciliation was at hand. Then, under one provocation or
another, the aggrieved one would unearth the old affair and angrily cast its
ashes about. A few of us have had these growing pains and they hurt a great
deal. Husbands and wives have sometimes been obliged to separate for a time
until new perspective, new victory over hurt pride, could be re-won. In most
cases, the alcoholic survived this ordeal without relapse, but not always.
So our rule is that unless some good and useful purpose is to be served,
past occurrences are not discussed.
We families of Alcoholics Anonymous have few
secrets. Everyone knows all about everyone else. This is a condition which,
in ordinary life, would produce untold grief. There would be scandalous
gossip, laughter at the expense of other people, and a tendency to take
advantage of intimate information. Among us, these are rare occurrences.
We do talk about each other a great deal but almost
invariably temper such talk by a spirit of love and tolerance. We discuss
another's shortcomings in the hope that some new idea of helpfulness may
come out of the conversation. The cynic might say we are good because we
have to be.
Another rule we observe carefully is that we do not
relate intimate experiences of another person unless we are sure he would
approve. We find it better, when possible, to stick to our own stories. A
man may criticize or laugh at himself and it will affect others favorably,
but criticism or ridicule of him coming from another often produces the
contrary effect. Members of a family should watch such matters carefully,
for one careless, inconsiderate remark has been known to raise the very
devil. We alcoholics are sensitive people. It takes some of us a long time
to outgrow that serious handicap.
Most alcoholics are enthusiasts. They run to
extremes. At the beginning of recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of
two directions. He may either plunge into a frantic attempt to get on his
feet in business, or he may be so enthralled by his new life that he talks
or thinks of little else. In either case certain family problems will arise.
With these we have experience galore.
We pointed out the danger he runs if he rushes
headlong at his economic problem. The family will be affected also,
pleasantly at first, as they feel their money troubles are to be solved,
then not so pleasantly as they find themselves neglected. Dad may be tired
at night and pre- occupied by day. He may take small interest in the
children and may show irritation when reproved for his delinquencies. If not
irritable, he may seem dull and boring, not gay and affectionate, as the
family would like him to be. Mother may complain of inattention. They are
all disappointed, and soon let him feel it. Beginning with such complaints,
a barrier arises. He is straining every nerve to make up for lost time. He
is striving to recover fortune and reputation and thinks he is doing very
Mother and children don't think so. Having been
wantonly neglected and misused in the past, they think father owes them more
than they are getting. They want him to make a fuss over them. They expect
him to give them the nice times they used to have before he drank, and to
show his contrition for what they suffered. But dad doesn't give freely of
himself. Resentment grows. He becomes still less communicative. Sometimes he
explodes over a trifle. The family is mystified. They criticize, pointing
out how he is falling down on his spiritual program.
This sort of thing must be stopped. Both father and
the family are wrong, though each side may have some justification. It is of
little use to argue and only makes the impasse worse. The family must
realize that dad, though marvelously improved, is still a sick man. They
should thank God he is sober and able to be of this world once more. Let
them praise his progress. Let them remember that his drinking wrought all
kinds of damage that may take long to repair. If they sense these things,
they will not take so seriously his periods of crankiness, depression, or
apathy, which will disappear when there is tolerance, love, and spiritual
The head of the house ought to remember that he is
mainly to blame for what befell his home. He can scarcely square the account
in his lifetime. But he must see the danger of over-concentration on
financial success. Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us,
we found we could not place money first. For us, material well-being always
followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.
Since the home has suffered more than anything else,
it is well that a man exert himself there. He is not likely to get far in
any direction if he fails to show unselfishness and love under his own roof.
We know there are difficult wives and families, but the man who is getting
over alcoholism must remember they are sick folk too, and that he did much
to make them worse.
As each member of a resentful family begins to see
his shortcomings and admits them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful
discussion. These family talks will be constructive if they can be carried
on without heated argument, self-pity, self-justification, or resentful
criticism. Little by little, mother and children will see they ask too much,
and father will see he gives too little. Giving, rather than getting, will
become the guiding principle.
Assume now that father has, at the outset, a
stirring spiritual experience. Over-night, as it were, he is a changed man.
He becomes a religious enthusiast. He is unable to focus on anything else.
As soon as his sobriety begins to be taken as a matter of course, the family
may look at their strange new dad with apprehension, then with irritation.
There is talk about spiritual matters morning, noon and night. He may demand
that the family find God for themselves in a hurry, or exhibit amazing
indifference to them and say he is above worldly considerations. He tells
mother, who has been religious all her life, that she doesn't know what its
all about, and that she had better get his brand of spirituality while there
is yet time.
When father takes this tack, the family may react
unfavorably. They are jealous of a God who has stolen dad's affections.
While grateful that he drinks no more, they do not like the idea that God
has accomplished the miracle where they failed. They often forget father was
beyond human aid. They do not see why their love and devotion did not
straighten him out. Dad is not so spiritual after all, they say. If he means
to right his past wrongs, why all this concern for everyone in the world but
his family? What about his talk that God will take care of them? They
suspect father is a bit balmy!
He is not so unbalanced as they might think. Many of
us have experienced dad's elation. We have indulged in spiritual
intoxication. Like gaunt prospectors, belts drawn in over our last ounce of
food, our pick struck gold. Joy at our release from a lifetime of
frustration knew no bounds. Father sees he has struck something better than
gold. For a time he may try to hug the new treasure to himself. He may not
see at once that he has barely scratched a limitless lode which will pay
dividends only if he mines it for the rest of his life and insists on giving
away the entire product.
If the family cooperates, dad will soon see that he
is suffering from a distortion of values. He will perceive that his
spiritual growth is lopsided, that for an average man like himself, a
spiritual life which does not include his family obligations may not be so
perfect after all. If the family will appreciate that dad's current behavior
is but a phase of his development, all will be well. In the midst of an
understanding and sympathetic family, these vagaries of dad's spiritual
infancy will quickly disappear.
The opposite may happen should the family condemn
and criticize. Dad may feel that for years his drinking has placed him on
the wrong side of every argument, but that now he has become a superior
person, with God on his side. If the family persists in criticism, this
fallacy may take a still greater hold on father. Instead of treating the
family as he should, he may retreat further into himself and feel he has
spiritual justification for so doing.
Though the family does not fully agree with dad's
spiritual activities, they should let him assume leadership. Even if he
displays a certain amount of neglect and irresponsibility towards the
family, it is well to let him go as far as he likes in helping other
alcoholics. During those first days of convalescence, this will do more to
insure his sobriety than anything else. Though some of his manifestations
are alarming and disagreeable, dad will be on a firmer foundation than the
man who is placing business or professional success ahead of spiritual
development. He will be less likely to drink again, and anything is
preferable to that.
Those of us who have spent much time in the world of
spiritual make-believe have eventually seen the childishness of it. This
dream world has been replaced by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a
growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. We have come to
believe God would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that
our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth, nevertheless. That is where
our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work must be done. These are
the realities for us. We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful
spiritual experience, and a life of sane and happy usefulness.
One more suggestion: Whether the family has
spiritual convictions or not, they may do well to examine the principles by
which the alcoholic member is trying to live. They can hardly fail to
approve these simple principles, though the head of the house still fails
somewhat in practicing them. Nothing will help the man who is off on a
spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts the self-same program,
making a better practical use of it.
There will be still other profound changes in the
household. Liquor incapacitated father for so many years that mother became
head of the house. She met these responsibilities gallantly. By force of
circumstances, she was obliged to treat father as a sick or wayward child.
Even when he wanted to assert himself, he could not, for his drinking placed
him constantly in the wrong. Mother made all the plans and gave the
directions. When sober, father usually obeyed. Thus mother, through no fault
of her own, became accustomed to wearing the family trousers. Father, coming
suddenly to life again, often begins to assert himself. This means trouble,
unless the family watches for these tendencies in each other and come to a
friendly agreement about them.
Drinking isolates most homes from the outside world,
so the family was used to having father around a great deal. He may have
laid aside for years all normal activities - clubs, civic duties, sports.
When he renews interest in such things, a feeling of jealousy may arise. The
family may feel they hold a mortgage on dad, so big that no equity should be
left for outsiders. Instead of developing new channels of activity for
themselves, mother and children may demand that he stay home and make up the
At the very beginning, the couple ought to frankly
face the fact that each will have to yield here and there, if the family is
going to play an effective part in the new life. Father will necessarily
spend much time with other alcoholics, but this activity should be balanced.
New acquaintenances who know nothing of alcoholism might be made and
thoughtful consideration given their needs. The problems of the community
might engage attention. Though the family has no religious connections, they
may do well to make contact with, or take membership in a religious body.
Alcoholics who have derided religious people will
sometimes be helped by such contacts. Being possessed of a spiritual
experience, the alcoholic will find he has much in common with these people,
though he may differ with them on many matters. If he does not argue and
forget that men find God in many ways, he will make new friends, and is sure
to find new avenues of usefulness and pleasure. He and his family can be a
bright spot in such congregations. He may bring new hope and new courage to
many a priest, minister, or rabbi, who gives his all to minister to our
troubled world. We intend the foregoing as a helpful suggestion only. So far
as we are concerned, there is nothing obligatory about it. As a
non-denominational group, we cannot make up people's minds for them. Each
individual must consult his own conscience.
We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes
tragic things. We have been dealing with alcohol in its worst aspect. But we
aren't a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence,
they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to
indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the
world's troubles on our shoulders. When we see a man sinking into the mire
that is alcoholism, we give him first and place everything we have at his
disposal. For his sake, we do recount and almost relive the horrors of our
past. But those of us who have tried to shoulder the entire burden and
trouble of others, find we are soon overcome by them.
So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for
usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment
over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn't we
laugh? We are the victors, and have been given the power to help others.
Everybody knows that those in bad health, and those
who seldom play, do not laugh much. So let each family play together or
separately, as much as their circumstances warrant. We are sure God wants us
to be happy, joyous, and released. We cannot subscribe to the belief that
this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us.
But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn't do it. Avoid then,
the deliberate manufacture of misery, and when trouble comes, cheerfully
capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.
Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol
does not often recover overnight, nor do twisted thinking and depression
vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a
most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious
drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have also seen remarkable
transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any mark of
But this does not mean that we disregard human
health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors,
psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take
your health problems to such a person. Most of them give freely of
themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to
remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never
belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often
indispensable in treating a newcomer and following his case afterward.
A word about sex relations. Alcohol is so sexually
stimulating to some men that they have over- indulged. Couples are
occasionally dismayed to find that when drinking is stopped, the man tends
to be impotent. Unless the reason is understood, there may be an emotional
upset. Some of us had this experience, only to enjoy, in a few months, a
finer intimacy than ever. There should be no hesitancy in consulting a
doctor or psychologist if this condition persists. We do not know of any
case where this difficulty lasted long.
The alcoholic may find it hard to re-establish
friendly relations with his children. Their young minds were impressionable
while he was drinking. Without saying so, they may cordially hate him for
what he has done to them and to their mother. The poor children are
sometimes dominated by a pathetic hardness and cynicism. They cannot seem to
forgive and forget. This may hang on for months, long after their mother has
accepted dad's new way of living and thinking.
Father had better be sparing of his correction or
criticism of them while they are in this frame of mind. He had better not
urge his new way of life on them too soon. In time they will see that he is
a new man and in their own way they will let him know it. When this happens,
they can be invited to join in morning meditation, then they can take part
in the daily discussion without rancor or bias. From that point on, progress
will be rapid. Marvelous results often follow such a reunion.
Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not,
the alcoholic member must. The others must be convinced by his changed life
beyond a shadow of a doubt. He must lead the way. Seeing is believing to
most families who have lived with a drinker.
Here is a case in point: One of our friends is a
heavy smoker and coffee drinker. There was no doubt he over-indulged. Seeing
this, and meaning to be helpful, his wife commenced to admonish him about
it. He admitted he was overdoing these things, but frankly said that he was
not ready to stop. His wife is one of those persons who really feel there is
something rather sinful about these commodities, so she nagged, and her
intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger. He got drunk.
Of course our friend was wrong - dead wrong. He had
to painfully admit that and mend his spiritual fences. Though he is now a
most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes cigarettes
and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment.
She sees she was wrong to make a burning issue out of such a matter when his
more serious ailments were being rapidly cured.
First things first! We have two little mottoes which
are apropos. Here they are: "LIVE AND LET LIVE" and "EASY DOES IT".
One of our friends, whose gripping story you have
read, has spent much of his life in the world of big business. He has hired
and fired hundreds of men. He knows the alcoholic as the employer sees him.
His present views ought to prove exceptionally useful to business men
But let him tell you:
I was at one time assistant manager of a corporation
department employing sixty-six hundred men. One day my secretary came in
saying that Mr. B - insisted on speaking with me. I told her to say that I
was not interested. I had warned this man several times that he had but one
more chance. Not long afterward he had called me from Hartford on two
successive days, so drunk he could hardly speak. I told him he was through -
finally and forever.
My secretary returned to say that it was not Mr. B -
on the phone; it was Mr. B - 's brother, and he wished to give me a message.
I still expected a plea for clemency, but these words came through the
receiver: "I just wanted to tell you Paul jumped from a hotel window in
Hartford last Saturday. He left us a note saying you were the best boss he
ever had, and that you were not to blame in any way."
Another time, as I opened a letter which lay on my
desk, a newspaper clipping fell out. It was the obituary of one of the best
salesman I ever had. After two weeks of drinking, he had placed his foot on
the trigger of a loaded shotgun - the barrel was in his mouth. I had
discharged him for drinking six weeks before.
Still another experience: A woman's voice came
faintly over long distance from Virginia. She wanted to know if her
husband's company insurance was still in force. Four days before he had
hanged himself in his woodshed. I had been obliged to discharge him for
drinking, though he was brilliant, alert, and one of the best organizers I
have ever known.
Here were three exceptional men lost to this world
because I did not understand as I do now. Then I became an alcoholic myself!
And but for the intervention of an understanding person, I might have
followed in their footsteps. My downfall cost the business community unknown
thousands of dollars, for it takes real money to train a man for an
executive position. This kind of waste goes on unabated. Our business fabric
is shot through with it and nothing will stop it but better understanding
You, an employer, want to understand. Nearly every
modern employer feels a moral responsibility for the well-being of his help,
and he usually tries to meet these responsibilities. That he has not always
done so for the alcoholic is easily understood. To him the alcoholic has
often seemed to be a fool of the first magnitude. Because of the employee's
special ability, or of his own strong personal attachment to him, the
employer has sometimes kept such a man at work long beyond the time he
ordinarily would. Some employers have tried every known remedy. More often,
however, there is very little patience and tolerance. And we, who have
imposed on the best of employers, can scarcely blame them if they have been
short with us.
Here, for instance, is a typical example: An officer
of one of the largest banking institutions in America knows I no longer
drink. One day he told me about an executive of the same bank, who, from his
description, was undoubtedly alcoholic. This seemed to me like an
opportunity to be helpful. So I spent a good two hours talking about
alcoholism, the malady. I described the symptoms and supported my statements
with plenty of evidence. His comment was: "Very interesting. But I'm sure
this man is done drinking. He has just returned from a three-months' leave
of absence, has taken a cure, looks fine, and to clinch the matter, the
board of directors told him this was his last chance."
My rejoinder was that if I could afford it, I would
bet him a hundred to one the man would go on a bigger bust than ever. I felt
this was inevitable and that the bank was doing a possible injustice. Why
not bring the man in contact with some of our alcoholic crowd? He might have
a chance. I pointed out I had had nothing to drink whatever for three years,
and this in the face of difficulties that would have made nine out of ten
men drink their heads off. Why not at least afford him an opportunity to
hear my story? "Oh no", said my friend, "this chap is either through with
liquor, or he is minus a job. If he has your will power and guts, he will
make the grade."
I wanted to throw up my hands in discouragement, for
I saw that my banking acquaintance had missed the point entirely. He simply
could not believe that his brother-executive suffered from a deadly malady.
There was nothing to do but wait.
Presently the man did slip and, of course, was
fired. Following his discharge, our group contacted him. Without much ado,
he accepted our principles and procedure. He is undoubtedly on the high road
to recovery. To me, this incident illustrates a lack of understanding and
knowledge on the part of employers - lack of understanding as to what really
ails the alcoholic, and lack of knowledge as to what part employers might
profitably take in salvaging their sick employees.
To begin with, I think you employers would do well
to disregard your own drinking experience, or lack of it. Whether you are a
hard drinker, a moderate drinker, or a teetotaler, you have but little
notion of the inner workings of the alcoholic mind. Instead, you may have
some pretty strong opinions, perhaps prejudices, based upon your own
experiences. Those of you who drink moderately are almost certain to be more
annoyed with an alcoholic than a total abstainer would be. Drinking
occasionally, and understanding your own reactions, it is possible for you
to become quite sure of many things, which, so far as the alcoholic is
concerned, are not always so.
As a moderate drinker, you can take your liquor or
leave it alone. Whenever you want to, you can control your drinking. Of an
evening, you can go on a mild bender, get up in the morning, shake your
head, and go to business. To you, liquor is no real problem. You cannot see
why it should be to anyone else, save the spineless and stupid.
When dealing with an alcoholic, you have to fight an
ingrained annoyance that he could be so weak, stupid and irresponsible. Even
when you understand the malady better, you may still have to check this
feeling and remember that your employee is very ill, being seldom as weak
and irresponsible as he appears.
Take a look at the alcoholic in your organization.
Is he not usually brilliant, fast-thinking, imaginative and likeable? When
sober, does he not work hard and have a knack of getting things done? Review
his qualities and ask yourself whether he would be worth retaining, if
sober. And do you owe him the same obligation you feel toward other sick
employees? Is he worth salvaging? If your decision is yes, whether the
reason be humanitarian, or business, or both, then you will wish to know
what to do.
The first part has to do with you. Can you stop
feeling that you are dealing only with habit, with stubbornness, or a weak
will? If you have difficulty about that I suggest you re-read chapters two
and three of this book, where the alcoholic sickness is discussed at length.
You, as a business man, know better than most that when you deal with any
problem, you must know what it is. Having conceded that your employee is
ill, can you forgive him for what he has done in the past? Can you shelve
the resentment you may hold because of his past absurdities? Can you fully
appreciate that the man has been a victim of crooked thinking, directly
caused by the action of alcohol on his brain?
I well remember the shock I received when a
prominent doctor in Chicago told me of cases where pressure of the spinal
fluid actually ruptured the brain from within. No wonder an alcoholic is
strangely irrational. Who wouldn't be, with such a fevered brain? Normal
drinkers are not so handicapped.
Your man has probably been trying to conceal a
number of scrapes, perhaps pretty messy ones. They may disgust you. You may
be puzzled by them, being unable to understand how such a seemingly above
board chap could be so involved. But you can generally charge these, no
matter how bad, to the abnormal action of alcohol on his mind. When
drinking, or getting over a bout, an alcoholic, sometimes the model of
honesty when normal, will do incredible things. Afterward, his revulsion
will be terrible. Nearly always, these antics indicate nothing more than
temporary aberrations and you should so treat them.
This is not to say that all alcoholics are honest
and upright when not drinking. Of course that isn't so, and you will have to
be careful that such people don't impose on you. Seeing your attempt to
understand and help, some men will try to take advantage of your kindness.
If you are sure your man does not want to stop, you may as well discharge
him, the sooner the better. You are not doing him a favor by keeping him on.
Firing such an individual may prove a blessing to him. It may be just the
jolt he needs. I know, in my own particular case, that nothing my company
could have done would have stopped me, for so long as I was able to hold my
position, I could not possibly realize how serious my situation was. Had
they fired me first, and had they then taken steps to see that I was
presented with the solution contained in this book, I might have returned to
them six months later, a well man.
But there are many men who want to stop right now,
and with them you can go far. If you make a start, you should be prepared to
go the limit, not in the sense that any great expense or trouble is to be
expected, but rather in the matter of your own attitude, your understanding
treatment of the case.
Perhaps you have such a man in mind. He wants to
quit drinking, and you want to help him, even if it be only a matter of good
business. You know something of alcoholism. You see that he is mentally and
physically sick. You are willing to overlook his past performances. Suppose
you call the man in and go at him like this:
Hit him point blank with the thought that you know
all about his drinking, that it must stop. Say you appreciate his abilities,
would like to keep him, but cannot, if he continues to drink. That you mean
just what you say. And you should mean it too!
Next, assure him that you are not proposing to
lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if you have done so formerly, it is
because you misunderstood. Say, if you possibly can, that you have no hard
feeling toward him. At this point, bring out the idea of alcoholism, the
sickness. Enlarge on that fully. Remark that you have been looking into the
matter. You are sure of what you say, hence your change of attitude, hence
your willingness to deal with the problem as though it were a disease. You
are willing to look at your man as a gravely-ill person, with this
qualification - being perhaps fatally ill, does your man want to get well,
and right now? You ask because many alcoholics, being warped and drugged, do
not want to quit. But does he? Will he take every necessary step, submit to
anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?
If he says yes, does he really mean it, or down
inside does he think he is fooling you, and that after rest and treatment he
will be able to get away with a few drinks now and then? Probe your man
thoroughly on these points. Be satisfied he is not deceiving himself or you.
Not a word about this book, unless you are sure you
ought to introduce it at this juncture. If he temporizes and still thinks he
can ever drink again, even beer, you may as well discharge him after the
next bender which, if an alcoholic, he is certain to have. Tell him that
emphatically, and mean it! Either you are dealing with a man who can and
will get well, or you are not. If not, don't waste time with him. This may
seem severe, but it is usually the best course.
After satisfying yourself that your man wants to
recover and that he will go to any extreme to do so, you may suggest a
definite course of action. For most alcoholics who are drinking, or who are
just getting over a spree, a certain amount of physical treatment is
desirable, even imperative. Some physicians favor cutting off the liquor
sharply, and prefer to use little or no sedative. This may be wise in some
instances, but for the most of us it is a barbaric torture. For severe
cases, some doctors prefer a slower tapering-down process, followed by a
health farm or sanitarium. Other doctors prefer a few days of
detoxification, removal of poisons from the system by cathartics,
belladonna, and the like, followed by a week of mild exercise and rest.
Having tried them all, I personally favor the latter, though the matter of
physical treatment should, of course, be referred to your own doctor.
Whatever the method, its object should be to thoroughly clear mind and body
of the effects of alcohol. In competent hands, this seldom takes long, nor
should it be very expensive. Your man is entitled to be placed in such
physical condition that he can think straight and no longer physically
craves liquor. These handicaps must be removed if you are going to give him
the chance you want him to have. Propose such a procedure to him. Offer to
advance the cost of treatment, if necessary, but make it plain that any
expense will later be deducted from his pay. Make him fully responsible; it
is much better for him.
When your man accepts your offer, point out that
physical treatment is but a small part of the picture. Though you are
providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand
that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a
transformation of thought and attitude. He must place recovery above
everything, even home and business, for without recovery he will lose both.
Show that you have every confidence in his ability
to recover. While on the subject of confidence, tell him that so far as you
are concerned, this will be a strictly personal matter. His alcoholic
derelictions, the treatment about to be undertaken, these will never be
discussed without his consent. Cordially wish him success and say you want
to have a long chat with him on his return.
To return to the subject matter of this book: It
contains, as you have seen, full directions by which your employee may solve
his problem. To you, some of the ideas which it contains are novel. Perhaps
some of them don't make sense to you. Possibly you are not quite in sympathy
with the approach we suggest. By no means do we offer it as the last word on
this subject, but so far as we are concerned, it has been the best word so
far. Our approach often does work. After all, you are looking for results
rather than methods. Whether your employee likes it or not, he will learn
the grim truth about alcoholism. That won't hurt him a bit, though he does
not go for the remedy at first.
I suggest you draw our book to the attention of the
doctor who is to attend your patient during treatment. Ask that the book be
read the moment the patient is able - while he is acutely depressed, if
The doctor should approve a spiritual approach. And
besides, he ought to tell the patient the truth about his condition,
whatever that happens to be. The doctor should encourage him to acquire a
spiritual experience. At this stage it will be just as well if the doctor
does not mention you in connection with the book. Above all, neither you,
the doctor, nor anyone should place himself in the position of telling the
man he must abide by the contents of this volume. The man must decide for
himself. You cannot command him, you can only encourage. And you will surely
agree that it may be better to withhold any criticism you may have of our
method until you see whether it works.
You are betting, of course, that your changed
attitude and the contents of this book will turn the trick. In some cases it
will, and in others it will not. But we think that if you persist, the
percentage of successes will gratify you. When our work spreads and our
numbers increase, we hope your employees may be put in personal contact with
some of us, which, needless to say, will be more effective. Meanwhile, we
are sure a great deal can be accomplished if you will follow the suggestions
of this chapter.
On your employee's return, call him in and ask what
happened. Ask him if he thinks he has the answer. Get him to tell you how he
thinks it will work, and what he has to do about it. Make him feel free to
discuss his problems with you, if he cares to. Show him you understand, and
that you will not be upset by anything he wishes to say.
In this connection, it is important that you remain
undisturbed if the man proceeds to tell you things which shock you. He may,
for example, reveal that he has padded his expense account, or that he has
planned to take your best customers away from you. In fact, he may say
almost anything if he has accepted our solution which, as you know, demands
rigorous honesty. Charge this off as you would a bad account and start
afresh with him. If he owes you money, make terms which are reasonable. From
this point on, never rake up the past unless he wants to discuss it.
If he speaks of his home situation, be patient and
make helpful suggestions. Let him see that he can talk frankly with you so
long as he does not bear tales or criticize others. With the kind of
employee you want to keep, such an attitude will command undying loyalty.
The greatest enemies of the alcoholic are
resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear. Wherever men are gathered
together in business, there will be rivalries, and, arising out of these, a
certain amount of office politics. Sometimes the alcoholic has an idea that
people are trying to pull him down. Often this is not so at all. But
sometimes his drinking will be used as a basis of criticism.
One instance comes to mind in which a malicious
individual was always making friendly little jokes of an alcoholic's
drinking exploits. In another case, an alcoholic was sent to a hospital for
treatment. Only a few knew of it at first, but within a short time, it was
bill-boarded throughout the entire company. Naturally, this sort of thing
decreases a man's chance of recovery. The employer should make it his
business to protect the victim from this kind of talk if he can. The
employer cannot play favorites, but he can always try to defend a man from
needless provocation and unfair criticism.
As a class, alcoholics are energetic people. They
work hard and they play hard. Your man will be on his mettle to make good.
Being somewhat weakened, and faced with physical and mental readjustment to
a life which knows no alcohol, he may overdo. Don't let him work sixteen
hours a day just because he wants to. Encourage him to play once in a while.
Make it possible for him to do so. He may wish to do a lot for other
alcoholics and something of the sort may come up during business hours.
Don't begrudge him a reasonable amount of time. This work is necessary to
maintain his sobriety.
After your man has gone along without drinking a few
months, try to make use of his services with other employees who are giving
you the alcoholic run-around - provided, of course, they are willing to have
a third party in the picture. Don't hesitate to let an alcoholic who has
recovered, but holds a relatively unimportant job, talk to a man with a
better position. Being on radically different basis of life, he will never
take advantage of the situation.
You must trust your man. Long experience with
alcoholic excuses naturally makes you suspicious. When his wife next calls
saying he is sick, don't jump to the conclusion he is drunk. If he is, and
is still trying to recover upon our basis, he will presently tell you about
it, even if it means the loss of his job. For he knows he must be honest if
he would live at all. Let him see you are not bothering your head about him
at all, that you are not suspicious, nor are you trying to run his life so
he will be shielded from temptation to drink. If he is conscientiously
following the Program of Recovery he can go anywhere your business may call
him. Do not promote him, however, until you are sure.
In case he does stumble, even once, you will have to
decide whether to let him go. If you are sure he doesn't mean business,
there is no doubt you should discharge him. If, on the contrary, you are
sure he is doing his utmost, you may wish to give him another chance. But
you should feel under no obligation to do so, for your obligation has been
well discharged already. In any event, don't let him fool you, and don't let
sentiment get the better of you if you are sure he ought to go.
There is another thing you might do. If your
organization is a large one, your junior executives might be provided with
this book. You might let them know you have no quarrel with the alcoholics
of your organization. These juniors are often in a difficult position. Men
under them are frequently their friends. So, for one reason or another, they
cover these men, hoping matters will take a turn for the better. They often
jeopardize their own positions by trying to help serious drinkers who should
have been fired long ago, or else given an opportunity to get well.
After reading this book, a junior executive can go
to such a man and say, "look here, Ed. Do you want to stop drinking or not?
You put me on the spot every time you get drunk. It isn't fair to me or the
firm. I have been learning something about alcoholism. If you are an
alcoholic, you are a mighty sick man. You act like one. The firm wants to
help you get over it, if you are interested. There is a way out, and I hope
you have sense enough to try it. If you do, your past will be forgotten and
the fact that you went away for treatment will not be mentioned. But if you
cannot, or will not stop drinking, I think you ought to resign."
Your junior executive may not agree with the
contents of our book. He need not, and often should not, show it to his
alcoholic prospect. But at least he will understand the problem and will no
longer be misled by ordinary promises. He will be able to take a position
with such a man which is eminently fair and square. He will have no further
reason for covering up an alcoholic employee.
It boils right down to this: No man should be fired
just because he is alcoholic. If he wants to stop, he should be afforded a
real chance. If he cannot, or does not want to stop, he should usually be
discharged. The exceptions are few.
We think this method of approach will accomplish
several things for you. It will promptly bring drinking situations to light.
It will enable you to restore good men to useful activity. At the same time
you will feel no reluctance to rid yourself of those who cannot, or will
not, stop. Alcoholism may be causing your organization considerable damage
in its waste of money, men and reputation. We hope our suggestions will help
you plug up this sometimes serious leak. We do not expect you to become a
missionary, attempting to save all who happen to be alcoholic. Being a
business man is enough these days. But we can sensibly urge that you stop
this waste and give your worth-while man a chance.
The other day an approach was made to the
vice-president of a large industrial concern. He remarked: "I'm mighty glad
you fellows got over your drinking. But the policy of this company is not to
interfere with the habits of our employees. If a man drinks so much that his
job suffers, we fire him. I don't see how you can be of any help to us, for
as you see, we don't have any alcoholic problem." This same company spends
millions for research every year. Their cost of production is figured to a
fine decimal point. They have recreational facilities. There is company
insurance. There is a real interest, both humanitarian and business, in the
well-being of employees. But alcoholism - well, they just don't have that.
Perhaps this is a typical attitude. We, who have
collectively seen a great deal of business life, at least from the alcoholic
angle, had to smile at this gentleman's opinion. He might be shocked if he
knew how much alcoholism cost his organization a year. That company may
harbor many actual or potential alcoholics. We believe that managers of
large enterprises often have little idea how prevalent this problem is.
Perhaps this is a guess, but we have a hunch it's a good one. If you still
feel your organization has no alcoholic problem, you might well take another
look down the line. You may make some interesting discoveries.
Of course, this chapter refers to alcoholics, sick
people, deranged men. What our friend, the vice-president, had in mind, was
the habitual or whoopee drinker. As to them, his policy is probably sound,
but as you see, he does not distinguish between such people and the
Being a business man, you might like to have a
summary of this chapter. Here it is:
One: Acquaint yourself with the nature of
Two: Be prepared to discount and forget your man's
Three: Confidentially offer him medical treatment
and cooperation, provided you think he wants to stop.
Four: Have the alcohol thoroughly removed from his
system and give him a suitable chance to recover physically.
Five: Have the doctor in attendance present him with
this book, but don't cram it down his throat.
Six: Have a frank talk with him when he gets back
from his treatment, assuring him of your full support, encouraging him to
say anything he wishes about himself, and making it clear the past will not
be held against him.
Seven: Ask him to place recovery from alcoholism
ahead of all else.
Eight: Don't let him overwork.
Nine: Protect him, when justified, from malicious
Ten: If, after you have shot the works, he will not
stop, then let him go.
It is not to be expected that you give your
alcoholic employee a disproportionate amount of time and attention. He is
not to be made a favorite. The right kind of man, the kind who recovers,
will not want this sort of thing. He will not impose upon you. Far from it.
He will work like the devil, and thank you to his dying day.
Today, I own a little company. There are two
alcoholic employees, who produce as much as five normal salesmen. But why
not? They have a better way of life, and they have been saved from a living
death. I have enjoyed every moment spent in getting them straightened out.
You, Mr. Employer, may have the same experience!*
* See appendix - The Alcoholic Foundation. We may be
able to carry on a limited correspondence.
For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality,
companionship, and colorful imagination. It means release from care,
boredom, and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends, and a feeling that
life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy drinking. The
old pleasures were gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture
the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning to enjoy as
we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that some new miracle of control
would enable us to do it. There was always one more attempt - and one more
The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew
from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol,
shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness
settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out
sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval.
Momentarily we did - then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to
face the hideous Four Horsemen - Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair.
Unhappy drinkers who see this page will understand!
Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the
moment says, "I don't miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a
better time." As ex-alcoholics, we smile at such a sally. We know our friend
is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools
himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get
away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn't happy
about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will
be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will
know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will
wish for the end.
We have shown you how we got out from under. You
say: "Yes, I'm willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be
stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get
along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?"
Yes, there is a substitute, and it is vastly more
than that. It is a Fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find
release from care, boredom, and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life
will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence
lie ahead. Thus we find The Fellowship, and so will you.
"How is that to come about?" you say. "Where am I to
find these people?"
You are going to meet these new friends in your own
community. Near you alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking
ship. If you live in a large place, there are hundreds. These are to be your
companions. High and low, rich and poor, these are future Fellows of
Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be
bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster
together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey.
Then you will know what it means to give of yourself, that others may
survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning of "Love thy
neighbor as thyself."
It may seem incredible that these men are to become
happy, respected, and useful once more. How can they rise out of such
misery, bad repute and hopelessness? The practical answer is that since
these things have happened among us, they can happen again. Should you wish
them above all else, and should you be willing to make use of our
experience, we are sure they will come. The age of miracles is still with
us. Our own recovery proves that!
Our hope is that when this chip of a book is
launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon
it, following its directions. Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and
march on. They will approach still other sick ones and so the Fellowship of
Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those
who must find a way out.
In the chapter "Working With Others" you gathered an
idea of how to approach and aid others to health. Suppose now that through
you several families have adopted your way of life. You will want to know
more of how to proceed from that point. Perhaps the best way of treating you
to a glimpse of your future will be to describe the growth of the Fellowship
among us. Here is a brief account:
Nearly four years ago, one of our number made a
journey to a certain western city. From the business standpoint, his trip
came off badly. Had he been successful in his enterprise, he would have been
set on his feet financially, which, at the time, seemed vitally important.
But his venture wound up in a law suit and bogged down completely. The
proceeding was shot through with much hard feeling and controversy.
Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange
place, discredited and almost broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a
few months, he saw that his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much to
talk with someone, but whom?
One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby
wondering how his bill was to be paid. At one end of the room stood a glass
covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an
attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find
companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the
courage to scrape an acquaintance, and would have a lonely week-end.
Of course, he couldn't drink, but why not sit
hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? Then after all, had
he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks
- no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old,
insidious insanity - that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and
walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music and gay chatter still
floated to him from the bar.
But what about his responsibilities - his family and
the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah - yes,
those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone
a clergyman. His sanity returned, and he thanked God. Selecting a church at
random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.
Little could he foresee what that simple decision
was to mean. How could anyone guess that life and happiness for many was to
depend on whether one depressed man entered a phone booth or a bar? His call
to the clergyman led him presently to a certain resident of the town, who,
though formerly able and respected, was then nearing the nadir of alcoholic
despair. It was the usual situation: home in jeopardy, wife ill, children
distracted, bills in arrears, and reputation damaged. He had a desperate
desire to stop, but saw no way out; for he had earnestly tried many avenues
of escape. Painfully aware of being somehow abnormal, the man did not fully
realize what it means to be alcoholic.
When our friend told his experience, the man agreed
that no amount of will power he might muster could stop his drinking for
long. A spiritual experience, he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the
price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He told how he lived in constant
worry about creditors and others who might find out about his alcoholism. He
had, of course, the familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his
drinking. Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder of his business, so
bringing still more suffering to his family, by foolishly admitting his
plight to his creditors and those from whom he made his livelihood? He would
do anything, he said, but that.
Being intrigued, however, he invited our friend to
his home. Some time later, and just as he thought he was getting control of
his liquor situation, he went on a roaring bender. For him, this was the
spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he would have to face his problems
squarely, that God might give him mastery.
One morning he took the bull by the horns and set
out to tell those he feared what his trouble had been. He found himself
surprisingly well received, and learned that many knew of his drinking.
Stepping into his car, he made the rounds of people he had hurt. He trembled
as he went about, for this might mean ruin, particularly to a person in his
line of business.
At midnight he came home exhausted, but very happy.
He has not had a drink since. As we shall see, he now means a great deal to
his community, and the major liabilities of thirty years of hard drinking
have been repaired in less than four.
But life was not easy for the two friends. Plenty of
difficulties presented themselves. Both saw that they must keep spiritually
active. One day they called up the head nurse of a local hospital. They
explained their need and inquired if she had a first class alcoholic
She replied, "Yes, we've got a corker. He's just
beaten up a couple of nurses. Goes off his head completely when drinking.
But he's a grand chap when sober though he's been in here six times in the
last four months. Understand he was once a well-known lawyer in town, but
just now we've got him strapped down tight."
Here was a prospect all right, but, by the
description, none too promising. The use of spiritual principles in such
cases was not so well understood as it is now. But one of the friends said,
"Put him in a private room. We'll be down."
Two days later, a future Fellow of Alcoholics
Anonymous stared glassily at the strangers beside his bed. "Who are you
fellows, and why this private room? I was always in a ward before."
Said one of the visitors, "We're giving you a
treatment for alcoholism."
Hopelessness was written large on the man's face as
he replied: "Oh, but that's no use. Nothing would fix me. I'm a goner. The
last three times, I got drunk on the way home from here. I'm afraid to go
out the door. I can't understand it."
For an hour, the two friends told him about their
drinking experiences. Over and over, he would say: "That's me. That's me. I
drink like that."
The man in the bed was told of the acute poisoning
from which he suffered, how it deteriorates the body of an alcoholic and
warps his mind. There was much talk about the mental state preceding the
"Yes, that's me," said the sick man, "the very
image. You fellows know your stuff all right, but I don't see what good
it'll do. You fellows are somebody. I was once, but I'm a nobody now. From
what you tell me, I know more than ever I can't stop." At this both the
visitors burst into a laugh. Said the future Fellow Anonymous: "Damn little
to laugh about that I can see."
The two friends spoke of their spiritual experience
and told him about the course of action they carried out.
He interrupted: "I used to be strong for the church,
but that won't fix it. I've prayed to God on hangover mornings and sworn
that I'd never touch another drop, but by nine o'clock I'd be boiled as an
Next day found the prospect more receptive. He had
been thinking it over. "Maybe you're right," he said. "God ought to be able
to do anything." Then he added, "He sure didn't do much for me when I was
trying to fight this booze racket alone."
On the third day the lawyer gave his life to the
care and direction of his Creator, and said he was perfectly willing to do
anything necessary. His wife came, scarcely daring to be hopeful, but she
thought she saw something different about her husband already. He had begun
to have a spiritual experience.
That afternoon he put on his clothes and walked from
the hospital a free man. He entered a political campaign, making speeches,
frequenting men's gathering places of all sorts, often staying up all night.
He lost the race by only a narrow margin. But he had found God - and in
finding God had found himself.
That was in June, 1935. He never drank again. He
too, has become a respected and useful member of his community. He has
helped other men recover, and is a power in the church from which he was
So, you see, there were three alcoholics in that
town, who now felt they had to give to others what they had found, or be
sunk. After several failures to find others, a fourth turned up. He came
through an acquaintance who had heard the good news. He proved to be a
devil-may-care young fellow whose parents could not make out whether he
wanted to stop drinking or not. They were deeply religious people, much
shocked by their son's refusal to have anything to do with the church. He
suffered horribly from his sprees, but it seemed as if nothing could be done
for him. He consented, however, to go to the hospital, where he occupied the
very room recently vacated by the lawyer.
He had three visitors. After a bit, he said: "The
way you fellows put this spiritual stuff makes sense. I'm ready to do
business. I guess the old folks were right after all." So one more was added
to the Fellowship.
All this time our friend of the hotel lobby incident
remained in that town. He was there three months. He now returned home,
leaving behind his first acquaintance, the lawyer, and the devil-may-care
chap. These men had found something brand new in life. Though they knew they
must help other alcoholics if they would remain sober, that motive became
secondary. It was transcended by the happiness they found in giving
themselves for others. They shared their homes, their slender resources, and
gladly devoted their spare hours to fellow-sufferers. They were willing, by
day or night, to place a new man in the hospital and visit him afterward.
They grew in numbers. They experienced a few distressing failures, but in
those cases, they made an effort to bring the man's family into a new way of
living, thus relieving much worry and suffering.
A year and six months later these three had
succeeded with seven more. Seeing much of each other, scarce an evening
passed that someone's home did not shelter a little gathering of men and
women, happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might
present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these casual
get-togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a
meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way
of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to
provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems.
Outsiders became interested. One man and his wife
placed their large home at the disposal of this strangely assorted crowd.
This couple has since become so fascinated that they have dedicated their
home to the work. Many a distracted wife has visited this house to find
loving and understanding companionship among women who knew their problem,
to hear from the lips of men like their husbands what had happened to them,
to be advised how her own wayward mate might be hospitalized and approached
when next he stumbled.
Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience,
has stepped over the threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic
who entered there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd
inside, who laughed at their misfortune and understood him. Impressed by
those who visited him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely, when, later,
in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some man whose
experience closely tallied with his own. The expression on the faces of the
women, that indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating
and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him know that here
was haven at last.
The very practical approach to his problems, the
absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy,
the uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible. He and
his wife would leave elated by the thought of what they could now do for
some stricken acquaintance and his family. They knew they had a host of new
friends; it seemed they had known these strangers always. They had seen
miracles, and one was to come to them. They had envisioned The Great Reality
- their loving and All Powerful Creator.
Now, this house will hardly accommodate its weekly
visitors, for they number sixty or eighty as a rule. Alcoholics are being
attracted from far and near. From surrounding towns, families drive long
distances to be present. A community thirty miles away has fifteen Fellows
of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being a large place, we think that some day its
Fellowship will number many hundreds.
But life among Alcoholics Anonymous is more than
attending meetings and visiting hospitals. Cleaning up old scrapes, helping
to settle family differences, explaining the disinherited son to his irate
parents, lending money and securing jobs for each other, when justified -
these are everyday occurrences. No one is too discredited, nor has sunk too
low to be welcomed cordially - if he means business. Social distinctions,
petty rivalries and jealousies - these are laughed out of countenance. Being
wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united under one God, with
hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others, the things which matter
so much to some people no longer signify much to them. How could they?
Under only slightly different conditions, the same
thing is taking place in several eastern cities. In one of these there is a
well-known hospital for the treatment of alcoholic and drug addiction. Four
years ago one of our number was a patient there. Many of us have felt, for
the first time, the Presence and Power of God within its walls. We are
greatly indebted to the doctor in attendance there, for he, although it
might prejudice his own work, has told us his belief in our work.
Every few days this doctor suggests our approach to
one of his patients. Understanding our work, he can do this with an eye to
selecting those who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis.
Many of us, former patients, go there to help. Then, in this eastern city,
there are informal meetings such as we have described to you, where you may
see thirty or forty, there are the same fast friendships, there is the same
helpfulness to one another as you find among our western friends. There is a
good bit of travel between East and West and we foresee a great increase in
this helpful interchange.
Some day we hope that every alcoholic who journeys
will find a Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. To some
extent this is already true. Some of us are salesmen and go about. Little
clusters of twos and threes and fives of us have sprung up in other
communities, through contact with our two larger centers. Those of us who
travel drop in as often as we can. This practice enables us to lend a hand,
at the same time avoiding certain alluring distractions of the road, about
which any traveling man can inform you.
Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one
man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you
will need to begin.
We know what you are thinking. You are saying to
yourself: "I'm jittery and alone. I couldn't do that." But you can. You
forget that you have just now tapped a source of power so much greater than
yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only
a matter of willingness, patience and labor.
We know a former alcoholic who was living alone in a
large community. He had lived there but a few weeks when he found that the
place probably contained more alcoholics per square mile than any city in
the country. This was only a few days ago at this writing. The authorities
were much concerned. He got in touch with a prominent psychiatrist who has
undertaken certain responsibilities for the mental health of the community.
The doctor proved to be able and exceedingly anxious to adopt any workable
method of handling the situation. Agreeing with many competent and informed
physicians, he said he could do little or nothing for the average alcoholic.
So, he inquired, what did our friend have on-the ball?
Our friend proceeded to tell him. And with such good
effect that the doctor agreed to a test among his patients and certain other
alcoholics from a clinic which he attends. Arrangements were also made with
the chief psychiatrist of a large public hospital to select still others
from the stream of misery which flows through that institution.
So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore.
Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a
criterion, more than half of those approached will become Fellows of
Alcoholics Anonymous. When a few men in this city have found themselves, and
have discovered the joy of helping others to face life again, there will be
no stopping until everyone in that town has his opportunity to recover - if
he can and will.
Still you may say: "But I will not have the benefit
of contact with you who write this book." We cannot be sure. God will
determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon
Him. He will show you how to create the Fellowship you crave.*
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize
we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.
Ask him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who
is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But
obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your
relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you
and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit
your faults to him and and your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your
past. Give freely of what you find, and join us. We shall be with you, in
the Fellowship of The Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you
trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you - until then.
* See appendix - The Alcoholic Foundation. It may be
we shall be able to carry on a limited correspondence.
I was born in a small New England village of about
7,000 souls. The general moral standard was, as I recall it, far above the
average. No beer or liquor was sold in the neighborhood, except at the State
liquor agency where perhaps one might procure a pint if he could convince
the agent that he really needed it. Without this proof the expectant
purchaser would be forced to depart empty handed with none of what I later
came to believe was the great panacea for all human ills. Men who had liquor
shipped in from Boston or New York by express were looked upon with great
distrust and disfavor by most of the good townspeople. The town was well
supplied with churches and schools in which I pursued my early educational
My father was a professional man of recognized
ability and both my father and mother were most active in church affairs.
Both father and mother were considerably above the average in intelligence.
Unfortunately for me, I was the only child, which
perhaps engendered the selfishness which played such an important part in
bringing on my alcoholism.
From childhood through high school, I was more or
less forced to go to church, Sunday School and evening service, Monday night
Christian Endeavor and sometimes to Wednesday evening prayer meeting. This
had the effect of making me resolve that when I was free from parental
domination, I would never again darken the doors of a church. This
resolution I kept steadfastly for the next forty years, except when
circumstances made it seem unwise to absent myself.
After high school came four years in one of the best
colleges in the country where drinking seemed to be a major extra-curricular
activity. Almost everyone seemed to do it. I did it more and more, and had
lots of fun without much grief, either physical or financial. I seemed to be
able to snap back the next morning better than most of my fellow drinkers,
who were cursed (or perhaps blessed) with a great deal of morning after
nausea. Never once in my life have I had a headache, which fact leads me to
believe that I was an alcoholic almost from the start. My whole life seemed
to be centered around doing what I wanted to do, without regard for the
rights, wishes, or privileges of anyone else; a state of mind which became
more and more predominant as the years passed. I was graduated with "summa
cum laude" in the eyes of the drinking fraternity, but not in the eyes of
The next three years I spent in Boston, Chicago and
Montreal in the employ of a large manufacturing concern, selling railway
supplies, gas engines of all sorts, and many other items of heavy hardware.
During these years, I drank as much as my purse permitted, still without
paying too great a penalty, although I was beginning to have morning
"jitters" at times. But I lost only a half day's work during these three
My next move was to take up the study of medicine,
entering one of the largest universities in the country. There I took up the
business of drinking with much greater earnestness than I had previously
shown. On account of my enormous capacity for beer, I was elected to
membership in one of the drinking societies, and soon became one of the
leading spirits. Many mornings I have gone to classes, and even though fully
prepared, I would turn and walk back to my fraternity house because of my
jitters, not daring to enter the classroom for fear of making a scene should
I be called on for recitation.
This went from bad to worse until sophomore spring
when, after a prolonged period of drinking, I made up my mind that I could
not complete my course, so I packed my grip and went South and spent a month
on a large farm owned by a friend of mine. When I got the fog out of my
brain, I decided that quitting school was very foolish and that I had better
return and continue my work. When I reached school, I discovered the faculty
had other ideas on the subject. After much argument they allowed me to
return and take my exams, all of which I passed creditably. But they were
much disgusted and told me they would attempt to struggle along without my
presence. After many painful discussions, they finally gave me my credits
and I migrated to another of the leading universities of the country and
entered as a Junior that Fall.
There my drinking became so much worse that the boys
in the fraternity house where I lived felt forced to send for my father, who
made a long journey in the vain endeavor to get me straightened around. This
had little effect however for I kept on drinking and used a great deal more
hard liquor than in former years.
Coming up to final exams I went on a particularly
strenuous spree. When I went in to write the examinations, my hand trembled
so I could not hold a pencil. I passed in at least three absolutely blank
books. I was, of course, soon on the carpet and the upshot was that I had to
go back for two more quarters and remain absolutely dry, if I wished to
graduate. This I did, and proved myself satisfactory to the faculty, both in
deportment and scholastically.
I conducted myself so creditably that I was able to
secure a much coveted internship in a Western City, where I spent two years.
During these two years I was kept so busy that I hardly left the hospital at
all. Consequently, I could not get into any trouble.
When these two years were up, I opened my office
downtown. Then I had some money, all the time in the world, and considerable
stomach trouble. I soon discovered that a couple of drinks would alleviate
my gastric distress, at least for a few hours at a time, so it was not at
all difficult for me to return to my former excessive indulgence.
By this time I was beginning to pay very dearly
physically, and in hope of relief voluntarily incarcerated myself at least a
dozen times in one of the local sanitariums. I was between Scylla and
Charybdis now, because if I did not drink my stomach tortured me, and if I
did, my nerves did the same thing. After three years of this, I wound up in
the local hospital where they attempted to help me, but I would get my
friends to smuggle me in a quart, or I would steal the alcohol about the
building, so that I got rapidly worse.
Finally my father had to send a doctor out from my
home town who managed to get me back there some way and I was in bed about
two months before I could venture out of the house. I stayed about town a
couple of months more and returned to resume my practice. I think I must
have been thoroughly scared by what had happened, or by the doctor, or
probably both, so that I did not touch a drink again until the country went
With the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment I felt
quite safe. I knew everyone would buy a few bottles, or cases, of liquor as
their exchequers permitted, and it would soon be gone. Therefore it would
make no great difference, even if I should do some drinking. At that time I
was not aware of the almost unlimited supply the government made it possible
for us doctors to obtain, neither had I any knowledge of the bootlegger who
soon appeared on the horizon. I drank with moderation at first, but it took
me only a relatively short time to drift back into the old habits which had
wound up so disastrously before.
During the next few years, I developed two distinct
phobias. One was the fear of not sleeping, and the other was the fear of
running out of liquor. Not being a man of means, I knew that if I did not
stay sober enough to earn money, I would run out of liquor. Most of the
time, therefore, I did not take the morning drink which I craved so badly,
but instead would fill up on large doses of sedatives to quiet the jitters,
which distressed me terribly. Occasionally, I would yield to the morning
craving, but if I did, it would be only a few hours before I would be quite
unfit for work. This would lessen my chances of smuggling some home that
evening, which in turn would mean a night of futile tossing around in bed
followed by a morning of unbearable jitters. During the subsequent fifteen
years I had sense enough never to go to the hospital if I had been drinking,
and very seldom did I receive patients. I would sometimes hide out in one of
the clubs, of which I was a member, and had the habit at times of
registering at a hotel under a fictitious name. But my friends usually found
me and I would go home if they promised that I should not be scolded.
If my wife were planning to go out in the afternoon,
I would get a large supply of liquor and smuggle it home and hide it in the
coal bin, the clothes chute, over door jambs, over beams in the cellar and
in cracks in the cellar tile. I also made use of old trunks and chests, the
old can container, and even the ash container. The water tank on the toilet
I never used, because that looked too easy. I found out later that my wife
inspected it frequently. I used to put eight or twelve ounce bottles of
alcohol in a fur lined glove and toss it onto the back airing porch when
winter days got dark enough. My bootlegger had hidden it at the back steps
where I could get it at my convenience. Sometimes I would bring it in my
pockets, but they were inspected, and that became too risky. I used also to
put it up in four ounce bottles and stick several in my stocking tops. This
worked nicely until my wife and I went to see Wallace Beery in "Tugboat
Annie", after which the pant-leg and stock-racket were out!
I will not take space to relate all my hospital or
For the benefit of those experimentally inclined, I
should mention the so-called beer experiment. When beer first came back, I
thought that I was safe. I could drink all I wanted of that. It was
harmless; nobody ever got drunk on beer. So I filled the cellar full, with
the permission of my good wife. It was not long before I was drinking at
least a case and a half a day. I put on thirty pounds weight in about two
months, looked like a pig, and was uncomfortable from shortness of breath.
It then occurred to me that after one was all smelled up with beer nobody
could tell what had been drunk, so I began to fortify my beer with straight
alcohol. Of course, the result was very bad, and that ended the beer
During all this time we became more or less
ostracized by our friends. We could not be invited out because I would
surely get tight and my wife dared not invite people in for the same reason.
My phobia for sleeplessness demanded that I get drunk every night, but in
order to get more liquor for the next night, I had to stay sober during the
day, at least up to four o'clock. This routine went on with few
interruptions for seventeen years. It was really a horrible nightmare, this
earning money, getting liquor, smuggling it home, getting drunk, morning
jitters, taking large doses of sedatives to make it possible for me to earn
more money, and so on ad nauseam. I used to promise my wife, my friends, and
my children that I would drink no more - promises which seldom kept me sober
even through the day, though I was very sincere when I made them.
About the time of the beer experiment I was thrown
in with a crowd of people who attracted me because of their seeming poise,
health, and happiness. They spoke with great freedom from embarrassment,
which I could never do, and they seemed very much at ease on all occasions
and appeared very healthy. More than these attributes, they seemed to be
happy. I was self conscious and ill at ease most of the time, my health was
at the breaking point, and I was thoroughly miserable. I sensed they had
something I did not have, from which I might readily profit. I learned that
it was something of a spiritual nature, which did not appeal to me very
much, but I thought it could do no harm. I gave the matter much time and
study for the next two and a half years, but still got tight every night
nevertheless. I read everything I could find, and talked to everyone who I
thought knew anything about it.
My good wife became deeply interested and it was her
interest that sustained mine, though I at no time sensed that it might be an
answer to my liquor problem. How my wife kept her faith and courage during
all those years, I'll never know, but she did. If she had not, I know I
would have been dead a long time ago. For some reason, we alcoholics seem to
have the gift of picking out the world's finest women. Why they should be
subjected to the tortures we inflicted upon them, I cannot explain.
About this time a lady called up my wife one
Saturday afternoon, saying she wanted me to come over that evening to meet a
friend of hers who might help me. It was the day before Mother's Day and I
had come home plastered, carrying a big potted plant which I set down on the
table and forthwith went upstairs and passed out. The next day she called
again. Wishing to be polite, though I felt very badly, I said, "Let's make
the call," and extracted from my wife a promise that we would not stay over
We entered her house at exactly five o'clock and it
was exactly eleven fifteen when we left. I had a couple of shorter talks
with this man afterward, and stopped drinking abruptly. This dry spell
lasted for about three weeks, when I went to Atlantic City to attend several
days' meeting of a National Society of which I was a member. I drank all the
Scotch they had on the train and bought several quarts on my way to the
hotel. This was on Sunday. I got tight that night, stayed sober Monday till
after the dinner and then proceeded to get tight again. I drank all I dared
in the bar, and then went to my room to finish the job. Tuesday I started in
the morning, getting well organized by noon. I did not want to disgrace
myself, so I then checked out. I bought some more liquor on the way to the
depot. I had to wait some time for the train. I remember nothing from then
until I woke up at a friend's house, in a nearby town. These good people
notified my wife, who sent my newly-made friend over to get me in my car. He
came and got me home and to bed, gave me a few drinks that night, and one
bottle of beer the next morning.
That was June 10, 1935, and that was my last drink.
As I write nearly four years have passed.
The question which might naturally come into your
mind would be: what did the man do or say that was different from what
others had done or said? It must be remembered that I had read a great deal
and talked to everyone who knew, or thought they knew, anything about the
subject of alcoholism. This man was a man who had experienced many years of
frightful drinking, who had had most all the drunkard's experience known to
man, but who had been cured by the very means I had been trying to employ,
that is to say, the spiritual approach. He gave me information about the
subject of alcoholism which was undoubtedly helpful. Of far more importance
was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked,
who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual
experience. In other words, he talked my language. He knew all the answers,
and certainly not because he had picked them up in his reading.
It is a most wonderful blessing to be relieved of
the terrible curse with which I was afflicted. My health is good and I have
regained my self-respect and the respect of my colleagues. My home life is
ideal and my business is as good as can be expected in these uncertain
I spend a great deal of time passing on what I
learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons:
1.Sense of duty. 2.It is a pleasure. 3.Because in so
doing I am paying my debt to the man who took time to pass it on to me.
4.Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself
against a possible slip.
Unlike most of our crowd, I did not get over my
craving for liquor much during the first two and one-half years of
abstinence. It was almost always with me. But at no time have I been
anywhere near yielding. I used to get terribly upset when I saw my friends
drink and knew I could not, but I schooled myself to believe that though I
once had the same privilege, I had abused it so frightfully that it was
withdrawn. So it doesn't behoove me to squawk about it, for after all,
nobody ever used to throw me down and pour any liquor down my throat.
If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a
skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from
accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. If you still think you
are strong enough to beat the game, that is your affair. But if you really
and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel
that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It
never fails if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the
habit of showing when getting another drink.
Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!
High school studies irked me early. I was an
imaginative kid and when a small carnival came to town it seemed pretty
glamorous to me. Not very big, skinny and looking like a victim of
malnutrition, I made an admirable "Cigarette Fiend" for one of the
side-shows, as one of the concession men told me when he propositioned me. I
had a dandy hacking cough and looked very convincing on the platform as the
spieler told the crowd how many hundred coffin-nails I smoked every day, how
doctors had given me up and I sure surely marked for the Grim Reaper. At
every telling point in the ballyhoo, I would cough as if I would croak any
minute. I was tickled. I was fooling the people.
That idea of fooling the people, which had its start
with the carnival side-show, later dominated my whole life. I was a smart
guy living by my wits, making my living by beating the other fellow. Thrown
among carnival folks, I soon acquired their ways. I learned to take on a
drink or two occasionally and on one night in a middle-western town got so
loaded I woke up the next morning in a pig-pen. How I got there I don't even
remember. I had been sick during the night and I've often wondered why the
pigs tolerated me. Shortly afterward I quit the show and returned home.
My father was a pharmacist so I studied to follow in
his footsteps, however, on the eve of taking the state board examination, I
was ordered to report for military service. Army life contributed to the
formation of my character in an important way. Like most of the boys, I
didn't expect to be lucky enough to be alive when hostilities were over, so
I began to live from day to day. In time of war the soldier is a gambler and
tomorrow is something he is never quite sure about.
I was never more than ordinarily lucky and I knew
that I couldn't get all the money I wanted by depending on luck, so I began
to master the art of manipulating dice and cards. I became passionately
interested in the basic arts of the profession of crooked gambling.
Conscience bothered me somewhat at first, but the voice was stilled as I was
soon making more money than the commanding officer of the encampment. Soon I
had a house with a lady in charge outside of government property and laid in
a stock of liquor and beer. My place became so popular that I was making
money such as I hadn't dreamed of. I was the only real, genuine "doughboy" -
I was making the dough and plenty of it.
The war ended and I returned home. I had experienced
easy living and I certainly couldn't see a future of rolling pills and
making up prescriptions from medical latin. I had plenty of money and in my
home town began to know and be known by the gambling fraternity, the town
sports, the bookies and operators. But something kept me from making any
connection with that crowd professionally in my home town. I knew how hurt
my people would be, so I lit out for pastures new.
Downstate was a hell-roaring river town with almost
a century old reputation for being a gambler's paradise. It was practically
never a closed town except in sporadic elections of reform administrations.
I allied myself with one of the best known operators in a saloon, dealing
poker, craps and blackjack. I made plenty of money. I developed a strong
habit of stimulating myself with liquor.
Even that exciting existence dulled after a time and
I felt I ought to see the country so, finding myself a clever and congenial
partner, I took to riding the "name trains" from coast to coast, always with
the best the Pullman company could offer. I had an excellent wardrobe, the
best-looking baggage I could get - all the essentials for the front so
necessary in the profession of a train-sharper. Prohibition was now with us,
and the kind of whiskey I drank was $20.00 and more by the quart. Our plan
of operation was in the best technique, based on the opening of offering
something for nothing which is sure-fire appeal to human cupidity.
Traveling eventually became tiresome. I went home
once more. I was now very definitely a professional but I didn't have to tie
up with any outfit in particular. Working when the mood seized me, drinking
steadily every day, I did not escape the fate of every gambler, getting into
trouble with the authorities now and then, but always getting by because I
well knew the value of protection, which was just a business proposition
with me and thoroughly justifiable.
For the first time in my life, however, money failed
me when I was incarcerated for eight months after hiring the best available
mouthpiece and placing the needful where it seemed it might do me good to
the tune of more than $5,000. Even when I went behind the bars I still had
plenty left. Through influence I became cook for the superintendent of the
prison which opened the way to liquor for me, and I managed to be
comfortably jingled most of the time I was in the pen.
When I was out on the bricks again, I decided to
give my home town a wide berth for a while and went to one of the largest
cities in the country to resume operations.
I wasn't much given to contemplation. Long ago I had
dropped any idea that there was a God. If I ever gave any thought to myself
being in this world for any other purpose than to make all the money I
possibly could, I do not recall it.
I drank heavily with sober periods few and far
between. In this city I operated for four years during which time I was
steadily slipping in any control over liquor I might once have had. I had my
first experience of hospitals, taken there helpless from continued drinking.
The best medical talent in the city was always in attendance. Hospital
followed hospital and I finally went from one sanitarium to another. My
business still gave me a considerable income. My economic position was not
bad. By this time I had married but that had no steadying influence on me.
Back I went to my home town and then my troubles
really started. My domestic situation became very disagreeable. Gambling
even almost lost its appeal for me and that had been my life. I quit
everything to take up drinking seriously. I knew that I was a drunkard, had
no hope of ever overcoming the desire for liquor, now far more necessary to
continued existence than the food I ate. My wife heard of a cure at a state
institution - the state insane asylum to be frank - and, unknown to me, got
a court order to have me sent there. Two deputies hauled me out of bed one
day and took me to the county jail for temporary lodgment. I had many
friends and even the law didn't want me to be sent to the bughouse. I got as
far as the county jail twice for brief periods, being released on my promise
to do something about drinking. I didn't do anything about it. When I got
out all I wanted was liquor.
So eventually to the bughouse I went, assigned to
the alcoholic ward. I spent four months there. During that time I had no
trouble getting liquor because I still had money. Again I was released. Once
out, I wrecked my car, driving while intoxicated, and it seemed that I might
get a stiff jail sentence so when it was suggested that I might avoid that
by going back to the asylum, I accepted.
The bughouse had no terrors for me. I knew I could
always get a supply of liquor and stay half stupefied most of the time. In
the institution I became a nuisance to officials, attendants, and doctors. I
had been in and out of the place so often that even the sincere professional
medical men and psychologists had given me up. Suggestion, kindness,
everything had been tried. They now regarded me as incorrigible, said
nothing could be done for or with me and discharged me in a very short time.
In two months I was back again. This time I was
treated like any insane person, was punished for infractions, any breaches
of discipline. I could still get all the liquor I wanted through my
financial reserve and that was all I cared about.
I used to talk with another inmate about this
drinking business. He was a man who had lost one good job after another, had
fallen from a good professional position to the status of a hobo. This
fellow knew and had lived in almost every railroad jungle from coast to
coast and had finally been slammed into the bughouse because his family
didn't want to read about his death someday as a friendless wanderer. To me
he confessed that he had tried for years to quit. I told him I had long ago
discovered I couldn't and that now I didn't give a damn. But this time when
I was sent back to the asylum, he wasn't there.
About the middle of my last confinement I was
surprised by a visit from this fellow. He had kept me in mind and had come a
considerable distance to see me. I was half-drunk when he called on me and
didn't have even the haziest idea of what he was talking about. But he asked
me if I would try to follow instructions if he was successful in getting me
out. Half-heartedly I told him I would, but I had no intention of
cooperating. I merely wanted to get out, where I could have free access to
what money I had and make a real job of drinking.
Shortly after that, my sister visited me and
persuaded the authorities to let me go. They were glad to do so, being sick
and tired of me. They were glad of the short respite they thought my absence
would give them, I guess.
When I got home, doped with sedatives I was put to
bed and managed to get a little rest. The next day my former fellow-inmate
and recent visitor came from a neighboring town to see me. I was very
nervous and jittery and my mind was continually on the bottle while he
talked. My natural distrust for all human beings seemed diminished a little
while he was talking, for I knew his story and we had something in common.
He was pretty definite in his statements and finally elicited from me a
promise to try to follow a certain plan which he now proposed to explain to
me. He stressed the fact that his drinking career had been very similar to
mine and much more miserable because it had made a homeless bum out of him
whereas I had never been in straitened financial circumstances. I told him I
would give it a trial if at all possible and invited him to keep on talking.
He began by pointing out what I couldn't dispute,
that I had no faith in anything, man or God, that all my life I had lived as
I pleased without any moral scruples or misgivings whatever. I admitted that
"What you need is a definite religious experience,"
"That's the bunk." I said. "I knew there was some
angle like this. Count me out. If I've got to turn around and join a church
and sing hymns and holler 'Amen' when some long-bearded jasper, who spends
six days out of the week skinning suckers, legally begins to pray in
meeting, I don't want any part of it."
"You don't have to do that," he said. "And, anyway,
the long-bearded slicker is no concern of yours. Your problem is yourself."
My friend was new to this job of helping the other
fellow, but I couldn't get away from the fact that he was now sober and that
he had got that way and was being kept that way by a religious experience.
He made me a proposition.
"I'll come for you Wednesday night," he said. "I'll
take you to where a bunch of guys who used to be pickled practically all the
time meet every week. You can see and listen and judge for yourself."
With my friend I attended that meeting. I was
cordially received. I knew a good many of them and listened attentively, but
I say quite honestly it left me cold. Not that it was like a church service.
No, it wasn't like that at all. When some stories had been told it ended up
with the Lord's Prayer, then everybody sat around and visited. I was
beginning to get a little scared. Now, I thought, is when they'll put the
works to a guy; along about this time one of these mugs is going to get me
in a corner and ask me about my soul.
Nothing of the sort happened. They invited me back
again. Others asked if they could come to see me, when I'd be in and so
forth. My pal stuck pretty close to me that week. Some of the gang turned up
at my home and told me how they had been helped to quit drinking. I went
back to the next meeting and the next and the next again. Gradually I began
to see what it was all about. I listened carefully for I was now definitely
interested. More or less unconsciously I was seeking for something. I didn't
know it then, but I think I was surely seeking God. Now, I didn't find God
suddenly. You must remember that God was never in any of my plans. The
former cynical, gambler-slicker who didn't even believe much that there was
honor among thieves, gradually learned that Love is the law of God. I, who
had strictly followed the injunction that you should never give a sucker an
even break, had to learn that God demands we be honest if we are to follow
I am writing this in the Thanksgiving season. It is
a great privilege to have the fine human friendship and association of this
gang of former drunks. It is an even greater privilege when I can be of
service in helping some guy to a remedy which is his for the taking.
But if friends and fellowship were to disappear
tomorrow I don't think I would be dismayed. Back of all that there is the
knowledge that I have a Divine Father - that as long as I try to walk as He
has laid down for me to do throughout my life, nothing of ill can befall me,
that if I wish I can be sober for the rest of my days.
I have a simple little job on which I make less in a
month that I formerly made in a day, but that doesn't worry me. I know there
is something far better than mere dollars. There isn't a gambling house of
note that wouldn't be glad to have me as an operator, for the owners know
I'm capable, that I can bring and keep business. In fact, some who know,
think I would be a greater asset than ever for they have confidence that I
would make an honest accounting of receipts.
No, I don't have much money nowadays, but I don't
need any. I am quite sure that God doesn't want me to go back to the green
tables and the shaded lights again. It might even be possible that I could
go back to my former profession and stay sober, but I doubt it. Accustomed
to coldly calculating the odds all my life, I'm of the opinion that they
would be definitely against me.
His Will must be my bet - There's no other way!
In our text we have shown the alcoholic how he can
recover but we realize that many will want to write us directly.
To receive these inquiries, to administer royalties
from this book and such other funds as may come to hand, a Trust has been
created known as The Alcoholic Foundation. Three Trustees are members of
Alcoholics Anonymous, the other four are well-known business and
professional men who have volunteered their services. The Trust states these
four (who are not of Alcoholics Anonymous) or their successors, shall always
constitute a majority of the Board of Trustees.
We must frankly state however, that under present
conditions, we may be unable to reply to all inquiries, as our members, in
their spare time, will attend to most of the correspondence. Nevertheless we
shall strenuously attempt to communicate with those men and women who are
able to report that they are staying sober and working with other
alcoholics. Once we have such an active nucleus, we can then refer to them
those inquiries which originate in their respective localities. Starting
with small but active centers created in this fashion, we are confident that
fellowships will spring up and grow very much as they have among us.
Meanwhile, we hope the Foundation will become more useful to all.
The Alcoholic Foundation is our only agency of its
kind. We have agreed that all business engagements touching on our alcoholic
work shall have the approval of its trustees. People who state they
represent The Alcoholic Foundation should be asked for credentials and if
unsatisfactory, these ought to be checked with the Foundation at once. We
welcome inquiry by scientific, medical and religious societies.
This volume is published by the Works Publishing
Company, organized and financed mostly by small donations of our members.
This company donates the customary royalties from each copy of Alcoholics
Anonymous to The Alcoholic Foundation.
The above is for
historical purpose only
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