ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

I


OTHER BOOKS

TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS
An Interpretive Commentary on the A.A. Program
By a Cofounder
(190 Pages)

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS COMES OF AGE
A Brief History of A.A.'s First Two Decades
(335 Pages)

AS BILL SEES IT
(formerly the A.A. Way of Life)
Selected Writings of A.A.'s Cofounder
(346 Pages)

BOOKLETS

CAME TO BELIEVE...
Spiritual Experiences of 75 A.A.'s
(120 Pages)

LIVING SOBER
Practical Suggestions Heard at Meetings
(88 Pages)

ii


ALCOHOLICS

ANONYMOUS

____________________________________________

The Story of

How Many Thousands of Men and Women

Have Recovered from Alcoholism

THIRD EDITION

Alcoholics Anonymous General Services Logo

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS WORLD SERVICES, INC.

NEW YORK CITY

1976

iii


Copyright 1 1939,1955, 1976 by

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS WORLD SERVICES, INC.

All rights reserved.

Sixteen printings from 1939 to 1955

Sixteen printings from 1955 to 1974

Third Edition, New & Revised, 1976

Personal Stories on pages 327,342,353,369,396,418,
439, 457, 474, 478, 526, and 554 are copyrighted 1 by
The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. and are reprinted here with permission.


Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 76­4029
ISBN 0­916856­00­3

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

iv


CONTENTS

Chapter.........................................................................Page

PREFACE.....................................................................XI

FORWARD TO FIRST EDITION......................................XIII

FORWARD TO SECOND EDITION....................................XV

FORWARD TO THIRD EDITION......................................XXI

THE DOCTOR'S OPINION.............................................XIII

1..BILL'S STORY............................................................1

2..THERE IS A SOLUTION..............................................17

3..MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM.......................................30

4..WE AGNOSTICS.......................................................44

5..HOW IT WORKS......................................................58

6..INTO ACTION..........................................................72

7..WORKING WITH OTHERS..........................................89

8..TO WIVES.............................................................104

9..THE FAMILY AFTERWARD.........................................122

10.TO EMPLOYERS......................................................136

11.A VISION FOR YOU.................................................151


PERSONAL STORIES

Pioneers of A.A.

DOCTOR BOB'S NIGHTMARE.........................................171
A co­founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The
birth of our Society dates from his first day of
permanent sobriety, June 10, 1935

v


vi     CONTENTS 

1...ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE ...............182
Pioneer member of Akron's Group No. 1, the first
A.A. group in the world. He kept the faith: there­
fore, he and countless others found a new life.

2...HE HAD TO BE SHOWN............................................193
"Who is convinced against his will is of the same
opinion still." But not this man.

3...HE THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK LIKE A GENTLE­
MAN .........................................................................210
But he discovered that here are some gentlemen
who can't drink.

4...WOMEN SUFFER TOO...............................................222
Despite great opportunities, alcohol nearly ended
her life. Early member, she spread the word among
women in our pioneering period.

5...THE EUROPEAN DRINKER..........................................230
Beer and wine were not the answer.

6...THE VICIOUS CYCLE.................................................238
How it broke a Southerner's obstinacy and
destined this salesman to start A.A. in Philadelphia.

7...THE NEWS HAWK.....................................................251
This newsman covered life from top to bottom;
but he ended up, safely enough, in the middle.

8...FROM FARM TO CITY................................................261
She tells how A.A. works when the going is
rough. A pioneer woman member of A.A.'s first
Group.

9...THE MAN WHO MASTERED FEAR.................................275
He spent eighteen years in running away; and
then found he didn't have to run. So he started
A.A. in Detroit.


vii    CONTENTS

10..HE SOLD HIMSELF SHORT..........................................287
But he found that there was a Higher Power
which had more faith in him than he had in him­
self. Thus, A.A. was born in Chicago.

11..HOME BREWMEISTER................................................297
An originator of Cleveland's Group No. 3, this
one fought Prohibition in vain.

12..THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM.......................................304
This worldly lady helped develop A.A. in Chi­
cago and thus passed her keys to many.

They Stopped in Time

1...TOO YOUNG?.............................................................317
Sergeants, doctors, and girl friends­everybody
seemed to be picking on him. But he couldn't be an
alcoholic at his age, could he.

2...FEAR OF FEAR............................................................321
This lady was cautious. She decided she wouldn't
let herself go in her drinking. And she would never,
never take that morning drink!

3...THOSE GOLDEN YEARS.................................................327
All the joys of retirement lay ahead for this movie
publicist. Safely pensioned, with no job to protect,
at last he could drink as he pleased.

4.THE HOUSEWIFE WHO DRANK AT HOME...........................335
She hid her bottles in clothes hampers and dresser
drawers. In A.A., she discovered she had lost noth­
ing and found everything

5...LIFESAVING WORDS....................................................342
For this officer in the Indian Army, going on the
wagon was not enough; attempts at control failed.


viii CONTENTS

6...PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF!...........................................345
Psychiatrist and surgeon, he had lost his way un­
till he realized that God, not he, was the Great
Healer.

7...A TEENAGER'S DECISION.............................................353
Just three years of drinking pushed a shy, lonely
young girl to the depths of depression. Out of sheer
despair, she called for help.

8...RUM, RADIO AND REBELLION......................................356
This man faced the last ditch when his wife's
voice from over 1,300 miles away sent him to A.A.,

9...ANY DAY WAS WASHDAY............................................369
This secret drinker favored the local Laundromat
as a watering hole. Now, she no longer risks losing
her home, her self-respect, or her laundry.

10..IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN WORSE......................................373
Alcohol was a looming cloud in this banker's
bright sky. He realized it could become a tornado.

11..A FLOWER OF THE SOUTH..........................................384
Faded, she bloomed afresh and had a chance to
help start A.A. in Texas

12..CALCULATING THE COSTS..........................................396
A retired Navy man looks back over twenty years
of drinking, to add up his A.A. "initiation fee."

13..STARS DON'T FALL....................................................400
A titled lady, she still saw her world darkening.
When the overcast lifted, the stars were there.

14..GROWING UP ALL OVER AGAIN...................................418
A "good boy" reached adulthood and success
without achieving maturity or fulfillment. Defeated
by alcohol and pills, he found the way to a new life.


ix   CONTENTS

15..UNTO THE SECOND GENERATION.................................422
A young veteran tells how a few rough experi­
ences pushed into A.A.

16..ME AN ALCOHOLIC.....................................................432
Barleycorn's wringer squeezed this author ­but he
escaped quite whole.

17..DOCTOR, ALCOHOLIC, ADDICT....................................439
The physician wasn't hooked, he thought ­he just
prescribed drugs indicated for his ailments.

They Nearly Lost All

1...A FIVE TIME LOSER WINS.............................................457
The worst of prison treatment couldn't break this
tough con. Then a miracle happened.

2...PROMOTED TO CHRONIC..............................................464
This career girl preferred solitary drinking, the
blackout kind, often hoping she'd stay that way for
keeps. But Providence had other ideas.

3...JOIN THE TRIBE..........................................................474
From a Canadian reservation to overseas bars to
New England lockups, an Indian traveled a long.
trail.

4...BELLE OF THE BALL.....................................................478
Waitress by day, barfly by night, she drifted down
the years into jail. Than A.A. showed her the beauty
of normal living, in a whole family reborn.

5...JIM'S STORY...............................................................483
This physician, the originator of A.A.'s first black
group, tells how freedom came

6...OUR SOUTHERN FRIEND...............................................497
Pioneer A.A., minister's son, and Southern farmer,
he asked, "Who am I to say there is no God?"


x  CONTENTS

7...THE PRISONER FREED..................................................508
After twenty years in prison for murder, he knew
A.A. was for him...if he wanted to stay outside.

8...DESPERATION DRINKING..............................................512
Finally, he drank to hold on to his sanity, to keep
away those little men and those strange faces.

9...THE CAREER OFFICER..................................................517
Brandy "retired" this Irishman. But he survived.
to become a mainstay of A.A. in Eire.

10..ANOTHER CHANCE......................................................526
Poor, black, totally ruled by alcohol, she felt shut
away from any life worth living. But when she be­
gan a prison sentence, a door opened.

11..HE WHO LOSES HIS LIFE..............................................531
A playwright lets his brains get too far ahead of
his emotions. To learn to live, he nearly died.

12..FREEDOM FROM BONDAGE............................................544
Young when she joined, this A.A. believes her
serious drinking was the result of even deeper de­
fects. She here tells us how she was set free.

13..A.A. TAUGHT HIM TO HANDLE SOBRIETY....................... 554
"God willing, we...may never again have to
deal with drinking, but we have to deal with sobri­
ety every day."

APPENDICES

1. The A A Tradition
2. Spiritual Experience
3. The Medical View on A.A.
4. The Lasker Award
5. The Religious View on A.A.
6. How to Get in Touch With A.A.

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PREFACE

       This is the third edition of the book "Alcoholics
Anonymous". The first edition appeared in April
1939, and in the following sixteen years, more than
300,000 copies went into circulation. The second edi­
tion, published in 1955, reached a total of more than
1,150,000 copies.
       Because this book has become the basic text for our
Society and has helped such large numbers of alco­
holic men and women to recovery, there exists a sen­
timent against any radical changes being made in it.
Therefore, the first portion of this volume, describing
the A.A. recovery program, has been left untouched in
the course of revisions made for both the second and
the third editions. The section called "The Doctor's
Opinion" has been kept intact, just as it was origi­
nally written in 1939 by the late Dr. William D. Silk­
worth, our Society's Great medical benefactor.
       The second edition added the appendices, the
Twelve Traditions, and the directions for getting in
touch with A.A. But the chief change was in the sec­
ion of personal stories, which was expanded to reflect
the Fellowship's growth. "Bill's Story," "Doctor Bob's
Nightmare," and six other personal histories from the
first edition were retained; thirty completely new stories were
added; and the story section was

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ii                            PREFACE

divided into three parts, under the same headings that
are used now.
       In this third edition, Part I ("Pioneers of A.A.")
stands unchanged. Nine of the stories in Part II ("They
Stopped in Time") are carried over from the second
edition; eight new stories have been added. In Part
III ("They Lost Nearly All"), eight stories have been
retained; five are new.
      All changes made over the years in the Big Book
(A.A. members' fond nickname for this volume) have
had the same purpose; to represent the current mem­
bership of Alcoholics Anonymous more accurately, and
thereby to reach more alcoholics. If you have a drink­
ing problem, we hope that you may pause in reading
one of the forty-four personal stories and think: "Yes,
that happened to me"; or, more important, "Yes, I've
felt like that"; or, most important, "Yes, I believe this
program can work for me, too."

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FORWARD TO THE FIRST EDITION

This is the Foreword as it appeared in the first
printing of the first edition in 1939.

       We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than
one hundred men and women who have re­
covered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and
body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we
have recovered
is the main purpose of this book. For
them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing
that no further authentication will be necessary. We
think this account of our experiences will help every­
one to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not
comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person.
And besides, we are sure that our 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 overwhelm­
ing number of personal appeals which may result
from this publication. Being mostly business or pro­
fessional folk, we could not well carry on our occupa­
ions in such an event. We would like it understood
that our alcoholic work is an avocation.
       When writing or speaking publicly about alcoholi­
sm, 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 handi­
capped.
       We are not an organization in the conventional

xiii

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xiv                             FORWARD TO FIRST EDITION

sense of the word. There are no fees or dues what­
soever. 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 form those
who have commenced work with other alcoholics. We
should like to be helpful to such cases.
       Inquiry by scientific, medical, and religious societies
will be welcomed.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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FORWARD TO SECOND EDITION

Figures given in this foreword describe the
Fellowship as it was in 1955.

       Since the original Foreword to this book was
written in 1939, a wholesale miracle has taken
place. Our earliest printing voiced the hope "that
every alcoholic who journeys will find the Fellowship
of Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. Already,"
continues the early text, "twos and threes and fives of
us have sprung up in other communities."
       Sixteen years have elapsed between our first printing
of this book and the presentation of 1955 of our second
edition. In that brief space, Alcoholics Anonymous
has mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose mem­
bership is far above 150,000 recovered alcoholics.
Groups are to be found in each of the United States
and all of the provinces of Canada. A.A. has flourish­
ing communities in the British Isles, the Scandinavian
countries, South Africa, South America, Mexico,
Alaska, Australia and Hawaii. All told, promising
beginnings have been made in some 50 foreign coun­
tries and U.S. possessions. Some are just now taking
shape in Asia. Many of our friends encourage us by
saying that this is but a beginning, only the augury of
a much larger future ahead.
       The spark that was to flare into the first A.A. group
was struck at Akron, Ohio in June 1935, during a talk
between a New York stockbroker and an Akron
physician. Six months earlier, the broker had been
relieved of his drink obsession by a sudden spiritual

xv


xvi                            FORWARD

experience, following a meeting with an alcoholic
friend who had been in contact with the Oxford
Groups of that day. He had also been greatly helped
by the late Dr. William D. Silkworth, a New York
specialist in alcoholism who is now accounted no less
than a medical saint by A.A. members, and whose story
of the early days of our Society appears in the
next pages. From this doctor, the broker had learned
the grave nature of alcoholism. Though he could not
accept all the tenets of the Oxford Groups, he was
convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession
of personality defects, restitution to those harmed,
helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and
dependence upon God.
       Prior to his journey to Akron, the broker had worked
hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an
alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had suc-
ceeded only in keeping sober himself. The broker had
gone to Akron on a business venture which had
collapsed, leaving him greatly in fear that he might
start drinking again. He suddenly realized that in
order to save himself he must carry his message to
another alcoholic. That alcoholic turned out to be
the Akron physician.
       This physician had repeatedly tried spiritual means
to resolve his alcoholic dilemma but had failed. But
when the broker gave him Dr. Silkworth's description
of alcoholism and its hopelessness, the physician began
to pursue the spiritual remedy for his malady with a
willingness he had never before been able to muster.
He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of
his death in 1950. This seemed to prove that one
alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic


FORWARD                             xvii

could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one
alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent re­
covery.
       Hence the two men set to work almost frantically
upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron
City Hospital. Their very first case, a desperate one,
recovered immediately and became A.A. number
three. He never had another drink. This work at
Akron continued through the summer of 1935. There
were many failures, but there was an occasional heart­
ening success. When the broker returned to New York
in the fall of 1935, the first A.A. group had actually
been formed, though no one realized it at the time.
       By late 1937, the number of members having sub-
stantial sobriety time behind them was sufficient to
convince the membership that a new light had entered.
       A second small group had promptly taken shape at
New York, And besides, there were scattered alco-
holics who had picked up the basic ideas in Akron or
New York and were trying to form A.A. groups in
other cities.
       It was now time, the struggling groups thought, to
place their message and unique experience before the
world. This determination bore fruit in the spring of
1939 by the publication of this volume. The member­
ship had then reached about 100 men and women.
The fledgling society, which had been nameless, now
began to be called Alcoholics Anonymous, from the
title of its own book. The flying blind period ended
and A.A. entered a new phase of its pioneering time.
       With the appearance of the new book a great deal
began to happen. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the


xviii                             FORWARD

noted clergyman, reviewed it with approval. In the
fall of 1939 Fulton Oursler, the editor of Liberty,
printed a piece in his magazine, called "Alcoholics and
God." This brought a rush of 800 frantic inquiries
into the little New York office which meanwhile had
been established. Each inquiry was painstakingly
answered; pamphlets and books were sent out. Busi­
nessmen, traveling out of existing groups, were
referred to these prospective newcomers. New groups
started up and it was found, to the astonishment of
everyone, that A.A.'s message could be transmitted in
the mail as well as by word of mouth. By the end of
1939 it was estimated that 800 alcoholics were on
their way to recovery.
       In the spring of 1940, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave
a dinner for many of his friends to which he invited
A.A. members to tell their stories. News of this got on
the world wires; inquiries poured in again and many
people went to the bookstores to get the book "Alco-
holics Anonymous." By March 1941 the membership
had shot up to 2,000. Then Jack Alexander wrote a
feature article in the Saturday Evening Post and
placed such a compelling picture of A.A. before the
general public that alcoholics in need of help really
deluged us. By the close of 1941, A.A. numbered 8,000
members. The mushrooming process was in full swing,
A.A. had become a national institution.
       Our Society then entered a fearsome and exciting
adolescent period. The test that it faced was this:
Could these large numbers of erstwhile erratic alco­
holics successfully meet and work together? Would
there be quarrels over membership, leadership and
money? Would there be striving for power and


FORWARD                            xix

prestige? Would There be schisms which would split
A.A. apart? Soon A.A. was beset by these very probl­
ems on every side and in every group. But out of this
frightening and at first disrupting experience the con­
viction grew that A.A.'s had to hang together or die
separately. We had to unify our Fellowship or pass
off the scene.
       As we discovered the principles by which the indi­
vidual alcoholic could live, so we had to evolve prin­
ciples by which the A.A. groups and A.A. as a whole
could survive and function effectively. It was thought
that no alcoholic man or woman could be excluded
from our Society; that our leaders might serve but
not govern; that each group was to be autonomous
and There was to be no professional class of therapy.
There were to be no fees or dues; our expenses were
to be met by our own voluntary contributions. There
was to be the least possible organization, even in our
service centers. Our public relations were to be based
upon attraction rather than promotion. It was decided
that all members ought to be anonymous at the level
of press, radio, TV and films. And in no circumstances
should we give endorsements, make alliances, or enter
public controversies.
       This was the substance of A.A.'s Twelve Traditions,
which are stated in full on page 564 of this book.
Though none of these principles had the force of rules
or laws, they had become so widely accepted by 1950
that they were confirmed by our first International
Conference held at Cleveland. Today the remarkable
unity of A.A. is one of the greatest assets that our
Society has.
       While the internal difficulties of our adolescent


xx                             FORWARD

period were being ironed out, public acceptance of
A.A. grew by leaps and bounds. For this There were
two principal reasons: the large numbers of recoveries,
and reunited homes.
       Another reason for the wide acceptance of A.A. was
the ministration of friends ­­ friends in medicine,
religion, and the press, together with innumerable
others who became our able and persistent advocates.
Without such support, A.A. could have made only the
slowest progress. Some of the recommendations of
A.A.'s early medical and religious friends will be found
further on in this book.
       Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organiza­
tion. Neither does A.A. take any particular medical
point of view, though we cooperate widely with the
men of medicine as well as with the men of religion.
Alcohol being no respecter of persons, we are an
accurate cross section of America, and in distant lands,
the same democratic evening up process is now going
on. By personal religious affiliation, we include Catho­
lics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, and a sprinkling of
Moslems and Buddhists. More than fifteen percent of
us are women.
       So far, upon the total problem of actual poten­
tial alcoholics in the world, we have made only a
scratch. In all probability, we shall never be able to
touch more than a fair fraction of the alcohol problem
in all its ramifications. Upon therapy for the alcoholic
himself, we surely have no monopoly. Yet it is our great
hope that all those who have as yet found no answer
may begin to find one in the pages of this book and
will presently join us on the highroad to a new freed­
om.

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FORWARD TO THIRD EDITION   

     By March 1976, when this edition went to the
printer, the total worldwide membership of Alco­
holics Anonymous was conservatively estimated at
more than 1,000,000, with almost 28,000 groups meet­
ing in over 90 countries.
       Surveys of groups in the United States and Canada
indicate that A.A. is reaching out, not only to more
and more people, but to a wider and wider range.
Women now make up more than one fourth of the
membership; among newer members, the proportion is
nearly one third. Seven percent of the A.A.'s surveyed
are less than thirty years of age ­­ among them, many in
their teens.
       The basic principles of the A.A. program, it appears,
hold good for individuals with many different life­
styles, just as the program has brought recovery to
those of many different nationalities. The Twelve Steps
that summarize the program may be called Los Dose
Pasosin
one country, les Douse Etapes in another, but
they trace exactly the same path to recovery that was
blazed by the earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
       In spite of the great increase in the size and the
span of this Fellowship, at its core it remains simple
and personal. Each day, somewhere in the world, re­
covery begins when one alcoholic talks with another
alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.

xxi

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THE DOCTOR'S OPINION

       We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the
reader will be interested in the medical esti­
mate 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.
       In late 1934 I attended a patient who, though he had
been a competent business man of good earning ca­
pacity, was an alcoholic of a type I had come to regard
as hopeless.
       In the course of his third treatment he acquired cer­
tain 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 scores of cases who were of the
type with whom other methods had failed completely.
These facts appear to be of extreme medical impor­
tance; because of the extraordinary possibilities of rapid


xxiv                             THE DOCTOR'S OPINION

growth inherent in this group they may 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
themselves.
Very truly yours,

(Signed) William D. Silkworth,M.D.

The physician who, at our request, gave us this let­
ter, has been kind enough to enlarge upon hi views in
another statement which follows. In this statement he
confirms what we who have suffered alcoholic torture
must believe that the body of the alcoholic is quite as
abnormal as his mind. It did not satisfy us to be told
that we could not 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 consider­
able extent with some of us. But we are sure that our
bodies were sickened as well. In our belief, any pic­
ture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor
is incomplete.
       The doctor's theory that we have an allergy to al­
cohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its
soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex­
problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation
makes good sense. It explains many things for which
we cannot otherwise account.
       Though we work out our solution on the spiritual as
well as an altruistic 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 bet­


THE DOCTOR'S OPINION                             xxv

ter 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 treat­
ing 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 concep­
tion. What with our ultra­modern standards, our scientific
approach to everything, we are perhaps not well equipped
to apply the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic
knowledge.
       Many 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 applica­
tion at once.
       Later, he requested the privilege of being allowed to tell
his story to other patients here and 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 com­
munity 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


xxvi                             THE DOCTOR'S OPINION

craving for liquor, and this often requires a definite hospital
procedure, before psychological measures can be of maxi­
mum benefit.
       We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the
action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestat­
ion 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 prob­
lems 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 re­create 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 move­
ment. We feel, after many years of experience, that we
have found nothing which has contributed more to the
rehabilitation of these men than the altruistic 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 alco­
holic life seems the only normal one. They are restless,
irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience


THE DOCTOR'S OPINION                             xxvii

the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by tak­
ing 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, emerg­
ing 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 simple rules.
       Men have cried out to me in sincere and despairing ap­
peal: "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 him­
self, 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 pro-
duce the essential psychic change. Though the aggregate
of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is consider-
able, we physicians must admit we have made little
impression upon the problem as a whole. Many types do
not respond to the ordinary psychological approach.
       I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is
entirely a problem of mental control. 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


xxviii                             THE DOCTOR'S OPINION

important appointment was not met. These men were not
drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a crav­
ing beyond their mental control.
       There are many situations which arise out of the phenom­
enon 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 psychopaths who are emotionally unstable.
We are all familiar with this type. They are always "going
on the wagon for keeps." They are over­remorseful and
make many resolutions, but never a decision.
       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 manic­depressive type, who is, per­
haps, the least understood by his friends, and about whom
a whole chapter could be written.
       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 com­
mon: 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, and 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 abstinence.
       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.


THE DOCTOR'S OPINION                             xxix

       What is the solution? Perhaps I can best answer this by
relating one of my experiences.
       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 self­reliance and con­
tentment. 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. A long time
has 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 deter­
mined 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 depres­
sion 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 effect.


xxx                             THE DOCTOR'S OPINION

      However, he did become "sold" on the ideas contained
in this book. He has not had a drink for a great many years.
I see him now and then and he is as fine a specimen of
manhood as one could wish to meet.
       I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book
through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may re-
main to pray.
William D. Silkworth, MD

return to top


Chapter 1

BILL'S STORY

       War fever ran high in the New England town
to which we new, young officers from Platts­
burg were assigned, and we were flattered when the
first citizens took us to their homes, making us feel
heroic. Here was love, applause, war; moments sub­
lime with intervals hilarious. I was part of life at last,
and in the midst of the excitement I discovered liquor.
I forgot the strong warnings and the prejudices of my
people concerning drink. In time we sailed for "Over
There." I was very lonely and again turned to alcohol.
       We landed in England. I visited Winchester Cathe­
dral. 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 warnings which I failed to heed.
Twenty­two, 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 appre­
ciation? My talent for leadership, I imagined, would
place me at the head of vast enterprises which I would
manage with the utmost assurance.

1


2                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       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 import­
ant. 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. Po­
tential 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 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 lead­
ers were my heroes. Out of this ally 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 de­
cided 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, a
change of clothes, and three huge volumes of a finan­


BILL'S STORY                            3

cial reference service. Our friends thought a lunacy
commission should be appointed. Perhaps they were
right. I 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 ex­
pense account. The exercise of an option brought in
more money, leaving us with a profit of several thou­
sand dollars for that year.
       For the next few years fortune threw money and ap­
plause my way. I had arrived. My judgment and
ideas were followed by many to the tune of paper mil­
lions. The great boom of the late twenties was seeth­
ing 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 fair­weather friends.
       My drinking assumed more serious proportions, con
tinuing all day and almost every night. The remon­
strances 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 to those scrapes.
       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


4                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 well­to­do. 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 XYZ­32. 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 dis­
gusted 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 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 broke.
       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 depart­
ment store, coming home exhausted to find me drunk.


BILL'S STORY                            5

       I became an unwelcome hanger­on at brokerage places.
       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 break­
fast. 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 mother­in­law died,
my wife and father­in­law became ill.
       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 busi­
ness. 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 ap­
palling lack of perspective seemed near being just that.
       Renewing my resolve, I tried again. Some time


6                             ALCOHOLIC'S ANONYMOUS

passed, and confidence began to be replaced by cock­
sureness. I could laugh at the gin mills. Now I had
what it takes! One day I walked into a cafe to tele­
phone. In no time I was beating on the bar asking my­
self how it happened. As the whisky 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 two more years. Sometimes
I stole from my wife's slender purse when the morning
terror and madness were on me. Again I swayed diz­
zily 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


BILL'S STORY                             7

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 brother­in­law is a physician, and through his
kindness and that of my mother I was placed in a na­
tionally­known hospital for the mental and physical
rehabilitation of alcoholics. Under the so­called bella­
donna 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 com­
bating liquor, though if often remains strong in other
respects. My incredible behavior in the face of a
desperate desire to stop was explained. Understand­
ing 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, self­knowledge.
       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 ski­jump. After a time
I returned to the hospital. This was the finish, the cur­
tain, 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. We would soon have to
give me over to the undertaker of the asylum.
       They did not need to tell me. I knew, and almost
welcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my


8                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 self­pity. Quicksand
stretched around me in all directions. I had met my
match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my
master.
       Trembling, I stepped from the hospital a broken
man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidi­
ous 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 some­
where, 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 time passes.
       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


BILL'S STORY                             9

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 com­
mitted 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 wel­
fare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other
days. There was that time we had chartered an air­
plane to complete a jag! His coming was an oasis in
this dreary desert of futility. The very thing, an oasis!
Drinkers are like that.
       The door opened and he stood there, fresh­skinned
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 himself.
       "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 alco­
holic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about
religion. He had that starry­eyed 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
preaching.
       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
self­evident. It worked!
       He had come to pass his experience along to me­if


10                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Cer­
tainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.
       He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose be­
fore me. I could almost hear the sound of the preach­
er'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 fold 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 war­time day in old Winchester Cathedral
came back again.
       I had always believed in a Power greater that my­
self. 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 orig­
inated in a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My
intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even
the evolutionist, suggested vast laws and forces at
work. Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt
that a might 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.


BILL'S STORY                             11

       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 Brother­
hood 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 known!
       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 reli­
gious people were right after all. Here was something
at work in a human heart which had done the impos­
sible. 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


12                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

reorganized. He was on different footing. His roots
grasped a new soil.
       Despite the living example of my friend There re­
mained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice. The
word God still aroused a certain antipathy. When the
thought was expressed that there might be a God per­
sonal to me this feeling was intensified. I didn't like
the idea. I could go for such conceptions as Creative
Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I
resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however
loving His sway might be. I have since talked with
scores of men who felt the same way.
       My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea.
He said, "Why don't you choose your own conception
of God?"

       That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intel­
lectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and
shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.
It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a
Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required
of me to make my beginning
. I saw that growth could
start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete
willingness I might build what I saw in my friend.
Would I have it? Of course I would!
       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 Cathe­
dral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had needed
and wanted God. There had been a humble willing­
ness to have Him with me, and He came. But soon
the sense of His presence had been blotted out by


BILL'S STORY                             13

worldly clamors, mostly those within myself. And so
it had been ever since. How blind I had been.
       At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the
last time. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs
of delirium tremens.
       There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then
I 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 noth­
ing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my
sins and became willing to have my new­found Friend
take them away, root and branch. I have not had a
drink since.
       My schoolmate 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 resent­
ment. 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 God­conscious­
ness within. Common sense would thus become un­
common 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 useful­
ness 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 living
which answered all my problems. Belief in the power
of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility


14                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 self­centeredness. 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 elec­
tric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a
peace and serenity as I had never know. 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 that 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
demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Par­
ticularly 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


BILL'S STORY                            15

spiritual life through work and self­sacrifice 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 enthusi­
asm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution
of their problems. It was fortunate, for my old busi­
ness 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, but I soon found that when all other
measure failed, work with another alcoholic would
save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hos­
pital 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 going.
       We commenced to make many fast friends and a fel­
lowship has grown up among us of which it is a won­
derful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we really
have, even under pressure and difficulty. I have seen
hundreds of 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 one thousand of us and our families. We meet fre­
quently so that newcomers may find the fellowship


16                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

they seek. At these informal gatherings one may often
see from 50 to 200 persons. We are growing in num­
bers 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
of life.
       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. Faith has to work twenty­four
hours a day in and through us, or we perish.
       Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia.
We have it with us right here and now. Each day my
friend's simple talk in our kitchen multiplies itself in
a widening circle of peace on earth and good will to
men.

Bill W., co-founder of A.A.

died January 24, 1971.

*A.A. is now composed of almost 30,000 groups (1977)

return to top


Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION

       We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, know
sands of men and women who were once
just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered.
They have solved the drink problem.
       We are average Americans. All sections of this
country and many of its occupations are represented,
as well as many political, economic, social, and reli­
gious backgrounds. We are people who normally
would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship,
a friendliness, and an understanding which is inde­
scribably 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 in­
dividual ways. The feeling of having shared in a com­
mon 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 is 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
from alcoholism.

17


18                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       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 anni­
hilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs
all whose lives touch the sufferer's. It brings misun­
derstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity,
disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of
blameless children, sad wives and parents­­anyone
can increase the list.
       We hope this volume will inform and comfort those
who are, or who may be affected. There are many.
       Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with
us have found it sometimes 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 ex­problem drinker who has found this solu­
tion, who is properly armed with facts about himself,
can generally win the entire confidence of another al­
coholic 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 what­
ever 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 condi­


THERE IS A SOLUTION                             19

tions we have found most effective. After such an ap-
proach many take up their beds and walk again.
       None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor
do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we
did. We feel that elimination of our drinking 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 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 oppor­
tunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present
that which has been so freely given us?
       We have concluded to publish an anonymous vol­
ume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall
bring to the task our combined experience and knowl­
edge. This should suggest a useful program for any­
one 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 na­
ture, 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


20                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

more useful to others. Our very lives, as ex­problem
drinkers, 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 ques­
tions 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 see them.
       How many time 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
sake." "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 drink­
ers 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 it alone.
       Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He
may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair


THERE IS A SOLUTION                             21

him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die
a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong rea­
son is ill health, falling in love, change of environment,
or the warning of a doctor is becomes operative, this
man can also stop or moderate, although he may find
It difficult and troublesome and may even need med­
ical attention.
       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 a fellow who has been puzzling you, espe­
cially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredi­
ble, 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 dispos­
ition 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 anti­social. 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 per­
fectly sensible and well balanced concerning every­
thing except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly
dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abili­
ties, 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, and 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


22                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 be­
gins to use a combination of high­powered sedative
and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work.
Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it
and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a
doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with
which to taper off. Then he begins to appear at hos­
pitals 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 ex­
periences have shown him that one drink means an­
other 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 some­
times displays with respect to other matters?
       Perhaps there never will be a full answer to these
questions. Opinions vary considerably as to why the
alcoholic reacts differently from normal people. We
are not sure why, once a certain point is reached, little
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


THERE IS A SOLUTION                             23

stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly
confirm this.
       These observations would be academic and point­
less if our friend never took the first drink, thereby
setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the
main 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
makes sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic's
drinking bout creates. They sound like the philosophy
of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on
the head with a hammer so that he can't feel the ache.
If you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention
of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irri­
tated and refuse to talk.
       Once in a while he may tell 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, someday, 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 ab­
normal, but everybody hopefully awaits 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 alco­
holic, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost


24                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

control. At a certain point in the drinking of every
alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most power­
ful 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 ob­
scure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so­
called will power becomes practically nonexistent.
We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our con­
sciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suf­
fering 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 human aid, and unless locked
up, may die or to permanently insane. These stark
and ugly facts have been confirmed by legions of alco­


THERE IS A SOLUTION                             25

holics throughout history. But for the grace of God,
There would have been thousands 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 suc­
cessful 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 out 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 cer­
tainty 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 as seriously alcoholic as we were, we be­
lieve there is no middle­of­the­road solution. We were
in a position where life was becoming impossible, and
if we had passed into the region from which there is
no return through human aid, we had but two alterna­
tives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out
the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best
we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This

*Fully explained­Appendix II.


26                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

we did because we honestly wanted to, and were will­
ing 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 (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung) who prescribed
for him. Though 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 ex­
planation for his fall.
       So he returned to this doctor, whom he admired,
and asked him point­blank why he could not recover.
He wished above all things to regain self-control. He
seemed quite rational and well­balanced with respect
to other problems. Yet he had no control whatever
over alcohol. Why was this?
       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 from men may go


THERE IS A SOLUTION                             27

without disaster, provided he remains willing to main­
tain 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 ap­
pear to be in the nature of huge emotional displace­
ments 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 em­
ployed are successful, but I have never been successful
with an alcoholic of your description."*
       Upon hearing this, our friend was somewhat re­
lieved, for he reflected that, after all, he was a good
church member. This hope, however, was destroyed
by the doctor's telling him that while his religious
convictions were very good, in his case they did not
spell the necessary vital spiritual experience.

       *For amplification ­see Appendix II.


28                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       Here was the terrible dilemma in which our friend
found himself when he had the extraordinary exper­
ience, 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 dis­
covered God. We have no desire to convince anyone
that there is only one way by which faith can be ac­
quired. 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 reli­
gious 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 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 associations,
or his present choice. Not all of join religious
bodies, but most of us favor such memberships.
       In the following chapter, there appears an explan­
ation 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


THERE IS A SOLUTION                             29

enough, we find such convictions no great obstacle
to a spiritual experience.
       Further on, clear­cut directions are given showing
how we recovered. These are followed by forty­two
personal experiences.
       Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in
his own language and from his own point of view the
way he established his relationship with 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 self­revealing
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 disclos­
ing ourselves and our problems that they will be
persuaded to say, "Yes, I am one of them too; I must
have this thing."

return to top


Chapter 3

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM

       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
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 death.
       We learned that we had to fully concede to our in­
nermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the
first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like
other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
       We alcoholics are men and women who have lost
the ability to control our drinking. We know that no
real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at
times that we were regaining control, but such inter­
vals is usually brief is were inevitably followed by still
less control, which led in time to pitiful and incompre­
hensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man
that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progres­
sive 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

30


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                            31

our kind like other men. We have tried every imagin­
able remedy. In some instances there has been brief
recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse.
Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree
There is no such thing a making a normal drinker out
of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this,
but it 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 self­deception and experimentation, they
will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule,
therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing
inability to control his drinking can do the right­
about­face 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: Drink­
ing beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never
drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drink­
ing 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, going
to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary
commitment to asylums, we could increase the list
ad infinitum.
       We do not like to pronounce any individual as alco­
holic, 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


32                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

more than once. It will not take long for you to de­
cide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may
be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowl­
edge of your condition.
       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 for a long period because of an overpow­
ering 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 excep­
tional man, he remained bone dry for twenty­five
years and retired at the age of fifty­five, after a suc­
cessful and happy business career. Then he fell vic­
tim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has
is that his long period of sobriety and self­discipline
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 little while, making several trips
to the hospital meantime. Then, gathering all his
forces, he attempted to stop altogether and found he
could not. Every means of solving his problem which


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                             33

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 fifty­five years found he was just
where he had left off at thirty. We have seen the truth
demonstrated again and again: "Once an alcoholic, al­
ways an alcoholic." Commencing to drink after a
period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as
ever. If we are planning to stop drinking , There must
be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion
that someday we will be immune to alcohol.
       Young people may be encouraged by this man's ex­
perience 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 al­
ready acquired, will find he can win out. Several of
our crowd, men of thirty or less, had been drinking
only a few years, but they found themselves as help­
less 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 female 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 alcoholics, are astonished at their inability to
stop. We, who are familiar with the symptoms, see
large numbers of potential alcoholics among young


34                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 con­
siderable 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 de­
pends 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 is 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 medi­

*True when this book was first published. But a 1974 membership
survey in the U.S. and Canada showed 7% of A.A.'s are under 30.


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                             35

cal fraternity. So we shall describe some of the mental
states that precede a relapse into drinking, for ob­
viously 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. Every­
body 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 thirty­five. In a few years he
became so violent when intoxicated that he had to be
committed. On leaving the asylum he came into con­
tact with us.
       We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the
answer we had found. He made a beginning. His
family was re­assembled, and he began to work as a
salesman for the business he had lost through drink­
ing. All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge
his spiritual life. To his consternation, he found him­
self drunk half a dozen times in rapid succession. On
each of these occasions we worked with him, review­
ing carefully what had happened. He agreed he was
a real alcoholic and in a 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
a deep affection.


36                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       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 brass, but nothing
serious. Then I decided to drive to 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 sense I was not
being any too smart, but I 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
tried another."
       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


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                             37

easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he
could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk!

       Whatever the precise 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
far­fetched, for this kind of thinking has been charac­
teristic of every single one of us. We 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 our­
selves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could
have happened.
       In some circumstances we have gone out deliber­
ately 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 or 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 jay­walking. He gets a thrill
out of skipping in front of fast­ moving vehicles. He
enjoys himself for a few years in spite of friendly warn­
ings. Up to this point you would label him as a foolish


38                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

chap having queer ideas of fun. Luck then deserts
him and he is slightly injured several times in success­
ion. 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 hos­
pital a fast­moving trolley car breaks his arm. He
tells you he has decided to stop jay­walking for good,
but in a few weeks he breaks both legs.
       On through the years this conduct continues, accom­
panied 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 and 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 jay­walking,
the illustration would fit exactly. However intelli­
gent we may have been in other respects, where alco­
hol has been involved, we have been strangely insane.
It's strong language is but isn't it true?
       Some of you are thinking: "Yes, what you tell 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


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                             39

certainly do not intend to. Thanks for the informa­
tion."
       That may be true of certain nonalcoholic 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 damaged as
ours were. But the actual or potential alcoholic, with
hardly any exception, will be absolutely unable to stop
drinking on the basis of self­knowledge
. This is a point
we wish to emphasize and re­emphasize, to smash
home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been re­
vealed to us out of bitter experience. Let us take
another illustration.
       Fred is a 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 col­
lege age. He has so attractive a personality that he
makes friends with everyone. If ever there was a
successful business man, it is Fred. To all appearance
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 what


40                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

we knew 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 ac­
quired, 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 exhib­
ited splendid judgment and determination in all his
other concerns, yet was flat on his back nevertheless.
       Let him tell you about it: "I was much impressed
with what you fellows said about alcoholism, and I
frankly did not believe it would be possible for me to
drink again. I rather 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 personal problems, and that I
would therefore be successful where you men failed.
I felt I had every right to be self­confident, 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


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                             41

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 that 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 or­
dered 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 a airplane
bound for New York, and of finding a friendly taxicab
driver at the landing field instead of my wife. The
driver escorted me for several days. I know little
of where I went or what I said and did. Then came
the hospital with the 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 the first drink. This time I had not thought of
the consequences at all.
I had commenced to drink as
carelessly as thought 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 is I would drink


42                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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
self­knowledge 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 the 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 evi­
dence to the effect that an alcoholic mentality, such as
I had exhibited in Washington, was hopeless condi­
tion. 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 pro­
gram 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 re­
lieved, as in fact it proved to be.
       "Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual
principles would solve all my problems. I have since


MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM                             43

been brought into a way of living infinitely more satis­
fying 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.
       Many doctors and psychiatrists agree with our con­
clusions. 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 hopeless­
ness of the average alcoholics' 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 of­
fered 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. Ex­
cept in a few cases, neither he nor any other
human being can provide such a defense. His defense
must come form a Higher Power.

return to top


Chapter 4

WE AGNOSTICS

       In the preceding chapters you have learned some­
thing 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 prob­
ably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffer­
ing from an illness which only a spiritual experience
will conquer.
       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 death
or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy
alternatives to face.
       But it isn't so difficult. About half our original
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 half of us thought we
were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that
you need not be disconcerted.
       If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of
life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us

44


WE AGNOSTICS                            45

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 alco­
holic problems and explain our fellowship. But his face
falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially
when we mention God, for we have re­opened a sub­
ject 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
anti­religious. To others, the word "God" broughtup
a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried
to impress them during childhood. Perhaps we re­
jected this particular conception because it seemed
inadequate. With that rejection we imagined we had
abandoned the God idea entirely. We were bothered


46                             WE AGNOSTICS

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, and inexplic­
able 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 a starlit night, "Who,
then, make 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 reas­
sure 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 com­
menced 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 under­
lying 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 too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us,
the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never
exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek.
It is open, we believe, to all men.


WE AGNOSTICS                    47

       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 was all we
needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our
first conscious relation with God as we understood
Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many
things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That
was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin
somewhere. So we used our own conception, how­
ever limited it was.
       We needed to ask ourselves 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 ac­
cept 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 level.
       Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith,

*Please be sure to read Appendix II on "Spiritual Experience."


48                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       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 make 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 re­
spect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us
into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a
tedious process; we hope no one else will preju­
diced for 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 reason­
able assumption as a starting point.
       Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assump­
tions 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 con­
stantly 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 whirl­


WE AGNOSTICS                             49

ing 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 Intelli­
gence, right there our perverse streak comes to the
surface and we laboriously set out to convince our­
selves 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 noth­
ing, 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 it?
       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 logi­
cal idea of what life is all about. Actually, we used to
have no reasonable conception whatever. We used to
amuse ourselves by cynically dissecting spiritual be­
liefs and practices when we might have observed that
many spiritually­minded persons of all races, colors,
and creeds were demonstrating a degree of stability,
happiness and usefulness which we should have sought
ourselves.


50                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       Instead, we looked at the human defects of these
people, and sometimes used their shortcomings as a
basis of wholesale condemnation. We talked of in­
tolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves. We
missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because
we were diverted by the ugliness of some its trees.
We never gave the spiritual side of life a fair hearing.
       In our personal stories you will find a wide variation
in the way each teller approaches and conceives of
the Power which is greater than himself. Whether we
agree with a particular approach or conception seems
to make little difference. Experience has taught us
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. Every one of them has
gained access to, and believe in, a Power greater
than himself. This Power has in each case accom­
plished the miraculous, the humanly impossible. As
a celebrated American statesman put it, "Let's look
at the record."
       Here are thousands of men and women, worldly in­
deed. They flatly declare 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. In the face of
collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure
of their human resources, they found that a new
power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed
into them. This happened soon after they whole­
heartedly met a few simple requirements. Once con­


WE AGNOSTICS                             51

used and baffled by the seeming futility of existence,
they show the underlying reasons why they were
making heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink
question, they tell why living was so unsatisfactory.
They show how the change came over them. When
many hundreds of people are able to say that the
consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most
important fact of their lives, they present a powerful
reason why one should have faith.
       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 supersti­
tion, tradition, and all sort of fixed ideas. Some of
the contemporaries of Columbus thought a round
earth preposterous. Others came near putting Galileo
to death for his astronomical heresies.
       We asked ourselves 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
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


52                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 com­
plete liberation in thinking. Show any longshore­
man 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
our point of view. We were having trouble with
personal relationships, we couldn=t control our emo­
tional natures, we were a prey to misery and depres­
sion, 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
is was not a basic solution of these bedevilment's more
important than whether we should see newsreels of
lunar flight? Of course it was.
       When we saw others solve their problems by a
simple reliance upon the Spirit of the 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 main­
spring of their accomplishment. Without that, nothing
could have happened. We agnostics and atheists were
sticking to the idea that self­sufficiency would solve
our problems. When others showed us that "God­suf­


WE AGNOSTICS                             53

ficiency worked with them, we began to feel like
those who had insisted the Wrights would never fly.
Logic is great stuff. We like it. We still like it. It
is not by chance we were given the power to reason,
to examine the evidence of our sense, and to draw
conclusions. That is one of man's magnificent at­
tributes. 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 crises 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 luster
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 support.
       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


54                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 in­
volved all the time!
       We found, too, that we had been worshipers.
What a state of mental goose­flesh that used to bring
on! Had we not variously worshiped people, senti­
ment, 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 feel­
ings, 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, deter­
mine 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? Or course we
couldn't. The electrons themselves seemed more in­
telligent than that. At least, so the chemist said.
       Hence, we saw that reason isn't everything. Neither
is reason, as most of us use it, entirely dependable,


WE AGNOSTICS                             55

thought 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 man himself.
       We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was
a part of our make­up, just as much as the feeling we
have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fear­
lessly, but He was there. He was as much a fact as
we were. We found the Great Reality deep down
within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He
may be found. It was so with us.
       We can only clear the ground a bit. If our testi­
mony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to
think honestly, encourages you to search diligently
within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on
the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot
fail. the consciousness of your belief 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 interest­
ing that some of it should be told now. His change of
heart was dramatic, convincing, and moving.


56                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       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 frustra­
tion. Business failure, insanity, fatal illness, suicide­
is these calamities in his immediate family embittered
and depressed him. Post­war disillusionment, ever
more serious alcoholism, impending mental and physi­
cal collapse, brought him to the point to self­destruc­
tion.
       One night, when confined in a hospital, he was ap­
proached 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 com­
panionship 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, years ago, it dis­


WE AGNOSTICS                             57

appeared. Save for a few brief moments of temptation
the though 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 ele­
ments are simple. Circumstances made him willing to
believe. He humbly offered himself to his Maker­
is 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.
       When we drew near to Him He disclosed Himself to us!


return to top


Chapter 5

HOW IT WORKS

       Rarely have we seen a person fail who has
thoroughly followed our path. 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 be­
ing honest with themselves. There are such unfortu­
nates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been
born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasp­
ing and developing a manner of living 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 is then you are
ready to take certain steps.
       At some of these we balked. thought we could
find an easier, softer way. But we could not. 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 we deal with alcohol is cunning, baf­

58


HOW IT WORKS                             59

fling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us.
But there is One who has all power is that One is God.
May you find Him now!
       Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the
turning point. we asked His protection and care with
complete abandon.
       Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as
a program of recovery:
       1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol­
              that our lives had become unmanageable.
       2. Came to believe that a Power greater than our­
              selves could restore us to sanity.
       3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives
              over to the care 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 ready to have God remove all
              these defects of character.
       7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
       8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and
              became willing to make 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 im­
              prove our conscious contact with God as we un­
              derstood Him,
praying only for knowledge of
              His will for us and the power to carry that out.


60                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result
              of these steps, we tried to carry this message to
              alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all
              our affairs.
       Many of us exclaimed, "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 per­
fect 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 adventure before and after
make clear three pertinent ideas:

              (a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage
              our own lives.
              (b) That probably no human power could have re-
              lieved our alcoholism.
              (c) That God could and would if He were sought.

       Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is
that we decided to turn our will and our life over to
God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by
that, and just what do we do?
       The first requirement is that we be convinced that
any life run on self­will can hardly be a success. On
that basis we are almost always in collision with some­
thing or somebody, even though our motives are good.
Most people try to live by self­propulsion. Each per­
son 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


HOW IT WORKS                             61

his arrangements would only stay put, if only people
would do as he wished, the show would be great.
Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life
would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrange­
ments our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He
may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even
modest and self­sacrificing. 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 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, self­pitying. What is his basic
trouble? Is he not really a self­seeker even when try­
ing 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 pro­
ducer of confusion rather than harmony?
       Our actor is self­centered is ego­centric, 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 minister
who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; poli­
ticians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia


62                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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. What­
ever our protestations, are not most of us concerned
with ourselves, our resentments, or our self­pity?
       Selfishness - self­centeredness! That, we think, is the
root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of
fear, self­delusion, self­seeking, and self­pity,we step
on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Some­
times 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 an extreme example of self­will run riot, though he
usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alco­
holics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it
kill us! God makes that possible. And there often
seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without
His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical con­
victions galore, but we could not live up to them even
though we would have liked to. Neither could we
reduce our self­centeredness much by wishing or try­
ing on our own power. We had to have God's help.
       This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to
quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided
that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to
be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His
agents. He is the Father, and we are His children.
Most Good ideas are simple, and this concept was the
keystone of the new and triumphant arch through
which we passed to freedom.


HOW IT WORKS                             63

       When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of
remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer.
Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if
we kept close to Him and performed His work well.
Established on such a footing we became less and less
interested in ourselves, our little plan and designs.
More and more we became interested in seeing what
we could contribute to life. As we felt new power
flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered
we could face life successfully, as we became con­
scious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of
today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.
       We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our
Maker, as we understood Him: "God, I offer myself to
Thee is 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!" We thought well before
taking this step making sure we were ready; that we
could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
       We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step
with an understanding person, such as our wife, best
friend, or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God
alone than with one who might misunderstand. The
wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we
expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation.
This was only a beginning, though if honestly and
humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one,
was felt at once.
       Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action,
the first step of which is a personal housecleaning,


64                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

which many of us had never attempted. Though our
decision was vital and crucial step, it could have little
permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenu­
ous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in our­
selves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was
but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and
conditions.
       Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory.
This was Step Four. A business which takes no regular
inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial
inventory is a fact­finding and a fact­facing process. It
is an effort to discover the truth about the stock­in­
trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable
goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret.
If the owner of the business is to be successful, he can­
not fool himself about values.
       We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We
took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws
in our make­up which caused our failure. Being con­
vinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what
had defeated us, we considered its common manifesta­
tions.
       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. We listed
people, institutions or principle with who we were
angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In
most cases it was found that our self­esteem, our
pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships,


HOW IT WORKS                             65

(including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were
sore. We were "burned up."
       On our grudge list we set opposite each name our
injuries. Was it our self­esteem, our security, our am­
bitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been
interfered with?

We were usually as definite as this example:

I'm resentful at:

The Cause

Affects my:

Mr. Brown

.

.

.

.

His attention to my

wife.

Told my wife of my

mistress.

Brown may get my

job at the office.

Sex relations

Self­esteem (fear)

Sex relations

Self­esteem (fear)

Security

Self­esteem (fear)

Mrs. Jones

.

.

.

.

She's a nut ­­ she

snubbed me. She

committed her hus­

band for drinking.

He's my friend

She's a gossip

Personal relation­

ship. Self­esteem

(fear)

.

.

My employer

.

.

.

.

Unreasonable ­­ Unjust

.­­ Overbearing ­­

Threatens to fire

me for my drinking

and padding my

expense account.

Self­esteem (fear)

Security.

.

.

.

My wife

.

.

.

Misunderstands and

nags. Likes Brown.

Wants house put in

her name

Pride ­­ Personal

sex relations ­­

Security (fear)

.

.

       We went back through our lives. Nothing counted
but thoroughness and honesty. When we were fin­
ished we considered it carefully. The first thing ap­


66                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

parent was that this world and its people were often
quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was
as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was
that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore.
Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at
ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have
our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the
victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph
were short­lived.
       It is plain that a 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 alco­
holic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a
spiritual experience, this business of resentment is in­
finitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when
harboring such feeling 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 were to live, we had to be free of anger. The
grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may
be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcohol­
ics these things are poison.
       We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the
future. We were prepared to look for it from an en­
tirely different angle. We began to see that the world
and its people really dominated us. In that state, the
wrong­doing of others, fancied or real, had power to
actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that
these resentments must be mastered, but how? We
could not wish them away any more than alcohol.
       This was our course: We realized that the people
who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.


HOW IT WORKS                             67

       Though we did not like their symptoms and the way
these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too.
We asked God to help us show them the same toler­
ance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully
grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said
to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful
to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be
done."
       We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn't
treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our
chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all
people, but at least God will show us how to take a
kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.
       Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds
the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for
our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dis­
honest, self­seeking and frightened? Though a situa­
tion had not been entirely our fault, we tried to
disregard the other person involved entirely. Where
were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the
other man's. When we saw our faults we listed them.
We placed them before us in black and white. We
admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set
these matters straight.
       Notice that the word "fear" is bracketed alongside the
difficulties with Mr. Brown, Mrs. Jones, the employer,
and the wife. This short word somehow touches about
every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding
thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through
with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which
brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. But
did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes


68                             HOW IT WORKS

we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It
seems to cause more trouble.
       We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on
paper, even though we had no resentment in connec­
tion with them. We asked ourselves why we had
them. Wasn't it because self­reliance failed us? Self­
reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn't go far
enough. Some of us once had great self­confidence,
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 is we think so. For we
are now on a different basis of trusting and
relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than
our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role
He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think
He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He
enable us to match calamity with serenity.
       We never apologize to anyone for depending upon
our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spiritu­
ality 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. We never apologize for God. Instead we
let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We
ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to
what He would have us be. At once, we commence to
outgrow fear.
       Now about sex. Many of needed an overhauling
there. But above all, we tried to 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 procrea­


HOW IT WORKS                             69

tion. 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 con­
troversy. 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?
       We reviewed our own conduct over the years past.
Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsider­
ate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse
jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at
fault, what should we have done instead? We got this
all down on paper and looked at it.
       In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal
for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to
this test ­was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold
our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remem­
bered always that our sex powers were God­given and
therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly
nor to be despised and loathed.
       Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be will­
ing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make
amends where we have done harm, provided that we
do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In
other words, we treat sex as we would any other prob­
lem. In meditation, we ask God what we should do
about each specific matter. The right answer will
come, if we want it.
       God alone can judge our sex situation. Counsel with


70                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

persons is often desirable, but we let God be the final
judge. We realize that some people are as fanatical
about sex as others are loose. We avoid hysterical
thinking or advice.
       Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and
stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk?
Some people tell us so. But this is only a half­truth.
It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry
for what we have done, and have the honest desire to
let God take us to better things, we believe we will be
forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are
not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others,
we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing.
These are facts out of our experience.
       To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the
right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situa­
tion, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right
thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves
the harder into helping others. We think of their
needs and work for them. This takes us out of our­
selves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield
would mean heartache.
       If we have been thorough about our personal in­
ventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed
and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to
comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have
commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We
have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will
toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on
them as sick people. We have listed the people we
have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten
out the past if we can.
       In this book you read again and again that faith did


HOW IT WORKS                            71

for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope
you are convinced now that God can remove whatever
self­will has blocked you off from Him. If you have
already made a decision, and an inventory of your
grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning.
That being so you have swallowed and digested some
big chunks of truth about yourself.

return to top


Chapter 6

INTO ACTION

       Having made our personal inventory, what shall
we do about it? We have been trying to get a
new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and
to discover the obstacles in our path. We have ad­
mitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough
way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the
weak times in our personal inventory. Now these are
about to be cast out. This requires action on our part,
which, when completed, will mean that we have ad­
mitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human
being, the exact nature of our defects. This brings us
to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned
in the preceding chapter.
       This is perhaps difficult is especially discussing our
defects with another person. We think we have done
well enough in admitting these things to ourselves.
There is doubt about that. In actual practice, we usu­
ally find a solitary self­appraisal insufficient. Many of
us thought it necessary to go much further. We will
be more reconciled to discussing ourselves with an­
other person when we see good reasons why we should
do so. The best reason first: If we skip this vital step,
we may not overcome drinking. Time after time new­
comers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts
about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling ex­
perience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost

72


INTO ACTION                             73

invariably they got drunk. Having persevered with
the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell.
We think the reason 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 reputa­
tion, 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 sense, he is revolted
at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These
memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think some­
one might have observed him. As far as he can, he
pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes
they will never see the light of day. He is under con­
stant fear and tension, that makes for more drinking.
       Psychologists are inclined to agree with us. We
have spent thousands of dollars for examinations. We
know but few instances where we have given these
doctors a fair break. We have seldom told them the
whole truth nor have we followed their advice. Un­
willing to be honest with these sympathetic men, we
were honest with no one else. Small wonder many in
the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics
and their chance for recovery!
       We must be entirely honest with somebody if we


74                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

expect to live long or happily in this world. Rightly
and naturally, we think well before we choose the per­
son or persons with whom to take this intimate and
confidential step. Those of us belonging to a religious
denomination which requires confession must, and of
course, will want to go to the properly appointed au­
thority whose duty it is to receive it. Though we have
no religious conception, we may still do well to talk
with someone ordained by an established religion. We
often find such a person quick to see and understand
our problem. Of course, we sometimes encounter peo­
ple who do not understand alcoholics.
       If we cannot or would rather not do this, we search
our acquaintance for a close­mouthed, understanding
friend. Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be the
person. It may be one of our own family, but we can­
not disclose anything to our wives or our parents which
will hurt them and make them unhappy. We have
no right to save our own skin at another person's ex­
pense. Such parts of our story we tell to someone who
will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is we
must be hard on our self, but always considerate of others.
       Notwithstanding the great necessity for discussing
ourselves with someone, it may be one is so situated
that there is no suitable person available. If that is so,
this step may be postponed, only, however, if we hold
ourselves in complete readiness to go through with it
at the first opportunity. We say this because we are
very anxious that we talk to the right person. It is im­
portant that he be able to keep a confidence; that he
fully understand and approve what we are driving at;


INTO ACTION                             75

that he will not try to change our plan. But we must
not use this as a mere excuse to postpone.
When we decide who is to hear our story, we waste
not time. We have a written inventory and we are pre­
pared for a long talk. We explain to our partner what
we are about to do and why we have to do it. He
should realize that we are engaged upon a life­and­
death errand. Most people approached in this way
will be glad to help; they will be honored by our
confidence.
       We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every
twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once
we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are
delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can
be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from
us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We
may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we be­
gin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that
the drink problem has disappeared will often come
strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway,
walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
       Returning home we find a place where we can be
quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have
done. We thank God from the bottom of our heart
that we know Him better. Taking this book down
from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the
twelve steps. Carefully reading the first five proposals
we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are build­
ing an arch through which we shall walk a free man
at last. Is our work solid so far? Are the stones prop­
erly in place? Have we skimped on the cement put
into the foundation? Have we tried to make mortar
without sand?


76                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at
Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being in­
dispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove
from us all the things which we have admitted are ob­
jectionable? Can He now take them all is everyone?
If we still cling to something we will not let go, we
ask God to help us be willing.
       When ready, we say something like this: "My Crea­
tor, 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." We have then completed Step Seven.
       Now we need more action, without which we find
that "Faith without works is dead." Let's look at Steps
Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons we have
harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends.
We made it when we took inventory. We subjected
ourselves to a drastic self­appraisal. Now we go out to
our fellows and repair the damage done in the past.
We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accu­
mulated out of our effort to live on self­will and run
the show ourselves. If we haven't the will to do this,
We ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the
beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over
alcohol.

       Probably there are still some misgivings. As we look
over the list of business acquaintances and friends we
have hurt, we may feel diffident about going to some
of them on a spiritual basis. Let us be reassured. To
some people we need not, and probably should not
emphasize the spiritual feature on our first approach.


INTO ACTION                            77

       We might prejudice them. At the moment we are try­
ing to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in
itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maxi­
mum service to God and the people about us. It is
seldom wise to approach an individual, who still
smarts from our injustice to him, and announce that
we have gone religious. In the prize ring, this would
be called leading with the chin. Why lay ourselves
open to being branded fanatics or religious bores? We
may kill a future opportunity to carry a beneficial mes­
sage. But our man is sure to be impressed with a
sincere desire to set right the wrong. He is going to
be more interested in a demonstration of good will
than in our talk of spiritual discoveries.
       We don't use this as an excuse for shying away from
the subject of God. When it will serve any good pur­
pose, we are willing to announce our convictions with
tact and common sense. The question of how to ap­
proach the man we hated will arise. It may be he has
done us more harm than we have done him and,
though we may have acquired a better attitude toward
him, we are still not too keen about admitting our
faults. Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take
the bit in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy
than to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial
to us. We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit,
confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our
regret.
       Under no condition do we criticize such a person
or argue. Simply tell him that we will never get
over drinking until we have done our utmost to
straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off our
side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while


78                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to
tell him what he should do. His faults are not dis­
cussed. We stick to our own. If our manner is calm,
frank, and open, we will be gratified with the result.
       In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens.
Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits his
own fault, so feuds of years' standing melt away in an
hour. Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress.
Our former enemies sometimes praise what we are
doing and wish us well. Occasionally, they will offer
assistance. It should not matter, however, if someone
does throw us out of his office. We have made our
demonstration, done our part. It's water over the dam.
       Most alcoholics owe money. We do not dodge our
creditors. Telling them what we are trying to do, we
make no bones about our drinking; they usually know
it anyway, whether we think so or not. Nor are we
afraid of disclosing our alcoholism on the theory it
may cause financial harm. Approached in this way,
the most ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise us.
Arranging the best deal we can we let these people
know we are sorry. Our drinking has made us slow
to pay. We must lose our fear of creditors no matter
how far we have to go, for we are liable to drink if we
are afraid to face them.
       Perhaps we have committed a criminal offense
which might land us in jail if it were known to the au­
thorities. We may be short in our accounts and unable
to make good. We have already admitted this in con­
fidence to another person, but we are sure we would
be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known. Maybe
it's only a petty offense such as padding the expense
account. Most of us have done that sort of thing.


INTO ACTION                             79

       Maybe we are divorced, and have remarried but
haven't kept up the alimony to number one. She is
indignant about it, and has a warrant out for our ar­
rest. That's a common form of trouble too.
       Although these reparations take innumerable forms,
there are some general principles which we find guid­
ing. Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go
to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask
that we be given strength and direction to do the right
thing, no matter what the personal consequences may
be. We may lose our position or reputation or face
jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not
shrink at anything.
       Usually, however, other people are involved. There­
fore, we 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. Be­
cause of resentment and drinking, he had not paid ali­
mony to his first wife. She was furious. She went to
court and got an order for his arrest. He had com­
menced 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 noth­
ing 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 is she insisted. Of
course she did not, and the whole situation has long
since been adjusted.


80                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       Before taking drastic action which might implicate
other people we secure their consent. If we have ob­
tained permission, have consulted with others, asked
God to help and the drastic step is indicated we must
not shrink.
       This brings to mind a story about one of our friends.
While drinking, he accepted a sum of money from a
bitterly­hated business rival, giving him no receipt for
it. He subsequently denied having received the money
and used the incident as a basis for discrediting the
man. He thus used his own wrong­doing as a means
of destroying the reputation of another. In fact, his
rival was ruined.
       He felt that he had done a wrong he could not pos­
sibly make right. If he opened that old affair, he was
afraid it would destroy the reputation of his partner,
disgrace his family and take away his means of liveli­
hood. What right had he to involve those dependent
upon him? How could he possibly make a public
statement exonerating his rival?
       After consulting with his wife and partner he 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 wide­
spread approval, and today he is one of the most
trusted citizens of his town. This all happened years
ago.
       The chances are that we have domestic troubles.
       Perhaps we are mixed up with women in a fashion we


INTO ACTION                             81

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 rela­
tions in the home. After a few years with an alcoholic,
a wife get 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. Perhaps he is having a
secret and exciting affair with "the girl who under­
stands." In fairness we must say that she may under­
stand, but what are we 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 cou­
rageous girl who has literally gone through hell for
him.
       Whatever the situation, we usually have to do some­
thing about it. If we are sure our wife does not know,
should we tell here? Not always, we think. If she
knows in a general way that we have been wild,
should we tell her it detail? Undoubtedly we should
admit our fault. She may insist on knowing all the
particulars. She will want to know who the woman is
and where she is. We feel we ought to say to her that
we have no right to involve another person. We are
sorry for what we have done and, God willing, it shall
not be repeated. More than that we cannot do; we
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 one­way street. It is
as good for the wife as for the husband. If we can


82                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

forget, so can she. It is better, however, that one does
not needlessly name a person upon whom she can vent
jealousy.
       Perhaps there are some cases where the utmost
frankness is demanded. No outsider can appraise such
an intimate situation. It may be that both will decide
that the way of good sense and loving kindness is to
let bygones be bygones. Each might pray about it,
having the other one's happiness uppermost in mind.
Keep it always in sight that we are dealing with that
most terrible human emotion is jealousy. Good general­
ship may decide that the problem be attacked on the
flank rather than risk a face­to­face combat.
       If we have no such complication, there is plenty we
should do at home. Sometimes we hear an alcoholic
say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober.
Certainly he must 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 understand­
ing 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 he 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'?"


INTO ACTION                             83

       Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.
We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that
we are sorry won't fill the bill at all. We ought to sit
down with the family and frankly analyze the past as
we now see it, being very careful not to criticize them.
Their defects may be glaring, but the chances are that
our own actions are partly responsible. So we clean
house with the family, asking each morning in medita­
tion that our Creator show us the way of patience,
tolerance, kindliness and love.
       The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.
Unless one's family expresses a desire to live upon
spiritual principles we think we ought not to urge
them. We should not talk incessantly to them about
spiritual matters. They will change in time. Our be­
havior will convince them more than our words. We
must remember that ten or twenty years of drunken­
ness would make a skeptic out of anyone.
       There may be some wrongs we can never fully right.
We don't worry about them if we can honestly say to
ourselves that we would right them if we could.
Some people cannot be seen ­ we sent them an honest
letter. And there may be a valid reason for postpone­
ment in some cases. But we don't delay if it can be
avoided. We should be sensible, tactful, considerate
and humble without being servile or scraping. As
God's people we stand on our feet; we don't crawl
before anyone.
       If we are painstaking about this phase of our
development, we will be amazed before we are half
way through. We are going to know a new freedom
and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor
wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the


84                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

word serenity and we will know peace. No matter
how far down the scale we have gone, we will see
how our experience can benefit others. That feeling
of uselessness and self­pity will disappear. We will
lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our
fellows. Self­seeking will slip away. Our whole atti­
tude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people
and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will in­
tuitively know how to handle situations which used to
baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing
for us what we could not do for ourselves.
       Are these extravagant promises? We think not.
They are being fulfilled among us is sometimes quickly,
sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we
work for them.
       This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests
we continue to take personal inventory and continue
to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We
vigorously commenced this way of living as we
cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of
the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understand­
ing and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter.
It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch
for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When
these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them.
We discuss them with someone immediately and make
amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we
resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help.
Love and tolerance of others is our code.
       And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone­
is even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have re­
turned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If
tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We


INTO ACTION                            85

react sanely and normally, and we will find that this
has happened automatically. We will see that our new
attitude toward liquor has been given us without any
thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is
the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are
we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had
been placed in a position of neutrality is safe and
protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the
problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
We are neither cocky nor are we 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 our laurels. We are headed for trouble if
we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of
alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve
contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condi­
tion. Every day is a day when we must carry the
vision of God's will into all of our activities. "How
can I best serve Thee is Thy will (not mine) be done."
These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.
We can exercise our will power along this line all we
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 we have carefully
followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow
of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become
God­conscious. We have begun to develop this vital
sixth sense. But we must go further and that means
more action.
       Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation. We
shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men


86                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

than we are using it constantly. It works, if we have
the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy
to be vague about this matter. Yet, we believe we can
make some definite and valuable suggestions.
       When we retire at night, we constructively review
our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or
afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept some­
thing to ourselves which should be discussed with
another person at once? Were we kind and loving
toward all? What could we have done better? Were
we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were
we thinking of what we could do for others, of
what we could pack into the stream of life? But we
must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or
morbid reflection, for that would diminish our useful­
ness to others. After making our review we ask God's
forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures
should be taken.
       On awakening let us think about the twenty­four hours
ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Be­
fore we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking,
especially asking that it be divorced from self­pity,
dishonest or self­seeking motives. Under these condi­
tions we can employ our mental faculties with as­
surance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our
thought­life will be placed on a much higher plane
when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
       In thinking about our day we may face indecision.
We may not be able to determine which course to
take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive
thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We
don't struggle. We are often surprised how the right
answers come after we have tried this for a while.


INTO ACTION                             87

       What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspira­
tion gradually becomes a working part of the mind.
Being still inexperienced and having just made con­
scious contact with God, it is not probable that we are
going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for
this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and
ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will,
as time passes, be more and more on the plane of in­
spiration. We come to rely upon it.
       We usually conclude the period of meditation with
a prayer that we be shown all through the day what
our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we
need to take care of such problems. We ask especially
for freedom from self­will, and are careful to make no
request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves,
however, if others will be helped. We are careful
never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us
have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't
work. You can easily see why.
       If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or
friends to join us in morning meditation. If we belong
to a religious denomination which requires a definite
morning devotion, we attend to that also. If not mem­
bers of religious bodies, we sometimes select and
memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the
principles we have been discussing. There are many
helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be
obtained from one's priest, minister, or rabbi. Be
quick to see where religious people are right. Make
use of what they offer.
       As we go through the day we pause, when agitated
or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action.
We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer


88                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many
times each day "Thy will be done." We are then in
much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry,
self­pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more
efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not
burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were
trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.
       It works ­ it really does.
       We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God
discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined.
But this is not all. There is action and more action.
"Faith without works is dead." The next chapter is
entirely devoted to Step Twelve.

return to top


Chapter 7

WORKING WITH OTHERS

       Practical experience shows that nothing will so
much insure immunity from drinking as intensive
work with other alcoholics. It works when other ac­
tivities 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
other fail. Remember they are very ill.
       Life will take on new meaning. To watch people
recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness
vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have
a host of friends is this is an experience you must not
miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Fre­
quent 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 or hospitals.
They will be only too glad to assist you. Don't start
out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately a lot
of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if you
arouse it. Ministers and doctors are 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 is our only
aim.
89


90                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anony­
mous, find out all you can about him. If he does not
want to stop drinking, don't waste time trying to per­
suade him. You may spoil a later opportunity. This
advice is given for his family also. They should 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 prob­
lems, 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.
       Sometimes 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 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


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             91

things. But urge them not to be over­anxious, for that
might spoil matters.
       Usually the family should not try to tell your story.
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, if he will, tell him he has something
in the way of a solution.
       When your man is better, the doctor might 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 may be more receptive when de­
pressed.
       See your man alone, if possible. At first engage in
general conversation. After a while, turn the talk to
some phase of drinking. Tell him enough about your
drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encour­
age 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 or 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 lecture. 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.


91                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Tell him how baffled you were, how you finally
learned that you were sick. 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. We
suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter
on alcoholism. If he is alcoholic, he will understand
you at once. He will match you mental inconsisten­
cies with some of his own.
       If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic, 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 as 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 is if he is not too alcoholic.
But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be
little chance he can recover by himself.
       Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal
malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind
which accompany it. Keep his attention focussed
mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many
are doomed who never realize their predicament.
Doctors 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 you 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 protJgJ may not have en­


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             93

tirely admitted his condition, he has become very
curious to know how you got well. Let him ask you
that question, if he will. Tell him exactly what hap­
pened 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 denomina­
tion. His religious education and training may be far
superior to yours. In that case he is going to wonder
how you can add nothing to what he already knows.
But he well be curious to learn why his own convictions
have not worked and why yours seem to work so well.
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 re­
ligion. 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, he could not
have applied it or he would not drink, Perhaps your
story will help him see where he has failed to practice
the very precepts he knows so well. We represent no


94                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

particular faith or denomination. We are dealing only
with general principles common to most denomina­
tions.
       Outline the program of action, explaining how you
made a self­appraisal, how you straightened out your
past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful
to him. It is important for him to realize that your
attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in
your recovery. Actually, he may be helping you
more than you are helping 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. Suggest 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 perhaps made a friend.
Maybe you have disturbed him about the question of
alcoholism. This is all to the good. The more hope­
less 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 the program. He may 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 whether
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.


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             95

       Unless your friend wants to talk further about him­
self, 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 like. Sometimes
a new man is anxious to proceed at once, and you may
be tempted to let him do so. This is sometimes a mis­
take. If he has trouble later, he is likely to say you
rushed him. You will be most successful with alco­
holics 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 the kit of
spiritual tools for his inspection. Show him how they
worked with you. Offer him friendship and fellow­
ship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do
anything to help.
       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, you may have to drop him
until he changes his mind. This he may do after he
gets hurts some more.
       If he is sincerely interested and wants to see you
again, ask him to read this book in the interval. After
doing that, he must decide for himself whether he
wants to go on. He should not 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 spiritual approach, encourage him
to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly
on God; we merely have an approach that worked
with us. 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.


96                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not re­
spond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try
again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough
to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a
waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or
will not work with you. If you leave such a person
alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot
recover by himself. To spend too much time on any
one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an op­
portunity 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. Let him know
you are available if he wishes to make a decision and
tell his story, but do not insist upon it if he prefers to
consult someone else.
       He may be broke and homeless. If he is, you might
try to help him about getting a job, or give him a little
financial assistance. But you should not deprive your
family or creditors of money they should have. Per­
haps 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.


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             97

       You may 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. Helping
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, coun­
seling 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 may 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. Occasionally you will have to meet
such conditions.
       We seldom allow an alcoholic to live in our homes
for long at a time. It is not good for him, and it some­
times 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. The family should be
offered your way of life. Should they accept and
practice spiritual principles, there is a much better
change that 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


98                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

get well, little charity, in the ordinary sense of the
word, is need 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
we think it is not.
       It is not the matter of giving that is in question, but
when and how to give. That often makes the differ­
ence between failure and success. The minute we put
our work on a 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. Non­
sense. 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 so long as we place de­
pendence upon other people ahead of dependence on
God.
       Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man
that he can get well regardless of anyone. 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 pros­
pect has made such reparation as he can to his family,
and has thoroughly explained to them the new princi­
ples 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 spirit­
ual demonstration. Argument and fault­finding are to
be avoided like the plague. In many homes this is a


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             99

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
may 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 go along. 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 be­
low 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 recovery. The wife should fully
understand his new way of life. If their old relation­
ship is to be resumed it must be on a better basis,
since the former 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 program 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 the prospect that his recovery is not depend­


100                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

ent upon people. It is dependent upon his relation­
ship 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 man must walk day by day in
the path of spiritual progress. If you persist, remark­
able things will happen. When we look back, we
realize that the things which came to us when we put
ourselves in God's hands were better 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
circumstances!
       When working with a man and his family, you
should take care not to participate in their quarrels.
You may spoil your chance of being helpful if you do.
But urge upon a man's family that he has been a very
sick person and should be treated accordingly. You
should warn against arousing resentment or jealousy.
You should point out that his defects of character are
not going to disappear over night. 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 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


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             101

must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends
who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which
show drinking scenes; we must not 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.
       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 every­
thing! Ask any woman who has sent her husband to
distant places on the theory he would escape the
alcohol problem.
       In our belief 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 usually
winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have
tried these methods. These attempts to do the im­
possible 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, recep­
tions, 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 and important qualific­
ation. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, "Have
I any good social, business, or personal reason for go­
ing to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little
vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such


102                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

places?" If you answer these questions satisfactorily,
you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away,
whichever 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 shaky, you had better
work with another alcoholic instead!
       Why 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, few people will ask you to
drink. While you were drinking, you were withdraw­
ing from life little by little. Now you are getting back
into the social life of this world. Don't start to with­
draw 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 anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not
hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such
an errand. 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 hang­
over. Some of us still serve it to our friends provided
they are not alcoholic. But some of us think we should
not serve liquor to anyone. We never argue this ques­


WORKING WITH OTHERS                             103

tion. 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 im­
mensely relieved when he finds we are not witch­
burners. A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics
whose lives could have been saved, had it not been for
such stupidity. We would not even do the cause of
temperate drinking any good, for not one drinker in
a thousand likes to be told anything about alcohol by
one who hates it.
       Some day we hope that Alcoholics Anonymous will
help the public to a better realization of the gravity
of the alcoholic problem, but we shall be of little use
if our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility. Drinkers
will not stand for it.
       After all, our problems were of our own making.
Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped
fighting anybody or anything. We have to.


return to top


Chapter 8

TO WIVES *

       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 try 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 want the wives of
Alcoholics Anonymous to 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 would like
you to feel that we understand as perhaps few can.
We want to analyze mistakes we have made. We want
to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too
difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.
       We have traveled a rocky road, there is no mistake
about that. We have had long rendezvous with hurt
pride, frustration, self­pity, misunderstanding and fear.
These are not pleasant companions. We have been

      

*Written in when there were few women in A.A. , this chapter
assumes that the alcoholic in the home is likely to be the husband. But
many of the suggestions given here may be adopted to help the person
who lives with a woman alcoholic­wether she is still drinking or is re­
covering in A.A.. A further source of help is noted on page 121.

104


TO WIVES                             105

driven to maudlin sympathy, to bitter resentment.
Some of us veered from extreme to extreme, ever
hoping that one day our loved ones would be them­
selves 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
self­sacrificing. 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 battle­grounds 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 that 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 know­
ing how or when the men of the house would appear.
We could make few social engagements. We came to
live almost alone. When we were invited out, our
husbands sneaked so many drinks that they spoiled
the occasion. If, on the other hand, they took nothing,
their self­pity made them killjoys.
       There was never financial security. Positions were
always in jeopardy or gone. An armored car could


106                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

not have brought the pay envelopes home. The
checking account melted like snow in June.
Sometimes 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 they sometimes brought home is our hus­
bands thought we were so inhospitable. "Joykiller,
nag, wet blanket" is 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 is 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 deser­
tion. Usually we did not leave. We stayed on and on.
We finally sought employment ourselves as destitution
faced us and our families.
       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


TO WIVES                            107

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, sanitar­
iums, hospitals, and fails. Sometimes there were
screaming delirium and insanity. Death was often
near.
       Under these conditions we naturally make 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 atten­
tions. 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 these dangers were


108                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

pointed out that they agreed, and then got drunk
again immediately?
       These are some of the questions which race through
the mind of every woman who has an alcoholic hus­
band. We hope this book has answered some of them.
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
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 incon­
siderate; it is usually because he is warped and sick­
ened that he says and does these appalling things.
Today most of our men are better husbands and
fathers than ever before.
       Try not to 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 bad­intentioned,
that no amount of patience will make any difference.
An alcoholic of this temperament may 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 him. Is it 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.


TO WIVES                             109

       His drinking may be constant or it may be heavy only
on certain occasions. Perhaps he spends too much
money for liquor. It may be slowing 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 probably be insulted if he were 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, for
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 positive that he
will do better. He has begun to try, with or without
your cooperation, various means of moderating or
staying dry. Maybe 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 morn­
ing 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. We think this
person is in danger. These are 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


110                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

he became worse. His friends have slipped away, his
home is a near­wreck and he cannot hold a position.
Maybe the doctor has been called in, and the weary
round of sanitariums and hospitals has begun. He ad­
mits 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 pre­
sents 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 com­
pletely despair. He has been placed in one institution
after another. He is violent, or appears definitely in­
sane when drunk. Sometimes he drinks on the way
home from the hospital. Perhaps he has had delirium
tremens. Doctors may 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 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
reasonably used.


TO WIVES                             111

       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 most necessary.
       Our next thought is that you should never tell him
what he must do about his drinking. If he gets the
idea that you are a nag or a killjoy, your chance of
accomplishing anything useful may be zero. He will
use that as an excuse to drink more. He will tell you
he is misunderstood. This may lead to lonely evenings
for you. He may seek someone else to console him­
not always another man.
       Be determined that your husband's drinking is not
going to spoil your relations 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 try.
       We know these suggestions are sometimes difficult
to follow, but you will save many a heartbreak if you
can succeed in observing them. Your husband may
come to appreciate your reasonableness and patience.
This may lay the groundwork for a friendly talk
about his alcoholic 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


112                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

read this book or at least the chapter
Tell him you have been worried, though perhaps need­
lessly. You think he ought to know the subject better,
as everyone should have a clear understanding of the
risk he takes if he drinks too 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 alcoholism.
       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 drink­
ers. Your husband may be willing to talk to one of
them.
       If this kind of approach does not catch your hus­
band's interest, it may be best to drop the subject, 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.
Suppose, however, that your husband fits the de­
scription 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 as alcoholics, the writers
of the book understand. Tell him some of the interest­
ing stories you have read. If you think he will be shy
of a spiritual remedy, ask him to look at the chapter on


TO WIVES                             113

alcoholism. Then perhaps he will be interested enough
to continue.
       If he is enthusiastic your cooperation will mean a
great deal. If he is lukewarm or thinks he is not an
alcoholic, we suggest you leave him alone. Avoid urg­
ing him to follow our program. The seed has been
planted in his mind. He knows that thousands of
men, much like himself, have recovered. But don't re­
mind him of this after he has been drinking, for he
may 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 should 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 someone outside the family pre­
sent the book. They can urge action without arousing
hostility. If your husband is otherwise a normal in­
dividual, your chances are good at this stage.
       You would suppose that men in the fourth classifi­
cation would be quite hopeless, but that is not so.
Many of Alcoholics Anonymous were like that. Every­
body had given them up. Defeat seemed certain. Yet
often such men had spectacular and powerful recov­
eries.


114                             TO WIVES

       There are exceptions. Some men have been so im­
paired 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, try to have your husband read 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, give him a chance
to try our method, unless the doctor thinks his mental
condition too abnormal or dangerous. We make this
recommendation with some confidence. For years we
have been working with alcoholics committed to in­
stitutions. Since this book was first published, A.A.
has released thousands of alcoholics from asylums and
hospitals of every kind. The majority have never re­
turned. 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 danger­
ous, we think the kind thing to do is to lock them up, but of
course a good doctor should always be consulted. The
wives and children of such men suffer horrible, but not
more than the men themselves.
       But sometimes you must start life anew. We know
women who have done it. If such women adopt a
spiritual way of life their road will be smoother.
       If your husband is a drinker, you probably worry
over what other people are thinking and you hate to
meet your friends. You draw more and more into
yourself and you think everyone is talking about con­
ditions at your home. You avoid the subject of drink­


TO WIVES                             115

ing, even with your own parents. You do not know
what to tell your children. When your husband is bad,
you become a trembling recluse, wishing the tele­
phone had never been invented.
       We find that most of this embarrassment is unneces­
sary. While you need not discuss your husband at
length, you can quietly let your friends know the na­
ture of his illness. 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, 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
self­conscious or 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 self­consciousness will do wonders for you
socially.
       The same principle applies in dealing with the chil­
dren. 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 prob­
lem drinker will be lessened.
       Frequently, you have felt obliged to tell your hus­
band'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. Dis­


116                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

cuss this with him when he is sober and in good spirits.
Ask him what you should do if he places you in such
a position again. But be careful not to be resentful
about the last time he did so.
       There is another paralyzing fear. You may be 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 ap­
parent calamity has been a boon to us, for it opened
up a path which led to the discovery of God.
       We have elsewhere remarked how much better life
is when lived on a spiritual plane. If God can solve the
age­old riddle of alcoholism, He can solve your prob­
lems too. We wives found that, like everybody else,
we were afflicted with pride, self­pity, vanity and all
the things which go to make up the self­centered per­
son; 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 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


TO WIVES                             117

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 you husband if you
possibly can.
       If you and your husband find a solution for the
pressing problem of drink you are, of course, going to
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 new­found
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 hus­
band will be put to the test. These work­outs should
be regarded as part of your education, for thus you
will be learning to live. You will make mistakes, but
if you are in earnest they will not drag you down. In­
stead, 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 and resentments. Your husband will
sometimes be unreasonable and you will want to criti­
cize. 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 alco­
holic. We do not mean that you have to agree with
you husband whenever there is an honest difference
of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resent­
ful or critical spirit.


118                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

       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 sobri­
ety. 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 the 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 that 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


TO WIVES                             119

be the first to say it was your devotion and care which
brought him to the point where he could have a spirit­
ual experience. Without you he would have gone to
pieces long ago. When resentful thoughts come, try to
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 un-
dreamed­of future.
       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 should work with other peo­
ple 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 about yours. It will do little good if you
point that out and urge more attention for yourself.
We find it a real mistake to dampen his enthusiasm for
alcoholic work. You should join in his efforts as much
as you possibly can. We suggest that you 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 many times I
solates the wife of an alcoholic. Therefore, you prob­
ably 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


120                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

sense of responsibility for others. You, as well as your
husband, ought to 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 much better.
       Perhaps your husband will make a fair start on the
new basis, but just as things are going beautifully he
dismays you be coming home drunk. If you are satis­
fied he really wants to get over drinking, you need not
be alarmed. Though it is infinitely better that 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. 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 helpful.
       The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen
your husband's chance or recovery. In a weak mo­
ment he may take your dislike of his high­stepping
friends as one of those insanely trivial excuses to drink.
       We never, never try to arrange a man's life so as to
shield him from temptation. The slightest disposition
on your part to guide his appointment 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 prob­
lem 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 pre­
vented, place the problem, along with everything else,
in God's hands.


TO WIVES                             121

We realize that we have been giving you much
direct advice. We may have seemed to lecture.
If that is so we are sorry, for we ourselves, don't always
care for people who lecture us. But what we have re­
lated is base upon experience, some of it painful. We
had to learn these things the hard way. That is why
we are anxious that you understand, and that you
avoid these unnecessary difficulties.
       So to you out there is who may soon be with us­­we
say "Good luck and God bless you."

       The fellowship of Al­Anon Family Groups was
formed about thirteen years after this chapter was
written. Though it is entirely separate from Alcoholics
Anonymous, it uses the general principles of the A.A.
program as a guide for husbands, wives, relatives,
friends, and others close to alcoholics. The forgoing
pages (though addressed only to wives) indicate the
problems such people may face. alateen, for teen­aged
children of alcoholics, is a part of Al­Anon.
If there is no al­Anon listing in your local tele­
phone book, you may obtain further information on
Al­Anon Family Groups by writing to its General Ser­
vice Office: Box 182 Madison Square Garden Station, New
York, N.Y. 10010

return to top


Chapter 9

THE FAMILY AFTERWARD

       Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes
a wife may take with the husband who is recov­
ering. Perhaps they created the impression that he is
to be wrapped in cotton wool and placed on a ped­
estal. Successful readjustment means the opposite.
All members of the family should meet upon the com­
mon ground of tolerance, understanding and love.
This involves a process of deflation. The alcoholic,
his wife, his children, his "in­laws," 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. We find the more one member
of the family demands that the others concede to him,
the more resentful they become. This makes for dis-
cord and unhappiness.
       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 than give?
       Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from
a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said
to us, "Years of lining 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 may be footsore and may straggle.
122


THE FAMILY AFTERWARDS                             123
       There will be alluring shortcuts and by­paths 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 is 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 ro­
mantic, 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 is these things are now
ruined or damaged. It will take time to clear away the
wreck. Though the old buildings will eventually be re­
placed 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, hu­
miliating, shameful or tragic. The first impulse will be
to bury these skeletons in a dark closet and padlock
the door. The family may be possessed by the idea


124                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

that future happiness can be based only upon forget­
fulness of the past. We think that such a view is self­
centered and in direct conflict with the new way of
living.
       Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect
that experience is the thing of supreme value is 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 almost 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 who have not, and when the occasion re­
quires, each member of it 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 help 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 pos­
session you have is the key to life and happiness for
others. With it you can avert death and misery for
them.
       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


THE FAMILY AFTERWARD                             125

hurt a great deal. Husbands and wives have some­
times 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 we think that
unless some good and useful purpose is to be served,
past occurrences should not be discussed.
       We families of Alcoholics Anonymous keep few
skeletons in the closet. Everyone knows about the
others' alcoholic troubles. This is a condition which,
in ordinary life, would produce untold grief; there
might be scandalous gossip, laughter at the expense of
other people, and a tendency to take advantage of in­
timate information. Among us, these are rare occur­
rences. We do talk about each other a great deal, but
we almost invariably temper such talk by a spirit of
love and tolerance.
       Another principle we observe carefully is that we do
not relate intimate experiences of another person un­
less we are sure he would approve. We find it better,
when possible, to stick to our own stories. A man may
criticize to laugh at himself and it will affect others
favorably, but criticism or ridicule coming from an­
other often produce 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.
       Many alcoholics are enthusiasts. They run to ex­
tremes. 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


126                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 had experi­
ence galore.
       We think it dangerous if he rushes headlong at his
economic problem. The family will be affected also,
pleasantly at first, as they feel their money troubles
are about to be solved, then not so pleasantly as they
find themselves neglected. Dad may be tired at night
and preoccupied 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 inat­
tention. They are all disappointed, and often 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 feels he is doing very well.
       Sometimes mother and children don't think so.
Having been 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 be­
fore he drank so much, 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 can be avoided. Both father and
the family are mistaken, though each side may have
some justification. It is of little use to argue and only


THE FAMILY AFTERWARD                             127

makes the impasse worse. The family must realize that
dad, though marvelously improved, is still convalesc­
ing. They should be thankful he is sober and able to
be of this world once more. Let them praise his prog­
ress. 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 spirit­
ual understanding.
       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 well­being 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 he did much
to make them so.
       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, self­pity, self­justification or resent­
ful criticism. Little by little, mother and children will
see they ask too much, and father will see he gives too


128                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

little. Giving, rather than getting, will become the
guiding principle.
       Assume on the other hand that father has, at the
outset, a stirring spiritual experience. Overnight, as
it were, he is a different 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 in a hurry, or
exhibit amazing indifference to them and say he is
above worldly considerations. He may tell mother,
who has been religious all her life, that she doesn't
know what it's 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. The may be jealous of a God who has
stolen dad's affections. While grateful that he drinks
no more, they may not like the idea that God has ac­
complished the miracle where they failed. They often
forget father was beyond human aid. They may 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 in­
dulged in spiritual intoxication. Like a gaunt pros­
pector, belt drawn in over the ounce of food, our
pick struck gold. Joy at our release from a lifetime of


THE FAMILY AFTERWARD                             129

frustration knew no bounds. Father feels 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 aver­
age man like himself, a spiritual life which does not
include his family obligations may not be so perfect
after all. If the family will appreciated that dad's cur­
rent 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 con­
demn 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 per­
son 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 spirit­
ual justification for so doing.
       Though the family does not fully agree with dad's
spiritual activities, they should let him have his head.
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 like in helping other alcoholics. Dur­
ing those first days of convalescence, this will do more
to insure his sobriety than anything else. Though


130                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

some of his manifestations are alarming and disagree­
able, we think dad will be on a firmer foundation than
the man who is placing business or professional suc­
cess 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 make­believe have eventually seen the
childishness of it. This dream world has been replaced
by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a grow­
ing consciousness of the power of God in our lives.
We have come to believe He would like us to keep our
heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought
to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fel­
low 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 spirit­
ual 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 a sane spiritual program, making a
better practical use of it.
       There will be other profound changes in the house­
hold. 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 often obliged to treat father as a sick or way­
ward child. Even when he wanted to assert himself


THE FAMILY AFTERWARD                             131

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 accus­
tomed 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 comes to a friendly
agreement about them.
       Drinking isolates most homes from the outside
world. Father may have laid aside for years all normal
activities is 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 demand that he stay home and
make up the deficiency.
       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 acquaintances who know nothing of
alcoholism might be made and thoughtful considera­
tions given their needs. The problems of the commu­
nity might engage attention. Though the family has
no religious connections, they may wish to make con­
tact with or take membership in a religious body.
       Alcoholics who have derided religious people will
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


132                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

differ with them on many matters. If he does not
argue about religion, 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 con­
gregations. 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 fore­
going as a helpful suggestion only. So far as we are
concerned, there is nothing obligatory about it. As
non­denominational people, we cannot make up
others' minds for them. Each individual should con­
sult 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
nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders.
When we see a man sinking into the mire that is alco­
holism, we give him first aid and place what 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 use­
fulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we
burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experi­
ence out of the past. But why shouldn't we laugh?
We have recovered, and have been given the power
to help others.
       Everybody know that those in bad health, and
those who seldom play, do not laugh much. So let


THE FAMILY AFTERWARD                             133

each family play together or separately as much as
their circumstances warrant. We are sure God wants
us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe
to the belief that his 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, but if
trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an oppor­
tunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.
       Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol
does not often recover overnight nor do twisted think­
ing and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are con­
vinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most power­
ful health restorative. We, who have recovered from
serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But
we have seen remarkable transformations in our
bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any mark
of dissipation.
       But this does not mean that we disregard human health
measures. God has abundantly supplied this
world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practition­
ers of various kinds. Do not hesitated to take your
health problems to such persons. 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 in following his case afterward.
       One of the many doctors who had the opportunity
of reading this book in manuscript form told us that
the use of sweets was often helpful, of course depend­
ing upon a doctor's advice. He thought all alcoholics


134                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

should constantly have chocolate available for its
quick energy value at times of fatigue. He added that
occasionally in the night a vague craving arose which
would be satisfied by candy. Many of us have noticed
a tendency to eat sweets and have found this practice
beneficial.
       A word about sex relations. Alcohol is so sexually
stimulating to some men that they have over­indulged.
Couples are occasionally dismayed to find that when
drinking is stopped the man tends to be impotent. Un­
less the reason is understood, there may be an emo­
tional 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 the condition persists. We do not
know of many cases where this difficulty lasted long.
       The alcoholic may find it hard to re­establish
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
children are sometimes dominated by a pathetic hard­
ness 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.
       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 medi­
tation and then they can take part in the daily discus­
sion without rancor or bias. From that point on,
progress will be rapid. Marvelous results often follow
such a reunion.


THE FAMILY AFTERWARD                             135

       Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not,
the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. The
others must be convinced of his new status beyond the
shadow of a doubt. Seeing is believing to most fam­
ilies 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
over­indulged. Seeing this, and meaning to be help­
ful, his wife commenced to admonish him about it. He
admitted he was overdosing these things, but frankly
said that he was not ready to stop. His wife is one of
those persons who really feels 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 is 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 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 ail­
ments were being rapidly cured.
       We have three little mottoes which are apropos.
Here they are:

First Things First

Live and Let Live

Easy Does It.

return to top


Chapter 10

TO EMPLOYERS

       Among many employers nowadays, we think of
one member who has spent much of his life in
the world of big business. He has hired and fired Hun..­
deeds of men. He knows the alcoholic as the employer
sees him. His present views ought to prove exception­
ally useful to business men everywhere.
       But let him tell you:
       I was at one time assistant manager of a corporation
department employing sixty­six hundred men. One
day my secretary came in saying Mr. B­­­­ insisted
on speaking with me. I told her to say that I was not
interested. I had warned him 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 is finally and forever.
       My secretary returned to say that it was 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 re­
caver: "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
136


TO EMPLOYERS                             137

desk, a newspaper clipping fell out. It was the obit­
any of one of the best salesmen I ever had. After two
weeks of drinking, he had placed his toe on the trigger
of a loaded shotgun is 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 alcoholism as I do now.
What irony is 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 un­
abated. We think the business fabric is shot through
with a situation which might be helped by better un­
derstanding all around.
       Nearly every modern employer feels a moral respon­
sibility for the well­being of his help, and he 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 a fool of the first mag­
nitude. 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 a reasonable period. Some employers have
tried every known remedy. In only a few instances


138                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

has there been a lack of 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 two hours talking
about alcoholism, the malady, and described the
symptoms and results as well as I could. His com­
ment was, "Very interesting. But I'm sure this man is
done drinking. He as 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."
       The only answer I could make was that if the man
followed the usual pattern, he would go on a bigger
bust than ever. I felt this was inevitable and wondered
if the bank was doing the man an injustice. Why not
bring him into contact with some of our alcoholic
crowd? He might have chance. I pointed out that I
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 I had failed to help my banker friend
understand. He simply could not believe that his


TO EMPLOYERS                             139

brother­executive suffered from a serious illness.
There was nothing to do but wait.
       Presently the man did slip and was fired. Follow­
ing his discharge, we contacted him. Without much
ado, he accepted the principles and procedure that
had helped us. He is undoubtedly on the road to re­
covery. To me, this incident illustrates lack of under­
standing as to what really ails the alcoholic, and lack
of knowledge as to what part employers might profit­
ably take in salvaging their sick employees.
       If you desire to help it might be well to disregard
your own drinking, or lack of it. Whether you are a
hard drinker, a moderate drinker or a teetotaler, you
may have some pretty strong opinions, perhaps preju­
dices. Those who drink moderately may be more an­
noyed 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 control your drinking. Of an eve­
ning, you can go on a mild bender, get up in the morn­
ing, 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, there may be a
natural annoyance that a man could be so weak, stupid
and irresponsible. Even when you understand the
malady better, you may feel this feeling rising.
A look at the alcoholic in your organization is many
times illuminating. Is he not usually brilliant, fast­
thinking, imaginative and likable? When sober, does


140                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

he not work hard and have a knack of getting things
done? If he had these qualities and did not drink
would he be worth retaining? Should he have the
same consideration as other ailing employees? Is he
worth salvaging? If your decision is yes, whether the
reason be humanitarian or business or both, then the
following suggestions may be helpful.
       Can you discard the feeling that you are dealing
only with habit, with stubbornness, or a weak will? If
this presents difficulty, re­reading chapters two and
three, where alcoholic sickness is discussed at
length might be worth while. You, as a business man,
want to know the necessities before considering the
result. If you concede that your employee is ill, can
he be forgiven for what he has done in the past? Can
his past absurdities be forgotten? Can it be appreci­
ated that he 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. No wonder an alcoholic is strangely irrational.
Who wouldn't be, with such a fevered brain? Normal
drinkers are not so affected, nor can they understand
the aberrations of the alcoholic.
       Your man has probably been trying to conceal a
number of scrapes, perhaps pretty messy ones. They
may be disgusting. You may be at a loss to understand
how such a seemingly above­ board chap could be so
involved. But these scrapes can generally be charged,
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


TO EMPLOYERS                            141

normal, will do incredible things. Afterward, his
revulsion will be terrible. Nearly always, these antics
indicate nothing more than temporary conditions.
       This is not to say that all alcoholics are honest and
upright when not drinking. Of course that isn't so,
and such people may often 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, he may as well
be discharged, 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 possible 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, and with
them you can go far. Your understanding treatment
of their cases will pay dividends.
       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 now know more
about alcoholism. You can see that he is mentally and
physically sick. You are willing to overlook his past
performances. Suppose an approach is made some­
thing like this:
       State that you know about his drinking, and that it
must stop. You might say you appreciate his abilities,
would like to keep him, but cannot if he continues to


142                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

drink. A firm attitude at this point has helped many
of us.
       Next he can be assured that you do not intend to
lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if this was done
formerly, it was because of misunderstanding. If pos­
sible express a lack of hard feeling toward him. At
this point, it might be well to explain alcoholism, the
illness. Say that you believe he is a gravely­ill per­
son, with this qualification is being perhaps fatally ill,
does he want to get well? 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 for­
ever?
       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? We believe a man should be thor­
oughly probed on these points. Be satisfied he is not
deceiving himself or you.
       Whether you mention this book is a matter for your
discretion. If he temporizes and still thinks he can
ever drink again, even beer, he might as well be dis­
charged after the next bender which, if an alcoholic,
he is almost certain to have. He should understand
that emphatically. Either you are dealing with a man
who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why
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


TO EMPLOYERS                             143

over a spree, a certain amount of physical treatment
is desirable, even imperative. The matter of physical
treatment should, of course, be referred to your
own doctor. Whatever the method, its object is to
thoroughly clear mind and body of the effects of alco­
hol. In competent hands, this seldom takes long nor
is it very expensive. Your man will fare better if
placed in such physical condition that he can think
straight and no longer craves liquor. If you propose
such a procedure to him, it may be necessary to ad­
vance the cost of the treatment, but we believe it should
be made plain that any expense will later be deducted
from his pay. It is better for him to feel fully respon­
sible.
       If your man accepts your offer, it should be pointed
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 drink­
ing will require a transformation of thought and atti­
tude. We all had to place recovery above everything,
for without recovery we would have lost both home
and business.
       Can you have every confidence in his ability to
recover? While on the subject of confidence, can you
adopt the attitude that so far as you are concerned
this will be a strictly personal matter, that his alco­
holic dereliction's, the treatment about to be under­
taken, will never be discussed without his consent?
It might be well to have a long chat with him on his
return.
       To return to the subject matter of this book: It con­
tains full suggestions by which the employee may


144                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

solve his problem. To you, some of the ideas which
it contains are novel. Perhaps 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 worked with us. After
all, are you not looking for results rather than meth­
ods? Whether your employee likes it or not, he will
learn the grim truth about alcoholism. That won't
hurt him a bit, even though he does not go for this
remedy.
       We suggest you draw the book to the attention of
the doctor who is to attend your patient during treat­
ment. If the book is read the moment the patient is
able, while acutely depressed, realization of his condi­
tion may come to him.
       We hope the doctor will tell the patient the truth
about his condition, whatever that happens to be.
When the man is presented with this volume it is best
that no one tell him he must abide by its suggestions.
The man must decide for himself.
       You are betting, or course, that your changed atti­
tude plus the contents of this book will turn the trick.
In some case it will, and in others it may not. But
we think that if you persevere, the percentage of suc­
cesses will gratify you. As our work spreads and our
numbers increase, we hope your employees may be
put in personal contact with some of us. Meanwhile,
we are sure a great deal can be accomplished by the
use of the book alone.
       On your employee's return, talk with him. Ask him
if he thinks he has the answer. If he feels free to
discuss his problems with you, if he knows you under­


TO EMPLOYERS                             145

stand and will not be upset by anything he wishes to
say, he will probably be off to a fast start.
       In this connection, can you remain undisturbed if
the man proceeds to tell you shocking things? He
may, for example, reveal that he has padded his ex­
pense 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. Can you
charge this off as you would a bad account and start
fresh with him? If he owes you money you may wish
to make terms.
       If he speaks of his home situation, you can un­
doubtedly make helpful suggestions. Can he talk
frankly with you so long as he does not bear business
tales or criticize his associate? With this kind of em­
ployee such an attitude will command undying loyalty.
The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resent­
ment, 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 we alcoholics have an idea
that people are trying to pull us down. Often this is
not so at all. But sometimes our drinking will be used
politically.
       One instance comes to mind in which a malicious
individual was always making friendly little jokes
about an alcoholic's drinking exploits. In this way he
was slyly carrying tales. 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 decreased the man's chance of recovery. The


146                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

employer can many times protect the victim from this
kind of talk. The employer cannot play favorites, but
he can always defend a man from needless provoca­
tion and unfair criticism.
       As a class, alcoholics are energetic people. They
work hard and they play hard. Your man should be
on his mettle to make good. Being somewhat weak­
ened, and faced with physical and mental readjust­
ment to a life which knows no alcohol, he may overdo.
You may have to curb his desire to work sixteen hours
a day. You may need to encourage him to play once in
a while. He may wish to do a lot for other alco­
holics and something of the sort may come up during
business hours. A reasonable amount of latitude will
be helpful. This work is necessary to maintain his
sobriety.
       After your man has gone along without drinking
for a few months, you may be able to make use of his
services with other employees who are giving you the
alcoholic run­around ­­ provided, of course, they are
willing to have a third party in the picture. An alco­
holic who has recovered, but holds a relatively un­
important job, can talk to a man with a better position.
Being on a radically different basis of life, he will never
take advantage of the situation.
       Your man may be trusted. Long experience with
alcoholic excuses naturally arouses suspicion. When
his wife next calls saying he is sick, you may jump
to the conclusion he is drunk. If he is, and is still
trying to recover, he will 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. He will appreciate
knowing you are not bothering your head about him,


TO EMPLOYERS                            147

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 re­
covery he can go anywhere your business may call
him.
       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 not 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
keep him on, for your obligation has been well dis­
charged already.
       There is another thing you might wish to 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 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 approximately this, "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, and if you are interested, there
is a way out. If you take it, your past will be forgotten


148                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 con­
tents 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 posi­
tion 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 be discharged. The excep­
tions are few.
       We think this method of approach will accomplish
several things. It will permit the rehabilitation of good
men. 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 consid­
erable damage in its waste of time, men and reputa­
tion. We hope our suggestions will help you plug up
this sometimes serious leak. We think we are sensible
when we urge that you stop this waste and give your
worthwhile 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


TO EMPLOYERS                             149

have any alcoholic problem." This same company spends
millions for research every year. Their cost of produc­
tion is figured to a fine decimal point. They have
recreational facilities. There is company insurance.
There is a real interest, both humanitarian and busi­
ness, in the well­being of employees. But alcoholism,
well, they just don't believe they have it.
       Perhaps this is a typical attitude. We, who have col­
lectively seen a great deal of business life, at least
from the alcoholic angle, had to smile at this gentle­
man's sincere opinion. He might be shocked if he
knew how much alcoholism is costing 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. Even if you feel your organization has
no alcoholic problem, it may pay to take another look
down the line. You may make some interesting dis­
coveries.
       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 undoubtedly sound,
but he did not distinguish between such people and
the alcoholic.
       It is not to be expected that an alcoholic employee
will receive a disproportionate amount of time and
attention. He should not be made a favorite. The
right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will not
want this sort of thing. He will not impose. 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


150                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

alcoholic employees, who produce as much as five
normal salesmen. But why not? They have a new
attitude, and they have been saved from a living death.
I have enjoyed every moment spent in getting them
straightened out. *

      

*See Appendix VI­We shall be happy to hear from you if we can
be of help

return to top


Chapter 11

A VISION FOR YOU

       For most normal folks, drinking means convivi­
ality, 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 life as we once did and a heartbreaking obses­
sion that some new miracle of control would enable
us to do it. There was always one more attempt­ and
one more failure.
       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 com­
panionship and approval. Momentarily we did is then
would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face
the hideous Four Horsemen is Terror, Bewilderment,
Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who read 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 ex­problem drink­

151


152                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

ers, 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 with­
out 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
jumping­off place. He will wish for the end.
       We have shown 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 ask. "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. High and low, rich and
poor, these are future fellows of Alcoholics Anony­
mous. 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


A VISION FOR YOU                             153

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 thy­
self."
       It may seem incredible that these men are to be­
come happy, respected, and useful once more. How
can they rise out of such misery, bad repute and hope­
lessness? The practical answer is that since these
things have happened among us, they can happen
with you. Should you wish them above all else, and
be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure
they will come. The age of miracles is till 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, to follow its suggestions.
Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march
on. They will approach still other sick ones and
fellowships 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 we approach and aid others to health.
Suppose now that through you several families have
adopted this 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 or the fellowship among us.
Here is a brief account:
       Years ago, in 1935, one of our number made a
journey to a certain western city. From a business
standpoint, his trip came off badly. Had he been suc­


154                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

cessful in his enterprise, he would have been set on
his feet financially which, at the time, seemed vitally
important. But his venture would 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 won­
dering how his bill was to be paid. At the 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 week­end.
       Of course he couldn't drink, but why not sit hope­
fully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him?
After all, had he not been sober six months now? Per­
haps he could handle, say, three drinks is no more! Fear
gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the
old, insidious insanity is 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 is yes, those other alcoholics?
There must be many such in this town. He would
phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he thanked


A VISION FOR YOU                             155

God. Selecting a church at random from the directory,
he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.
       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 standing 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 meant to be alcoholic.*
       When our friend related his experience, the man
agreed that no amount of will power he might muster
could stop his drinking for long. A spiritual experi­
ence, he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the
price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He told
how he lived in constant worry about those who might
find out about his alcoholism. He had, of course, the
familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his drink­
ing. Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder
of his business, only to bring still more suffering to
his family by foolishly admitting his plight to people
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
      

*This refers to Bill's first visit with Dr. Bob. These men later be
came co­founders of A.A. Bill's story opens the text of the book; Dr.
Bob's heads the Story Section.

156                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 busi­
ness.
       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 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
prospect.
       She replied, "Yes, we've got a corker. He's just
beaten up a couple of nurses. Goes off his head com­
pletely when he's drinking. But he's a grand chap
when he's sober, though he's been in here eight times
in the last six months. Understand he was once a
well­known 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

*This refers to Bill's and Dr. Bob's first visit to A.A. Number Three

See the Pioneer Section. This resulted in A.A.'s first group at Akron,
Ohio, in 1935


A VISION FOR YOU                             157

such case 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 treat­
ment 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 first drink.
       "Yes, that' 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,


158                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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 owl."
       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, though 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 gath­
ering places of all sorts, often staying up all night. He
lost the race by only a narrow margin. But he had
found God is 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 long absent.
       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
devil­may­care 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


A VISION FOR YOU                             159

church. He suffered horribly from his sprees, but it
seemed as if nothing could be done for him. He con­
sented, however, to go to the hospital, where he oc­
cupied 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 ac­
quaintances, the lawyer and the devil­may­care 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 second­
ary. 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 fellow­sufferers. They were will­
ing, by day or night, to place a new man in the hos­
pital 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 spiritual way of living, thus relieving
much worry and suffering.
       A year and six months later these three had suc­
ceeded 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 addi­
tion to these casual get­togethers, it became customary
to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be at­


160                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

tended 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 be­
come so fascinated that they have dedicated their
home to the word. Many a distracted wife has visited
this house to find loving and understanding compan­
ionship among women who knew her problem, to
hear from the lips of their husbands what had hap­
pened 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 experi­
ence, 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 own misfortunes
and understood his. 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


A VISION FOR YOU                             161

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 visioned the Great Reality is their loving and All
Powerful Creator.
       Now, this house will hardly accommodate its weekly
visitors, for they number sixty or eighty as a rule. Al­
coholics 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 gatherings 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 is these are everyday occurrences. No one is
too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed
cordially is if he means business. Social distinctions,
petty rivalries and jealousies is 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 many eastern cities. In one of

*Written in 1939

162                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

these there is a well­know hospital for the treatment
of alcoholic and drug addiction. Six 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 of his belief in ours.
       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 now see scores
of members. 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
or 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 Anony­
mous 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 dis­
tractions of the road, about which any traveling man
can inform you.*
       Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but

*written in 1939, as of 1977, there are almost 36,000 groups
in over 90 countries with an estimated membership of over 1,000,000.

A VISION FOR YOU                             163

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 much greater than yourself. To
duplicate, with such backing, what we have accom­
plished is only a matter of willingness, patience and
labor.
       We know of an A.A. member who was living 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.
(1939) The authorities were much concerned. He got
in touch with a prominent psychiatrist who had under­
taken 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. 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 Anony­
mous. When a few men in this city have found them­


164                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

selves, and have discovered the joy of helping others
to face life again, there will be no stopping until
everyone in that town has had his opportunity to re­
cover is if he can and will.
       Still you may say: "But I will not have the benefit
of contact with you who wrote this book." We cannot
be sure. God will determine that, so you must remem­
ber 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 medi­
tation 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 some­
thing 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 to 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 is until then.

*Alcoholics Anonymous will be glad to hear from you. Address
P.O.Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10017

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PERSONAL STORIES

How Forty-three Alcoholics Recovered From Their Malady

       Beginning with the story of "Dr. Bob," a co­founder
A.A., there are here presented three groups of personal
histories.

* Due to Copyright considerations, the stories have been left out of this presentation of the big book.



Part 1

PIONEERS OF A.A.

This group of thirteen stories shows that sobriety in A.A. can be lasting

Part II

THEY STOPPED IN TIME

Seventeen stories may help you decide whether you are alcoholic, also, whether A.A. is for you.

Part III

THEY LOST NEARLY ALL

Those who believe their drinking to be hopeless may again find hope in these thirteen impressive tales.

* Due to Copyright considerations, the stories have been left out of this presentation of the big book.




APPENDICES

I The A.A. Tradition

II Spiritual Experience

III The Medical View on A.A.

IV The Lasker Award

V The Religious View on A.A.

VI How to Get in Touch With A.A.

I

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THE AA TRADITION

       To those now in the field, Alcoholics Anonymous has
made the difference between misery ans sobriety, and
often the difference between life and death. A.A. can, of
course, mean just as much to uncounted alcoholics not
yet reached.
       Therefore, no society of men and women ever had a
more urgent need for continuous effectiveness and perma­
nent unity We alcoholics see that we must work together
and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone.
       The "12 Traditions" of Alcoholics Anonymous are, we
A.A.'s believe, the best answers that our experience has
yet given to those ever urgent questions, "How can A.A.
best function?" and "How can A.A. best stay whole and survive?"
On the next page, A.A.'s "12 Traditions" are seen in
their so­called "short form," the form in general use to­
day. This is a condensed version of the original "long
form." A.A. Traditions as first printed in 1948. Because
the "long form? Is more explicit and of possible historic
value, it is reproduced.

563

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THE TWELVE TRADITIONS

       One ­ Our common welfare should come first: personal
recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

       Two ­ For our common purpose there is but one ultimate
authority ­ a loving God as He may express Himself in our
group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants,
they do not govern.

       Three ­ The only requirement for A. A. Membership is a
desire to stop drinking.

       Four ­ Each group should be autonomous except in
matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.

       Five ­ Each group has but one primary purpose ­ to
carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

       Six ­ An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend
the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise,
lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us
from our primary purpose.

       Seven ­ Every A.A. group ought to be fully self­support­
ing, declining outside contributions.

       Eight ­ Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever
nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special
workers.

       Nine ­ A.A. as such, ought never be organized, but we
may create service boards or committees directly respons­
ible to those they serve.

       Ten ­ Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside
issues, hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into
public controversy.

       Eleven ­ Our Public relations policy is based on attrac­
tion rather than promotion, we need always maintain
personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.

       Twelve ­ Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our
Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before
personalities.

564

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THE TWELVE TRADITIONS

(The Long Form)

Our A.A. experience has taught us that:

       1.­Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a
small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or
most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare
comes first. But individual welfare follows close after­
ward.

       2.­For our group purpose there is but one ultimate
authority­a loving God as He may express Himself in our
group conscience

       3.­Our membership ought to include all who suffer
from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to
recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon
money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gath­
ered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A.
group, provided that, as a group, they have no other
affiliation.

       4.­With respect to its own affairs, each A.A. group
should be responsible to no other authority than its own
conscience. But when its plans concern the welfare of
neighboring groups also, those groups ought to be con­
sulted. And no group, regional committee, or individual
should ever take any action that might greatly affect A.A.
as a whole without conferring with the trustees of the
General Service Board. On such issues our common wel­
fare is paramount.

       5.­Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a
spiritual entity having but one primary purpose ­ thatof
carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

       6.­Problems of money, property, and authority may
easily divert us from our primary spiritual aim. We think
therefore, that any considerable property of genuine use

565


566                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

to A.A. should be separately incorporated and managed,
thus dividing the material from the spiritual. An A.A.
group, as such, should never go into business. Secondary
aids to A.A. such as clubs or hospitals which require much
property or administration, ought to be incorporated and
so set apart that, if necessary, they can be freely discarded
by the groups. Hence such facilities ought not to use the
A.A. name. Their management should be the sole respon­
sibility of those people who financially support them. For
clubs, A.A. managers are usually preferred. But hospitals,
as well as other places of recuperation, ought to be well
outside A.A.­and medically supervised. While an A.A.
group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought
never go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or im­
plied. An A.A. group can bind itself to no one.

       7.­The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully sup­
ported by the voluntary contributions of their own mem­
bers. We think that each group should soon achieve this
ideal; that any public solicitation of funds using the name
of Alcoholics Anonymous is highly dangerous, whether
by groups, clubs, hospitals, or other outside agencies; that
acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contribu­
tions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise. Then
too, we view with much concern those A.A. treasuries
which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate
funds for no stated purpose. Experience has often
warned us that nothing can so surely destroy our spiritual
heritage as futile disputes over property, money, and
authority.

       8.­Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non­
professional. We define professionalism as the occupation
of counseling alcoholics for fees or hire. But we may
employ alcoholics where they are going to perform those
services for which we might otherwise have to engage
nonalcoholics. Such special services may be well recom­



THE A.A. TRADITIONS                             567

pensed. But our usual A.A. "12th Step" work is never to
be paid for.

       9.­ Each A.A. group needs the least possible organiza­
tion. Rotating leadership is the best. The small group
may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating
committee, and the groups of a large metropolitan area
their central or Intergroup committee, which often em­
ploys a full­time secretary. The trustees of the General
Service Board are, in effect, our General Service
Committee. They are the custodians of our A.A. Tradition
and the receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by
which we maintain our A.A. General Service Offer at
New York. They are authorized by the groups to han­
dle our over­all public relations and they guarantee the in­
tegrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine.
All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of
service for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and ex­
perienced servants of the whole. They derive no real
authority from their titles; they do not govern, Universal
respect is the key to their usefulness.

       10.­No A.A. group, or member should ever, in such a
way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside
controversial issues ­ particularly those of politics, alcohol
reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous
groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can
express no views whatever.

       11.­Our relations with the general public should be
characterized by personal anonymity. We think A.A.
ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our names and
pictures as A.A. members ought not be broadcast, filmed,
or publicly printed. Our public relations should be guided
by the principle of attraction rather than promotion.
There is never need to praise ourselves. We feel it better
to let our friends recommend us.

       12.­And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe


568                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual
significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles
before personalities; that we are actually to practice a
genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings
may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful
contemplation of Him who presides over us all.

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II

SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE

       The terms "spiritual experience" and "spiritual awaken­
ing" are used many times in this book which, upon careful
reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to
bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested
itself among us in many different forms.
       Yet it is true that our first printing gave many readers
the impression that these personality changes, or reli­
gious experiences, must be in the nature of sudden and
spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this con­
clusion is erroneous.
       In the first few chapters a number of sudden revolu­
tionary changes are described. Though it was not our
intention to create such an impression, many alcoholics
have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover
they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming "God­
consciousness" followed at once by a vast change in
feeling and outlook.
       Among our rapidly growing membership of thousands
of alcoholics such transformations, though frequent, are
by no means the rule. Most of our experiences are what
the psychologist William James calls the "educational
variety" because they develop slowly over a period of
time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of
the difference long before he is himself. He finally
realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in
his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have
been brought about by himself alone. What often takes
place in a few months could seldom have been accom­
plished by years of self discipline. With few exceptions
our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected

569


570                             ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

inner resource which they presently identify with their
own conception of a Power greater than themselves.
       Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than
ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more
religious members call it a God-consciousness.

       Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic
capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of
our experience can recover, provided he does not close
his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be de-
feated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.
We find that no one need have difficulty with the
spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty, and open
mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are
indispensable.
       "There is a principle which is a bar against all informa-
tion, which is proof against all arguments and which
cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-
that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
-Herbert Spencer

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THE MEDICAL VIEW ON A A

       Since Dr. Silkworth's first endorsement of Alcoholics
Anonymous, medical societies and physicians throughout
the world have set their approval upon us. Following
are excerpts from the comments of doctors present at the
annual meeting of the Medical Society of the State of
New York where a paper on A.A. was read:
       Dr. Foster Kennedy, neurologist: "This organization of
Alcoholics Anonymous calls on two of the greatest reser­
voirs of power known to man, religion and that instinct
for association with one's fellows...the herd instinct."
I think our profession must take appreciative cognizance
of this great therapeutic weapon. If we do not do so, we
shall stand convicted of emotional sterility and of having
lost the faith that moves mountains, without which medi­
cine can do little"
       Dr. G. Kirby Collier, psychiatrist: "I have felt that A.A.
is a group unto themselves and their best results can be
had under their own guidance, as a result of their philos­
ophy. Any therapeutic or philosophic procedure which
can prove a recovery rate of 50% to 60% must merit our
consideration."*
       Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, psychiatrist: "As a psychiatrist,
I have thought a great deal about the relationship of my
specialty to A.A. and I have come to the conclusion that
our particular function can very often lie in preparing
the way for the patient to accept any sort of treatment
or outside help. I now conceive the psychiatrist's job to
be the task of breaking down the patient's inner resist­
ance so that which is inside him will flower, as under the
activity of the A.A. program.

       *1944

571


572                            ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Dr. W. W. Bauer, broadcasting under the auspices of
the American Medical Association in 1946, over the NBC
network, said, in part: "Alcoholics /anonymous are no
crusaders, not a temperance society. They know that they
must never drink. They help others with similar prob­
lems...In this atmosphere the alcoholic often over­
comes his excessive concentration upon himself. Learning
to depend upon a higher power and absorb himself in his
work with other alcoholics, he remains sober day by day.
The days add up to weeks the weeks into months and
years."
       Dr. John F. Stouffer, Chief Psychiatrist, Philadelphia
General Hospital, citing his experience with A.A., said:
"The alcoholics we get here at Philadelphia General are
mostly those who cannot afford private treatment, and
A.A. is by far the greatest thing we have been able to
offer them. Even among those who occasionally land
back in here again, we observe a profound change in
personality. You would hardly recognize them."
The American Psychiatric Association requested, in
1949, that a paper be prepared by one of the older mem­
bers of Alcoholics Anonymous to be read at the Associa­
tion's annual meeting of that year. This was done and
the paper was printed in the American Journal of Psy­
chiatry for November, 1949

       (This address is now available in pamphlet form at
nominal cost through most A.A. groups or form Box 459,
Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163, under the
title. "Three Talks to Medical Societies by Bill W."­
formerly called "Bill on alcoholism" and earlier "Alcohol­
ism the Illness.")

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IV

THE LASKER AWARD

In 1951 the Lasker Award was given Alcoholics Anony­
mous. The citation reads in part as follows:
       "The American Public Health Association presents
a Lasker Group Award for 1951 to Alcoholics Anonymous
in recognition of its unique and highly successful ap­
proach to that age­old public health and social problem,
alcoholism...In emphasizing alcoholism a s an illness,
the social stigma associated with this condition is being
blotted out...Historians may one day recognize Alcohol­
ics Anonymous to have been a great venture in social
pioneering which forged a new instrument for social ac­
tion; a new therapy based on the kinship of common
suffering; one having a vast potential for the myriad other
ills of mankind."

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V

THE RELIGIOUS VIEW ON A A

       Clergy of practically every denomination have
given A.A. their blessing.
       Edward Dowling, S.J. of the Queen's work staff says,
"Alcoholics Anonymous is natural; it is natural at the
point where nature comes closest to the supernatural,
namely in humiliations and in consequent humility. There
is something spiritual about an art museum or a sym­
phony, and the Catholic Church approves of our use
them. There is something spiritual about A.A. too, and
Catholic participation in it almost invariably results in
poor Catholics becoming better Catholics."
       The Episcopal magazine, The Living Church, observes
editorially: "The basis of the technique of Alcoholics
Anonymous is the truly Christian principle that a man
cannot help himself except by helping others. The A.A.
plan is described by the members themselves as "self­in­
surance." This self­insurance has resulted in the restoration
of physical, mental and spiritual health and self­respect
to hundreds of men and women who would be hope­
lessly down and out without its unique but effective
therapy."
       Speaking at a dinner given by John D. Rockefeller Jr.
to introduce Alcoholics Anonymous to some of his friends,
Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick remarked:
       "I think that psychologically speaking there is a point
of advantage in the approach that is being made in this
movement that cannot be duplicated. I suspect that if
it is wisely handled­and it seems to be in wise and
prudent hands­there are doors of opportunity ahead of
this project that may surpass our capacities to imagine."

       *Father Ed, an early and wonderful friend of A.A. died in the spring
of 1960.

574

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VI

HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH A A

       In the United States and Canada, most towns and cities
have A.A. groups. In such places, A.A. can be located
through the local telephone directory, newspaper office,
or police station, or by contacting local priests or minis­
ters. In large cities, groups often maintain local offices
where alcoholics or their families may arrange for inter­
views or hospitalization. These so­called intergroup
associations are found under the listing "A.A." or "Alco­
holics Anonymous" in telephone directories.
At New York, U.S.A., Alcoholics Anonymous maintains
its international service center. The General Service Board
of A.A. (The trustees) administration A.A.'s Central Service
Office, A.A. World Services, Inc., and our monthly maga­
zine, the A.A. Grapevine.
       If you cannot find A.A. in your locality, a letter ad­
dressed to Alcoholics Anonymous, Box 459, Grand Central
Station, New York, NY 10163, U.S.A. will receive a
prompt reply from this world center, referring you to the
nearest A.A. group. If there is none nearby, you will be in­
vited to carry on a correspondence which will do much to
insure your sobriety no matter how isolated you are.
       Should you be the relative or friend of an alcoholic who
shows no immediate interest in A.A., it is suggested that
you write the Al­Anon Family Groups, Inc., Box 862,
Midtown Station, New York, NY 10018­0862, U.S.A.
       This is a world clearing house for the Al­Anon Family
Groups, composed largely of the wives, husbands and
friends of A.A. members. This headquarters will give
the location of the nearest family group and will, if you wish,
correspond with you about your special problems.

575

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A.A. PUBLICATIONS

Complete order forms available at

Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10017

PAMPHLETS

A.A. 44 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

A.A. TRADITION ­ HOW IT DEVELOPED

A CLERGYMAN ASKS ABOUT A.A.

THREE TALKS TO MEDICAL SOCIETIES BUY BILL W.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS AND THE MEDICAL PROFESSION

A.A. IN YOUR COMMUNITY

IS A.A. FOR YOU?

THIS IS A.A.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SPONSORSHIP

A.A. FOR THE WOMAN

A.A. AND THE ALCOHOLIC EMPLOYEE

THE JACK ALEXANDER ARTICLE

LETTER TO A WOMAN ALCOHOLIC

YOUNG PEOPLE AND A.A.

A.A. AND THE ARMED FORCES

THE A.A. MEMBER AND DRUG ABUSE

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DIFFERENT?

IS THERE AN ALCOHOLIC IN YOUR LIFE?

INSIDE A.A.

THE A.A. GROUP

G.S.R.

MEMO TO AN INMATE

THE TWELVE TRADITIONS ILLUSTRATED

LET'S BE FRIENDLY WITH OUR FRIENDS

HOW A.A. MEMBERS COOPERATE

ALCOHOLISM IS A MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

A.A. SUGGESTS ONE SOLUTION

A.A. IN PRISON

A.A. IN HOSPITALS

IF YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL

A MEMBER'S EYE VIEW OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

PROBLEMS OTHER THAN ALCOHOL

UNDERSTANDING ANONYMITY

A.A.­A COMMUNITY RESOURCE

CO­FOUNDERS OF A.A.

THE LAST TALKS OF A.A.'S FOUNDERS

SPEAKING AT NON­A.A. MEETINGS

A BRIEF GUIDE TO A.A.

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOE

IT HAPPENED TO ALICE

(Two above are full­color, cartoon­style pamphlets)

TOO YOUNG?

(Cartoon ­style pamphlet for teen­agers)

PERIODICAL: THE A.A. GRAPEVINE

(Monthly)

GENERAL SERVICE OFFICE of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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