Speaker recordings courtesy of We Do Recovery
Speaker recordings courtesy of We Do Recovery
** These recordings are pulled from Youtube and may contain advertising. If advertising is present, it does not mean that AA District 2 endorses any product or outside institution as prescribed in our 6th Tradition.
A couple of considerations should be in place for the contribution process.
The first is setting your Prudent Reserve for your group.
Prudent Reserver from the AA literature:
“Most groups try to hold a certain amount of money in reserve. There is no predetermined amount for such a reserve, but most groups try to put aside enough money to cover at least one to three months’ operating expenses. The group itself usually determines the actual size and scope of the prudent reserve. Our experience shows that an accumulation of A.A. funds for unspecified purposes beyond a prudent level may divert a group’s attention from carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers. Groups with excess funds are encouraged to support other service entities.“
Excess Money Contributions:
The AA literature establishes guidelines for groups that have met their Prudent Reserve and how they can contribute to support AA as a whole. See the image below:
Speaker recordings courtesy of Odomtology Books
** These recordings are pulled from Youtube and may contain advertising. If advertising is present, it does not mean that AA District 2 endorses any product or outside institution as prescribed in our 6th Tradition.
To view all recordings, click the small menu icon in the upper left of the video image below.
Speaker recordings courtesy of Odomtology Books
Speaker recordings courtesy of Odomtology Books
This is the first printed draft of the Big Book, which was mailed to various individuals for their comments and also as a fund raising tool. It is unclear at what time during the writing of the Big Book “Bill’s Story” became chapter one. The language in this draft is in many ways different than the final manuscript. This illustrates the process of having many individuals add their opinions to the contents.
[archivist’s note: All pages are 8.5″ by 14″; marked text (underlined) means more than one letter was typed over another, or text was crossed out with x’s though still readable]
[handwriting: “Wilson’s original story”]
1. When I was about ten years old my Father and mother
2. agreed to disagree and I went to live with my Grandfather,
3. and Grandmother. He was a retired farmer and lumberman. As I
4. see him in retrospect, he was a very remarkable man After he
5. returned from Civil War he settled in the small Vermont
6. town where I was later to grow up. His original capital con-
7. sisted of a small, unimproved hillside farm, as sweet and
8. willing helpmeet, and enormous determination to succeed in
9. whatever he attempted. He was a man of high native intelli-
10. gence, a voracious reader, though little educated in the
11. school sense of the word. There was plenty of financial
12. sense in his make-up and he was a man of real vision. Under
13. other conditions he might well have become master of an in-
14. dustry or railroad empire.
15. My Grandmother brought into the world three children,
16. one of whom was my Mother. I can still seem to hear her tell-
17. ing of the struggle of those early days. Such matters as
18. cooking for twenty woodchoppers, looking after the diary,
19. making most of the clothes for the family, long winter rides
20. at twenty below zero to fetch my Grandfather home over snow-
21. bound roads, seeing him of long before daylight that he and
22. the choppers might have their access thawed out so that work
23. might begin on the mountaintop at daylight- this is the thought
24. of tradition upon which they nourished me. They finally
25. achieved their competence and retired late in life to enjoy
26. a well earned rest and the respect and affection of their
27. neighbors. They were the sort of people, I see now, who
28. really made America.
29. But I had other ideas – much bigger and better ones
30. so I thought. I was to be of the war generation which dis-
31. ipated the homely virtues, the hard earned savings, the
32. pioneering tradition, and the incredible stamina of your parents
33. Grandfather and mine.
34. I too was ambitious – very ambitious, but very un-
35. disciplined. In spite of everyone’s effort to correct that con-
36. dition. I had a genius for evading, postponing or shirking
37. those things which I did not like to do, but when thoroughly
38. interested, everything I had was thrown into the pursuit of
39. my objective. My will to succeed at special undertakings on
40. which my heart were set was very great. There was a persis-
41. tence, a patience, and a dogged obstinacy, that drove me on.
42. My Grandfather used to love to argue with me with the object
43. of convincing me of the impossibility of some venture or
44. another in order to enjoy watching me ’tilt at the windmill’
45. he had erected. One day he said to me – I have just been
46. reading that no one in the world but an Australian can make
47. and throw a boomerang. This spark struck tinder and every–
48. thing and every activity was instantly laid aside until it
49. could be demonstrated that he was mistaken. The woodbox was
50. not filled, no school work was done, nor could I hardly be
51. persuaded to eat or to go to bed. After a month or more of
52. this thing a boomerang was constructed which I threw around
53. the church steeple. On its return trip it went into trans-
54. ports of joy because it all but decapitated my Grandfather
55. who stood near me.
56. I presently left the country school and fared forth
57. into the great world I had read about in books. My first
58. journey took me only five miles to an adjoining town where I
59. commenced to attend a seminary well known in our section of
60. the state. Here competition was much more severe and I was
61. challenged on all sides to do the seemingly impossible. There
62. was the matter of athletics and I was soon burning with the
63. ambition to become a great baseball player. This was pretty
64. discouraging to begin with, as I was tall for my age, quite
65. awkward, and not very fast on my feed, but I literally worked
66. at it while others slept or otherwise amused themselves and
67. in my second year became captain of the team, whereupon my
68. interest began to languish, for by that time someone had told
69. me I had no ear for music, which I have since discovered is
70. almost true. Despite obstacles I managed to appear in a few
71. song recitals whereupon my interest in singing disappeared
72. and I got terribly serious about learning to play the violin.
73. This grew into a real obsession and to the consternation of
74. my teachers, grew in the last year and everyone else it be-
75. came the immediate cause of my failing to graduate. This was
76. my first great catastrophe. By this time I had become Presi-
77. dent of the class which only made matters worse. As in every
78. thing else I had even very good in certain courses of study
79. which took my fancy, and with others just the opposite,
80. indolence and indifference, being the rule, So it was that
81. the legend of infallibility I had built up around myself
83. In the ensuing summer I was obliged for the first
84. time to really address myself to the distasteful task of re-
85. pairing my failure. Although my diploma was now in hand, it
86. was by no means clear to my grandparents and parents what
87. they had better next try to do with me. Because of my interest
88. in scientific matters and the liking I had to fussing with
89. gadgets and chemicals, it had been assumed that I was to be
90. an engineer, and my own learnings were towards the electrical
91. branch of the profession. So I went to Boston and took the
92. entrance examination to one of the leading technical schools
93. in this country. For obvious reasons I failed utterly. It
94. was a rather heartbreaking matter for those interested in me
95. and it gave my self-sufficiency another severe deflation.
96. Finally an entrance was effected at an excellent
97. military college where it was hoped I would really be disci-
98. plined. I attended the University for almost three years
99. and would have certainly failed to graduate or come anywhere
100. near qualifying as an engineer, because of my laziness and
101. weakness mathematics. Particularly Calculus, in this
102. subject a great number of formulas have to be learned and
103. the application practiced. I remembered that I absolutely
104. refused to learn any of them or do any of the work whatever
105. until the general principles underlying the subject had
106. been made clear to me. The instructor was very patient,
107. but finally through up his hands in disgust as I began to
108. argue with him and to hint pretty strongly that perhaps he
109. didn’t quite understand them himself. So I commenced an in-
110. vestigation of the principles underlying Calculus in the
111. school library and learned something of the conceptions of
112. the great minds of Leibneitz and Newton whose genius had
113. made possible this useful and novel mathematical device.
114. Thus armed I mastered the first problem in the textbook and
115. commenced a fresh controversy with my teacher, who angrily,
116. but quite properly, gave me a zero for the course. Fortunate-
117. ly for my future at the University, I soon enabled to
118. leave the place gracefully, even heroically, for the
119. United States of America had gone to war.
120. Being students of a military academy school
121. the student boy almost to a man bolted for the first
122. officers training camp at Plattsburgh. Though a bit under
123. age, I received a commission a second lieutenant and got
124. myself assigned to the heavy artillery. Of this I was
125. secretly ashamed, for when the excitement of the day had
126. subsided and I lay in my bunk, I had to confess I did not
127. want to be killed. This bothered me terribly this suspicion
128. that I might be coward after all. I could not reconcile
129. it with the truly exalted mood of patriotism and idealism
130. which possessed me when I hadn’t time t o think. It was
131. very very damaging to my pride, though most of this damage
132. was repaired later on when I got under fire and discovered
133. I was just like other people, scared to death, but willing
134. to face the music.
135. After graduating from an army artillery school,
136. I was sent to a post which was situated near a famous old
137. town on the New England coast ones famous for its deepxsea
138. whaling, trading and Yankee seagoing tradition. Here I made
139. two decisions. The first one, and the best, to marry. Th
140. second decision was most emphatically the worst I ever mad took up with
took up with
141. I made the acquaintance of John Barleycorn and decided that
142. I liked it him.
143. My wife to be
144. Here I set out upon two paths and little did I realize
145. how much they were diverge. In short I got married
146. and at about the same time, took my first drink and decided
147. that I liked it. But for undying loyalty of my wife
148. and her faith through the years, I should not be alive today.
149. She was a city bred person and represented a background and
150. way of life for which I had secretly longed. Her family
151. spent long summers in our little town. All of them were
152. highly regarded by the natives. This was most complimentary
153. for among the countrymen there existed strong and often un-
154. reasonable prejudices against city folks. For the most
155. part, I felt differently. Most city people I knew had money,
156. assurance, and what then seemed to me great sophistication.
157. and Most of them had family trees. There were servants,
158. fine houses, gay dinners, and all of the other things with
159. which I was wont to associate power and distinction. All
160. of them, quite unconsciously I am sure, could make me feel
161. very inadequate and ill at ease. I began to feel woefully
162. lacking in the matter of poise and polish and worldly know-
163. ledge. Though very proud of the traditions of my own people,
164. I sometimes indulged in the envious wish that I had been
165. born under other circumstances and with some of these advan-
166. tages. Since then immemorial I suppose the country boyshav
167. thought and felt as I did have thought and felt as I did.
168. These feelings of inferiority are I suspect responsible for
169. the enormous determination many of them have felt to go out
170. to the cities in quest of what seemed to them like true
171. success. Though seldom revealed, these were the sentiments
172. that drove me on from this point.
173. The war fever ran high in the city near my
174. post and I soon discovered that young officers were in
175. great demand at the dinner tables of the first citizens of
176. the place. Social differences were layed aside and every-
177. thing was done to make us feel comfortable, happy, and heroic.
178. A great many things conspired to make me feel that I was im-
179. portant. I discovered that I had a somewhat unusual power
180. over men on the drill field and in the barracks. I was about
181. to fight to save the world for democracy. People whose
182. station In life I had envied were receiving me as an equal.
183. My marriage with a girl who represented all of the best
184. things the city had to offer, was close at hand, and last,
185. but not least, I had discovered John Barleycorn, Love, ad-
186. venture, war, applause of the crowd, moments sublime and
187. hilarious with intervals hilarious – I was a part of life
188. at last, and very happy.
189. The warnings of my people, the contempt
190. which I had felt for those who drank, were put aside with
191. surprising alacrity as I discovered what the Bronx cocktail
192. could really do for a fellow. My imagination soared – my
193. tongue loosened at last – wonderful vistas opened on all
194. sides, but best of all my self consciousness – my gaucheries
195. and my ineptitudes disappeared into thin air. I seemed to
196. the life of the party. To the dismay of my bride I used to
197. get pretty drunk when I tried to compete with more ex-
198. perienced drinkers, but I argued, what did it matter, for
199. so did everyone else at sometime before daylight. Then
200. came the day of parting, of a fond leave taking of my brave
201. wife. Amid that strange atmosphere which was the mixture
202. of sadness, high purpose, the feeling of elation that pre-
203. cedes an adventure of the first magnitude. Thus many of us
204. sailed for ‘over there’ and none of us knew if we should re-
205. turn. For a time, loneliness possessed me, but my new
206. friend Barleycorn always took care of that. I had, I thought
207. discovered a missing link in the chain of things that make
208. life worth while.
209. Then w were in dear old England, soon to cross
210. the channel to the great unknown. I stood in Winchester
211. Cathedral the day before crossing hand in hand with head
212. bowed, for something had touched me then I had never felt
213. before. I had been wondering, in a rare moment of sober
214. reflection, what sense there could be to killing and
215. carnage of which I was soon to become an enthusiastic part.
216. Where could the Deity be – could there be such a thing –
217. Where now was the God of the preachers, the thought of which
218. used to make me so uncomfortable when they talked about him.
219. Here I stood on the abyss edge of the abyss into which
220. thousands were falling that very day. A feeling of despair
221. settled down on me – where was He – why did he not come-
222. and suddenly in that moment of darkness, He was there. I
223. felt an all enveloping, comforting , powerful presence.
224. Tears stood in my eyes, and as I looked about, I saw on the
225. faces of others nearby, that they too had glimpsed the great
226. reality. Much moved, I walked out into the Cathedral yard,
227. where I read the following inscription on a tombstone. ‘Here
228. lies a Hampshire Grenadier, Who caught his death drinking
229. small good beer – A good soldier is ne’er forgot, whether
230. he dieth by musket or by pot.’ The squadron of bombers
231. swept overhead in the bright sunlight, and I cried to myself
232. ‘Here’s to adventure’ and the feeling of being in the great
233. presence disappeared, never to return for many years.
235. I was twenty two, and a grisled veteran of foreign wars.
236. I felt a tremendous assurance about my future, for was not
237. I the only officer of my regiment save one, who had re-
238. ceived a token of appreciation from the men. This quality
239. of leadership, I fancied, would soon place me at the head
240. of some great commercial organization which I would manage
241. with the same constant skill that the pipe organist does
242. his stops and keys.
243. The triumphant home coming was short lived. The
244. best that could be done was to secure a bookkeeping job in
245. the insurance department of the one of the large railroads.
246. I proved to be a wretched and rebellious bookkeeper and could
247. not stand criticism, nor was I much reconciled to my salary,
248. which was only half the pay I had received in the army. When
249. I started to work the railroads were under control of the
250. government. As soon as they were returned my road was re-
- turned to its stockholders, I was promptly let out because I
- could not compete with the other clerks in my office. I was
- so angry and humiliated at this reverse that I nearly became
a socialist to register my defiance of the powers that be,
255. which was going pretty far for a Vermonter.
256. To my mortification, my wife went out and got a
257. position which brought in much more than mine had. Being ab-
258. surdly sensitive, I imagined that her relatives an my newly
259. made city acquaintances were snickering a bit at my predica-
261. Unwillingly, I had to admit, that I was not
262. really trained to hold even a mediocre position. Though
263. I said little, the old driving, obstinate determination to
264. show my mettle asserted itself. Somehow, I would show these
265. scoffers. To complete my engineering seemed out of the ques-
266. tion, partly because/my distaste for mathematics, My only
267. other assets were my war experiences and a huge amount of
268. ill-assorted reading. The study of law suggested itself, and
269. I commenced a three year night course with enthusiasm. Mean-
270. while, employment showed up and I became a criminal investi-
271. gator for a Surety Company, earning almost as much money as
272. my wife, who spiritedly backed the new undertaking. My day-
273. time employment took me about Wall Street and little by
274. little, I became interested in what I saw going on there.
275. I began to wonder why a few seemed to be rich and famous
276. while the rank and file apparently lost money. I began to
277. study economics and business.
278. Somewhat to the dismay of our friends, we moved
279. to very modest quarters where we could save money. When we
280. had accumulated $1,000.00, most of it was placed in utility
281. stocks, which were then cheap and unpopular. In a small way,
282. I began to be successful in speculation. I was intrigued by
283. the romance of business, industrial and financial leaders be-
284. came my heroes. I read every scrap of financial history I
285. could lay hold of. Here I thought was the road to power.
286. Like the boomerang, episode, I could think of nothing else.
287. How little did I see that I was fashioning a weapon that
288. would one day return and cut me to ribbons.
289. As so many of my heroes commenced as lawyers,
290. I persisted in the course, thinking it would prove useful.
291. I also read many success books and did a lot of things that
292. Horatio Algers’s boy heroes were supposed to have done.
293. Characteristically enough I nearly failed my
294. law course as I appeared at one of the final examinations
295. too drunk to think or write. My drinking had not become
296. continuous at this time, though occasional embarrassing in-
297. cidents might have suggested that it was getting real hold.
298. Neither my wife or I had much time for social engagements
299. and in any event we soon became unpopular as I always got
300. tight and boasted disagreeably of my plans and my future.
301. She was becoming very much concerned and fre-
302. quently we had long talks about the matter. I waived her ob-
303. jections aside by pointing out that red blooded men almost
304. always drank and that men of genius frequently conceived
305. their vast projects while pleasantly intoxicated, adding for
306. good measure, that the best and most majestic constructions of
307. philosophical thought were probably so derived.
308. By the time my law studies were finished,
309. I was quite sure I did not want to become a lawyer. I know
310. that somehow I was going to be a part of that then alluring
311. maelstrom which people call Wall Street. How to get into
312. business there was the question. When I proposed going out
313. on the road to investigate properties, my broker friends
314. laughed at me. They did not need such a service and pointed
315. out that I had no experience. I reasoned that I was partly qualified
316. /as an engineer and as a lawyer, and that practically speaking
317. I had acquired very valuable experience as a criminal investi-
318. gator. I felt certain that these assets could not be capita-
319. lized. I was sure that people lost money in securities be-
320. cause they did not know enough about managements, properties,
321. markets, and ideas at work in a given situation.
322. Since no one would hire me and remembering that
323. we now had a few thousand dollars, my wife and I conceived
324. the hare-brained scheme of going out and doing some of this
325. work at our own expense, so we each gave up our employment
326. and set off in a motorcycle and side car, which was loaded
327. down with a tent, blankets, change of clothes and three
328. huge volumes of a well known financial reference service.
329. Some of our friends thought a lunacy commission should be ap-
330. pointed and I sometimes think they were right. Our first ex-
331. ploit was fantastic. Among other things, we owned two shares
332. of General Electric, then selling at about $300.00 a share.
333. Everyone thought it was too high, but I stoutly maintained
334. that it would someday sell for five or ten times that figure.
335. So what could be more logical than to proceed to the main of-
336. fice of the company in New York and investigate it. Naive
337. wasn’t it? The plan was to interview ohe officials and get
338. employment there if possible. We drew seventy five dollars
339. from our savings as working capital, vowing never to draw
340. another cent. We arrived at Schenectady, I did talk with
341. some of the people of the to company and became wildly en-
342. thusiastic over GE. My attention was drawn to the radio end
343. of the business and by a strange piece of luck, I learned
344. much of what the company thought about its future. I was
345. then able to put a fairly intelligent projection of the
346. coming radio boom on paper, which I sent to one of my brokers
347. in town. To replenish our working capital, my wife and I
348. worked on a farm nearby for two months, she in the kitchen,
349. and I in the haystack. It was the last honest manual work
350. that I did for many years.
351. The cement industry then caught my fancy and we
352. soon found ourselves looking at a property in the Lehigh
353. district of Eastern Pennsylvania. An unusual speculative
354. situation existed which I went to New York and described to
355. one of my broker friend . This time I drew blood in the
356. shape of an option on hundred shares of stock which
357. promptly commenced to soar. Securing a few hundred dollars
358. advance on this deal, we were freed of the necessity of work,
359. and during the coming year following year, we travelled all
360. over the southeast part of the United States, taking in power
361. projects, an aluminum plant, the Florida boom, the Birmingham
362. steel district, Muscle Shoals, and what not. By this time
363. my friends in New York thought it would pay them to really
364. hire me. At last I had a job in Wall Street. Moreover, I
365. had the use of twenty thousand dollars of their money.
366. For some years the fates tossed horseshoes and golden bricks
367. into my lap and I made much more money than was good for me.
368. It was too easy.
369. By this time drinking had gotten to be a very
370. important and exhilerating place in my life. What was a
371. few hundred dollars when you considered it in terms of ex-
372. citement and important talk in the gilded palaces of jazz up-
373. town. My natural conservativeness was swept away and I began
374. to play for heavy stakes. Another legend of infalability
375. commenced to grow up around me and I began to have what is
376. called in Wall Street a following which amounted to many
377. paper millions of dollars. I had arrived, so let the scoffers
378. scoff and be damned, but of course, they didn’t, and I made
379. a host of fair weather friends. I began to reach for more
380. power attempting to force myself onto the directorates of
381. corporations in which I controlled blocks of stock.
382. By this time, my drinking had assumed
383. serious proportions. The remonstrances of my associates ter-
384. minated in a bitter row, and I became a lone wolf. Though I
385. managed to avoid serious scrapes and partly out of loyalty,
386. extreme drunkenness, I had not become involved with the fair
387. sex, there were many unhappy scenes in my apartment, which
388. was a large one, as I had hired two, and had gotten the real
389. estate people to knock out the walls between them.
390. In the spring of 1929 caught the golf fever. This
391. illness was about the worst yet. I had thought golf was
392. pretty tepid sport, but I noticed some of my pretty
393. important friends thought it was a real game and it
394. presented an excuse for drinking by day as well as by
395. night. Moreover some one had casually said, they didn’t think
396. I would ver play a good game. This was a spark in a
397. powder magazine, so my wife and I were instantly off to the
398. country she to watch while I caught up with Walter Hagen.
399. Then too it was a fine chance to flaunt my money around
400. the old home town. And to carom lightly around the exclusive
401. course, whose select city membership had inspired so much
402. awe in me as a boy. So Wall Street was lightly tossed
403. aside while I acquired drank vast quantities of gin and
404. acquired the impeccable coat of tan, one sees on the faces
405. of the well to do. The local banker watched me with an
406. amused skepticism as I whirled good fat checks in and out
407. of his bank.
408. IN October 1929 the whirling movement in my bank
409. account ceased abruptly, and I commenced to whirl myself.
410. Then I felt like Stephen Leacock’s horseman, it seemed as rapidly
411. though I were galloping/in all directions at once, for the
412. great panic was on. First to Montreal, then to New York, to
413. rally my following in stocks sorely needing support. A few
414. bold spirits rushed into the breach, but it was of no use. I
415. shed my own wings as the moth who gets to near to the candle
416. flame. After one of those days of shrieking inferno on the
417. stock exchange floor with no information available, I lurched
418. drunkenly an the hotel bar to an adjoining brokerage office
419. there at about 8 o’clock in the evening I feverishly searched
420. a huge pile of ticker tape and tore of about an inch of it.
421. It bore the inscription P.F.K. 32.. The stock had opened at
422. 52 that morning. I had controlled over one hundred thousand
423. shares of it, and had a sizable block myself. I knew that I
424. was finished, and so were a lot of my friends.
425. I went back into the bar and after a few
426. drinks, my composure returned. People were beginning to jump
427. from every story of that great Tower of Babel. That was high
429. that I was not so weak. I realized that I had been care-
430. less, especially with other peoples money. I had not paid
431. attention to business and I deserved to be hurt. After a few
432. some more whiskey, my confidence returned again, and with it
433. an almost terrifying determination to somehow capitalize this
434. mess and pay everybody off. I reflected that it was just
435. another worthwhile lesson and that there were a lot of
436. reasons why people lost money in Wall Street that I had not
437. thought of before.
438. My wife took it all like the great person she is.
439. I think she rather welcomed it the situation thinking it
440. might bring me to my senses. Next morning, I woke early,
441. shaking badly from excitement and a terrific hangover. A
442. half bottle of Gin quickly took care of that momentary weak-
443. ness and I soon as business places were open I called a
444. friend in Montreal and said -“Well Dick, they have nailed my
445. hide to the barn door” – said he “The hell they have, come
446. on up”. That is all he said and up W went.
447. I shall never forget the kindness and generosity
448. of this friend. Moreover I must still have carried one
449. horseshoe with me, for by the spring of 1930, we were living
450. in our accustomed style and I had a very comfortable credit
451. balance on the very security in which I had taken the
452. heaviest licking, with plenty of champaigne and sound
453. canadian whiskey, I began to feel like Napolean returning
454. Melba. Infallible again. No St Helena for me. Accustomed
455. as they were to the ravages of fire water in Canada in those
456. days, I soon began to outdistance most of my countrymen both
457. as a serious and a frivolous drinker.
458. Then the depression bore down in earnest. and
459.I, having become worse than useless, had to be reluctantly
459. Though I had become manager of one of the departments of my
460. friend’s business, my drinking and nonchalant cocksureness,
461. had rendered me worse than useless, so he reluctantly let me
462. go. We were stony broke again, and even our furniture
463. looked like it was gone, for I could not even pay next months
464. rent on our swank apartment.
465. We wonder to this day how we ever got out of
466. Montreal. But we did, and then I had to eat humble pie. We
467. went to live with my Father and Mother-in-law where we
468. happily found never failing help and sympathy. I got a
469. job at what seemed to be a mere pittance of one hundred
470. dollars a week, but a brawl with a taxi driver , who got
471. very badly hurt, put an end to that . Mercifully, no one
472. knew it, but I was not to have steady employment for five
473. years, nor was I to draw a sober breath if I could help it.
474. Great was my humiliation when my poor wife was
475. obliged to go to work in a department store, coming home ex-
476. hausted night after night to find me drunk again. I became
477. a hanger-on at brokerage shops, but was less and less wel-
478. come as my drinking increased. Even then opportunities to
479. make money pursued me, but I passed up the best of them by
480. getting drunk at exactly the wrong time. Liquor had ceased
481. to be a luxury; It had become a necessity. What few
482. dollars I did make were devoted to keeping my credit good at
483. the bars. To keep out of the hands of the police and for
484. reasons of economy, I began to buy bathtub gin, usually two
485. bottles a day, and sometimes three if I did a real workman-
486. like job. This went on endlessly and I presently began to
487. awake real early in the morning shaking violently. Nothing
488. would seem to stop it but a water tumbler full of raw liquor.
489. If I could steal out of the house and get five or six
490. glasses of beer, I could sometimes eat a little breakfast.
491. Curiously enough I still thought I could control the situation
492. and there were periods of sobriety which would revive a flag-
493. ging hope of my wife and her parents. But as time wore on
494. matters got worse. My mother-inlaw died and my wife’s health
495. became poor, as did that of my Father-in-law. The house in
496. which we lived was taken over by the mortgage holder. Still
497. I persisted and still I fancied that fortune would again shine
498. upon me. As late 1932 I engaged the confidence of a man
499. who had friends with money. In the spring and summer of that
500. year we raised one hundred thousand dollars to buy securities
501. at what proved to be an all time low point in the New York
502. stock exchange. I was to participate generously in the
503. profits, and sensed that a great opportunity was at hand. So
505. prodigious bender a few days before the deal was to be
507. In a measure this did bring me to senses.
508. Many times before I had promised my wife that I had stopped
509. forever. I had written her sweet notes and had inscribed
510. the fly leaves of all the bibles in the house with to that
511. effect. Not that the bible meant so much, but after all
512. it was the book you put your hand on when you were sworn in
513. at court. I now see, however, that I had no sustained de-
514. sire to stop drinking until this last debacle. It was only
515. then that I realized it must stop and forever. I had come
516. to fully appreciate that once the first drink was taken,
517. there was no control Why then take this one? That was it-
518. never was alcohol to cross my lips again in any form. There
519. was, I thought, absolute finality in this decision. I had
520. been very wrong, I was utterly miserable and almost ruined.
521. This decision brought a great sense of relief, for I knew
522. that I really wanted to stop. It would not be easy, I was
523. sure of that, for I had begun to sense the power and cunning
524. of my master – John Barleycorn. The old fierce determination
525. to win out settled down on me – nothing, I still thought,
526. could overcome that aroused as it was. Again I dreamed
527. of my wife smiling happily, as I went out to slay the dragon.
528. I would resume my place in the business world and recapture
529. the lost regard of my fiends and associates. It would take
530. a long time, but I could be patient. The picture of myself
531. as a reformed drunkard rising to fresh heights of achive-
532. ment, quite carried me away with happy enthusiasm. My wife
533. caught the spirit for she saw at last that I really meant
535. But in a short while I came in drunk. I could
536. give no real explanation for it. The thought of my new re-
537. solve had scarcely occurred to me as I began. There had
538. been no fight – someone had offered me a drink, and I had
539. taken it, casually, remarking to myself that one or two
540. would not harm a man of my capacity. What had become of my
541. giant determination? How about all of that self searching I
542. had done? Why had not the thought of my past failures and
543. my new ambitions come into my mind? What of the intense de-
544. sire to make my wife happy? Why hadn’t these things – these
545. powerful incentives arisen in my mind to stay my hand as I
546. reached out to take that first drink? Was I crazy? I hated
547. to think so, but I had to admit that a condition of mind re-
548. sulting in such an appalling lack of perspective came pretty
549. near to being just that.
550. Then things were better for a time. I was
551. constantly on guard. After two or three weeks of sobriety
552. I began to think I was alright. Presently this quiet con-
553. fidence was replaced by cocksureness. I would walk past my
554. old haunts with a feeling of elation – I now fully realized
555. the danger that lurked there. The tide had turned at last –
556. and now I was really through. One afternoon on my way home
557. I walked into a bar room to make a telephone call, suddenly
558. I turned to the bartender and said “Four Irish whiskies –
559. water on the side” – As he poured them out with a surprised
560. look, I can only remember thinking to myself – “I shouldn’t
561. be doing this, but here’s how to the last time”. As I
562. gulped down the fourth one, I beat on the bar with my fist
563. and said, “for God’s sake, why have I done this again?” Where
564. had been my realization of only this morning as I had
565. passed this very place, that I was never going to drink again
566. I could give no answer, mortification and the feeling of
567. utter defeat swept over me. The thought that perhaps I
568. could never stop crushed me. Then as the cheering warmth
569. of these first drinks spread over me, I said – “Next time
570. I shall manage better, but while I am about it, I may as
571. well get good and drunk”. And I did exactly that.
572. I shall never forget the remorse, the horror
573. the utter hopelessness of the next morning. The courage to
574. rise and do battle was simply not there . Before daylight
575. I had stolen out of the house, my brain raced uncontrollably.
576. There was a terrible feeling of impending calamity.
577. feared even to cross a street, less I collapse and be run
578. over by an early morning truck. Was there no bar open? Ah,
579. yes, there was the all night place which sold beer – though
580. it was before the legal opening hour, I persuaded the man be-
581. hind the food counter that I must have a drink or perhaps die
582. on the spot. Cold as the morning was, I must have drunk
583. a dozen bottles of ale in rapid succession. My writhing
584. nerves were stilled at last and I walked to the next corner
585. and bought a paper. It told me that the stock market had
586. gone to hell again – “What difference did it make anyway,
587. the market would get better, it always did, but I’m in hell
588. to stay – no more rising markets for me. Down for the count-
589. what a blow to one so proud. I might kill myself, but no –
590. not now,” These were some of my thoughts – then I felt
591. dazed – I groped in a mental fog – mere liquor would fix
592. that – then two more bottles of cheap gin. Oblivion.
593. The human mind and body is a marvelous
594. mechanism, for mine withstood this sort of thing for yet
595. another two years. There was little money, but I could al-
596. ways drink. Sometimes I stole from my wife’s slender purse
597. when the early morning terror of madness was upon me. There
598. were terrible scenes and though not often violent, I would
599. sometimes do such things as to throw a sewing machine, or
600. kick the panels out of every door in the house. There were
601. moments when I swayed weakly before an open window or the
602. medicine chest in which there was poison – and cursed my-
603. self for a weakling. There were flights from the city to
604. the country when my wife could bear with me no longer at
605. home Sometimes there would be several weeks and hope would
606. return, especially for her, as I had not let her know how
607. defeated I really was, but there was always the return to
608. conditions still worse. Then came a night I when the physi-
609. cal and mental torture was so hellish that I feared I would
610. take a flying leap through my bedroom window sash and all
611. and somehow managed to drag my mattress down to the kitchen
612. floor which was at the ground level. I had stopped drinking
613. a few hours before and hung grimly to my determination that
614. I could have no more that night if it killed me. That very
615. nearly happened, but I was finally rescued by a doctor who
616. prescribed chloral hydrate, a powerful sedative. This reliev-
617. ed me so much that next day found me drinking apparently
618. without the usual penalty, if I took some sedative occasion-
619. ally. In the early spring of 1934 it became evident to
620. everyone concerned that something had to be done and
621. that very quickly. I was thirty pounds underweight, as I
622. could eat nothing when drinking, which was most of the
623. time. People had begun to fear for my sanity and I fre-
624. quently had the feeling myself that I was becoming deranged.
625. With the help of my brother-in-law, who is a
626. physician I was placed in a well known institution for the
627. bodily and mental rehabilitation of alcoholics. It was
628. thought that if I were thoroughly cleared of alcohol and
629. the brain irritation which accompanies it were reduced, I
630. might have a chance. I went to the place desperatly hoping
631. and expecting to be cured. The so-called bella donna
632. treatment given in that place helped a great deal. My mind
633. cleared and my appetite returned. Alternate periods of
634. hydro-therapy, mild exercise and relaxation did wonders for
635. me. Best of all I found a great friend in the doctor who
636. was head of the staff. He went far beyond his routine duty
637. and I shall always be grateful for those long talks in which
638. explained that when I drank I became physically ill and that
639. this bodily condition was usually accompanied by a mental
640. state such that the defense one should have against alcohol
641. became greatly weakened, though in no way mitigating my
642. early foolishness and selfishness about drink, I was greatly
643. relieved to discover that I had really been ill perhaps for
644. several years. Moreover I felt that the understanding and
645. fine physical start I was getting would assure my recovery,
646. Though some of the inmates of the place who had been there
647. many times seemed to smile at that idea. I noticed however
648. that most of them had no intention of quitting; they merely
649. came there to get reconditioned so that they could start in
650. again. I, on the contrary, desperately wanted to stop and
651. strange to say I still felt that I was a person of much more
652. determination and substance than they, so I left there in
653. high hope and for three or four months the goose hung high.
654. In a small way I began to make some progress in business.
655. Then came the terrible day when I drank again
656. and could not explain why I started. The curve of my de-
657. clining moral and bodily health fell of like a ski jump.
658. After a hectic period of drinking, I found myself again in
[archivist’s note: the typewritten manuscript text continues correctly with
page 23, but line numbers 659 – 679 remain unknown ]
680. Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I
681. would have to be confined somewhere ore else stumble
682. along to a miserable end, but there was soon to be
683. proof that indeed it is often darkest before dawn,
684. for this proved to be my last drinking bout, and I am
685. supremely confident that my present happy state is to be
686. for all time.
687. Late one afternoon near the end of that
688. month of November I sat alone in the kitchen of my home.
689. As usual, I was half drunk and enough so that the keen
690. edge of my remorse was blunted. With a certain satis-
691. faction I was thinking that there was enough gin se-
692. creted about the house to keep me fairly comfortable
693. that night and the next day. My wife was at work and I
694. resolved not to be in too bad shape when she got home.
695. My mind reverted to the hidden bottles and at I carefully
696. considered where each one was hidden. These things must
697. be firmly in my mind to escape the early morning tragedy
698. of not being able to find at least a water tumbler full
699. of liquor. Just as I was trying to decide whether to risk
700. concealing one of the full ones within easy reach of my
701. side of the bed, the phone rang.
702. At the other end of the line Over the
703. wire came the voice of an old school friend and drinking
704. companion of boom times. By the time we had exchanged
705. greetings, I sensed that he was sober. This seemed
706. strange, for it was years since anyone could remember his
707. coming to New York in that condition. I had come to think
708. of him as another hopeless devotee of Bacchus. Current
709. rumor had it that he had been committed to a state institu-
710. tion for alcoholic insanity. I wondered if perhaps he had
711. not just escaped. Of course he would come over right away
712. and take dinner with us. A fine idea that, for I then
713. would have an excuse to drink openly with him. Yes, we
714. would try to recapture the spirit of other days and per-
715. haps my wife could be persuaded to join in, which in self
716. defense she sometimes would. I did not even think of the
717. harm I might do him. There was to be a pleasant, and I
718. hoped an exciting interlude in what had become a
719. dreary waste of loneliness. Another drink stirred my
720. fancy; this would be an oasis in the dreary waste. That
721. was it – an oasis. Drinkers are like that.
722. The door opened and there he stood, very
723. erect and glowing. His deep voice boomed out cheerily –
724. the cast of his features – his eyes – the freshness of
725. his complexion – this was my friend of schooldays. There
726. was a subtle something or other instantly apparent even to
727. my befuddled perception. Yes – there was certainly some-
728. thing more – he was inexplicably different – what had
729. happened to him?
730. We sat at the table and I pushed a
731. lusty glass of gin flavored with pineapple juice in his
732. direction. I thought if my wife came in, she would be re-
733. lieved to find that we were not taking it straight –
734. “Not now”, he said. I was a little crest
735. fallen at this, though I was glad to know that someone
736. could refuse a drink at that moment – I knew I couldn’t.
737. “On the wagon?” – I asked. He shook his head and looked
738. at me with an impish grin .
739. “Aren’t you going to have anything?”-
740. I ventured presently.
741. “Just as much obliged, but not tonight”
742. I was disappointed, but curious. What had got into the
743. fellow – he wasn’t himself.
744. “No, he’s not himself – he’s somebody
745. else – not just that either – he was his old self, plus
746. something more, and maybe minus something”. I couldn’t put
747. my finger on it – his whole bearing almost shouted that
748. something of great import had taken place.
749. “Come now, what’s this all about”, I
750. asked. Smilingly, yet seriously, he looked straight at me
751. and said “I’ve got religion”.
752. So that was it. Last summer an alco
753. alcoholic crackpot – this fall, washed in the blood of the
754. Lamb. heavens, that might be even worse. I was thunder-
755. struck, and he, of all people. What on earth could one
756. say to the poor fellow.
757. So I finally blurted out “That’s
758. fine”, and sat back waiting for a sizzling blast on sal-
759. vation and the relation of the Cross, the Holy Ghost, and
760. the Devil thereto. Yes, he did have that starry edy
761. eyed look, the old boy was on fire all right. Well, bless
762. his heart, let him rant . It was nice that he was sober
763. after all. I could stand it anyway, for there was plenty
764. of gin and I took a little comfort that tomorrow’s ration
765. wouldn’t have to be used up right then.
766. Old memories of Sunday School – the profit
767. temperance pledge, which I never signed – the sound of the
768. preacher’s voice which could be heard on still Sunday
769. mornings way over on the hillside beyond the railroad
770. tracks,- My grandfather’s quite scorn of things some
771. church people did to him – his fair minded attitude that
772. I should make up my mind about these things myself – his
773. convictions that the fears really had their mooxx music –
774. but his denial of the right of preachers to tell him how
775. he should listen – his perfect lack of fear when he men-
776. tioned these things just before his death – these memories
777. surged up out of my childhood as I listened to my friend.
778. My own gorge rose for a moment to an all time high as my
779. anti-preacher – anti-church folk sentiment welled up in-
780. side me. These feelings soon gave way to respectful at-
781. tention as my former drinking companion rattled on.
782. Without knowing it, I stood at the great turning point of
783. my life – I was on the threshold of a fourth dimension
784. of existence that I had doubtfully heard some people des
785. describe and others pretend to have.
786. He went on to lay before me a simple
787. proposal. It was so simple and so little
788. complicated with the theology and dogma
789. I had associated with religion that by
790. degrees I became astonished and delighted.
791. I was astonished because a thing so simple
792. could accomplish the profound result I now
793. beheld in the person of my friend. To say that
794. I was delighted is putting it mildly , for I
795. relized that I could go for his program also.
796. Like all but a few u human beings I had truele
797. believed in the existence of a power greater
798. than myself true athiests are really very scarce.
799. It always seemed to me more difficult and illogical
800. to be an athiest than to believe there is a
801. certain amount of law and order and purpose
802. underlying the universe. The faith of an athiest
803. in his convictions is far more blind then that
804. of the religionist for it leads inevitably to
805. the absurd conclusion that the vast and ever
806. changing cosmos originally grew out of a cipher,
807. and now has arrived at its present state thru
808. a series of haphazard accidents, one of which
809. is man himself. My liking for things scientific
810. had encouraged to look into such matters as
811. a theory of evolution the nature of matter itself
812. as seen thru the eyes of the great chemists
813. physicists and astronomers and I had pondered
814. much on the question of the meaning of life itself.
815. The chemist had shown me that material matter
816. is not all what it appears to be. His studies
817. point to the conclusion that the elements and there
818. meriad combinations are but in the last last
819. analysis nothing but different arrangements
820. of that universal something which they are pleased
821. to call the electron. The physicist and the
822. astronomer had shown me that our universe .
823. moves and evolves according to many precise
824. and well understood laws. They tell me to the
825. last second when the sun will be next eclipsed
826. at the place I am now standing, or the very day
827. several decades from now When Hallyes comet
828. will make its turn about the sun. Much to my
829. x interest I learned from these men that great
830. cosmic accidents occur bringing about conditions
831. which are not exceptions to the law so much
832. as they result in new and unexpected developments
833. which arise logically enough once the so called
834. accident has occurred. It is highly probable for
835. example-that our earth is the only planet in the
836. solar system upon which man could evolve – and it
837. is claimed by some astronomers that the chance
838. that similar planets exist elsewhere in the universe
839. is rather small. There would have to be a vast
840. number of coincidences to bring about the exact
841. conditions of light, warmth, food supply, etc.
842. to support life as we know it here. But I used to
843. ask myself why regard the earth as an accident
844. in a system which evidences in so many respects the
845. greatest law and order’ If If all of this law
846. existed then could there be so much law and no
847. intelligence? And if there was an intelligence
848. great enough to materialize and keep a universe in
849. order it must necessarily have the power to create
850. accidents and make exceptions.
851. The evolutionist brought great logic to bear
852. on the proposition that life on this planet began
853. with the lowly omebia , which was a simple cell
854. residing in the oceans of Eons past. Thru countless
855. & strange combinations of logic and accident man
856. and all other kinds of life evolved but man possessed
857. a consciousness of self, a power to reason and to
858. choose , and a small still voice which told him the
859. difference between right and wrong and man became
860. increasingly able to fashion with his hands and
861. with his tools the creations of his own brain .
862. He could give direction and purpose to natural laws
863. and so he, created new things for himself and of
864. [line number skipped in the typewritten manuscript]
865. and do he apparently created new things for himself an
866. [line number skipped in the typewritten manuscript]
867. out of a tissue composed of his past experience
868. and his new ideas. Therefore man tho’ resembling
869. other forms of life in many ways seems to me
870. very different. It was obvious that in a limited
871. fashion he could play at being a God himself .
872. Such was the picture I had of myself and the
873. world in which I lived, that there was a mighty
874. rhythm, intelligence and purpose behind it all
875. despite inconsistencies. I had rather strongly
877. But this was as far as I had ever got toward
878. the realization of God and my personal relationship
879. to Him. My thoughts of God were academic and
880. speculative when I had them, which for some years
881. past had not been often. That God was an intelligence
882. power and love upon which I could absolutely rely
883. as an individual had not seriously occurred to me.
884. Of course I knew in a general way what theologians
885. claimed but I could not see that religious persons
886. as a class demonstrated any more power, love and
887. intelligence than those who claimed no special
888. dispensation from God tho’ I grant de that
889. christianity ought to be a wonderful influence
890. I was annoyed, irked and confused by the attitudes
891. they took, the beliefs they held and the things
892. they had done in the name of Christ,. People like
893. myself had been burned and whole population put
894. to fire and sword on the pretext they did not
895. believe as christians did. History taught that
896. christians were not the only offenders in this
897. respect. It seemed to me that on the whole
898. it made little difference whether you were
899. Mohamadem, Catholic, Jew, Protesant or Hotentot.
900. You were supposed to look askance at the other
901. fellows approach to God. Nobody could be saved
902. unless they fell in with your ideas. I had a
903. great admiration for Christ as a man, He practiced
904. what he preached and set a marvelous example.
905. It was not hard to agree in Principle with
906. His moral teachings bit like most people, I preferred
907. to live up to some moral standard but not to others.
908. At any rate I thought I understood as well as any
909. one what good morals were and with the exceptions
910. of my drinking I felt superior to most christians
911. I knew. I might be week in some respects but at
912. least I was not hypocritical, So my interest in
913. christianity other than its teaching of moral
914. principles and the good I hoped it did on
915. balance was slight.
916. Sometimes I wished that I had been religiously
917. trained from early childhood that I might have the
918. comfortable assurance about so many things I found
919. it impossible to have any definite convictions
920. upon. The question of the hereafter, the many
921. theological abstractions and seeming contradictions
922. – these things were puzzling and finally annoying
923. for religious people told me I must believe
924. a great many seemingly impossible things to be one
925. [line number skipped]
926. of them. This insistence on their part plus a
927. powerful desire to possess the things of this life
928. while there was yet time had crowded the idea of
929. the personal God more and more out of my mind as the
930. years went by. Neither were my convictions strengthen
931. by my own misfortunes. The great war and its
932. aftermath seemed to more certainly demonstrate the
933. omnipotence of the devil than the loving care of
934. an all powerful God
935. Nevertheless here I was sitting opposite a
936. man who talked about a personal God who told me
937. how hw had found Him, who described to me how I
938. might do the same thing and who convinced me
939. utterly that something had come into his life
940. which had accomplished a miracle. The man was
941. transformed; there was no denying he had been re-
942. born. He was radiant of something which soothed
943. my troubled spirit as tho the fresh clean wind of
944. mountain top blowing thru and thru me I saw and
945. felt and in a great surge of joy I realized
946. that the great presence which had made itself felt
947. to me that war time day in Winchester Cathedral
948. had again returned.
949. As he continued I commenced to see myself as in
950. as in an unearthly mirror. I saw how ridiculous and
951. futile the whole basis of my life had been. Standing in
952. the middle of the stage of my lifes setting I had been
953. feverishly trying to arrange ideas and things and people
954. and even God, to my own liking, to my own ends and to
955. promote what I had thought to be true happiness. It was
956. truly a sudden and breath taking illumination. Then the
957. idea came – ” The tragic thing about you is, that you
958. have been playing God.” That was it. Playing God. Then
959. the humor of the situation burst upon me, here was I a
960. tiny grain of sand of the infinite shores of Gods great
961. universe and the little grain of sand, had been trying
962. to play God. He really thought he could arrange all of
963. the other little grains about him just to suit himself.
964. And when his little hour was run out, people would
965. weep and say in awed tones-‘ How wonderful’.
966. So then came the question – If I were no
967. longer to be God than was I to find and perfect
968. the new relationship with my creator – with the Father
969. of Lights who presides over all ? My friend laid down
970. to me the terms and conditions which were simple but
971. not easy, drastic yet broad and acceptable to honest
972. men everywhere, of whatever faith or lack thereof. He did not
973. tell me that these were the only terms – he merely said that
974. they were terms that had worked in his case. They were spiritual
975. principles and rules of practice he thought common to all of the
976. worthwhile religions and philosophies of mankind. He regarded them
977. as stepping stones to a better understanding of our relation to the
978. spirit of the universe and as a practical set of directions setting
979. forth how the spirit could work in and through us that we might
980. become spearheads and more effective agents for the promotion
981. of Gods Will for our lives and for our fellows. The great thing
982. about it all was its simplicity and scope, no really religious
983. persons belief would be interfered with no matter what his training ,
984. For the man on the street who just wondered about such things, it ws
985. Was a providential approach, for with a small beginning of faith
986. and a very large dose of action along spiritual lines he could be
987. sure to demonstrate the Power and Love of God as a practical
988. workable twenty four hour a day design for living.
989. This is what my friend suggested I do. One: Turn my face
990. to God as I understand Him and say to Him with earnestness – complete
991. honesty and abandon- that I henceforth place my life at His
992. disposal and direction forever. TWO: that I do this in the presence
993. of another person, who should be one in whom I have confidence and if
994. I be a member of a religious organization, then with an appropriate
995. member of that body. TWO: Having taken this first step, I should
996. next prepare myself for Gods Company by taking a thorough and ruth-
997. less inventory of my moral defects and derelictions. This I should
998. do without any reference to other people and their real or fancied
999. part in my shortcomings should be rigorously excluded-” Where have I
1000. failed-is the prime question. I was to go over my life from the
- beginning and ascertain in the light of my own present understanding
1002. where I had failed as a completely moral person. Above all things in
1003. making this appraisal I must be entirely honest with myself. As an
1004. aid to thoroughness and as something to look at when I got through
1005. I might use pencil and paper. First take the question of honesty.
1006. Where, how and with whom had I ever been dishonest? With respect to
1007. anything. What attitudes and actions did I still have which were not
1008. completely honest with God with myself or with the other fellow. I ws
1009. was warned that no one can say that he is a completely honest
1010. person. That would be superhuman and people aren’t that way.
1011. Nor should I be misled by the thought of how honest I am in
1012. some particulars. I was too ruthlessly tear out of the past all
1013. of my dishonesty and list them in writing. Next I was to explore
1014. another area somewhat related to the first and commonly a very
1015. defective one in most people. I was to examine my sex conduct
1016. since infancy and rigorously compare it with what I thought that
1017. conduct should have been. My friend explained to me that peoples
1018. ideas throughout the world on what constitutes perfect sex conduct
1019. vary greatly Consequently, I was not to measure my defects in this
1020. particular by adopting any standard of easy virtue as a measuring
1021. stick, I was merely to ask God to show me the difference between
1022. right and wrong in this regard and ask for help and strength and
1023. honesty in cataloguing my defects according to the true dictates
1024. of my own conscience. Then I might take up the related questions
1025. of greed and selfishness and thoughtlessness. How far and in what
1026. connection had I strayed and was I straying in these particulars?
1027. I was assured I could make a good long list if I got honest enough
1028. and vigorous enough. Then there was the question of real love for
1029. all of my fellows including my family, my friends and my enemies
1030. Had I been completely loving toward all of these at all times
1031. and places. If not, down in the book it must go and of course
1032. everyone could put plenty down along that line.
(Resntments, self-pity, fear, pride.)
1033. my friend pointed out that resentment, self-pity, fear, in-
1034. feriority, pride and egotism, were thingsx attitudes which
1035. distorted ones perspective suc and usefulness to entertain such
1036. sentiments and attitudes was to shut oneself off from God and
1037. people about us. Therefore it would be necessary for me to
1038. examine myself critically in this respect and write down my
1040. Step number three required that I carefully go over my
1041. personal inventory and definitely arrive at the conclusion that
1042. I was now willing to rid myself of all these defects moreover
1043. I was to understand that this would not be accomplished by
1044. [line number skipped]
1045. myself alone, therefore I was to humbly ask God that he take
1046. these handicaps away. To make sure that I had become really
1047. honest in this desire, I should sit down with whatever person
1048. I chose and reveal to him without any reservations whatever
1049. the result of my self appraisal. From this point out I was
1050. to stop living alone in every particular. Thus was I to ridx keep
1051. myself free in the future of those things which shut out
1052. God’s power, It was explained that I had been standing in my
1053. own light, my spiritual interior had been like a room darkened
1054. by very dirty windows and this was an undertaking to wipe them
1055. off and keep them kleen. Thus was my housekeeping to be ac-
1056. complished, it would be difficult to be really honest with my-
1057. self and God and perhaps to be completely honest with another
1058. person by telling an other the truth, I could however be ab-
1059. solutely sure that my self searching had been honest and effective.
1060. Moreover I would be taking my first spiritual step towards my
1061. fellows for something I might say could be helpful in leading
1062. the person to whom I talked a better understanding of himself.
1063. In this fashion I would commence to break down the barriers
1064. which my many forms of self will had erected. Warning was
1065. given me that I should select a person who would be in ho way
1066. injured or offended by what I had to say, for I could not expect
1067. to commence my spiritual growth at the w expense of another.
1068. My friend told me that this step was complete, I would surely
1069. feel a tremendous sense of relieve accompanying by the absolute
1070. conviction that I was on the right t road at last.
1071.l0 Step number four demanded that I frankly admit that my
1072.deviations from right thought and action had injured other people
1073.therefore I must set about undoing the damage to the best of my
1074.ability. It would be advisable to make a list of all the
1075.persons I had hurt or with whom I had bad relations. People I
1076.disliked and those who had injured me should have preferred
1077.attention, provided I had done them injury or still entertained
1078.any feeling of resentment towards them . Under no sircumstances
1079.was I to consider their defects or wrong doing , then I was to
1080.approach these people telling them I had commenced a way of life
1081.which required that I be on friendly and helpful terms with every
1082.body; that I recognized I had been at fault in this particular
1083.that I was sorry for what I had done or said and had come to set
1084.matters right insofar as I possibly could. Under no circumstances
1085.was I to engage in argument or controversy. My own wrong doing
1086.was to be admitted and set right and that was all. Assurance was
1087.to be given that I was prepared to go to any length to do the
1088.right thing. Again I was warned that obviously I could not
1089.make amends at the expense of other people, that judgment and
1090.discretion should be used lest others should be hurt. This sort
1091.of situation could be postponed until such conditions became such
1092.that the job could be done without harm to anyone. One could
1093.be contented in the meanwhile by discussing such a matter frankly
1094.with a third party who would not be involved and of course on a
1095.strictly confidential basis. Great was to be taken that one
1096.did not avoid situations difficult or dangerous to oneself on
1097.such a pretext . The willingness to go the limit a s fast had
1098.to be at all times present. This principle of making amends
1099.was to be continued in the future for only by keeping myself free
1100.of bad relationships with others could I expect to receive the
1101.Power and direction so indespensable to my new and larger useful-
1102.ness . This sort of discipline would helped me to see others as
1103.they really are; to recognize that every one is plagued by various
1104.of self will; that every one is in a sense actually sick with
1105.some form of self; that when men behave badly they are only dis-
1106.playing symptoms of spiritual ill health .
1107. one is not usually angry or critical of another when he
1108. suffers from some grave bodily illness and I would
1109. presently see senseless and futile it is to be disturbed
1110. by those burdened by their own wrong thinking . I was to
1111. entertain towards everyone a quite new feeling of tolerance
1112. patience and helpfulness I would recognize more and more
1113. that when I became critical or resentful I must at all
1114. costs realize that such things were very wrong in me
1115. and that in some form otro or other I still had the very
1116. defects of which I complained in others. Much emphasis
1117. was placed on the development of this of mind toward others.
1118. No stone should be left unturned to acheive this end.
1119. The constant practice of this principle frequently ask-
1120. ing God for His help in making it work under trying
112l. circumstances was absolutely imperative . The drunkard
1122. especially had to be most rigorous on this point for one
1125. burst of anger or self pity might so shut him out from his
1124. new found strength that he would drink again and with us
1125. that always means calamity and sometimes death.
1126. This was indeed a program, the thought of some of the
1127. things I would have admit about myself to other people
1128. was most distasteful – even appalling. It was only to o
1129. plain that I had been ruined by my own colosal egotism
1130. and selfishness, not only in respect to drinking but with
1131. regard to everything else. Drinking had been a symptom
1132. of these things. Alcohol had submerged my inferiorities
1135. and puffed up my self esteem, body had finally rebelled
1134. and I had some fatally affected , my thinking and action
1135. was woefully distorted thru infection from the mire of
1136. self pity, resentment, fear and remorse in which I now
1137. wallowed . The motive behind a certain amount of generosity,
1138. kindness and the meticulous honesty in some directions
1139. upon which I had prided myself was not perhaps not so
1140. good after all. The motive had been to get personal
1141. satisfaction for myself, perhaps not entirely but on the
1142. whole this was true. I had sought the glow which comes
1143. with thexflaws and Praise rendered me by others.
1144. I began to see how actions good in themselves might avail
1145. little because of wrong motive , I had been like the man
1146. who feels that all is well after he has condesendingly
1147. taken turkeys to the poor at Xmas time . How clear it
1148. suddenly became that all of my thought and action, both
1149. good and bad, had arisen out of a desire to make myself
1150. happy and satisfied. I had been self centered instead of
1151. God centered. It was now easy to understand why the taking
1152. of a simple childlike attitude toward God plus a drastic
1153. program of action which would place himx would bring
1154. results. How evident et became that mere faith in God
1155. was not enough. Faith had to be demonstrated by works
1156. and there could be no works or any worth while demonstrations
1157. until I had fitted myself for the undertaking and had be-
1158. come a suitable table agent thru which God might express Himself.
1159. There had to be a tremendous personal housecleaning, a
1160. sweeping away of the debris of past willfullness , a restoring
1161. of broken relationships and a firm resolve to make God’s
1162. will my will . I must stop forcing things , I must stop
1163. trying to mold people and situations to my own liking.
1164. Nearly every one is taught that human willpower and ambition
1165. if good ends are sought are desirable attributes. I too
1166. had clung to that conception but I saw that it was not good
1167. enough, nor big enough , nor powerful enough . My own will had
1168. failed in many areas of my live. With respect to
1169. alcohol it had become absolutely inoperative . My ambitions,
1170. which had seemed worthy at some time, had been frustrated.
1171. Even had I been successful , the pursuit of my desires
1172. would have perhaps harmed others add their realization
1173. would have added little or nothing to anyone’s peace,
1174. happiness or usefulness. I began to see that the clashing
1175. ambitions and designs of even those who sought what to them
1176. seemed worthy ends , have filled the world with discord and
1177. misery . Perhaps people of this sort created more havouqx
1178. havoc than those confessedly immoral and krucked croocked
1179. I saw even the most useful people die unhappy and defeated.
1180. All because some one else had behaved badly or they had
[archivist’s note: the rest of this manuscript is currently missing]
(This is another “pre-original manuscript” draft of chapters in the Big Book. Please notice that the order of these first two chapters are reversed. Also, part of the Rowland Hazard/Dr. Carl Jung story is moved to the front of “There Is A Solution”, and the end of the same chapter mentions that they were planning for the next few chapters to be personal narratives. God bless and take it easy! – Barefoot Bill)
THERE IS A SOLUTION
“I have never seen one single case in which alcohol-mindedness was established in the sense you have it, that ever recovered.” These fateful words were spoken to a man we know, some seven years ago. The speaker was a noted doctor and psychologist having world eminence in his specialty. The men to whom he spoke, like many of us before and since, had searched the world for the solution of his alcoholic problem. He was a man of ability, good sense, and high character. For many years before his encounter with this noted doctor, he had floundered from one sanitarium to another. He had consulted several of the best know American psychologists. On their recommendations he had gone to Europe and confined himself for a year in an institution. There he was under the care of this celebrated physician.
Though many bitter experiences had given him ground for skepticism, he left the place with unusual confidence. He felt that his physical and mental condition was unusually good. Above all, 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 few weeks. More baffling still, he could give no satisfactory explanation of why he became that way. So he went back to his doctor, whom he admired, and asked him point blank why he could not recover. Why was it that he who wished above all things to regain self control, who seemed quite rational and well balanced with respect to other problems, had proved to be non compes mentis with respect to alcohol? He begged the doctor to tell him the real 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 permanently in an institution or hire a bodyguard if he expected to live long. That was a great physician’s opinion.
But our friend lives, and is a free man. He does not need a bodyguard, nor is he confined. He can go anywhere on this earth without disaster, provided he remains willing to maintain a certain simple attitude.
We, of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know one hundred men who were as hopeless as our friend. They are free men also. They have an answer for this terrific problem that really works. We are ordinary Americans. All sections of this broad land and many of its occupations are represented. Among us are to be found many political, economic, social and religious backgrounds. We are a crowd of people who normally would mix like oil and water. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after shipwreck has been averted. Comraderie, celebration, joyousness and democracy pervade the ship from steerage to Captains table. But unlike the feelings of a ship’s passengers at such a time, our joy in escape from disaster does not abate as we go our several ways.
There are potent reasons why this is so. We have been through many shipwrecks and, at long last, there has been the final one at which it seemed we must certainly perish. We have been the victims of a common calamity. We collectively experienced almost every known variety of human misadventure and misery. We have inhabited sanitariums, insane asylums, and occasionally jails. We have felt the pangs of remorse as shadows deepened over our disintegrated lives and homes. We are sure hell promises no more exquisite mental and physical tortures than we have survived. Ask anyone who has flirted with delirium tremens. We have seen undertaking after undertaking, and ambition after ambition, wilted and snuffed out, usually, at the very point of success. Some of us have attempted self-destruction, and have felt sorry we failed in our attempts. In earlier years, most of us thought well of our abilities, our qualities and our futures. It has been hard to bear the dawning realization that there was no bearable future. Those successive smashing blows to our pride and self-sufficiency have been intolerable. Consequently, an important ingredient of the powerful cement which binds us is the feeling we have been victims of a common disaster.
However universal these troubles have been, they of themselves would never have bound us together, as we are now joined. The tremendous fact for every one of us has been the discovery of 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 we are confident this book will bear to those who suffer as we have.
An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way that no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer, all are sorry for him, and no one is angry or hurt. Presently he dies honorably enough. After the anguish of parting has worn away, people murmur, “Wasn’t it too bad about Jim.” But with the alcoholic illness, there goes a seeming never-ending annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It encompasses all who are near and dear to the sufferer, the misunderstanding, fierce resentment, and financial insecurity.
Therefore we are certain this volume should attempt to inform, instruct and comfort all of those who are, or may be affected. This is pretty much everyone. As a group, we have had four years of intensive and unique experience on which to draw. During this time we have intimately touched some two hundred cases of acute alcoholism. The approach to these situations has been unusual. It has always consisted of men who have found the answer for themselves. They carry the message to others as a part of their own cure. Hardly a day passes that we are not in contact with those who are trying to rid themselves of an appalling state of affairs. We have found great satisfaction in the knowledge that we may be so happily and peculiarly used. Where one alcoholic approaches another upon the basis we are about to discuss, things happen and results follow which were formerly impossible. Highly competent psychologists who have dealt with us – often fruitlessly we are afraid – complain it is almost impossible to persuade an alcoholic to discuss his or her situation without reserve. Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually find us more unapproachable than do the psychologist and the doctor.
On the contrary, an ex-alcoholic who has found this solution, who is properly armed with certain medical and psychiatric information, can generally win the complete confidence of another in a few hours. Until that high degree of understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished. The fact 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 here is a man with a real answer, that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, nor people to please, no lectures to be endured, no attitude of holier than thou, nor anything whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; these are the conditions we have found necessary. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.
None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think it would increase its effectiveness if we did. We feel that elimination of the liquor problem is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of the principles upon which we became well lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. Every one of us spends much of his spare time in the sort of effort which we are going to describe to you. A few are fortunate enough to be so situated that they can give nearly all of our time. If we keep on the way we are going there is little doubt that much good will result. But the problem would hardly be scratched. Those of us who live in large cities are overcome by the reflection that within gunshot of us hundreds are dropping into oblivion this very minute. Many could surely recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present the thing which has been so freely given us?
More harm than good might be done should a description of our work get into the ordinary channels of publicity in such a way as to involve our personal identities. We might be besieged by numbers of people who only imagine they wish to give up drinking, whose families think they ought to stop, who are badly impaired mentally or whose alcoholism is complicated by other difficult states. Though we dealt only with those cases who really want to recover we could not begin to handle them on a personal basis. There are not enough of us, nor have we accumulated the experience that would be necessary. Yet, the desire to get this message to the thousands who can use it bears down with much weight upon us all.
We have concluded it might be helpful to publish an anonymous volume such as you are about to read, setting forth the problem as it appears to us. We shall bring to bear upon it our combined experience and knowledge, which ought to suggest a useful program of action and attitude for everyone concerned in a drinking situation. Of necessity there must be much discussion in these pages of matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. We are aware that these subjects, from their very nature, are 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. Certain activities and attitudes have proved vital to the successful solution of our drinking problem. These, we think, ought not conflict with the views of honest men the world over, whatever their race, creed or color. This is the spirit in which we shall try to proceed, remembering always that we may be mistaken here and there on matters concerning which there can be honest differences of opinion. We are most anxious not to appear in the role of those who would preach or reform. We deem such attitudes ill befit the kind of people we have been and, to some extent, still are.
For example, it is surprising that most of us have not developed a downright hatred for John Barleycorn and all his works; that we have not become intolerant and impatient with those who like to drink. Many people sincerely believe that they should not be deprived of an age-old privilege and pleasure just because a lot of people are softened and made sick by it. Perhaps they are right. Some of us may differ but we all respect their views. We are sure we have a way of life which, if adopted generally, would render excessive drinking a stupid and impossible practice. Most of us sense strongly that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints, and a sincere respect for the opinions of mankind, are attitudes which enhance our usefulness to others. In the last analysis our very lives, as ex-alcoholics, depend upon the constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.
If you have read this far, you have commenced to ask yourself why it is that all of us became so desperately ill from drinking. Doubtless you are still more curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from an utterly hopeless condition of mind and body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you are already beginning to say to yourself, “What do I have to do?”
The main purpose of this book is to answer such questions specifically. We shall tell you what we have done. Before going into a detailed discussion it may be well to summarize some points as we see them.
How many time people have said to us: “I can take it or leave it alone.” – “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 it if he wanted to.” – “She’s such a sweet girl, I should think he’d stop for her.” – “The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again.”
Now these are commonplace expressions with respect to drinkers which we hear all the time. Back of them is a world of ignorance and misunderstanding. We see that those expressions pertain to people who react very differently to alcohol. We observe in them the moderate drinker who has little trouble in abandoning liquor altogether, if any good reason appears why he should do so. Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have only a bad habit which will gradually impair him physically and mentally. Perhaps it will cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason, such as ill health, falling in love, change of environment, the warning of a doctor becomes operative, this fellow can also stop. He may find it difficult and troublesome, and may discover it advantageous to get medical or psychiatric aid.
But what about the real alcoholic who may have started off as a moderate drinker, who may or may not become a continuous hard drinker, but who, at some stage of hisdrinking career, begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink? Here is a fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is so often Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom pleasantly intoxicated. Almost always, he is more or less insanely drunk. His disposition while drinking does not square with the man you know when sober. When normal he may be one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision or engagement must be met. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything in the world, save liquor. With respect to that, he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often has ahead of him a promising career.
No matter what his station in life, or his educational or intellectual rank, he often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes. How many times have we seen him use these gifts to build up a promising prospect for his family and himself, then pull thestructure 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 we find him feverishly searching early next morning for the bottle he misplaced the night before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed all over his house to be absolutely sure no one gets his supply away from him to throw down the waste pipe.
Every business man’s convention presents a like spectacle. Certain individuals are always found, going about from room to room in the early morning, shaking like the proverbial aspen leaf. They tell you they are dying for a drink, and can’t wait until the bar opens. This is very annoying to their brother businessmen who may have been twice as indiscreet the night before. The average tired delegate wants to sleep. On awakening he has no more inconvenience than a headache and the foolish feeling he was much too skittish last evening. But not so with alcoholics, no matter how drunk when they get to bed.
As matters grow worse for our alcoholic friend, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work. Then comes those days when he simply cannot make it, and he gets drunk all over again. Finally he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitariums, or he gets in with his doctor who may give him a dose of morphine or some high voltage sedative to taper off with. This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary considerably. Perhaps this description should identify him roughly in the reader’s mind.
But you are asking yourself, “Why does he behave like this? If hundreds of experiences have shown him that one drink means another debacle with all its attendant suffering and humiliation, how is it he takes that one drink? What has become of the common sense and will power that he sometimes displays with respect to other matters?” Perhaps there never will be a full answer to your questions. Psychiatrists and medical men vary considerably in their opinions as to why the alcoholic reacts differently than other people. No one is sure why, once a certain point is reached, all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men can seem to do nothing about it whatever. We cannot answer that riddle. But we have, out of our experience and observations of each other, arrived at some pretty definite conclusions, which in the main, we think correct. While they may not entirely square with what others say, they do meet our needs, and they do make sense to us. We are positive that nine out of ten serious drinkers who honestly review their own histories will agree with us.
To begin with, it is self evident that the reaction of our bodies and nervous systems to alcohol has become radically different, in fact abnormal as compared with the ordinary person; or with even many hearty drinkers. It may take ten or fifteen years of stiff drinking to bring about this condition in a body predisposed to alcoholism, though a very short period does the trick sometimes. Most of us now realize that our reaction to alcohol was somewhat abnormal from the very beginning; that we were actually “hooked” and sickened by it long before grave symptoms, or incapacity to attend to business put in an appearance.
The nature of these symptoms, and the bodily conditions we think lie back of them, we shall cover later on. It is enough now to say that we believe ourselves to have been sick, and not just foolish, when we have been drinking.
We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from drink as he may do for months or years, he does not suffer from a bodily malady. Equally positive are we, that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to stop. We believe the experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm that.
These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting in motion the terrible cycle that everyone has seen so many times. Therefore, the real problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body. If you ask him why he started on that last bender the chances are he will offer you any one of a hundred alibis, many of which we shall list further on. 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 to you like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on the head with a hammer so that he couldn’t feel the ache. If you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irritated and refuse to talk. Once in a great 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. It is true that numbers of drinkers have excuses with which they are satisfied some 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. Nearly all of them have the obsession that somehow, some day, they will beat the game. But deep down in them, they often suspect they are down for the count.
How surely they have already gone with the wind, few of them realize. In a vague way their families and friends sense that these people are abnormal. But everybody hopefully waits the day when the sufferer will rouse himself from his lethargy and assert his power of will.
The tragic truth is that, if the man be a real alcoholic, the happy day will never arrive. In the early part of this chapter, we cited the case of a man who was frankly told of his utter hopelessness by a physician who is possibly the world’s leading authority on the subject. At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. Let us again emphasize that this unhappy situation has already arrived in virtually every case, long before it is suspected. The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice with respect to drink. Our so-called will power with respect to that area of thinking and action becomes practically non-existent. We are unable at certain times, no matter how well we understand ourselves, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. The almost certain consequences that follow taking a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind and deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy, and become 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 would keep one from putting his hand on a hot stove. The alcoholic says 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 many times have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and then 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 become, in our opinion, just like our friend who consulted the great doctor. He has placed himself beyond all human aid, and unless locked up, is virtually certain to die, or go permanently insane. It is a grim business indeed. These stark and ugly facts which have been confirmed by legions of alcoholics throughout history. But for the grace of God, there would have been one hundred more convincing demonstrations among us. It is amazing how many want to stop, but cannot.
There is a solution, and how glorious to us was the knowledge of it. Almost none of us liked the self searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven right here on this good old earth, and have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence that none of us dreamed could be a fact.
And the great fact is just this, and no 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. It works! The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that the Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is to us a marvel. He has commenced to accomplish those things, which by no stretch of the imagination could we do by ourselves.
If by chance you are, or have begun to suspect that you are, an alcoholic, we think you have no middle-of-the-road solution. You are in a position where life is becoming impossible, and if you have passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, you have but two alternatives. One is to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best you can. Or you can surely find what we have found, if you honestly want to, and are willing to make the effort. After years of living on a basis which now seems wholly false, we did not become rightly related to our Creator in a minute. None of us have found God in easy lessons, but He can be found by all who are willing to put the task ahead of all else.
Some of our alcoholic readers may think they can do without God. Let us complete the conversation our friend was having with the European man of medicine. As you will recall, the doctor was saying, “I have never seen one single case in which alcohol mindedness was established in the sense you have it that ever recovered.” Naturally our friend felt at that moment as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang. He said to the doctor, “Is there no exception?” The doctor answered, “Yes, there is just one. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring now and then since early times. Sporadically, here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital religious experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods which I have been employing are successful, but they are never successful with an alcoholic of your type.”
Upon hearing this, our friend was somewhat relieved, for he reflected that after all he was a good church member. His hope was promptly dashed by the doctor, who told him that his faith and his religious convictions were very good as far as they went, but that in his case they did not spell the vital experience so absolutely imperative to displace his insanity with respect to matters alcoholic.
Our friend found himself in a hideous dilemna. So have we, when it began to look to us as though we must have something or go off the deep end. Our friend finally had such an experience. We in our turn sought the same happy outcome, with all of the ardor of drowning men clutching at straws. But 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, once wrote a book, “Varieties of Religious Experience”, which indicates a multitude of ways in which men have found God. As a group, or as individuals, we have no desire to convince anyone that God can be discovered only in some particular way. Anyone who talked with us would soon be disabused of the idea. If what we have learned, and felt, and seen, means anything at all, it indicates that all of us, whatever our race, creed or color, are the children of a living Creator, with whom we may form a new relationship upon simple and understandable terms the moment any of us become willing enough and honest enough to do so. For those having religious affiliations there is nothing disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. All such testify to that effect. Hence there is no friction in our simple common denominator.
We have concluded that it is no concern of ours as a group with what religious bodies we shall identify ourselves as individuals. We feel that this should be an entirely one’s own affair, which one is bound to decide for the best in the light of his past associations, or his present choice. Not all of us have joined religious bodies, but we are mostly agreed that by so joining, one would be taking a step toward new growth and availability for God’s purpose.
In the next few chapters are personal narratives. Each individual in these stories describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way in which he found or rediscovered the living God. We shall tell a number of these, that the reader may get a fair cross section, and a clear cut idea of what has really happened. We hope no one will be disturbed that these accounts contain so much self revelation of the kind some people might feel in bad taste. Non-alcoholic readers should consider that many men and women desperately in need may see these pages. It is only by disclosing ourselves and our problems to complete view that any of them will be persuaded to say, “Yes, I am one of them; I must have this thing.”
At the age of ten I went to live with my grandfather grandmother – their ancestors settled the section of Vermont in which I was to grow up. Grandfather was a retired farmer and lumberman; he nurtured me on a vigorous pioneering tradition. I see, now, that my grandfather was the kind of man who helped make America.
Little did anyone guess I was to be of the war generation, which would squander the savings, the pioneering traditions and the incredible stamina of your grandfather and mine. Ambitious but undisciplined – that I was. There was a genius for postponing, evading and shirking; but a certain dogged obstinacy persistence drove me to succeed at special undertakings upon which my heart was set.
Especially did I reveal in attacking the difficult or the impossible. Grandfather, for instance, that no one but an Australian could make and throw the boomerang. No school work was done, no wood box filled and little sleep was there, until a boomerang had circled the church steeple, returning to almost decapitated him. Have accomplished this, my interest ceased.
So it was with my ambition to be a ball player, for I was finally elected captain of the team at the little Seminary I attended after leaving country school. Someone told me I could never sing, so I took up voice until I had appeared in a recital, then, as with the boomerang, my interest ended abruptly. I had commenced to fuss with the violin. This became such an obsession that athletics, school work, and all else went by the board much to everyone’s consternation. I carried fiddling so far I failed to graduate. It was most embarrassing, for I was president of the Senior Class. So collapsed a certain legend of infallibility I had built around myself. Repairing this failure, I attempted to enter a leading technical school. Because of fierce enthusiasms I had displayed for matters chemical and electrical, it was assumed I was destined to become an engineer. At Boston, I failed the entrance examinations dismally. My people were heartbroken and my self sufficiency got another severe deflation.
Finally I commenced electrical engineering at an excellent military college, where it was fervently hoped I would get disciplined. No such thing happened. As usual I had good grades when interested but often failed when not. There was an illuminating instance concerning my calculus teacher. Not one formula would I learn, until all of the theory underlying the subject was made clear. At the library, I pored over the researches of Leibnitz and Newton, whose genius had made calculul possible. Loving controversy, I argued much with my instructor, who quite properly have me a zero, for I had solved only the first problem of the course. At this juncture, and quite conveniently for me, the United States decided to go to war.
We students bolted, almost to a man, for the First Officers Training Camp at Plattsburgh. I was commission second lieutenant of artillery, electing that branch rather than aviation or infantry. For when I lay in my bunk at night, I had to confess I did not want to be killed. This suspicion of cowardice bothered me, for it couldn’t be reconciled with the truly exalted patriotism which took possession when I hadn’t time to think. Later, under fire abroad, I was relieved to learn I was like most men: scared enough, but willing to see it through. I was assigned to a post on the New England coast. The place is famous for its Yankee trading and whaling traditions.
Two far reaching events took place here. I married; had my first drink and liked it. My wife was city bred. She represented a way of life for which I secretly longed. To be her kind meant fine houses, servants, gay dinners, cultivated conversation and a much envied sophistication. I often felt a woeful lack of poise and polish. These inferiorities were later to drive me cityward in quest of success, as I suppose they have many a country boy.
War fever ran high, and I was flattered that the first citizens of town took us to their homes and made me feel comfortable and heroic. So here was love, applause, adventure, war; moments sublime with intervals hilarious. I was part of life at last.
My gaucheries and ineptitudes magically disappeared, as I discovered the Siphon and the Bronx Cocktail. Strong warnings and the prejudices of my people concerning drink evaporated.
Then came parting, with its bizarre mixture of sadness, high purpose, the strange elation which goes with adventure having fatal possibilities. Many of us sailed for ‘Over There’. Loneliness seized me, only to be whisked away by my charming companion, Prince Alcohol.
We were in England. I stood in Winchester Cathedral with head bowed, in the presence of something I had never felt before. Where now was the God of the preachers? Across the Channel thousands were perishing that day. Why did He not come? Suddenly in that moment of darkness – He was there! I felt an enveloping comforting Presence. Tears stood in my eyes. I had glimpsed the great reality.
Much moved, I wandered through the Cathedral yard. 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.”
My mood changed. A squadron of fighters roared overhead. I cried to myself, “Here’s to Adventure”. The feeling of being in the great presence disappeared.
Homecoming arrived at last. Twenty two and a veteran of foreign wars! I fancied myself a leader, for had not the men of my battery given me a special token of appreciation? Leadership, I imagined, would place me at the head of vast enterprises which I would manage with the assurance of a great pipe organist at his stops and keys.
Soon enough, I was brought to earth. A position at half the army pay, from which I was presently discharged as a poor and rebellious bookkeeper, was the first salutation of unsentimental industry. My resentment was so great I nearly turned Socialist; which in Vermont is downright treason. Humiliation and more came when my wife got a much better job and commenced to pay the bills. I fancied my new city friends were snickering at my predicament. Unwillingly, I had to admit, that I was not trained for anything. What then to do?
Characteristically, I nearly failed my law course. At one of the finals I was too drunk to think or write. Though drinking was not continuous, it frequently disturbed my wife. We had long talks, when I would still her forebodings by saying men of genius conceived their vast projects when jingled; that the most majestic constructions of philosophic thought were so derived.
When the law course was done, I knew the profession was not for me. The inviting maelstrom of The Street had me in its grip.
Business and financial leaders were my heroes. Reminiscent of the boomerang episode, I became wholly absorbed and fascinated. Out of this tissue of drink and speculation I commenced to forge the weapon that one day would turn in its flight, and all but cut me to ribbons.
Both at work, and living modestly, my wife and I saved $1,000.00. It went into utility stocks then cheap and unpopular. I rightly imagined that they would some day have a great rise. Failing to persuade my broker friends to send me out looking over factories and managements, my wife and I decided to go anyhow. I had a theory people lost money in stocks by not knowing markets, managements and the ideas at work in a given situation. I was to discover lots more reasons later on.
We quit our positions and off we romped on a motorcycle and side car stuffed with a tent, blankets, change of clothes, and three huge volumes of a financial reference service. Our friends almost wanted a lunacy commission appointed. Perhaps they were right. There had been some success at speculation, so we had a little money though we once worked on a farm for a month to avoid drawing on our capital. It was the last honest manual work for many a day. The whole Eastern United States was covered in a year. At the end of it, strangely enough, my reports sent back to Wall Street procured for me a position there, and the use of what seemed to me a large sum of money. The exercise of an option brought in more money and we had several thousand dollars profit.
For the next few years fortune threw money and applause my way. I had arrived. My judgment and ideas were followed by many to the tune of paper millions. The great boom of the late twenties was soothing and swelling. Drink was taking an important and exhilirating part in my life. Loud talk in the jazz places uptown – we all spent in thousands, and chattered in millions. Scoffers could scoff and be damned. Of course they didn’t, and I made a host of fair weather friends.
My drinking had assumed more serious proportions, going on all day and nearly every night. Remonstrance of my cooler associates terminated in a row, and I became a lone wolf. There were many unhappy scenes in our apartment. This, by the way, was large, for I had rented two, and had the wall between knocked out. There had been no great infidelity. Loyalty to my wife, and sometimes extreme drunkeness, kept me out of those scrapes.
In 1929 I contracted golf fever. That is a terrible illness. We went at once to the country, my wife to applaud while I overtook Walter Hagen. Golf permitted drinking both by day and 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 seen upon the well-to-do. With amused skepticism the local banker watched me whirl fat checks in and out of his till.
Abruptly in October, 1929, the whirling movement ceased. Hell had broken 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 close. The ticker still clattered. I was staring at an inch of the tape. It bore the inscription PFK – 32. It had been 52 that morning. I was dome and so were many friends. The papers said men were already jumping to death from those towers of Babel that were High Finance. That disgusted me. Going back to the bar I felt glad I would not jump. My friends had dropped several millions since ten o’clock – so what? Tomorrow was another day. As I drank, the old fierce determination to win came back.
Next morning I called a friend in Montreal. He had plenty of money left, so he thought I had better come up. By the following spring we were living in our accustomed style. It was like Napoleon returning from Elba. No St. Helena for me. But I soon excelled as a serious and frivolous drinker, and my generous friend had to let me go. This time we stayed broke.
We went to live with my parents-in-law. I found a job; then lost it through a brawl with a taxi driver. Mercifully no one knew I was to have no real employment for five years nor hardly draw a sober breath. My wife began to work in a department store, coming home exhausted to find me drunk. I became a hanger on at brokerage places, less and less desired because of my habits.
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 the bars and delicatessen. Endlessly this went on, and I began to wake early, shaking violently. A tumbler full of gin followed by half a dozen bottles of beer would be required if I ate any breakfast. I still thought I could control the situation. There were periods of sobriety which would renew my wife’s hope.
But things got worse. The house was taken over by the mortgage holder, my mother-in-law died, my wife became ill, as did my father-in-law.
Then I had 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. I went on a prodigious bender, and that chance vanished.
I woke up. This had to be stopped. I saw I could not take even one drink. I was through forever. Before then, I had written lots of sweet promises, but my wife happily observed that this time I meant business. And so I did.
Shortly afterward I came home drunk. There had been no fight. Where had been my high resolve? I simply didn’t know. It hadn’t even come to mind. Someone pushed a drink my way, and I had taken it. Was I crazy? I began to wonder, for such an appalling lack of perspective came near being just that.
Sticking to my resolve I tried again. Some time passed. Confidence began to be replaced by cocksureness. I could laugh at the bars. Now I had what it takes! One day I walked into a place to telephone. In no time I was beating on the bar asking myself 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. I did just that.
The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morning is unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there. My brain raced uncontrollably. 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 is a marvelous mechanism, for mine endured this agony two years more. Sometimes I stole from my wife’s slender purse when the morning terror and madness were on me. Again I swayed dizzily before an open window, or the medicine cabinet where there was poison, cursing myself for a weakling. There were flights from city to country and back, as my wife and I sought escape. Then came the night when the physical and mental torture was so hellish I feared I would burst thru my window, sash and all. Somehow I managed to drag my mattress to a lower floor, lest I suddenly leap. A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative without the usual penalty. This combination soon landed me on the rocks, and my wife saw something had to be done and quickly. People feared for my sanity, and so did I. When drinking, which was almost always, I could eat little or nothing. I was forty pounds under weight.
My brother-in-law is a physician. Through his kindness I was placed in a nationally known hospital for the mental and physical rehabilitation of alcoholics. Under the so-called bella donna treatment my brain cleared. Hydro therapy and mild exercise helped much. Best of all, I met a kind doctor who explained, that though selfish and foolish, I had also been seriously ill, bodily and mentally. It relieved me somewhat to learn that in alcoholism, the will is amazingly weakened concerning drink, though frequently remaining strong in other respects. My incredible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stop was explained. Understanding myself now, I fared forth in high hope. For three or four months the goose hung high. I went to town regularly and made a little money. Surely this was the answer. Self-knowledge.
But it was not, for the frightful day came when I drank once more. The curve of my declining moral and bodily health fell off like a ski jump. After a time I returned to the hospital. This was the finish, the curtain, so it seemed to me. My weary and despairing wife was informed that it would all end with heart failure during delirium tremens. Or I would develop a wet brain, perhaps within a year. She would soon give me over to the undertaker or the asylum. It was not necessary to tell me. I knew, and almost welcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had thought so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cornered at last. Now I was to plunge out 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? That career I’d set my heart upon, that pleasant vista, was shut out forever. No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self pity. Quicksand underlay me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. King Alcohol was master.
Trembling, I stepped from the place a broken man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of that first drink, and on Armistice Day, 1934, I was off again. Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, or stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it is before morning comes! In reality, this 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 near the head of our bed. I would need it before daylight.
My musing was interrupted by the telephone. The cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. He had been committed for alcoholic insanity. So rumor had it. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner. Then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. There was that time we had chartered an airplane to complete a jag. Another glass stirred my fancy. His coming was an oasis in this dreary desert of futility. The very thing – an oasis! Drinkers are like that.
The door opened. He stood there, fresh skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened?
I pushed a drink across the table.
“Not now” he said.
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 alcoholic crackpot; now I suspected a little cracked about religion – he had that starry-eyed look. The old boy was on fire alright. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer.
But he did no ranting. In quite a matter of fact way, he related 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 months ago and the result was self evident. It worked.
He had come to pass his experience along to me – if I cared to have it.
I was shocked but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.
He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose before me. The sound of the preacher’s voice which one could hear on still Sundays, way over there on the hillside; the 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; 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; such recollections welled up from the past. They made me swallow hard. That war-time day in old Winchester Cathedral came back again.
In a power greater than myself I had always believed. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means blind faith in an illogical proposition; that this universe originated 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 contra 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, which knew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone.
With preachers, 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.
Of Christ, I conceded the certainty of a great man, not too much followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching – most excellent. 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 the religions of mankind had done any good. Judging from what I had seen in Europe and since, the power of God in human affairs was negligible; the Brotherhood of Man a grim jest. If there was a Devil, he seemed the Boss Universal, and he certainly had me.
But my friend sat before me, and he made the pointblank 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. In effect he 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 religious people were right, after all. Here was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table, straight out of the here and now.
I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. It went deeper than that. He was on a completely different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.
Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans, when we want Him enough. At long last I saw; I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
The real significance of my experience in the Cathedral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had needed and wanted God.
There was a humble willingness to have Him with me – and He came. But soon the sense of His presence had been blotted out by worldly clamors – mostly those within myself. And so it had been ever since. It was simple as that. How blind I had been.
At the hospital I was separated from King Alcohol for the last time. Treatment seemed wise then, for I showed signs of delirium when I stopped drinking.
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 nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins of omission and commission, and became willing to have my new-found Friend
take them away, root and branch. 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 resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.
I was to test my thinking by the new God consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure.
My friend promised when those things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of life which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements.
Simple but not easy; a price had to be paid. It really meant the obliteration of self. I had to quit playing God. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over
These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never 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.
He 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 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 my demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others, as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work he would surely drink again, and if he drank he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that!
My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. It was fortunate, for my old business associates remained skeptical for a year and a half, during which I found little work. I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink.
I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital feeling terrible. 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 the tough spots.
We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty. I have seen one hundred families set their feet in the path that really goes somewhere; have seen the most impossible domestic situations righted; feuds and bitterness of all sorts wiped out. I have seen men come out of asylums, and resume a vital place in the lives of their families and communities.
Business and professional people have regained their standing. There is scarcely any form of human misadventure and misery which has not been overcome among us. In a Western city and its environs, there are sixty of us and our families. We often meet informally at our houses, so that newcomers may find what they seek. Gatherings of twenty to sixty are common. We are growing in numbers and power.
An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature. Our struggles with them are variously strenuous, comic and tragic. One poor chap committed suicide in my home. He could not, or would not see what we beheld.
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 one finds a deadly earnestness. God has to work twenty four hours a day in and through us, or we perish.
Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia, nor even for Heaven. We have it with us on this good old Earth, right here and now. Each day that simple talk in my kitchen multiplies itself in a widening circle of peace on earth and good will to men.
This is an old list of 12-step programs. The interesting aspect is that there are so many different groups. And this is by no means comprehensive.
People are always starting and adapting groups that meet their needs. So please understand this is a very rough draft list of 12-Step groups (and other groups that adapt the 12-steps or use “anonymous” or have adapted the steps in different ways to different issues). Please note that the figures on the numbers of local groups are a rough approximation (primarily from 1997 data – so it’s old!).
- Alcoholics Anonymous (international – 94,000 groups)
- Al-Anon Family Groups (international – 32,000+ groups)
- Alateen (international – part of Al-Anon Family Groups – 4,100+ groups)
- Abuse Alternatives Anonymous (1 group in Westchester, NY)
- ACOA – Adult Children of Alcoholics (international – 1,700+ groups)
- Adult Children of Sexual Abuse (4 groups in Florida)
- Adult Children of Sexual Dysfunction (several groups in Minnesota)
- Anesthetists in Recovery (national)
- ARTS Anonymous (Artists Recovering thru Twelve Steps, creativity, other problems – int’l – 90 groups)
- Benzodiazepines Anonymous (several groups in CA)
- Bettors Anonymous (several groups in Massachusetts)
- Calix Society (national – Catholic alcoholics – 44 groups)
- Caregivers Anonymous (caring for elderly relatives – 1 group in NJ)
- Chapter Nine (recovering couples – a few groups in NY City area & MD)
- Chemically Dependent Anonymous (national – 90 groups)
- Children’s & Youth Emotions Anonymous (national – 10 groups; related to Emotions Anonymous)
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Anonymous (2 groups in NJ)
- Clergy Helping Clergy (groups in Minnesota)
- Cocaine Anonymous (international – 1,500 groups)
- Co-Anon Family Groups (cocaine – groups in New York City and Los Angeles – 40 groups)
- Co-Dependents Anonymous (national – 3,500+ groups)
- Co-Dependents Anonymous for Helping Professionals (international – 25 groups)
- Compulsive Eaters Anonymous – H.O.W. (national – 250 groups)
- Compulsive Stutterers Anonymous (national model – 4 groups)
- Convicts Anonymous (to stop criminal behavior, there were 3 groups in Washington State)
- Criminals & Gangs Anonymous (model 12-step group that has several groups within California prisons)
- Co-S.A. (national – codependents of sex addicts)
- Crystal-Meth Anonymous (15 groups in CA)
- DD-Anon (loved ones of those with dissociative or multiple personality disorder – 1 group in WI)
- Debtors Anonymous (national – 400+ groups)
- Depressed Anonymous (international, 5 groups)
- Diabetics Anonymous (1 group in CA)
- Dis-Ability Anonymous (1 group in New York City)
- Divorce Anonymous (mostly in CA)
- Domestic Violence Anonymous (international – 32 groups, mostly in CA)
- Double Trouble Recovery, Inc. (national, based in NY)
- Drugs Anonymous (national – formerly Pills Anonymous – 10 groups)
- Dual Disorders Anonymous (chemical dependency & psychiatric recovery – 23 groups in Illinois area)
- Dual Recovery Anonymous (chemical dependency & psychiatric recovery – 30 groups nationwide)
- Eating Addictions Anonymous (national – 6 groups)
- Eating Disorders Anonymous (international – 20 groups)
- Emotions Anonymous (national – 1,400 groups)
- Emotional Health Anonymous (national – 50 groups)
- Ethnic Anonymous (prejudice, 1 group in Washington State)
- Families Anonymous (national – 500 groups)
- Families of Sex Offenders Anonymous (1 group in Connecticut)
- Fear of Success Anonymous (national – 5 groups)
- Food Addicts Anonymous (international – 118 groups)
- Gamblers Anonymous (international – 1,200 groups)
- Gam-Anon (international – 380 groups)
- Gamateen (national)
- Gangs Anonymous (former gang members – 1 group in Boston)
- Grievers Anonymous (groups in Chicago area)
- HIVIES (international- those with a history of substance abuse & who are HIV+ or think they are)
- Homosexuals Anonymous (national – 55 groups)
- Incest Survivors Anonymous (international)
- International Doctors in AA (national)
- International Lawyers in AA (international – 40 groups)
- International Nurses Anonymous (international)
- International Pharmacists Anonymous (national)
- Love-N-Addiction (national – 50 groups)
- Lovers Anonymous (lost relationships, negative beliefs – 1 group in New Orleans)
- Marijuana Anonymous (international – groups primarily in California – 100 groups)
- Methadone Anonynous (international – recovery from chemical dependency – 300 groups)
- Narcotics Anonymous (national – 25,000+ groups)
- Nar-Anon (international)
- Nicotine Anonymous (national – formerly called Smokers Anonymous – 500+ groups)
- Nic-Anon (1 group in California- families/friends of smokers/recovering smokers)
- Neurotics Anonymous (international – 158 groups)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Anonymous (national – 50 groups)
- Overcomers Outreach (Christian community, all addictions – national – 1,000 groups)
- Overcomers – Victory Through Christ (international – 132 groups)
- Overeaters Anonymous (international – 9.000 groups)
- O-Anon (national – overeating – 50 groups)
- Physician Assistant Recovery Network (international – physician assistants, all addictions)
- Pill Addicts Anonymous (national – 6 groups)
- Pills Anonymous (NY City – 2 groups)
- Prescriptions Anonymous (3 groups – Atlanta, Wash. DC & Utah)
- Psychologists Helping Psychologists (national)
- Psychiatrically Recovering Alcoholics (several groups in NJ)
- Racism & Bigotry Anonymous (those hurt by, 1 group in CA)
- Recoveries Anonymous (national – any “self-destructive symptoms” – 20 groups)
- Recovering Couples Anonymous (focused on relationship; international – 85 groups)
- Relationships Anonymous (St. Louis, Missouri area)
- Repeat-Offenders Anonymous (national – 10 groups)
- A.R.A. (Sexual Assault Recovery Anonymous, Canadian national – incest and sexual abuse)
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (national)
- Sexual Abuse Survivors Anonymous (national 10 groups)
- Sexual Recovery Anonymous (international 19 groups)
- Sexaholics Anonymous (international)
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (international – also known as Augustine Fellowship, S.L.A.A.)
- S-Anon (international – family/friends of sex addicts)
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (international)
- Shoplifters Anonymous (1 group in Minneapolis)
- Social Workers Helping Social Workers (national – 3 groups)
- Spenders Anonymous (1 group in Minneapolis)
- Suicide Anonymous (attempters – 3 groups in TN)
- Survivors of Incest Anonymous (national – 900 groups)
- Sexual Abuse Survivors Anonymous (national – 10 groups)
- T4-anon (AIDS)
- TARA – Total Aspects of Recovery Anonymous (national – any addiction or dysfunctional behavior – 17 groups)
- Therapists in Recovery (1 group in San Diego, CA)
- Trauma Survivors Anonymous
- 12-Step Caucus of Physician Assistants (national)
- Unwed Parents Anonymous (national)
- Workaholics Anonymous (international – 78 groups)
- Youth Emotions Anonymous (national – 11 groups)
Groups that have adapted the 12-Step Approach
- Academics Recovering Together – ART (national – university/college faculty, chem. dependency)
- Combat Veterans Anonymous (for PTSD- groups developed in VA Hospitals in FL & GA)
- Dentists Concerned for Dentists (national – alcohol/chemical dependency)
- Double Trouble (groups in NJ -alcoholics who are on medication for psychiatric problems)
- Grow, Inc (over 100 groups in Illinois and starting in several other states -mental health)
- ICAP (national – alcohol/chemical dependency, for current/former female religious/nuns)
- A.C.S. (national – Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically dependent persons & Significant others)
- I.R.A. (several groups in Illinois – Mentally Ill Recovering Alcoholics)
- Overcomers Outreach (national- Christian support for addictions, sharing 12 steps through Bible)
- Phobics Anonymous (national)
- Schizophrenics Anonymous (about 12 groups in Michigan area – 6 steps)
Other “Anonymous” Groups
(Here are groups that use the “anonymous” name, but appear not to be 12-step.)
- Batterers Anonymous (national)
- Cleptomaniacs & Shoplifters Anonymous (1 group in Michigan)
- Clutterers Anonymous (groups in California – not clear if they are self-help)
- Depressives Anonymous (primarily groups in New York City)
- Emphysema Anonymous (national newsletter)
- Free-N-One Recovery (national – 30 groups)
- Fundamentalists Anonymous (national – 50 chapters)
- Impotents Anonymous (national – over 100 groups)
- I-Anon (national – for spouses of impotent)
- Kleptomaniacs Anonymous (1 group in NYC)
- Messies Anonymous (national)
- Molesters Anonymous (model group – 10 groups nationwide)
- Parents Anonymous (emotional/physical child abuse)
- Wobblers Anonymous (national – those suffering adverse reactions to antibiotic drug, Gentamicin
Groups No Longer Active in USA
- Domestic Violence Anonymous (had several groups in San Francisco)
- Neurotics Anonymous
- Sexual Abuse Victims Anonymous (Canadian)
- Shoppers Anonymous International
- Survivors (was for death of a loved one, to include childhood losses – had groups in a few states)
- Survivors of Transexuality Anonymous (group operated in NJ – no longer meeting)
- Victims Anonymous
Any current contacts or clarification for the following group would be appreciated:
- Prostitutes Anonymous (was national & based in U.S)
FELLOWSHIPS FOR PROFESSIONALS THAT ADDRESS THEIR ADDITIONAL NEEDS DEALING WITH EMPLOYMENT CONCERNS
“As professionals in the health care field, we always support, protect, and nurture the sick till the day they die. But should a colleague become ill with alcoholism or drug abuse, the reaction of our own professional community is often closer to that of a lynch mob.” – Russ, a group member. In such situations, professionals are more often fired rather than provided with help or support- thereby losing the insurance that they need for treatment. Denial of the problem, by other professionals, especially those in need – is very high. If they are fortunate enough to recognize their addiction, they often feel that they are all alone.
An increasing number of self-help groups, run by and for recovering professionals, provide support and understanding to their members. Some are also open to family members. These groups indicate that they supplement the basic help provided by AA, NA, GA, Al-Anon, and others. They deal with the special problems faced in specific professions, such as the loss of one’s license to practice, the easy accessibility to drugs, or the stigma sometimes faced by a helping professional seeking help. Among the national networks are those such as: International Doctors in AA (open to doctoral-level healthcare professionals); International Nurses Anonymous (any nurse in recovery); International Lawyers in A.A.; Social Workers Helping Social Workers; Psychologists Helping Psychologists; Therapists In Recovery, Pharmacists Concerned for Pharmacists; Anesthetists in Recovery; Physician Assistant Recovery Network; Academics Recovering Together (college & university faculty or administrators), the Intercongregational Alcoholism Program (for Catholic nuns and former nuns); National Association of Responsible Professional Athletes, and the Nat’l Association of Lesbian and Gay Alcoholism Professionals (the majority of whose members are in 12-Step programs). Another national group is Co-Dependents Anonymous For Helping Professions. Others, that are developing into national networks, include ones such as the Dentists Concerned for Dentists, Realtors Concerned for Realtors, Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Assn (Episcopal) and Clergy Serving Clergy.
The groups help in various ways. Pat, a nurse, gave an example of one member’s problem: “In applying for her nursing license in the new state to which she had just moved, she was truthful and answered the question, ‘Have you ever been treated for alcohol or drug addiction?’ by responding ‘Yes, I am a recovering alcoholic regularly attending 12-Step meetings’. Her license was denied by the board, which indicated that her attendance at a 12-Step meeting reflected how she has not recovered and therefore is not able to assume nursing responsibilities in their state. With the support of her self-help network, she is appealing the ruling.” For information on any of the networks cited above, call the Clearinghouse or use keyword search engine at our web site (www.selfhelpgroups.org).
Listing was partially updated 1/00 (but estimates of number of local groups are from 1997-98)
The AA Grapevine magazine has been going strong since 1944.
And it’s moved into this century with a fully digital version including a searchable archive of previous stories by topic.
If you’re interested in submitting your writing or photography to the Grapevine, the submission criteria are on this page too.
You can explore the AA Grapevine at the link below.