I started a Web Site in 1999 when I came back into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tripod decided to block me a few years ago , so I stopped writing, posting. SO I decided to take the posts I had there and put them here. Plus new ones I found on the net and shares of my own. Take what you need and pass on the rest! Blessings ds♥

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A form of the Golden Rule



When we live and let live, we don't need to criticize, judge, or condemn others. We have no need to control them or try and make them conform to our way of thinking. We let others live their own lives and we live ours.

This simple slogan helps center us on our own dual recovery and on living our own life in the best way we know how. Live and let live is one of the keys to peace in our lives. When we practice tolerance in our lives we are liberated to work on our own issues. When we use this slogan we end many of the conflicts in our lives and gain the ability to stop new ones before they build into big ones.

Detaching yourself from others' behaviors is great, in theory, but it's a difficult thing to actually do. It takes a lot of personal strength and mental bravery to recognize that you can be happy and positive no matter what other people do.
It's completely possible -- it's just hard

Remember that you are powerless over others. This is such an important thing to remember if you want to improve your relationships (or just live a positive life in general). No matter what you would like to believe, you have zero control over others. Realize this and you will free yourself from a lot of mental anguish.

Know that who you are is not defined by who you love.Sometimes it can be really hard to deal with a family member or loved one's behavior and it can be even harder to separate ourselves from it. We sometimes take it to be a part of who we are -- but it's not. Who you love (or are related to) is not who you are.

Focus on the positive things about yourself. Remember that there are a lot of positive things about you too. Sometimes when we're dealing with an upsetting behavior, we forget to focus on the positive things about ourselves -- like our strength or our resilience. Remind yourself of your awesomeness.






Monday, March 24, 2014

Self Esteem



 I was never honest with myself or any one else, I leaned to lie at a very early age.
So when I finally surrendered to this disease and redid my step work,
honesty was a big key as was  surrendering. I found if I wasn't willing to be honest in
my 3rd step, I would have trouble in my 4th thru 9th. If  I didn't surrender my will over to
a HP, I was really going to have trouble with 4th thru 9.
So, before I got to this point, let me tell u a little about where I was at when I came
back to AA in 1999.  I was done drinking and I was so beat down in every aspect of life.
I had NO self esteem and didn't know how to have any. I been thru so much my whole life
from my dad, brothers and people over the years telling me i wasn't any good.
They told me I was a  failure and  I wouldn't amount to anything, that I was ugly, fat and no one would ever want to be with me, I was picked on as a kid , teased, etc.
Well when u grow up like that, you believe it . So alcohol took me out of feeling like that.
I was dressing in an inappropriate ways to be noticed, being a people pleaser so people would like me, needing men to like me to feel better about myself, and fill that empty void Ive felt all my life.  My first 5 years in recovery I was still like that. i didn't understand HOW to change it.
Just because we are in recovery not everyone is here for the same thing!
Men hit on me and that made me feel good about myself. I came to find out all they wanted was to fill there need and it  made my self esteem sink lower. I just didn't know how to make myself feel better about ME!
So like I stated I redid my steps with a new sponsor, as I hit an emotional bottom at the
end of my 5th year. On Step 1 I saw how powerless I was over alcohol and  how unmanageable my life was with alcohol and with out alcohol. So I was finally came to believe in Power Greater
then myself in Step 2, and in Step 3 I  gave my life over to a HP,  whom I choose to call God.
In my 4th thru 7th Step , I found from being honest and looking at my defects, seeing my fears I was able to give them over to God. I was willing to let go of the old self and find a healthy ideal of relationships. In Steps 8 and 9 i made the amends I needed and my whole outlook on life changed!
In Steps 10 thru 12, I continue to look at my life each day and and see if I need to make amends and what I i may need to change. Meditation and prayer  each day furthers my spiritual outlook on life and I continue to work with others which secures me another day and helps me to continue to grow.
Today I don't  need to dress up or put on an act for people to like me. I   like myself and love who I am, and if others don't it is there loss!
What you  see in this room, is what I am like out side this room and at f2f. I love to have fun, I  love to laugh and joke around but, I am serious about my recovery!! It is #1 and I work at it everyday.
I found thru this process, if I am not willing to change who I was, I will stay that miserable person I was when drinking, and that I no long want for myself. I work on building my self esteem up and God has shown me a new way to behave today and for that I am so truly grateful!!

Thanks for letting me share, I love you all

Traditions



"The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous
are a distillate of our experience of living and working together.
They apply the spirit of the Twelve recovery Steps
to our group life and security.
They deal with the world outside and with each other;
they state our attitudes toward power and prestige,
toward property and money.
They would save us from tempting alliances
and major controversies;
they would elevate principles far above personal ambitions.
And as a token of this last, they request that we
maintain personal anonymity before the open public
as a protection to AA and as proof of the fact that
our society intends to practice true humility."

Bill W., The Language of the Heart, p. 96

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fragments Of AA History The Washingtonians


 

Washingtonians    check out how drunks tried to get sober and stay sober before Oxford group and then Alcoholics Anonymous.

Nameless

From "The Three Legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous":

"[Tradition Eleven] represents more than a sound public relations policy.
It is more than a denial of self-seeking. Tradition Eleven is certainly a
constant reminder that personal ambition has no place in A.A., but it also
implies that each member ought to become an active guardian of our
fellowship in its relation with the general public.
"As we have seen, anonymity is the protective mantle that covers our whole
society. But it is more than protection; it has another dimension, a
spiritual significance. And this leads to Tradition Twelve, which reads:
'Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to
place principles before personalities.'
"In my belief, the entire future of our fellowship hangs upon this vital
principle. If we continue to be filled with the spirit and practice of
anonymity, no shoal or reef can wreck us. If we forget this principle, the lid
to Pandora's box will be off and the spirits of Money, Power, and Prestige
will be loosed among us."

2001 AAWS, Inc.; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pg. 131
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

AA Sayings heard around the rooms


*

*Don't expect and you will not be disappointed





*
The longer a burden is carried, the heavier it gets - so TODAY - I choose to live a life of serenity and not a life of regrets...

*
Resentment - The best cure is to ask your self: Have I ever done what I am resenting that person for? -


*"AA works on all kinds of nuts (including myself). I just needed to find the right wrench."

*If I'm not the problem...then there is no solution"

*The past is depression, the future is anxiety, so why not stay in today


*We need self-acceptance before we can have self improvement
 

*For every meeting, there are three meetings: (1) The meeting before the meeting, (2) the meeting, and (3) the meeting after the meeting. Attend all three meetings.


* Normal  is  a  setting  on  the  dish  washer

*You may be the only copy of the Big Book some people ever see.



*Commitments don't just keep us sober. They keep us involved and feeling like we're a part of something that is worthwhile.

*There are no endings, only new beginnings.


*You are 3 people:  Who you think you are  Who other people think you are and Who you really are.

*Do I want to be happy or be right?


*There are 2 times when you ought to go to meetings. 1. when you want to go 2. when you don't want to go

*No matter where I go, there I am.


*If drinking doesn't bring you to your knees, sobriety will.

*Under every dress there's a slip.

*If I don't change, my sobriety date will !

*Keep coming back, it works if you work it.


*It works -------it really does ! (page 88,line 8 in the big book)

*Call your sponsor before, not after, you take the first drink

*Be as enthusiastic about AA as you were about your drinking

*There are 12 steps in the ladder of complete sobriety


*First we stayed sober because we have to......Then we stay sober because we are willing to....Finally we stay sober because we want to.

*Active alcoholics dont have relationships; they take hostages


*All you need to start your own AA meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot

*When all else fails.........the directions are in the big book

*How does one become an old-timer ? don't drink and don't die One Day at a Time!

*Even my worst day in sobriety is better than my best day drunk

*We all have another drunk left in us but we dont know if we have another recovery in us

*I only have to change one thing - EVERYTHING!


*It is sometimes easier to give up the wine than it is to give up the whine

*You can wake up and say "Good morning, God" or "Good God, it's morning!"

*It's not alcohol-wasm; it's alcoholism.

*Some people think alcoholism is a two-fold disease--more and right now. 

*Alcoholism: Once you are a pickle, you can't be a cucumber. But once you are a pickle, you can be a newcomer.

*If I have my HP in one hand and coffee in the other than I will be alright.

*Any two or three alcoholics gathered together in sobriety may call themselves an AA group.
 
*It only takes a day to learn 'how it works' and a lifetime to practice it!

*AA is a check-up from the neck up.
 
*~one drink = a drunk ~When I drink I break out in a binge

*Just accept, don't expect"
 

*I put a dollar in the change machine Nothing changed ...  Opened the AA book and my whole life changed"


*I would liked to have slipped into something more comfortable before my very 1st AA meeting ... like a coma.

*Before you open your mouth to speak, make sure it is an improvement on the silence.

*If you fail to change the person you were when you came in, that person will take you out

*If at first U don't succeed ... U R doing about average."

*Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

*Complacency: A feeling of well-being when surrounded by extreme danger. 
 
*U will go far in AA...because U have a long ways to go!

*If the path your on has no obstacles, then it probably doesn't lead anywhere.

*Acceptance is knowing the past will never get better.

*Take care of your body. If you don't, where else are you going to live?

*Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.

*Negativity is my disease asking me to come out and play

*You can't change the wind, but you can adjust the sails.

*Daily meditation for about 20 minutes is recommended for all in recovery; unless, of course,  you're very busy-then you should meditate for an hour.

*Don't point a finger; point the whole hand (reach out).

*My bottom is where I put my shovel down.

*Serenity is God's garden. The entrance is through our hearts. 

 
*Action: Utilize, don't analyze

*Resentment is like burning down your house to get rid of a rat.

*It's not what or how much you drank, it's what it did to you.

*Trying is what got me drunk; doing is what keeps me sober
*Being a "little bit alcoholic" is like being a "little bit pregnant.

*I used to COMPLAIN that rose bushes had THORNS..... Today, I REJOICE that THORN bushes have ROSES!

*If you want what you never had, you have to do what you've never done.

*The three most dangerous words for an alcoholic-"I've been thinking"

*We don't want to drink like gentlemen; we want to drink like pigs and be treated like gentlemen.

*If I don't "pause when agitated", I might use my "paws when agitated
 
*Easy does it: When all else fails, try following directions.

*I had to be the one to come to terms with the fact that I HAD a problem ..and I needed help

*Acceptance is knowing the past will never get better.

*Keep an attitude of gratitude.

*Instead of asking God to change the circumstances in your life why don't you try asking God to use the circumstances in your life to change you. 

*We came, we came to, we came to believe.

*Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday!

*If you have God in one hand and the fellowship in the other hand, You can't get drunk today

*The program has taught me to think faster than my mouth

*We are not reformed drunks–but informed alcoholics.

*When you re-read the Big Book, you do not see more than you did before.


*Read your Big Book every day, but try reading only the black parts.

*Relationships: For true intimacy to take place, I must be a whole person forming a partnership, not a broken person seeking another to be whole.

*Being humble means being teachable.


*To slip, work the Steps in reverse: Quit doing service (Step 12), let go of your spiritual life (Step 11), stop taking a daily inventory (Step 10), making amends (Steps 8 and 9), asking for help on character flaws (Steps 6 and 7), using a sponsor (Step 5), turning your life over to the care of a higher power (Step 3), believing in a higher a power (Step 2), and you will forget you are powerless over alcohol (Step 1)

*An alcoholic without a sponsor is like leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank

*The MIRACLE happens when we get sober. The MAGIC happens when we apply the principles to all our affairs



*RECOVERY IS SIMPLE EAT, SLEEP, WORK THE STEPS

AACRONYMS


 

*AA = Attitude Adjustment

*AA = Altruistic Action


*ALCOHOLICS = A Life Centered On Helping Others Live In Complete Sobriety
 
*ANONYMOUS = Actions Not Our Names Yield Maintenance Of Uninterrupted
Sobriety

*ACTION
= Any Change Toward Improving One's Nature

 
*ABC = Acceptance, Belief, Change...

 
*BIG BOOK = Believing In God Beats Our Old Knowledge

 
*CHANGE = Choosing Honesty Allows New Growth Everyday

 
*CARE = Comforting And Reassuring Each Other


*DENIAL = Don't Even Notice I Am Lying

 
*DETACH = Don't Even Think About Changing Him/Her


*DEAD = Drinking Ends All Dreams

 
*EGO = Easing God Out


*FEAR = Frantic Effort to Appear Real


*FEAR = Forget Everything and Run 


*FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

 
*FEAR = Feelings expressed Allows Relief

 
*FEAR = Face Everything And Recover! (definitely recommended)

 
*FEAR = Fighting Ego Against Reality


*FEAR = Few Ever Arrive Rejoicing


False Expectations Appearing Real
*FAITH = Fear Ain't In This House
 
*FAITH = Facing An Inner Truth Heals


*FAITH = Finally Admitted I Trust Him

*FAITH = Fear Ain't In This House


Finally Admitted I Trust Him
Finally Admitted I Trust Him
Finally Admitted I Trust Him
*FAILURE = Fearful, Arrogant, Insecure, Lonely, Uncertain, Resentful, Empty 

*FINE = Faithful, Involved, Knowledgeable and Experienced
 
*FINE = Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional


*FINE = Frantic, Insane, Nuts and Egotistical

*GIFTS = Getting It From The Steps

*GIFT = God Is Forever There


*GOD = Good Orderly Direction 

*GOD = Group Of Drunks  

*HEART = Healing  Enjoying and Recovering Together
 
*HALT = Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired: (Fix these situations before you make any decisions)

 
*HALT = Honestly, Actively, Lovingly Tolerant

 
*HALT = Hope, Acceptance, Love and Tolerance

 
*HELP = His Ever Loving Presence 


*HELP = Hope, Encouragement, Love and Patience
 
*HOPE
= Happy Our Program Exists

 
*HOPE = Having Organized Priorities Everyday


*HOPE =
Hearing Other Peoples' Experience


*HOW = Honest, Open-Minded and Willing (That's how we do it)

 
*ISM
= I, Self, Me

 
*ISM
= Incredibly Short Memory

 
*KISS = Keeping It Simple, Spiritually

 
*LOVE
= Living Our Victories Everyday


*LET GO = Leave Everything To God, Okay?

 

*NUTS = Not Using The Steps
 
*PROGRAM = People Relying On God Relaying A Message

 
*PACE = Positive Attitudes Change Everything

 
*PAIN = Pause And Invite New

 
*PRIDE
= Personal Recovery Involves Defeating Ego

 
*PMS = Pour Me Syndrome

 
*RELATIONSHIP
= Real Exciting Love Affair Turns Into Outrageous 

Nightmare, Sobriety Hangs In Peril

*SOLUTIONS = Saving Our Lives Using The Inventory Of Needed Steps
 
*SLIP = Sobriety Loses Its Priority

 
*SPONSOR = Sober Person Offering Newcomers Suggestions On Recovery

 
*STEPS = Solutions To Every Problem in Sobriety

 
*TIME = Things I Must Earn


*WILLING
= When I Live Life, I Need God

 
*YET = You're Eligible Too




Sunday, March 16, 2014

Elder's Meditation of the Day - March 16


"Each of us must know in our minds and believe in our hearts that even though we are different, you are like me and I am like you."
-- Larry P. Aitken, CHIPPEWA
One of the definitions of humility is having an awareness of one's own character defects. To recognize and acknowledge that one has imperfections is being humble. We should never pray for ourselves unless by doing so it would help another person. To have self-importance puts self first and this is not humble. We each have strengths and we each have weaknesses. Both the strengths and weaknesses are sacred. Life is sacred. We learn sacred things from weaknesses also. Therefore, all lives are developed through trial and error, strength and weakness, ups and downs, gains and losses - all of these are part of life and life is sacred

     

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Elder's Meditation of the Day March 12



 
"The old people say, `Learn from your mistakes'. So I try to accept everything for what it is and to make the best of each situation one day at a time."
--Dr. A.C. Ross (Ehanamani), LAKOTA
The Creator did not design us to beat ourselves up when we make mistakes. Mistakes are our friends. It is from mistakes that we learn. The more mistakes we learn from, the faster we gain wisdom. The faster we gain wisdom, the more we love. The more we love, the fewer our mistakes. Therefore, mistakes help us to learn love. God is love. Mistakes are sacred and help us learn about God's will for ourselves.

Great Spirit, help me, today, to learn from my mistakes. 

 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Growing Pains…


“How could I do it? How could I say it? Even though I meant it, I still feel ashamed, guilty, and afraid.”

This is a common reaction to new, exciting recovery behaviors. Anything to do with owning our power and taking care of ourselves can trigger feelings of shame, guilt, and fear.

We do not have to allow these feelings to control us. They’re a backlash. They’re after-burn. Let them burn out.

When we start confronting and attacking feelings and messages, we will experience some after-burn. The after-burn is what we allowed to control us all our life—shame and guilt.

Many of us grew up with shame-based messages that it wasn’t okay to take care of ourselves, be honest, be direct, and own our power with people. Many of us grew up with messages that it wasn’t okay to be who we were and resolve problems in relationships. Many of us grew up with the message that what we want and need isn’t okay.

Let it all burn off. We don’t have to take after-burn so seriously. We don’t let the after-burn convince us that we are wrong and don’t have a right to take care of ourselves and set boundaries.

Do we really have the right to take care of ourselves? Do we really have the right to set boundaries? Do we really have the right to be direct and say what we need to say?
You bet we do.

Today, I will let any after-burn which sets in after I practice a new recovery behavior, burn off. I will not take it so seriously. God, help me let go of my shame and needless fears about what will happen to me if I really start caring for and loving myself.

Quoted from the book Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.
What a description.  We are all human.  And we all have needs.  We all have a right to set our boundaries, learn new and healthy behaviors and most importantly to love and care for ourselves.  Some of us may be good at doing this, others not so good.

When we set a boundary we are caring for ourselves and sometimes for our family as well.  When we take some time out for us we are caring for ourselves.  When we attend to what needs attending to and practice First things First we are learning to put things in their proper place of importance or urgency. So what is there to “feel” badly about?  If we have done our best to do these things in a loving caring and or respectful manner then even when we make mistakes especially when learning a new recovery tool (doubly if not quadruply important if those around us are not in recovery) we can cut ourselves some slack.  We can see that we are embarking on new territory.  And leaving our old territory is hard.  Those voices calling come back…you’re abandoning us.  No, I don’t mean the people I mean our own feelings.  When we have learned to take comfort in the familiar, even if the familiar isn’t healthy for us it is hard to put it behind.

But we can and though it may be uncomfortable at first, rest assured that the end result is worth the sometimes bumpy means.

Today I will let that after burn that discomfort of letting go of old behaviors and way of thinking have it’s place but then let it go.  I will not stay stuck somewhere that is not healthy.  I will recognize them for what they are…growing pains…that lead me to a deeper place of understanding and caring for myself that bring serenity.


Letting Go


Stop trying so hard to control things. It is not our job to control people, outcomes, circumstances, and life. Maybe in the past we couldn't trust and let things happen. But we can now. The way life is unfolding is good. Let it unfold.

Stop trying so hard to do better, be better, and be more. Who we are and the way we do things is good enough for today.

Who we were and the way we did things yesterday was good enough for that day.

Ease up on ourselves. Let go. Stop trying so hard.

Today, I will let go. I will stop trying to control everything. I will stop trying to make myself be and do better, and I will let myself be.



Alcoholics and God


The 1939 Liberty Magazine Article
Charles Towns, owner of Towns' Hospital where Bill Wilson had sobered up, tried to get publicity for A.A. and finally succeeded. He had known Morris Markey, a well-known feature writer, for years. Markey was intrigued by what Towns told him of A.A., and approached Fulton Oursler, then editor of "Liberty," a popular magazine that had a religious orientation. Oursler saw the possibilities at once and said, "Morris, you've got an assignment. Bring that story in here, and we will print it in September." (Oursler later wrote a number of successful books on religion. He became a good friend of Bill's and served as a trustee of the Alcoholic Foundation.)

Liberty Magazine Cover, September 30, 1939
1/2 size image
In September 1939, when the "Liberty" piece hit the newsstands, Bill thought it was a bit lurid, and that the title, "Alcoholics and God," would scare off some prospects. Perhaps it did, but "Liberty" received 800 urgent pleas for help, which were promptly turned over to Bill Wilson who turned them over to Ruth Hock for a response.
"She wrote fine personal letters to every one of them," wrote Bill, "enclosing a leaflet which described the A.A. book. The response was wonderful. Several hundred books sold at once at full retail price of $3.50. Even more importantly, we struck up a correspondence with alcoholics, their friends, and their families all over the country."
When Dr. Bob read the story he was elated. "You never saw such an elated person in your life," said Ernie G. the second (there were two Ernie G's). "We all were," said Ernie's wife, Ruth. Anne smith said, "You know, it looks like we might be getting a little bit respectable."

It was AA's first successful piece of national publicity. The stories in the Cleveland Plain Dealer followed shortly thereafter. One result of the article was that A.A. was started in Philadelphia. George S. of Philadelphia, one of the first "loners" had sobered up after reading the article. When the issue of Liberty first arrived, George was in bed drinking whiskey for his depression and taking laudanum for his colitis. The Markey piece hit George so hard that he went ex-grog and ex-laudanum instantly. He wrote to New York, his name was given to Jim Burwell (see "The Vicious Cycle" in the Big Book), who was a traveling salesman, "and that's how A.A. started in the City of Brotherly Love," wrote Bill.

Jim and George gathered others to them, and the first A.A. meeting in Philadelphia was held in George's home. Chicago also reported getting several new prospects as a result of the "Liberty" article. Bill wrote to Dr. Bob, "We are growing at an alarming rate, although I have no further fear of large numbers."

A few weeks later he wrote Dr. Bob that "the press of newcomers and inquiries was so great that we have to swing more to the take-it-or-leave-it attitude, which, curiously enough, produces better results than trying to be all things at all times at all places to all men."

(Sources: Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. Bill W., by Francis Hartigan. Bill W., by Robert Thomsen. The Language of the Heart, Bill W.'s Grapevine Writings. Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers.)


                                 _____________________________________________

Alcoholics and GodLiberty Magazine, September 1939, by Morris Markey
This was the first National article about A.A.


Is there hope for habitual drunkards?
A cure that borders on the miraculous-and it works!


      For twenty-five or thirty cents we buy a glass of fluid which is pleasant to the taste, and which contains within its small measure a store of warmth and good-fellowship and stimulation, of release from momentary cares and anxieties. That would be a drink of whisky, of course-whisky, which is one of Nature's most generous gifts to man, and at the same time one of his most elusive problems. It is a problem because, like many of his greatest benefits, man does not quite know how to control it. Many experiments have been made, the most spectacular being the queer nightmare of prohibition, which left such deep scars upon the morals and the manners of our nation. Millions of dollars have been spent by philanthropists and crusaders to spread the doctrine of temperance. In our time the most responsible of the distillers are urging us to use their wares sensibly, without excess.
      But to a certain limited number of our countrymen neither prohibition nor wise admonishments have any meaning, because they are helpless when it comes to obeying them. I speak of the true alcoholics, and before going any further I had best explain what that term means.
      For a medical definition of the term, I quote an eminent doctor who, has spent twenty-five years treating such people in a highly regarded private hospital: "We believe . . . that the action of alcohol in chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy-that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all."
      They are, he goes on, touched with physical and mental quirks which prevent them from controlling their own actions. They suffer from what some doctors call a "compulsion neurosis." They know liquor is bad for them but periodically, they are driven by a violent and totally uncontrollable desire for a drink. And after that first drink, the deluge.'
      Now these people are genuinely sick. The liquor habit with them is not a vice. It is a specific illness of body and mind, and should be treated as such.
      By far the most successful cure is that used by the hospital whose head doctor I have quoted. There is nothing secret about it. It has the endorsement of the medical profession. It is, fundamentally, a process of dehydration: of removing harmful toxins from all parts of the body faster than Nature could accomplish it. Within five or six days-two weeks at the maximum- the patient's body is utterly free from alcoholic poisons. Which means that the physical craving is completely cured, because the body cries out for alcohol only when alcohol is already there. The patient has no feeling of revulsion toward whisky. He simply is not interested in it. He has recovered. But wait. How permanent is his recovery?
      Our doctor says this: " Though the aggregate of full recoveries through physical and psychiatric effort its considerable, we doctors must admit that we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole. For there are many types which do not respond to the psychological approach.
      "I do not believe that true alcoholism is entirely a matter of individual mental control. I have had many men who had, for example, worked for a period of months on some business deal which was to be settled on a certain date.... For reasons they could not afterward explain, they took a drink a day or two prior to the date . . . and the important engagement was not even kept. These men were not drinking to escape. They were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.
      "The classification of alcoholics is most difficult. There are, of course," the psychopaths who are emotionally unstable.... They are overremorseful and make many resolutions -but never a decision.
      "There is the type who is unwilling to admit that he cannot take a drink just like the rest of the boys. He does tricks with his drinking- changing his brand, or drinking only after meals or changing his companions. None of this helps him strengthen his control and be like other people. Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect which alcohol has upon them . . .
      "All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: They cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving.... The only relief we have to suggest is complete abstinence from alcohol " But are these unfortunate people really capable, mentall, of abstaining completely? Their bodies may be cured of craving. Can their minds be cured? Can they be rid of the deadly " compulsion neurosis "?
      Among physicians the general opinion seems to be that chronic alcoholics are doomed. . .
      But wait!
      Within the last four years, evidence has appeared which has startled hard-boiled medical men by proving that the compulsion neurosis can be entirely eliminated. Perhaps you are one of those cynical people who will turn away when I say that the root of this new discovery is religion. But be patient for a moment. About three years ago a man appeared at the hospital in New York of which our doctor is head physician. It was his third "cure." Since his first visit he had lost his job, his friends, his health, and his self-respect. He was now living on the earnings of his wife.
      He had tried every method he could find to cure his disease: had read all the great philosophers and psychologists. He had tried religion but he simply could not accept it. It would not seem real and personal to him.
      He went through the cure as usual and came out of it in very low spirits. He was lying in bed, emptied of vitality and thought, when suddenly, a strange and totally unexpected thrill went through his body and mind. He called out for the doctor. When the doctor came in, the man looked up at him and grinned. 
 
      "Well, doc," he said, "my troubles are all over. I've got religion."
      "Why, you're the last man . . ."
      "Sure, I know all that. But I've got it. And I know I'm cured of this drinking business for good." He talked with great intensity for a while and then said, " Listen, doc. I've got to see some other patient- one that is about to be dismissed."
      The doctor demurred. It all sounded a trifle fanatical. But finally he consented. And thus was born the movement which is now flourishing with almost sensational success as Alcoholics Anonymous."
Here is how it works:
      Every member of the group-which is to say every person who has been saved-is under obligation to carry on the work, to save other men. That, indeed, is a fundamental part of his own mental cure. He gains strength and confidence by active work with other victims.
      He finds his subject among acquaintances, at a "cure" institution or perhaps by making inquiry of a preacher, a priest, or a doctor. He begins his talk with his new acquaintance by telling him the true nature of his disease and how remote are his chances for permanent cure.
      When he has convinced the man that he is a true alcoholic and must never drink again, he continues:
      "You had better admit that this thing is beyond your own control. You've tried to solve it by yourself, and you have failed. All right. Why not put the whole thing into the hands of Somebody Else?" 
 
      Even though the man might be an atheist or agnostic, he will almost always admit that there is some sort of force operating in the world-some cosmic power weaving a design. And his new friend will say:
      "I don't care what you call this Somebody Else. We call it God. But whatever you want to call it, you had better put yourself into its hands. Just admit you're licked, and say, `Here I am, Somebody Else. Take care of this thing for me.'" The new subject will generally consent to attend one of the weekly meetings of the movement.
      He will find twenty-five or thirty ex-drunks gathered in somebody's home for a pleasant evening. There are no sermons. The talk is gay or serious as the mood strikes. The new candidate cannot avoid saying to himself, "These birds are ex-drunks. And look at them! They must have something. It sounds kind of screwy, but whatever it is I wish to heaven I could get it too."
      One or another of the members keeps working on him from day to day. And presently the miracle-But let me give you an example: I sat down in a quiet room with Mr. B., a stockily built man of fifty with a rather stern, intelligent face.
      "I'll tell you what happened a year ago." He said. "I was completely washed up. Financially I was all right, because my money is in a trust fund. But I was a drunken bum of the worst sort. My family was almost crazy with my incessant sprees."
      "I took the cure in New York." (At the hospital we have mentioned.) "When I came out of it, the doctor suggested I go to one of these meetings the boys were holding. I just laughed. My father was an atheist and had taught me to be one. But the doctor kept saying it wouldn't do me any harm, and I went."
      "I sat around listening to the jabber. It didn't register with me at all. I went home. But the next week I found myself drawn to the meeting. And again they worked on me while I shook my head. I said, 'It seems O.K. with you, boys, but I don't even know your language. Count me out.'"
      "Somebody said the Lord's Prayer, and the meeting broke up. I walked three blocks to the subway station. Just as I was about to go down the stairs-bang!" He snapped fingers hard. "It happened! I don't like that word miracle, but that's all I can call it. The lights in the street seemed to flare up. My feet seemed to leave the pavement. A kind of shiver went over me, and I burst out crying.
      "I went back to the house where we had met, and rang the bell, and Bill let me in. We talked until two o'clock in the morning. I haven't touched a drop since, and I've set four other fellows on the same road.
      The doctor, a nonreligious man himself, was at first utterly astonished at the results that began to appear among his patients. But then he put his knowledge of psychiatry and psychology to work.
      These men were experiencing a psychic change. Their so-called "compulsion neurosis" was being altered-transferred from liquor to something else. Their psychological necessity to drink was being changed to a psychological necessity to rescue their fellow victims from the plight that made themselves so miserable. It is not a new idea. It is a powerful and effective working out of an old idea. We all know that the alcoholic has an urge to share his troubles. Psychoanalysts use this urge. They say to the alcoholic, in basic terms: "You can't lick this problem yourself. Give me the problem-transfer the whole thing to me and let me take the whole responsibility." But the psychoanalyst, being of human clay, is not often a big enough man for that job. The patient simply cannot generate enough confidence in him. But the patient can have enough confidence in God-once he has gone through the mystical experience of recognizing God. And upon that principle the Alcoholic Foundation rests.
      The medical profession, in general, accepts the principle as sound.
      "Alcoholics Anonymous" have consolidated their activities in an organization called the Alcoholic Foundation. It is a nonprofit-making enterprise. Nobody connected with it is paid a penny. It is not a crusading movement. It condemns neither liquor nor the liquor industry. Its whole concern is with the rescue of allergic alcoholics, the small proportion of the population who must be cured or perish. It preaches no particular religion and has no dogma, no rules. Every man conceives God according to his own lights.
      Groups have grown up in other cities. The affairs of the Foundation are managed by three members of the movement and four prominent business and professional men, not alcoholics, who volunteered their services.
      The Foundation has lately published a book, called Alcoholics Anonymous. And if alcoholism is a problem in your family or among your friends, I heartily recommend that you get hold of a copy. It may very well help you to guide a sick man--an allergic alcoholic-- on the way to health and contentment.

The Drunkard's Best





Background



In March, 1941, an article entitled "Alcoholics Anonymous" by Jack Alexander appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. The Post, at that time, was one of the country's most popular publications. The influence of that article on the growth--and indeed, survival of Alcoholics Anonymous--cannot be overstated. This 1941 article is available in the A.A.W.S. pamphlet The Jack Alexander Article About A.A.(P-12).In April, 1950, the Saturday Evening Post published a second article about Alcoholics Anonymous by Jack Alexander. Just shy of 15 years after the founding of A.A., this article is a fascinating look at the Fellowship in its early years.
NOTE: This page may be slow in loading due to the fact that I have included some of the illustrations from the original article.



The Drunkard's Best FriendBy Jack Alexander

Nine years ago the Post reported on the then-obscure group known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Since that time these self-rehabilitated men--and women--have sobered up an astonishing number of America's heaviest drinkers. This is how they do it.

Another drunk on the bed.
Another drunk on the bed.
When a farmer in Aroostook County, Maine announces that he is going to bake a cake, he is speaking figuratively. What he means is that he is bored with the loneliness of Aroostook vast reaches, with the county's most famous product, potatoes, and with life in general; and that, to relieve his boredom, he is going on a vanilla-extract bender. In order to buy liquor he might have to drive as much as a hundred miles over drifted or rutted roads, to reach a town uninhibited by local option. He tipples on vanilla, which is rich in alcohol, because it is easily and legally obtainable, in quantity, at the nearest grocery store. Grocers in local-option towns ordinarily do a thriving vanilla business with alcoholically inclined agrarians, but of late the strange society known as Alcoholics Anonymous has taken root in Aroostook and a disturbing effect on the vanilla turnover has been observed.
"You wouldn't believe it, Ned," one storekeeper lamented to a drummer on a gray day last November, " but my vanilla sales is almost down to normal."

The impact of Alcoholics Anonymous upon a community is not always that striking, but it is doing quite well at its self-appointed task, which, as almost everyone knows by now, is that of helping confirmed drunks to quit drinking. The help is provided solely by alcoholics who, through adhering to a specified program of living, have managed to arrest their own disastrous drinking habits. (A. A. members never call themselves ax-alcoholics, regardless of the length of their sobriety, the theory being that they are ineradicably alcoholics by temperament, and are therefore always vulnerable to a relapse.)

During the past few years Alcoholics Anonymous has extended its influence overseas, and one of its more dedicated workers is the honorable secretary of the Dublin group. A Sandhurst graduate and a veteran of twenty-six years in the British Army, he is still remembered in some portions of the Middle East for his inspired work with the bottle. Now an abstainer, he lives off his major's pension and the profits of a small retail business. Like all faithful members of A.A., he spends much of his spare time in shepherding other lushes toward total abstinence, lest he revert to the pot himself.

The honorable secretary is a man of few spoken words, but he carries on a large correspondence within the fraternity. His letters, which are notable for their eloquent understatement, are prized by fellow A.A.'s in this country and are passed around at meetings. One of his more fascinating communiqu├ęs, received here in October, described a missionary trip to Cork, in company with another A.A. gentleman. The purpose of the trip was to bring the glad tidings of freedom to any Corkonians who might happen to be besotted and unshriven, and to stimulate the local group, which was showing small promise.
This was the honorable secretary's chronological report:
8 P.M. The chairman and myself sat alone.
8:05 One lady arrived, a nonalcoholic.
8:15 One man arrived.
8:20 A County Cork member arrived to say he couldn't stay, as his children had just developed measles.
8:25 The lone lady departed.
8:30 Two more men arrived.
8:40 One more man arrived, and I decided to make a start.
8:45 The first man arrival stated that he had to go out and have a drink.
8:50 He came back.
8:55 Three more arrived.
9:10 Another lady, propped up by a companion, arrived, gazed glassily around, collected some literature and departed unsteadily.
9:30 The chairman and I had finished speaking.
9:45 We reluctantly said good night to the new members, who seemed very interested.
In summing up, the secretary said: "A night of horror at first, developing quite well. I think they have good prospects, once the thing is launched."
To a skeptic, the honorable secretary's happy prognosis in the face of initial discouragement may sound foolishly hopeful. To those already within the fraternity and familiar with the sluggardly and chaotic character of A.A. Iocal-group growth in its early stages, he was merely voicing justifiable optimism. For some years after its inception, in 1935, the Alcoholics Anonymous movement itself made slow progress. As the work of salvaging other drunks is essential to maintaining the sobriety of the already-salvaged brethren, the earnest handful of early salvagees spent some worrisome months. Hundreds of thousands of topers were prowling about in full alcoholic cry, but few would pause long enough to listen.

Six years after it all began, when this magazine first examined the small but encouraging phenomenon (Post, March 1, 1941), the band could count 2000 members, by scraping hard, and some of these were still giving off residual fumes. In the nine years which have intervened since that report, the small phenomenon has become a relatively large one. Today its listed membership exceeds 90,000. Just how many of these have substantial sobriety records is a matter of conjecture, as the movement, which has no control at the top and is constantly ridden by maverick tendencies, operates in a four-alarm-fire atmosphere, and no one has the time to check up. A reasonable guess would be that about two thirds have been sober for anywhere from six months to fifteen years, and that the rest have stretched out their periods of sobriety between twisters to the point where they are at least able to keep their jobs.

The intake of shaky-fingered newcomers, now at its highest in A.A. history, is running at the rate of around 20,000 a year. The number that will stick is, again, a matter of conjecture. If experience repeats, according to A.A. old-timers, about one half will stay sober from the start, and one fourth will achieve sobriety after a few skids; the other one fourth will remain problem drinkers. A problem drinker, by definition, is one who takes a drink for some compulsive reason he cannot identify and, having taken it, is unable to stop until he is drunk and acting like a lunatic.


How Many of the Four Million Will Join?
 
IT is tempting to become over sanguine about the success of Alcoholics Anonymous to date. Ninety thousand persons, roaring drunk or roaring sober, are but a drop in the human puddle, and they represent only a generous dip out of the human alcoholic puddle. According to varying estimates, between 750,000 and 1,000,000 problem drinkers are still on the loose in the United States alone. Their numbers will inevitably be swelled in future years by recruits from the ranks of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 Americans who, by medical standards, drink too much for their own good. Some of these millions will taper off or quit when they reach the age at which the miseries of a hang-over seem too great a price to pay for an evening of artificially induced elation; but some will slosh over into the compulsive-drinker class.

The origins of alcoholism, which is now being widely treated as a major public-health problem, are as mysterious as those of cancer. They are perhaps even harder to pin down, because they involve psychic as well as physical elements. Currently, the physical aspect is being investigated by universities and hospitals, and by publicly and privately financed foundations. Some large business and industrial firms, concerned about reduced productivity and absenteeism, are providing medical and psychiatric aid to alcoholic employees. The firms' physicians are also digging into the alcoholic puzzle. The most plausible tentative explanation that any of these investigative efforts has come up with is that alcoholism is a sickness resembling that caused by various allergies.

Psychiatry has its own approach to the problem; it is successful in only a small percentage of cases. Clergymen, using a spiritual appeal, and the beset relatives of alcoholics, using everything from moral suasion to a simple bat in the jaw, manage to persuade a few chronics to become unchronic. So does one school of institutional treatment, which insists that alcoholism is solely the result of "twisted thinking" and aims at unraveling the mental quirks.

But the Alcoholics Anonymous approach--which leans on medicine, uses a few elementary principles of psychiatry and employs a strong spiritual weapon--is the only one which has done anything resembling a mop-up job. Whatever one's attitude toward A.A. may be, and a lot of people are annoyed by its sometimes ludicrous strivings and its dead-pan thumping of the sobriety tub, one can scarcely ignore its palpable results. To anyone who has ever been a drunk or who has had to endure the alcoholic cruelties of a drunk--and that would embrace a large portion of the human family--90,000 alcoholics reconverted into working citizens represent a massive dose of pure gain. In human terms, the achievements of Alcoholics Anonymous stand out as one of the few encouraging developments of a rather grim and destructive half century.
Drunks are prolific of excuses for their excessive drinking, and the most frequent alibi is that no one really understands what a struggle they have. With more than 3000 A.A. groups at work in the United States, and every member a veteran of the struggle, this excuse is beginning to lose its validity, if it ever had any validity. In most cities of any size the fraternity has a telephone listed in its own name. A nickel call will bring a volunteer worker who won't talk down to a drunk, as the average nonalcoholic has a way of doing but will talk convincingly in the jargon of the drunk. The worker won't do any urging; he will describe the Alcoholics Anonymous program in abbreviated form and depart. The drunk is invited to telephone again if he is serious about wanting to become sober. Or a drunk, on his own initiative or in tow of a relative, may drop in at the A.A. office, where he will receive the same non evangelistic treatment. In the larger cities the offices do a rushing trade, especially after week ends or legal holidays. Many small-town and village groups maintain clubrooms over the bank or feed store; in one Canadian town the A.A.'s share quarters with a handbook operator, using it by night after the bookie has gone home. Some of these groups carry a standing classified advertisement in the daily or weekly newspaper. If they don't, a small amount of inquiry will disclose the meeting place of the nearest group; a local doctor, or clergyman, or policeman will know.
To some extent, the same easy availability obtains in the twenty-six foreign countries where A.A. has gained a foothold. This is especially true of the nations of the British Commonwealth, particularly Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which together list more A.A. members than the whole movement could boast nine years ago; and of the Scandinavian countries, where membership is fairly strong. At a recent A.A. banquet in Oslo, Norway, 400 members celebrated their deliverance, drinking nothing stronger than water. Throughout Scandinavia the members bolster the program by using Antibuse, the new European aversion drug. This practice is deplored by some A.A. members as showing a lack of faith in the standard A.A. program, but, of course, nothing is done, or can be done, about it, since the program is free to anyone who thinks he needs it and he may adapt it in any way that suits him.

More often than not, though, disregard of the standard admonitions backfires. A bibulous Scottish baronet found this out when, returning from London, where he caught the spark from a local group, he set out ambitiously to dry up Edinburgh, a hard-drinking town. But he tried it by remote control, so to speak, hiring a visiting American A.A. to do the heavy work. This violated the principle that the arrested drunk must do drunk-rescuing work himself in order to remain sober. Besides, the Scottish drunks wouldn't listen to a hired foreign pleader. In no time at all, and without getting a convert, the baronet and his hireling were swacked to the eyeballs and crying on each other's shoulders. After the American had gone home, the baronet stiffened up, abandoned the traditions of his class and started all over again, cruising the gutters himself, visiting drunks in their homes and in hospitals and prisons. Edinburgh is now in the win column, and there are also groups in Glasgow, Dundee, Perth and Campbeltown, all offshoots of Edinburgh.

Alcoholism on a large scale seems to be most common in highly complex civilizations. These tend to breed the basic neuroses of which uncontrolled drinking is just one outward expression. A man in a more primitive setting, bound closely to earthy tasks and the constant battle with Nature, is apt to treat his frustrations by ignoring them or by working them off.
Alcoholics Anonymous has nevertheless caught on in some out-of-the-way places. A liquor salesman for a British firm, who was seduced by his own merchandise, started a group in Cape Town, South Africa, which now has ninety members. There are also groups in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban and East London, and in Salisbury and Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. The group at Anchorage, Alaska, which started in a blizzard, has a dozen members, including one slightly puzzled Eskimo, and there are small groups in Palmer and Ketchikan. There is a small group in the leper colony at Molokai, nurtured by A.A.'s from Honolulu, who fly there occasionally and conduct meetings.

The figures perhaps give too rosy a picture of the turbulent little world of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most of the members of any standing seem to be exceptionally happy people, with more serenity of manner than most non alcoholics are able to muster these jittery days; it is difficult to believe that they ever lived in the drunk's bewitched world. But some are still vaguely unhappy, though sober, and feel as if they were walking a tight wire. Treasurers occasionally disappear with a group's funds and wind up, boiled, in another town. After this had happened a few times, groups were advised to keep the kitty low, and the practice now is to spend any appreciable surplus on a cake-and-coffee festival or a picnic. This advice does not always work out; last year the members of a fresh and vigorous French-Canadian unit in Northern Maine, taking the advice to heart, debated so violently about how to spend their fifty-four dollars that all hands were drunk within twenty-four hours. It is difficult at first for the recruit to achieve serenity.

As most groups are mixtures of men and women, a certain number of unconventional love affairs occur. More than one group has been thrown into a maelstrom of gossip and disorder by a determined lady whose alcoholism was complicated by an aggressive romantic instinct. Such complications are no more frequent than they are at the average country club; they merely stand out more baldly, and do more harm, in an emotionally explosive society. Special A.A. groups in sixty-six prisons around the nation are constantly trickling out graduates into the civilian groups. The ex-convicts are welcomed and are, for some reason, usually models of good behavior. A sanitarium or mental-hospital background causes no more stir in an A.A. group than a string of college degrees would at the University Club; the majority of A.A.'s are alumni of anywhere from one to fifty such institutions. Thus Alcoholics Anonymous is something of a Grand Hotel.

The ability of the arrested drunk to talk the active drunk's language convincingly is the one revolutionary aspect of the A.A. technique, and it does much to explain why the approach so often succeeds after others have failed. The rest of the technique is a synthesis of already existing ideas, some of which are centuries old. Once a community of language and experience has been established, it acts as a bridge over which the rest of the A.A. message can be conveyed, provided the subject is receptive.

Across the bridge and inside the active alcoholic's mind lies an exquisitely tortured microcosm, and a steady member of Alcoholics Anonymous gets a shudder every time he looks into it again. It is a rat-cage world, kept hot by an alcohol flame, and within it lives, or dances, a peculiarly touchy, defiant and grandiose personality.
There is a sage saying in A.A. that "an alcoholic is just like a normal person, only more so." He is egotistical, childish, resentful and intolerant to an exaggerated degree. How he gets that way is endlessly debated, but a certain rough pattern is discernible in most cases. Many of those who ultimately become alcoholics start off as an only child, or as the youngest child in a family, or as a child with too solicitous a mother, or a father with an over severe concept of discipline. When such a child begins getting his lumps from society, his ego begins to swell disproportionately--either from too easy triumphs or, as a compensation, from being rebuffed in his attempts to win the approval of his contemporaries.

He develops an intense power drive, a feverish struggle to gain acceptance of himself at his own evaluation. A few of the power-drive boys meet with enough frustrations to send them into problem drinking while still in college or ever while in high school. More often, on entering adult life, the prospective alcoholic is outwardly just about like anyone else his age, except that he is probably a little more cocky and aggressive, a little more hipped on the exhibitionistic charm routine, a little more plausible. He becomes a social drinker--that is, one who can stop after a few cocktails and enjoy the experience.

But at some place along the line his power drive meets up with an obstacle it cannot surmount--someone he loves refuses to love him, someone whose admiration he covets rejects him, some business or professional ambition is thwarted. Or he may encounter a whole series of rebuffs. The turning point may come quickly or it may be delayed for as long as forty or fifty years. He begins to take his drinks in gulps, and before he realizes it he is off on a reeler. He loses jobs through drunkenness, embarrasses his family and alienates his friends. His world begins to shrink. He encounters the horrors of the "black-out," the dawn experience of being unable to remember what he did the night before--how many checks he wrote and how large they were, whom he insulted, where he parked his car, whether or not he ran down someone on the way home. In the alcoholic world a nice distinction is made between the "black-out" and the simple "pass-out," the latter being the relatively innocuous act of falling asleep from taking too much liquor. He jumps nervously whenever the doorbell or telephone rings, fearing that it may be a saloonkeeper with a rubber check, or a damage-suit lawyer, or the police.

He is frustrated and fearful, but is only vaguely conscious that his will, which is strong in most crises, fails him where liquor is concerned, although this is apparent to anyone who knows him. He nurses a vision of sobriety and tries all kind of self-rationing systems, none of which works for long. The great paradox of his personality is that in the midst of his troubles, his already oversize ego tends to expand; failure goes to his head. He continues, as the old saying has it, to rage through life calling for the headwaiter. In his dreams he is likely to see himself alone on a high mountain, masterfully surveying the world below. This dream, or some variant of it, will come to him whether he is sleeping in his own bed, or in a twenty-five-dollar-a-day hotel suite, or on a park bench, or in a psychopathic ward.

If he applies to Alcoholics Anonymous for help, he has taken an important step toward arresting his drink habit; he has at least admitted that alcohol has whipped him. This in itself is an act of humility, and his life thereafter must be a continuing effort to acquire more of this ancient virtue. Should he need hospitalization, his new friends will see that he gets it, if a local hospital will take him. Understandably, many hospitals are reluctant to accept alcoholic patients, because so many of them are disorderly. With this sad fact in mind, the society has persuaded several hospitals to set up separate alcoholic corridors and is helping to supervise the patients through supplying volunteer workers.
Knickerbocker Hospital in Manhatten
Knickerbocker Hospital in Manhatten
To the satisfaction of all concerned including the hospital managements, which find the supervised corridors peaceful, more than 10,000 patients have gone through five-day rebuilding courses. The hospitals involved in this successful experiment are: St. Thomas' (Catholic) in Akron, St. John's (Episcopal) in Brooklyn and Knickerbocker (nonsectarian) in Manhattan. They have set a pattern which the society would like to see adopted by the numerous hospitals which now accept alcoholics on a more restricted basis.

Early in the game the newcomer is subjected to a merciful but thorough deflating of his ego. It is brought home to him forcefully that if he continues his uncontrolled drinking--the only kind he is capable of--he will die prematurely, or go insane from brain impairment, or both. He is encouraged to apologize to persons he has injured through his drunken behavior; this is a further step in the ego-deflation process and is often as painful to the recipient of the apology as it is to the neophyte A.A. He is further instructed that unless he will acknowledge the existence of a power greater than himself and continually ask this power for help, his campaign for sobriety will probably fail. This is the much-discussed spiritual element in Alcoholics Anonymous. Most members refer to this power as God; some agnostic members prefer to call it Nature, or the Cosmic Power, or by some other label. In any case, it is the key of the A.A. program, and it must be taken not on a basis of mere acceptance or acknowledgment, but of complete surrender.
This surrender is described by a psychiatrist, Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, of Greenwich, Connecticut, as a "conversion" experience, "a psychological event in which there is a major shift in personality manifestation." He adds:
"The changes which take place in the conversion process may be summed up by saying that the person who has achieved the positive frame of mind has lost his tense, aggressive, demanding, conscience-ridden self which feels isolated and at odds with the world, and has become, instead, a relaxed, natural, more realistic individual who can dwell in the world on a live-and-let-live basis."
The personality change wrought surrender is far from complete, at first. Elated by a few weeks of sobriety, the new member often enters what is known as the "Chautauqua phase"--he is always making speeches at business meetings on what is wrong with the society and how these defects can be remedied. Senior members let him talk himself out of this stage of behavior; if that doesn't work, he may break away and form a group of his own. If he does this, he gradually becomes a quiet veteran himself and other Chautauqua-phase boys either oust him from leadership of his own group or break away themselves and form a new group. By this and other processes of fission the movement spreads. It can stand a lot of outstanding foolishness and still grow.

Drunks, as such, are too individualistic to be organized, and there is no top command in Alcoholics Anonymous to excommunicate, fine or otherwise penalize irrational behavior. However, services--such as publishing meeting bulletins, distributing literature, arranging for hospitalization, and so on--are organized in the larger centers. The local offices, which are operated and financed by the groups thereabouts, are autonomous. They are governed by representatives elected by the neighborhood groups to a rotating body called the Inter-group. There are no dues; all local expenses are met by a simple passing of the hat at group meetings.
A certain body of operational traditions has grown up over the years, and charged with maintaining them--by exhortation only--is something called the Alcoholic Foundation, which has offices at 415 Lexington Avenue New York City. For a foundation it acts queerly about money; much of its time is consumed in turning down proffered donations and bequests. One tradition is that A.A. must be kept poor, as money represents power and the society prefers to avoid the temptations which power brings. As a check on the foundation itself, the list of trustees is weighted against the alcoholics by eight to seven. The nonalcoholic members are two doctors, a sociologist, a magazine editor, a newspaper editor, a penologist, an international lawyer and a retired businessman.

Preserving the principle of anonymity is one of the more touchy tasks of the foundation. Members are not supposed to be anonymous among their friends or business acquaintances, but they are when appearing before the public--in print or on radio or television, for example--as members of Alcoholics Anonymous. This limited anonymity is considered important to the welfare of the movement, primarily because it encourages members to subordinate their personalities to the principles of A.A. There is also the danger that if a member becomes publicized as a salvaged alcoholic he may stage a spectacular skid and injure the prestige of the society. Actually, anonymity has been breached only a few dozen times since the movement began, which isn't a bad showing, considering the exhibitionistic nature of the average alcoholic.

By one of the many paradoxes which have characterized its growth, Alcoholics Anonymous absorbed the "keep it poor" principle from one of the world's wealthiest men, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The society was formed in 1935 after a fortuitous meeting in Akron between a Wall Street broker and an Akron surgeon, both alcoholics of long standing. The broker, who was in Akron on a business mission, had kept sober for several months by jawing drunks--unsuccessfully--but his business mission had fallen through and he was aching for a drink. The surgeon, at the time they got together, was quite blotto. Together, over a period of a few weeks, they kept sober and worked out the basic A.A. technique. By 1937, when they had about fifty converts, they began thinking, as all new A.A.'s will, of tremendous plans--for vast new alcoholic hospitals, squadrons of paid field workers and the literature of mercy pouring off immense presses. Being completely broke themselves, and being promoters at heart, as most alcoholics are, they set their sights on the Rockefeller jack pot.

Rockefeller sent an emissary to Akron to look into the phenomenon at work there, and, receiving a favorable report, granted an audience to a committee of eager-eyed alcoholics. He listened to their personal sagas of resurrection from the gutter and was deeply moved; in fact, he was ready to agree that the A.A.'s had John Barleycorn by the throat. The visitors relaxed and visualized millions dropping into the till. Then the man with the big money bags punctured the vision. He said that too much money might be the ruination of any great moral movement and that he didn't want to be a party to ruining this one. However, he did make a small contribution--small for Rockefeller--to tide it over for a few years, and he got some of his friends to contribute a few thousand more. When the Rockefeller money ran out, A.A. was self-supporting, and it has remained so ever since.

Although A.A. remains in essence what it has always been, many changes have come along in late years. For one thing, the average age of members has dropped from about forty-seven to thirty-five. The society is no longer, as it was originally, merely a haven for the "last gaspers." Because of widespread publicity about alcoholism, alcoholics are discovering earlier what their trouble is.
Women account for 15% of membership
Women account for 15% of membership
As A.A. has achieved wider social acceptance, more women are coming in than ever before. Around the country they average 15 per cent of total membership; in New York, where social considerations never did count for much, the A.A.'s are 30 per cent women. The unmarried woman alcoholic is slow to join, as she generally gets more coddling and protection from her family than a man does; she is what is known in alcoholic circles as a " bedroom drinker." The married-woman alcoholic has a tougher row to hoe. The wife of an alcoholic, for temperamental and economic reasons, will ordinarily stick by her erring husband to the bitter end. The husband of an alcoholic wife, on the other hand, is usually less tolerant; a few years of suffering are enough to drive him to the divorce court, with the children in tow. Thus the divorced-woman A.A. is a special problem, and her progress in sobriety depends heavily upon on the kindliness shown her by the other A.A. women. For divorcees, and for other women who may be timid about speaking out in mixed meetings, special female auxiliary groups have been formed in some communities. They work out better than a cynic might think.
Another development is the growth of the sponsor system. A new member gets a sponsor immediately, and it is the function of the sponsor to accompany him to meetings, to see that he gets all the help he needs and to be on call at any time for emergencies. As an emergency usually amounts only to an onset of that old feeling for a bottle, it is customarily resolved by a telephone conversation, although it may involve an after-midnight trip to Ernie's gin mill, whither the neophyte has been shanghaied by a couple of unregenerate old drinking companions. As the membership of A.A. cuts through all social, occupational and economic classes, it is possible to match the sponsor with the sponsored, and this seems to speed up the arrestive process.

During the past decade or so, the society, whose original growth was in large cities, has strongly infiltrated the grass-roots country. Its arrival in this sector was delayed largely because of the greater stigma which attaches to alcoholism in the small town. Because of this stigma and the effect it has on his business, professional or social standing, the small-town alcoholic, reveling in his delusion that nobody knows about his drinking--when actually it is the gossip of Main Street--takes frequent "vacations" or "business trips" if he can afford it. He or she--the banker, the storekeeper, the lawyer, the madam president of the garden club, sometimes even the clergyman--is actually headed for a receptive hospital or clinic in the nearest large city, where no one will recognize him.

The pattern of small-town growth begins when the questing small-towner seeks out the big-city A.A. outfit and its message catches on with him. To his surprise, he finds that half a dozen drinkers in towns near his own have also been to the fount. On returning to his home, he gets in touch with them and they form an intertown group; or there may be enough drinkers in his own town to begin a group. Though there is a stigma even to getting sober in small towns, it is less virulent than the souse stigma, and word of the movement spreads throughout the county and into adjoining counties. The churches and newspapers take it up and beat the drum for it; relatives of drunks, and doctors who find themselves unable to help their alcoholic patients, gladly unload the problem cases on A.A., and A.A. is glad to get them. The usual intrafellowship quarrel over who is going to run the thing inevitably develops and there are factional splits, but the splits help to spread the movement, too, and all the big quarrels soon become little ones, and then disappear.

Nowhere is Alcoholics Anonymous carried on with more enthusiasm than in Los Angeles. Unlike most localities, which try to keep separate group membership, for easier handling, Los Angeles likes the theatrical mass-meeting setting, with 1000 or more present. The Los Angeles A.A.'s carry their membership as if it were a social cachet and go strongly for square dances of their own. Jewelry bearing the A.A. monogram, though frowned upon elsewhere, is popular on the Coast. After three months of certified sobriety a member receives a bronze pin, after one year he is entitled to have a ruby chip inserted in the pin and, after three years, a diamond chip. Rings bearing the A.A. letters are widely worn, as well as similarly embellished compacts, watch fobs and pocket pieces.

Texas takes A.A. with enthusiasm too. In the ranch sector, members drive or fly hundreds of miles to attend A.A. square dances and barbecues, bringing their families. In metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth--there are upwards of a dozen oil-millionaire members here--fancy club quarters have been established in old mansions and the brethren and their families rejoice, dance and drink coffee and soda pop amid expensive furnishings. One Southwestern group recently got its governor to release a life-termer from the state penitentiary for a week end, so that he could be the guest of honor of the group. "We had a large open meeting," a local member wrote a friend elsewhere in the country, "and many state and county officials attended in order to hear what Herman (the lifer) had to tell about A.A. within the walls. They were deeply impressed and very interested. The next night I gave a lawn party and buffet supper in Herman's honor, with about fifty A.A.'s present. This was the first occasion of this kind in the state and to our knowledge the first in the United States."

Some A.A.'s believe that this group carried the joy business too far. Others think that each section of the country ought to manifest spirit in its own way; anyway, that is the way it usually works out. The Midwest is businesslike and serious. In the Deep South the A.A.'s do a certain amount of Bible reading and hymn singing. The Northwest and the upper Pacific Coast help support their gathering places with the proceeds from slot machines. New York, a catchall for screwballs and semiscrewballs from all over, is pious about gambling, and won't have it around the place. New England is temperate in its approach, and its spirit is characterized by the remark of one Yankee who, writing a fellow A.A. about a lake cottage he had just bought, said, "The serenity hangs in great gobs from the trees."

The serene mind is what A.A.'s the world over are driving toward, and an epigrammatic expression of their goal is embodied in a quotation which members carry on cards in their wallets and plaster up on the walls of their meeting rooms: "God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Originally thought in Alcoholics Anonymous to have been written by St. Francis of Assisi, it turned out, on recent research, to have been the work of another eminent nonalcoholic, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, of Union Theological Seminary. Doctor Niebuhr was amused on being told of the use to which his prayer was being put. Asked if it was original with him, he said he thought it was, but added, "Of course it may have been spooking around for centuries."
Alcoholics Anonymous seized upon it in 1940, after it had been used as a quotation in the New York Herald Tribune. the fellowship was late in catching up with it; and it will probably spook around a good deal longer before the rest of the world catches up with it.

Jack Alexander
The Saturday Evening Post
April 1, 1950