|November Grapevine Articles page 1.
"The Saga of the Fish," favorite drinking anecdote of a member of the Louisville, Ky.,
Group, given its initial boost by an Indianapolis, Ind., traveling A.A. in 1941, tells of
his leaving the office one afternoon for his home in the country. Already considerably
soused as a result of nips from a desk-drawer bottle, he stopped at a seafood
market and bought a tremendous fish, with an old fashioned fish fry in mind. It
occurred to him that his purchase might meet with disfavor on his customary bus
ride, so he took a taxi. He soon found the taxi had a distinct advantage over busses;
it could be ordered to stop at bars en route. He promptly availed himself of this
service at every tavern, storing the three-foot marine specimen in the proprietor's
refrigerator wherever he stopped. Along his dazed itinerary he often forgot the fish,
and had to taxi back for it, which naturally meant another snifter. "It took me two
days to get home 10 miles, and cost $100 in cab fares. When I finally arrived, the
fish was as bad off as I was," he grins when telling the story. "We both reeked, and
I was only slightly more alive."
Easy Does This, Too
More than two years' observation of Alcoholics Anonymous at work has convinced me
that the weary seeker after sobriety, knocking desperately and finally at the A.A. portals, is
skittish of what a great many call the "religious" phase of the program.
It may be that he has been plied too well with the pleas of his family or other well-wishers,
nagging with religious or moral suasion. He may have been inveigled into signing the pledge
or listening to the unintelligible, though well-meant, exhortation of a clergyman. Too, he may
have had a brush with the Salvation Army or some hymn-singing rescue mission whose offer
in the main was the old traditional can't.
When he totters at long last on the threshold of A.A., our average applicant is sick
physically, mentally and spiritually. And though he has a well-founded suspicion he is a lost
soul, and in need of some saving, he shudders at the thought of pillorying himself publicly
and before Heaven as such. He is abashed in the presence of the Divinity and His mundane
representatives, with the filth of his recent career still upon him.
And so with the premature "religious" introduction to A.A. he may wonder: Is A.A. another
cult of soul-saving fanatics and Bible-mongers? Is it an order of ascetics who are driving out
Demon Rum by the practice of rigorous self-denial, constant prayer and meditation, and long
Remember, your average applicant has been a gross materialist, an egocentric
materialist. The very act of his drinking has been materialistic, sensual, selfish. And his
alcohol-colored slant on life has not permitted much, if any, of the abstract or spiritual
element. The lovely three-dimensional French mirror in the back bar has been hidden from
him by the more important row of practical containers in front of it. And his cursory
examination of the labels has gone little further than the extent of the proof and the price.
His drinking career has pandered to his feeling for the material, the physical side of life;
the wet years have made him indifferent, if not actually antagonistic, to the abstract and
My thought on the subject--and I may say it is one born of my own personal
experience--is that the newcomer to A.A. should be weaned away from his self-centered
materialism gradually, lest he be discouraged and frightened by what strikes him at the time
as an outlook on life utterly beyond his world. Let him use his material gimmicks for awhile,
worrying with nothing more spiritual than A.A. fellowship or the wondrous group therapy.
Let him pass the tavern at the home corner of his street car line, thinking about the
drugstore beyond, where he is going to get those cigarettes, magazine or candy bar. Even as
I did. I wore a path in the street between the rear door of the trolley and the entrance to a
neighborhood tavern. The course had become automatic, groovy.
At the dawn of the new deal, however, I made it a practice to do some intensive thinking
about that drugstore--not too willfully, lest I overplay it--several blocks from my corner. And I
would get off at the front door instead of the rear, crossing in front of the car. I thus tossed a
wrench in the automatic machinery at an important stage. Now, believe it or not, this small
beginning worked for me; and I seized my cue from it, extending the "disorganizing" to the
I found it was better to alter the whole pattern than to change only the action
immediately adjacent to the drink or the bottle purchase. In that way the substitution of
another chore for the alcoholic one did not stand out so conspicuously in the day's scheme.
In other words, the events leading up to and away from "the tragedy" were shuffled, so that
the smuggling of a bottle into the office at 2 p.m. was actually overlooked in the comparative
confusion. It was as simple as that--to start with. A few strategic changes in the daily scheme
and my old drinking pattern was an unfamiliar shambles. I was intentionally and with
deliberate conspiracy throwing myself off stride.
Several gimmicks, ridiculously simple, as they should be for the still slightly damp one,
served me well in my swaddling days with A.A. Such elementary devices as the chocolate
bar, B-1 tablets, walking on "the other side of the street," dry companionships, attendance at
events exciting enough to absorb my thought away from drinking--all of these and other little
intimate inventions of my own carried me along during the introductory months and helped
bring to my alcohol-centric existence a new freedom of interest and activity. Believe me,
friends, the deeper "awakening" will come in due time.
Easy Does This, Too
Bill has said that once the alcoholic "has accepted the fact that he is an alcoholic and the
further fact that he is powerless to recover unaided, the battle is half won." These first two
Steps combine with the third for a good beginning in A.A. practice. The others, with the
exception of the 12th Step, can come gradually, without pressing or forcing. I have an idea
that the more subtly and naturally the A.A. spiritual realization is born within the member, the
more sound and sure will be his higher development. It will carry up and on when the
stimulating novelty of sobriety has worn off, and the inevitable depression has set in. . .
.when the "member of standing" finds himself beset with the feeling that he has exhausted
Indeed the study and practice of the "unalcoholic steps" will hatch you out of your ego
centric and materialistic cocoon, and acquaint you, perhaps for the first time in your life, with
many of those good old humanitarian virtues.
This graduation into the higher brackets of A.A. opens up fascinating vistas of the
spiritual, and diverts a brooding, selfish, ingrowing mind into a limitless, objective way of
thinking. You'll think something occult is happening to you! And when you begin to feel an
awareness and an appreciation of the things in life that cannot be touched by the hand, then
will you have caught on--then will you be able to perceive the rich potentialities of this new
way of life.
Be patient, you uninitiated! (What an order for an alcoholic!) Don't rush the spiritual
factor. Certainly, you don't take differential calculus before the arithmetic!
|Nov 1946 A. A.'s Country-wide News Circuit
A.A. might have a second meaning of "all angles" in Indianapolis, Ind., from the variety of
activities there. An open forum has been scheduled for November 8 when lay questions will
be answered by a board consisting of a representative of each sectional group in the city.
Dates for the fall anniversary banquet and a founders' day or commemorative Sunday
breakfast meeting have not been fixed. The latter will feature an outline history of A.A. for the
benefit of the untutored. Decidedly worthwhile results have been reported by a small group
which has made its particular business the contacting of A.A.s who did a good job for a while
but drifted away.