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Ex-Drunkards Lead The Drunkards
Baltimore News American, October 25, 1941
by Louis Azrael
a drunkard,'' said the middle-aged, dignified gentleman
who has a responsible place in a big business organization.
Then he corrected himself. "At least, I was until recently.
that correction lies a fascinating story. He told me part
of it and, as a result, I attended a few nights ago, one
of the weekly meeting of "Alcoholics Anonymous."
for myself, every other man in the room (and some of the
women) knew pink elephant from purple giraffes, knew roaring
sprees and jittery hangovers from personal experience. Most
of them had, at one time or another, taken ineffectual "cures."
The business or professional careers of many had been ruined
or seriously injured by drink.
present at the meeting were the wives, and in one case,
the mother, of some of the men.
never have suspected anything like that, to look at the
gathering. There were no ragged, bleary-eyed bums. There
were serious, friendly, well-dressed, alert looking people.
Some of them bore names which are well known in Baltimore.
they merely talked. A young man arose and, to my astonishment,
I recognized him as one who when I first knew him, was one
of the outstanding members of a Johns Hopkins University
simple, straightforward language, he told how his mother
and his wife (both of whom were present) had used every
device they knew to break his addiction to alcohol; how
his business career had been ruined, and how he had come
across "Alcoholics Anonymous." He hasn't had a
drink in four months. He is re-establishing his business
talked with none of the evangelical fervor of a revivalist.
He indulged in no mock heroics. He talked like a friendly
person who knew something which could be helpful to others.
of the others, with whom I spoke later, had been off liquor
for a year or more. The chief speaker of the evening was
a New York broker named William G. W., who founded "Alcoholics
Anonymous" six years ago. He too spoke in the same
is their secret? It is, as they explained it to me, amazingly
simple; amazingly sensible. Six years ago several souses
reached the depths of alcoholic degradation. Sanitariums
hadn't helped them. Psychiatrists hadn't helped them. So,
in a sober period. they decided to help each other.
of the things that psychiatrists usually recommend to drunkards
is to find some hobby; to get some new interest which will
occupy their minds and energies. Well, these men adopted
a new interest. They became interested in helping drunkards.
was a hobby with a special fascination for them. They knew,
better than any other persons could, how much they accomplished
for those they helped. Because they knew the problems, the
mental tricks, the rationalizations that drunkards use,
they were able to give help which others couldn't give.
they could appeal to drunkards where doctors, physicians
or clergymen couldn't. After they sat around with a drunkard
for a while, exchanged stories about sprees and jamborees,
about efforts to stop drinking, etc, there was a mutuality
of interest which other types of persons couldn't achieve.
the important thing is that whether these men helped the
other drunkards or not, they were helping themselves. They
had because of what they were trying to do, an incentive
to stay sober. And their minds, and their spare time, were
taken up with an activity which was overpoweringly interesting
and important to them.
that group, "Alcoholics Anonymous'' developed until
it now includes about 1,500 persons in about twenty cities.
The Baltimore group is only a few months old.
plan is much more elaborate then I have indicated. Through
experience, they have worked out a definite technique. They
try to have men, when seeking to rid themselves of alcoholic
habits place reliance in a Superior Being though it doesn't
matter what they call Him or how they approach Him. They
try to teach victims to be honest with themselves and with
others. In fact, Wilson and some others have written a long
book about their experiences and solutions.
get together every week just to be sociable and to talk
things out. Any one of them knows that, when the craving
for drink assails him, he can phone a member of the group,
who will be glad to come to him immediately and try to help
are no dues. There are no officers.
I saw when I attended the meeting was merely a group of
persons who had been through, or were still going through,
a horrible experience and were trying to help each other.
they're succeeding. At least two thirds of those who have
joined them, they told me, no longer take a drink.