Saw Religion Remake A Drunkard
September 1939 "Your Faith" Magazine,
Through Liquor, this physician had lost his practice, his
reputation and his self-respect. Then one night in a gathering
in a private home, he found the way of escape.
WHEN a doctor starts
drinking, he's usually on the skids for keeps. His profession
gives him so much privacy, so great exposure to temptation
both from liquor and from drugs, and his need of a stimulant
to lift him from depression becomes so extreme, that many
a good doctor has dropped into oblivion for no cause other
than his own thirst for drink.
I could tell you about
more than one doctor who came to no good end through liquor.
Their stories are alike in their early furtiveness, then
a brazen attitude of liquor - might -do-things-to some-men
- but - I'm-different, then a broken desperation to try
to keep up appearances and pretend nothing has happened,
and finally exposure—and failure—and disgrace.
One brilliant ex-surgeon a suicide; another exile from home;
two others forgotten by their friends; so runs the history.
But Dr. X handled his
liquor problem differently. He came close enough to degradation
to see how the jaws of hell reaching out for him. But then
something interfered and saved him.
Today Dr. X—and
I dare not give his name, or even the name of the city,
for reasons you will soon discover—is alive and happy
and is probably a better and more popular doctor than ever
before. What saved his life and reputation? What force made
him into a new man?
It was simply religion,
brought home to him in a way he could use it. Simply the
new habit of living his religion, and the discovery that
he could utilize the power of prayer.
We used to see Dr. X
around a lot. He was cheery, straightforward, friendly,
and successful. His field was a particularly intricate form
of surgery and he did well at it.
Then for quite a while
we missed him. I saw his wife now and then, and noticed—even
a man can things like that—that she seemed a little
shabby and not especially happy.
We began to hear ugly
rumors. That's bad for any doctor. We heard he was losing
his practice. When a doctor begins drinking, not many people
are willing to trust their own lives to his skill with a
Last year I met Dr.
X for the first time in several years. He was a new Dr.
X. Straight as an Indian. Clean eyes. An honest I-can-lick-the-world
look in his face. He gripped my hand in a vise and said
hello in a way that gave you something to tie to.
We were at a party.
Someone offered Dr. X a drink. Then I remembered what had
happened to him and wondered what he would do.
"I don't drink," he
said evenly. "Some men can take a drink, or two drinks,
and stop. I can't. I had that ability once, but not now.
If I'd take as much as a swallow of alcohol now, I'd disappear—and
you wouldn't see me for three weeks."
From him and from others
I got his whole story, a bit here, a bit there. Here it
He had been drinking
for longer than anyone but his wife suspected. For a while
he was able to keep the matter a secret. But he missed a
couple of appointments and got into some trouble. First
his competitors knew it. Then his friends around the hospital
got wise. Finally even his oldest patients began to leave
He had always been dignified
and aloof, and when he was straight you hesitated to go
up to him and tell him he was drinking too much. Usually
he drank alone, silently, hungrily, in a sodden fashion
of one who wants to forget. Just a deadly, steady sopping
up of the poison. It was ghastly. In his saner moments he
must have known the way he was headed. But a stubborn pride—and
pride of that sort in a wayward person is a terrible thing—held
him from seeking help.
Finally a friend he
trusted got him to attend a little meeting in a living room
one evening. It was a simple affair. Not dress-up at all.
Here was a factory foreman who looked happier than almost
anybody in town. When the time came to talk he told how
he had been cured of drunkenness by prayer. His wife told
how unbelievably happy their life was now. They didn't have
much money—you could see that—but they had something
that money alone had never brought them. They had love,
and self-respect, and they had each other.
Dr. X was surprised
to find that everyone in this little group had some sort
of a fight to make, and had won. He began to look at these
people in a new way. They had been weak and now they were
strong. Unconsciously he began to envy them.
He surprised himself
by starting to say something. He admitted he had a tremendous
hunger for liquor, and sometimes it got him down. He found
that just merely talking about his trouble seemed to bring
relief. As long as you conceal your difficulties, no one
can help you. But once you bring your trouble out in the
open, you can invite help and encouragement from friends.
And you can benefit by the strengthening power of prayer.
Merely getting on his
knees and asking for help wasn't the whole story of Dr.
X's reformation. Many a drunk knows there's a wide difference
between promising to go straight and sticking to it!
What enabled him to
hold fast to his resolution was the discovery that he, who
had just started to climb back to sobriety and respectability,
had the ability to help other desperate and disheartened
drunks to live decent lives too.
In fact, that's a big
part of the cure. When Dr. X gets an inebriate started on
a new life of decency, he sees to it that the man gets on
his feet now and then and talks to other people in the same
predicament. Telling yourself and the world that you're
going to go straight helps you to remind your subconscious
mind that you are going straight.
There have been a lot
of ex-drunks that have come within Dr. X's influence since
that fateful night he was turned back from a drunkard's
grave. Forty-three of them, no less, owe their new lives
to him. He'll leave a party or a dinner, almost leave an
operation, to go and sit up all night with some drunk he
probably never saw before but who he knows needs help.
He has worked out a
little system. Usually he puts the drunk to bed in a hospital,
where he can sleep off his liquor quietly but can't get
any more. There the sick man—for a drunk really is
a sick man—receives regular care, and hot meals, and
also some measure of discipline and restraint. There he
has privacy, and time to think.
"But you can't do much
for a man until he hits bottom and bounces back up, can
you?" I asked.
"A man doesn't necessarily
have to hit bottom, but he has to come close enough to it
to see where he's going if he doesn't stop drinking," replied
Dr. X quietly. "And he's got to want to be helped
before we can do much with him or for him"
When a drunk in the
hospital starts to sober up, Dr. X closes the door and starts
to talk to him.
"I know where you hide
your bottles," he'll say. "I know every sneaky little thing
you do to get liquor when you're not supposed to have any.
I've been there myself. And I want to tell you, my fine
young friend, it's getting you nowhere. You're rotten. You're
ashamed of yourself. Now let's do something about it."
So there in that white,
silent hospital room they read the Bible together. Then
they pray. Very simply. First the Doctor, then, falteringly,
the man himself. He finds his voice gains in confidence.
He finds it is easy to talk to God, and talk out loud. He
finds a huge load is lifted off his chest. He begins to
feel he could hold his head up again. He gets a fresh look
at the man he might be. The whole idea becomes real and
feasible to him. He becomes enthusiastic and eager about
going straight. He promises to read the Bible, and Dr. X
Then, like as not, the
sick man slips up, and badly. Success is not that easy.
Those nerves that have been accustomed to bossing the mind
and the body can't be straightened out without a last tough
fight. The patient begs for just one more last little drink,
and when the nurse refuses, he is angry at Dr. X and may
storm about and threaten to go home. Fortunately, the foresighted
Dr. X had carefully removed the patient's pants and shoes
and locked them up in his own locker in the surgeons' room
of the hospital.
And then, because he
knows the fight the sick man is going through, Dr. X comes
back in time to bring new comfort and new cheer and to again
call forth the searching and ever-available help of prayer.
And in a couple of weeks the man, rested and refreshed and
with the eyes alight as a result of decent living, goes
home to his friends and his family that had almost given
him up for dead.
I don't dare let you tell about this," Dr. X said to me
when I asked him for a signed interview.
"We can't publicize
these cures. These men are outside the realm of every day
medicine. They have tried everything and been given up as
hopeless. We don't succeed every time ourselves. We can't
brag. Every case is a new battle."
"But if word got out
that we can do anything at all for a drunk, then derelicts
would come into this town by the TRAINLOAD. We couldn't
handle them. We couldn't handle a dozen. Two is a lot. One
at a time is plenty. I can't talk to one of these fellows
for more than an hour or two without feeling spent and tired,
unless I talk like a parrot, and talking like a parrot wouldn't
do them any good".
"Do you remember when
Christ turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched
me?' and some woman confessed she had touched his robe because
she wanted to be cured? Christ felt some of his power pass
out from him at that touch. It's the same way with helping
people. You're giving something. It tires you.
"We fellows who are
doing this sort of thing feel we have hold of something,
but we don't dare use our names in connection with it. Look
up the new book, Alcoholics, Anonymous which we
helped write. We studied around for a long while to find
how we could tell our story without using our names. That
book was the answer. It tells some actual stories—my
own among them—but no names are given. Even the publisher
doesn't know our names."
Dr. X," I insisted, "Why not let these drunks pay you something
for what you do for them? After all, they have been a burden
to their friends. You put them back where they can earn
a living again and live a decent life. You deserve any kind
of fee you want to charge."
"No, we can't commercialize
the idea," the doctor said firmly but kindly. "That would
spoil everything. We've got to keep our work as a gift to
anyone we are able to help.
"Moreover, I'm not sure
we could set up a sanitarium and cure people effectively
in any wholesale manner. I'm convinced this idea has to
grow, one cure at a time."
I tried to argue still
further. "But Christ was willing to let folks invite him
in for supper and the night," I suggested. "You and your
wife have food to buy, and rent to pay, and overhead expenses
in the way of taxes and insurance and shoes for your daughter.
It's your own fault if you don't let these reformed drunks
help pay their own way."
"I'm satisfied," he
said with a quiet smile that permitted no debate. "My wife
and I are happier than we have ever been in our lives. We
can keep going very nicely as long as I get a few operations
from time to time, as I am doing. I'm doing a good job of
living, and am happy," he ended.
Then he handed me this
final thought. "I have found that no one can be permanently
happy unless he lives in harmony with the rules set down
in the Good Book,"
he said. "Try it some time! You don't need to wait till
you're down and out before you ask for help. There's help
waiting for you right now, if you just ask God to help you."
† † †
gifts of friendship have only the value that
friendship gives them.—The Advance.
scanned copy of the original September 1939 issue of, "Your
Faith" magazine with the Doctor Bob interview titled,
"I Saw Religion Remake A Drunkard." by D.J. Defoe.
Your Faith Magazine, Sep. 1939
84 & 85, Your Faith Magazine
86 & 87, Your Faith Magazine
88, Your Faith Magazine
for this article: Thanks to Brad I., the AA
Archivist in Area
35, for sending this to include with the AA history
on silkworth.net and his permission to do so, -added October
24th 2010. You must contact Brad in Area 35 in order to
have him email any of the above to you. You do not have
permission to copy or reproduce the above article, or save
any of the images of this magazine with out 1st contacting
Brad for permission. G.S.O. did not have a copy of the above
magazine so Brad (Area 35) donated the original copy to
the G.S.O. Archives. This is the only known copy in existence.