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Wife Remembers When He and She and the First A.A.'s Were
Grapevine, Inc, Christmas Issue, 1944
As the wife of an early A.A., some of our experiences and
my reactions to my husbands changed life may be interesting
to other wives. Bill was an alcoholic, I believe, from the
first drink he ever took, just a few months before our marriage.
From then on, for seventeen years, I did everything I could
think of to keep him away from liquor.
I will tell a little of our life before A.A. to help explain
some of my later emotions. Bill and I had no children, so
I soon felt that my job in life was to help Bill straighten
himself out. As time went on, he earnestly tried to stop
drinking. He was always very remorseful and perplexed the
mornings-after. We would then resolve to lick this liquor
situation together, launching off on some new tack.
As his drinking got worse, all decision and responsibility
had to be taken by me. It was lucky that we were companionable,
for gradually as our social contacts were broken we were
thrust back on each other for company. In order to get away
from alcohol over the week ends, I used to engineer some
sort of outing, as we both loved the outdoors. If our pocketbook
was flat, we might take the subway to the Dyckman Street
ferry and hike along the Palisades to some scenic spot where
we would nibble our sandwiches and gaze at the view. Or
we might ferry to Staten Island and walk there; perhaps
broiling a steak over a campfire. We have hired a rowboat
at Yonkers and, using a bathtowel as a sail, floated up
the Hudson, to a spit of land near Nyack, were we camped
and tried to sleep. We once went so far to get away from
alcohol that we both gave up our jobs and took a whole year
off. This we spent motorcycling and camping over half the
Theses trips, although good for Bills health, did
nothing towards his permanent sobriety. In fact, his alcoholism
grew steadily more serious. He lost job after job until
I became entirely hopeless about him.
And then suddenly and finally Bill straightened out through
the help of an old friend. At once I was convinced of his
complete change and was of course extremely happy. Bill
began to go to religious meetings and to work feverishly
with alcoholics. I would go to meetings too and would try
to share his newfound enthusiasms. He always had some drunk
in tow and would work all night or get up in the middle
of the night to go to the suburbs if one called him. We
had drunks all over the house; sometimes as many as five
lived there at one time.
One drunk committed suicide in the house after having sold
about 700 dollars worth of our clothes and luggage. Another
slid down the coal chute from the street to the cellar when
we refused him the front door. Two others took to fighting,
and one chased the other all around the house with a carving
knife. The intended victim was saved by a third drunk, who
delivered the knife-minding one a knockout blow. An alcoholic
who was living in the basement was invited up for a pancake
breakfast. After eating his share, he suddenly put on his
hat and started out the door remarking that he was going
to Childs for PLENTY of pancakes.
Bill had found himself a job about this time; and it used
to take him away from home a great deal and I was left with
one or more alcoholics to look after. Once one of these
boys lay in the vestibule all night and screamed invectives
at me because I would not let him in. He was so loud the
passers-by all stopped, looked and listened. Another time
it was 4 a.m. before I succeeded in towing a drunk home.
He was anxious to be at his job the next morning and we
had gone out around midnight to look for a doctor, having
been unable to get one to come to the house at that hour.
I helped his shaky steps up and down stoops, lit his cigarettes
for him and finally, when we could not rouse a doctor, held
a drink to his lips in a bar. When I asked him how he then
felt he said, Well, a bird cant fly on one wing.
After a few more drinks I managed to get him home, but he
did not get to his job the next morning. I was once suddenly
taken sick, and when my sister arrived to nurse me she found
five men milling around in the living room, one of them
muttering, One woman can look after five drunks but
five drunks cannot look after one woman.
Now to describe my reactions to it all. When Bill first
sobered up I was terribly happy but soon, without my realizing
it, I began to resent the fact that Bill and I never spent
any time together any more. I stayed at home while he went
off somewhere scouting up new drunks or working with old
ones. My lifes job of sobering up Bill with all its
former responsibilities was suddenly taken away from me.
I had not yet found anything to fill the void. And then
there was the feeling of being on the outside of a very
tight little clique of alcoholics into which no mere wife
could possibly enter. I did not understand what was going
on within myself until one Sunday, Bill asked me to go with
him to a meeting. To my own surprise as well as his I burst
forth with, Damn all your meeting, and threw
my shoe at him as hard as I could.
This bad display of temper woke me up. I realized that I
had been wallowing in self pity; that Bills change
was simply miraculous; that his feverish activity with alcoholics
was absolutely necessary to his sobriety; and that if I
did not want to be left way behind I had better jump on
the bandwagon, too!
Bills wife, Lois W.
© The A.A. Grapevine,
Inc., Christmas Issue, 1944
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