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From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 7:03am
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 1

  The Elrick B. Davis Articles
From The Cleveland Plain Dealer
October - November 1939

These articles appeared in the main Cleveland newspaper, the Plain Dealer, just five months after the first A.A. group was formed in Cleveland. The articles resulted in hundreds of calls for help from suffering alcoholics who reached out for the hope that the fledgling Alcoholics Anonymous offered.

The thirteen reliable members of the Cleveland group handled as many as 500 calls (ref 1) in the first month following the appearance of Davis' articles.  The following year Cleveland could boast 20 to 30 groups with hundreds of members
(ref 2).

1. Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, New York, A.A. World Services, Inc., 1980, pp 206-207.

2. 'Pass It On,' New York, A.A. World Services, Inc., 1984, pp 224-225.

Reprinted from the October 21, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

Much has been written about Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization doing major work in reclaiming the habitual drinker. This is the first of a series describing the work the group is doing in Cleveland.


By now it is a rare Clevelander who does not know, or know of, at least one man or woman of high talent whose drinking had become a public scandal, and who suddenly has straightened out "over night," as the saying goes, the liquor habit licked. Men who have lost $15,000 a year jobs have them back again. Drunks who have taken every "cure" available to the most lavish purse, only to take
them over again with equally spectacular lack of success, suddenly have become total abstainers, apparently without anything to account for their reform. Yet something must account for the seeming miracle. Something does.

Alcoholics Anonymous has reached the town.


Every Thursday evening at the home of some ex-drunk in Cleveland, 40 or 50 former hopeless rummies meet for a social evening during which they buck each other up. Nearly every Saturday evening they and their families have a party -- just as gay as any other party held that evening despite the fact that there is nothing alcoholic to drink. From time to time they have a picnic, where everyone has a roaring good time without the aid of even one bottle of beer. Yet these are
men and women who, until recently, had scarcely been sober a day for years, and members of their families who all that time had been emotionally distraught, social and economic victims of another's addiction.

These ex-rummies, as they call themselves, suddenly salvaged from the most socially noisome of fates, are the members of the Cleveland Fellowship of an informal society called "Alcoholics Anonymous." Who they are cannot be told, because the name means exactly what it says. But any incurable alcoholic who
really wants to be cured will find the members of the Cleveland chapter eager to help.

The society maintains a "blind" address: The Alcoholic Foundation, Box 657, Church Street Annex Postoffice, New York City. Inquiries made there are forwarded to a Cleveland banker, who is head of the local Fellowship, or to a former big league ball player who is recruiting officer of the Akron fellowship, which meets Wednesday evenings in a mansion loaned for the purpose by a non-alcoholic supporter of the movement.


The basic point about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is a fellowship of "cured" alcoholics. And that both old-line medicine and modern psychiatry had agreed on the one point that no alcoholic could be cured. Repeat the astounding fact: These are cured.

They have cured each other.

They have done it by adopting, with each other's aid, what they call "a spiritual way of life."

"Incurable" alcoholism is not a moral vice. It is a disease. No dipsomaniac drinks because he wants to. He drinks because he can't help drinking.

He will drink when he had rather die than take a drink. That is why so many alcoholics die as suicides. He will get drunk on the way home from the hospital or sanitarium that has just discharged him as "cured." He will get drunk at the wake of a friend who died of drink. He will swear off for a year, and suddenly find himself half-seas over, well into another "bust." He will get drunk at the gates of
an insane asylum where he has just visited an old friend, hopeless victim of "wet brain."


These are the alcoholics that "Alcoholics Anonymous" cures. Cure is impossible until the victim is convinced that nothing that he or a "cure" hospital can do, can help. He must know that his disease is fatal. He must be convinced that he is hopelessly sick of body, and of mind, and of soul. He must be eager to accept help from any source -- even God.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a simple explanation for an alcoholic's physical disease. It was provided them by the head of one of New York City's oldest and most famous "cure" sanitariums. The alcoholic is allergic to alcohol. One drink sets up a poisonous craving that only more of the poison can assuage. That is
why after the first drink the alcoholic cannot stop.

They have a psychiatric theory equally simple and convincing. Only an alcoholic can understand another alcoholic's mental processes and state. And they have an equally simple, if unorthodox, conception of God.


From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 11:56am
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 2

  Reprinted from the October 23, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

In a previous installment, Mr. Davis outlined the plan of Alcoholics
Anonymous, an organization of former drinkers who have found a solution to liquor in association for mutual aid. This is the second of a series.


There is no blinking the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous, the amazing society of ex-drunks who have cured each other of an incurable disease, is religious.  Its members have cured each other frankly with the help of God. Every cured member of the Cleveland Fellowship of the society, like every cured member of the other chapters now established in Akron, New York, and elsewhere in the
country, is cured with the admission that he submitted his plight
wholeheartedly to a Power Greater than Himself.

He has admitted his conviction that science cannot cure him, that he cannot control his pathological craving for alcohol himself, and that he cannot be cured by the prayers, threats, or pleas of his family, employers, or friends. His cure is a religious experience. He had to have God's aid. He had to submit to a spiritual housecleaning.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a completely informal society, wholly latitudinarian in every respect but one. It prescribes a simple spiritual discipline, which must be followed rigidly every day. The discipline is fully explained in a book published by the society.


That is what makes the notion of the cure hard for the usual alcoholic to take, at first glance, no matter how complete his despair. He wants to join no cult. He has lost faith, if he ever had it, in the power of religion to help him. But each of the cures accomplished by Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual awakening. The ex-drunk has adopted what the society calls "a spiritual way of life."

How, then, does Alcoholics Anonymous differ from the other great religious movements which have changed social history in America? Wherein does the yielding to God that saves a member of this society from his fatal disease, differ from that which brought the Great Awakening that Jonathan Edwards preached, or the New Light revival of a century ago, or the flowering of Christian
Science, or the campmeeting evangelism of the old Kentucky-Ohio frontier, or the Oxford Group successes nowadays?

Every member of Alcoholics Anonymous may define God to suit himself. God to him may be the Christian God defined by the Thomism of the Roman Catholic Church. Or the stern Father of the Calvinist. Or the Great Manitou of the American Indian. Or the Implicit Good assumed in the logical morality of Confucius. Or Allah, or Buddha, or the Jehovah of the Jews. Or Christ the Scientist. Or no more than the Kindly Spirit implicitly assumed in the "atheism"
of a Col. Robert Ingersoll.


If the alcoholic who comes to the fellowship for help believes in God, in the specific way of any religion or sect, the job of cure is easier. But if all that the pathological drunk can do is to say, with honesty, in his heart: "Supreme Something, I am done for without more-than-human help," that is enough for Alcoholics Anonymous to work on. The noble prayers, the great literatures, and the time-proved disciplines of the established religions are a great help.  But as far as the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is concerned, a pathological drunk can call God "It" if he wants to, and is willing to accept Its aid. If he'll do that, he can be cured.

Poll of "incurable" alcoholics who now, cured, are members of the Cleveland Fellowship of the society, shows that this has made literally life-saving religious experience possible to men and women who, otherwise, could not have accepted spiritual help. Poll shows also that collectively their religious experience has covered every variety known to religious psychology. Some have had an experience as blindingly bright as that which struck down Saul on the road to Damascus. Some are not even yet intellectually convinced except to the degree that they see that living their lives on a spiritual basis has cured them of a fatal disease. Drunk for years because they couldn't help it, now it never occurs to them to want a drink. Whatever accounts for that, they are willing to call
"God." Some find more help in formal religion than do others. A good many of the Akron chapter find help in the practices of the Oxford Group. The Cleveland chapter includes a number of Catholics and several Jews, and at least one man to whom "God" is "Nature." Some practice family devotions. Some simply cogitate
about "It" in the silence of their minds. But that the Great Healer cured them with only the help of their fellow ex-drunks, they all admit.

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 2:54pm
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 3

  Reprinted from the October 24, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

In two previous articles, Mr. Davis told of Alcoholics Anonymous, an
organization of former drinkers, banded to overcome their craving for liquor and to help others to forego the habit. This is the third of a series.


The ex-drunks cured of their medically incurable alcoholism by membership in Alcoholic Anonymous, know that the way to keep themselves from backsliding is to find another pathological alcoholic to help. Or to start a new man toward cure.  That is the way that the Akron chapter of the society, and from that, the Cleveland
fellowship was begun.

One of the earliest of the cured rummies had talked a New York securities analyst into taking a chance that he was really through with liquor. He was commissioned to do a stock promotion chore in Akron. If he should succeed, his economic troubles also would be cured. Years of alcoholism had left him bankrupt as well as a physical and social wreck before Alcoholics Anonymous had saved him.

His Akron project failed. Here he was on a Saturday afternoon in a strange hotel in a town where he did not know a soul, business hopes blasted, and with scarcely money enough to get him back to New York with a report that would leave him without the last job he knew of for him in the world. If ever disappointment deserved drowning, that seemed the time. A bunch of happy folk were being gay at the bar.

At the other end of the lobby the Akron church directory was framed in glass.  He looked up the name of a clergyman. The cleric told him of a woman who was worried about a physician who was a nightly solitary drunk. The doctor had been trying to break himself of alcoholism for twenty years. He had tried all of the dodges: Never anything but light wines or beer; never a drink alone; never a
drink before his work was done; a certain few number of drinks and then stop; never drink in a strange place; never drink in a familiar place; never mix the drinks; always mix the drinks; never drink before eating; drink only while eating; drink and then eat heavily to stop the craving - and all of the rest.

Every alcoholic knows all of the dodges. Every alcoholic has tried them all.  That is why an uncured alcoholic thinks someone must have been following him around to learn his private self-invented devices, when a member of Alcoholics Anonymous talks to him. Time comes when any alcoholic has tried them all, and found that none of them work.


The doctor had just taken his first evening drink when the rubber baron's wife telephoned to ask him to come to her house to meet a friend from New York. He dared not, his wife would not, offend her by refusing. He agreed to go on his wife's promise that they would leave after 15 minutes. His evening jitters were pretty bad.

He met the New Yorker at 5 o'clock. They talked until 11:15. After that he stayed "dry" for three weeks. Then he went to a convention in Atlantic City. That was a bender. The cured New Yorker was at his bedside when he came to. That was June 10, 1935. The doctor hasn't had a drink since. Every Akron and Cleveland cure by Alcoholics Anonymous is a result.

The point the society illustrates by that bit of history is that only an
alcoholic can talk turkey to an alcoholic. The doctor knew all of the "medicine" of his disease. He knew all of the psychiatry. One of his patients had "taken the cure" 72 times. Now he is cured, by fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Orthodox science left the physician licked. He also knew all of the excuses, as well as the
dodges, and the deep and fatal shame that makes a true alcoholic sure at last that he can't win.  Alcoholic death or the bughouse will get him in time.

The cured member of Alcoholics Anonymous likes to catch a prospective member when he is at the bottom of the depths. When he wakes up of a morning with his first clear thought regret that he is not dead before he hears where he has been and what he has done. When he whispers to himself: "Am I crazy?" and the only answer he can think of is: "Yes." Even when the bright-eyed green
snakes are crawling up his arms.

Then the pathological drinker is willing to talk. Even eager to talk to
someone who really understands, from experience, what he means when he says: "I can't understand myself."


From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 4:14pm
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 4

  Reprinted from the October 25, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here


In three previous articles, Mr. Davis has told of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization of former drinkers banded to break the liquor habit and to save others from over drinking. This is the fourth of a series.


What gets the pathological drinker who finally has reached such state that he is willing to listen to a cured rummy member of Alcoholics Anonymous, is that the retrieved alcoholic not only understands what only another alcoholic can understand, but a great deal that the unreformed drunk thinks no one else could
know because he has never told anyone, and his difficulties or escapades must be private to his own history.

Fact is the history of all alcoholics is the same; some have been addicts longer than others, and some have painted brighter red patches around the town -- that is all. What they have heard in the "cure" hospitals they have frequented, or from the psychoanalysts they have consulted, or the physicians who have tapered them
off one bender or another at home, has convinced them that alcoholism is a disease. But they are sure (a) that their version of the disease differs from everyone else's and (b) that in them it hasn't reached the incurable stage anyway.

Head of the "cure" told them: "If you ever take another drink, you'll be back." Psychoanalyst said "Psychologically, you have never been weaned. Your subconscious is still trying to get even with your mother for some forgotten slight." Family or hotel physician said "If you don't quit drinking, you'll die."


Lawyers, ministers, business partners and employers, parents and wives, also are professionally dedicated to listening to confidences and accepting confessions without undue complaint. But the clergyman may say: "Your drinking is a sin."  And partner or employer: "You'll have to quit this monkey business or get
out."  And wife or parent: "This drinking is breaking my heart." And everyone: "Why don't you exercise some will power and straighten up and be a man."

"But," the alcoholic whispers in his heart. "No one but I can know that I must drink to kill suffering too great to stand."

He presents his excuses to the retrieved alcoholic who has come to talk. Can't sleep without liquor. Worry. Business troubles. Debt. Alimentary pains. Overwork. Nerves too high strung. Grief. Disappointment. Deep dark phobic fears. Fatigue. Family difficulties. Loneliness.

The catalog has got no farther than that when the member of Alcoholics Anonymous begins rattling off an additional list.

"Hogwash," he says. "Don't try those alibis on me. I have used them all myself."


And then he tells his own alcoholic history, certainly as bad, perhaps far worse than the uncured rummy's. They match experiences. Before he knows it the prospect for cure has told his new friend things he had never admitted even to himself. A rough and ready psychiatry, that, but it works, as the cured members of the Cleveland Chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous all are restored to
society to testify. And that is the reason for the fellowship's weekly gatherings. They are testimonial meetings. The members meet to find new victims to cure, and to buck each other up. For years their social and emotional life has all been elbow-bending. Now they provide each other a richer society to replace the old.  Hence, the fellowship's family parties and picnics.

Never for a moment do they forget that a practicing alcoholic is a very sick person. Never for a moment can they forget that even medical men who know the nature of the disease are apt to feel that failure to recover is a proof of moral perversity in the patient. If a man is dying of cancer, no one says: "Why doesn't he exercise some will power and kill that cancer off." If he is  coughing his lungs out with tuberculosis, no one says: "Buck up and quit coughing; be a man." They may say to the first: "Submit to surgery before it is too late;" to the second: "Take a cure before you are dead."


Retrieved alcoholics talk in that fashion to their uncured fellows. They say: "You are a very sick man. Physically sick -- you have an allergy to alcohol. We can put you in a hospital that will sweat that poison out. Mentally sick. We know how to cure that. And spiritually sick.

"To cure your spiritual illness you will have to admit God. Name your own God, or define Him to suit yourself. But if you are really willing to 'do anything' to get well, and if it is really true -- and we know it is -- that you drink when you don't want to and that you don't know why you get drunk, you'll have to quit lying to yourself
and adopt a spiritual way of life. Are you ready to accept help?"

And the miracle is that, for alcoholics brought to agreement by pure
desperation, so simple a scheme works.

Cleveland alone has 50 alcoholics, all former notorious drunks, now members of Alcoholics Anonymous to prove it. None is a fanatic prohibitionist. None has a quarrel with liquor legitimately used by people physically, nervously, and spiritually equipped to use it. They simply know that alcoholics can't drink and live, and that their "incurable" disease has been conquered.

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 4:29pm
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 5

  Reprinted from the October 26, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

In previous installments, Mr. Davis has told of Alcoholics Anonymous, an informal society of drinking men who have joined together to beat the liquor habit This is the last of five articles.

No Graft

It is hard for the skeptical to believe that no one yet has found a way to muscle into Alcoholics Anonymous, the informal society of ex-drunks that exists only to cure each other, and make a money-making scheme of it. Or that someone will not. The complete informality of the society seems to be what has saved it from
that. Members pay no dues. The society has no paid staff. Parties are "Dutch." Meetings are held at the homes of members who have houses large enough for such gatherings, or in homes of persons who may not be alcoholics but are sympathetic with the movement.

Usually a drunk needs hospitalization at the time that he is caught to cure. He is required to pay for that himself. Doubtless he hasn't the money. But probably his family has. Or his employer will advance the money to save him, against his future pay. Or cured members of the society will help him arrange credit, if he has a glimmer of credit left. Or old friends will help.

At the moment members of the Cleveland Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous are searching the slum lodging houses to find a man, once eminent in the city's professional life. A medical friend of his better days called them in to find him. This friend will pay the hospital bill necessary to return this victim of an "incurable" craving for drink to physical health, if the society will take him on.

The society has published a book, called "Alcoholics Anonymous," which it sells at $3.50. It may be ordered from an anonymous address, Works Publishing Co., Box 657, Church Street Annex Postoffice, New York City; or bought from the Cleveland Fellowship of the society. There is no money profit for anyone in that book.

It recites the history of the society and lays down its principles in its
first half.

Last half is case histories of representative cures out of the first hundred alcoholics cured by membership in the society. It was written and compiled by the New York member who brought the society to Ohio. He raised the money on his personal credit to have the book published. He would like to see those creditors repaid. It is a 400-page book, for which any regular publisher would charge the same price.

Copies bought from local Fellowships net the local chapters a dollar each.

The Rev. Dr. Dilworth Lupton, pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, found in a religious journal an enthusiastic review of the book by the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, and sent it to the president of the local Fellowship. It has been similarly noted in some medical journals.

The Foundation

To handle the money that comes in for the book, and occasional gifts from persons interested in helping ex-drunks to cure other "incurable" drunks, the Alcoholics Foundation has been established, with a board of seven directors.

Three of these are members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Four are not alcoholics, but New Yorkers of standing interested in humane movements. Two of them happen also to be associated with the Rockefeller Foundation, but that does not associate the two foundations in any way.

First problem of the Cleveland Fellowship was to find a hospital willing to take a drunk in and give him the medical attention first necessary to any cure. Two reasons made that hard. Hospitals do not like to have alcoholics as patients; they are nuisances. And the society requires that as soon as a drunk has been medicated into such shape that he can see visitors, members of the society
must be permitted to see him at any time. That has been arranged. The local society would like to have a kitty of $100 to post with the hospital as evidence of good faith. But if it gets it, it will only be from voluntary contributions of members.

Meantime the members, having financed their own cures, spend enormous amounts of time and not a little money in helping new members. Psychiatrists say that if an alcoholic is to be cured, he needs a hobby. His old hobby had been only alcohol. Hobby of Alcoholics Anonymous is curing each other. Telephone calls,
postage and stationery, gasoline bills, mount up for each individual. And hospitality to new members. A rule of the society is that each member's latch string is always out to any other member who needs talk or quiet, which may include a bed or a meal, at any time.

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 5:04pm
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 6

  Reprinted from the November 2, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.


In a recent series, Mr. Davis told of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization of former drinkers banded together to beat the liquor habit. This is the first of two final articles on the subject.

The Book

When 100 members of Alcoholics Anonymous, the extraordinary fellowship of men and women who have cured themselves of "incurable" alcoholism by curing each other and adopting a "spiritual way of life," had established their cures to the satisfaction of their physicians, families, employers and psychotherapists, they
published a book.

It is a 400-page volume of which half is a history of the movement and a description of its methods, and the other half a collection of 30 case histories designed to show what a wide variety of persons the fellowship has cured. It is called "Alcoholics Anonymous," and may be bought for $3.50 from the Works Publishing Co., Box 657, Church Street Annex Postoffice, New York.

The name of the publisher is that adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous for its only publishing venture. The address is "blind" because the name "Alcoholics Anonymous" means exactly what it says. ..

Among the first reviews of the book to see print was that written by the Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick for the Religious Digest. That review so attracted at least one well-known Cleveland minister that he obtained a copy of the book, got in touch with the Cleveland chapter of the society, and plans to preach a sermon about the movement.

Dr. Fosdick is himself the author of seventeen books. His review of
"Alcoholics Anonymous" follows:

"This extraordinary book deserves the careful attention of anyone interested in the problem of alcoholism. Whether as victims, friends of victims, physicians, clergymen, psychiatrists or social workers there are many such, and this book will give them, as no other treatise known to this reviewer will, an inside view of the problem which the alcoholic faces. Gothic cathedral windows are not the sole things which can be truly seen only from within. Alcoholism is another. All outside views are clouded and unsure. Only one who has been an alcoholic and has escaped the thraldom can interpret the experience.


"This book represents the pooled experience of 100 men and women who have been victims of alcoholism-and who have won their freedom and recovered their sanity and self-control. Their stories are detailed and circumstantial, packed with human interest. In America today the disease of alcoholism is increasing. Liquor
has been an easy escape from depression. As an English officer in India, reproved for his excessive drinking, lifted his glass and said, "This is the swiftest road out of India," so many Americans have been using hard liquor as a means of flight from their troubles until to their dismay they discover that, free to begin, they are not free to stop. One hundred men and women, in this volume, report their experience of enslavement and then of liberation.

"The book is not in the least sensational. It is notable for its sanity, restraint and freedom from over-emphasis and fanaticism.

"The group sponsoring this book began with two or three ex-alcoholics, who discovered one another through kindred experience. From this a movement started; ex-alcoholics working for alcoholics, without fanfare or advertisement, and the movement has spread from one city to another.

"The core of their whole procedure is religious. They are convinced that for the helpless alcoholic there is only one way out-the expulsion of his obsession by a Power Greater Than Himself. Let it be said at once that there is nothing partisan or sectarian about this religious experience. Agnostics and atheists, along with Catholics, Jews and Protestants, tell their story of discovering the Power
Greater than themselves. 'Who are you to say that there is no God,' one atheist in the group heard a voice say when, hospitalized for alcoholism, he faced the utter hopelessness of his condition. Nowhere is the tolerance and open-mindedness of the book more evident than in its treatment of this central matter on which the
cure of all these men and women has depended. They are not partisans of any particular form of organized religion, although they strongly recommend that some religious fellowship be found by their participants. By religion they mean an experience which they personally know and which has saved them from their slavery, when psychiatry and medicine had failed. They agree that each man must have his own way of conceiving God, but of God Himself they are utterly sure, and their stories of victory in consequence are a notable addition to William James' 'Varieties of Religious Experience.'"

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Sat Mar 30, 2002 5:21pm
Subject: CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 1939 - Article 7

  Reprinted from the November 4, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer with permission.


Dr. Silkworth

The first appraisal in a scientific journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, former drunkards who cure themselves by curing each other with the help of religious experience, was published in the July issue of the journal Lancet. It was "A New Approach to Psychotherapy [in] Chronic Alcoholism" by W. D. Silkworth, M.D. physician in charge, Charles B. Town's Hospital, New York City. A drunkard during
a moment of [deep] depression had the spontaneous "religious experience" which started his cure. This was the seed from which came Alcoholics Anonymous.  Dr. Silkworth was at first skeptical. He is no longer. Excerpts from his paper follow:

"The beginning and subsequent development of a new approach to the problem of permanent recovery for the chronic alcoholic has already produced remarkable results and promises much for the future. This statement is based upon four years of close observation. The principal answer is: Each ex-alcoholic has had and is able to maintain, a vital spiritual or 'religious' experience, accompanied by marked changes of personality. There is a radical change in outlook, attitude and habits of thought. In nearly all cases, these are evident within a few months, often less.

"The conscious search of these ex-alcoholics for the right answer has enabled them to find an approach effectual in something more than half of all cases. This is truly remarkable when it is remembered that most of them were undoubtedly beyond the reach of other remedial measures.


"Considering the presence of the religious factor, one might expect to find unhealthy emotionalism and prejudice. On the contrary, there is an instant readiness to discard old methods for new which produce better results. It was early found that usually the weakest approach to an alcoholic is directly through his family or friends, especially if the patient is drinking heavily. Ex-alcoholics
frequently insist a physician take the patient in hand, placing him in a hospital when possible. If proper hospitalization and medical care is not carried out, this patient faces the danger of delirium tremens, 'wet brain' or other complications. After a few days' stay, the physician brings up the question of permanent sobriety. If the patient is interested, he tactfully introduces a member of the group.  By this time the prospect has self-control, can think straight, and the approach can be made casually. More than half the fellowship have been so treated. The group is unanimous in its belief that hospitalization is desirable, even imperative, in most cases...

"An effort is made for frank discussion with the patient, leading to self-understanding. He must make the necessary readjustment to his environment. Cooperation and confidence must be secured. The objectives are to bring about extroversion and provide someone to whom he can transfer his dilemma. This group is now attaining this because of the following reasons:


"1 -- Because of their alcoholic experiences and successful recoveries they secure a high degree of confidence from their prospects.

"2 -- Because of this initial confidence, identical experiences, and the fact that the discussion is pitched on moral and religious grounds, the patient tells his story and makes his self-appraisal with extreme thoroughness and honesty. He stops living alone and finds himself within reach of a fellowship with whom he can discuss his problems as they arise.

"3 -- Because of the ex-alcoholic brotherhood, the patient too, is able to save other alcoholics from destruction. At one and the same time, the patient acquires an ideal, a hobby, a strenuous avocation, and a social life which he enjoys among other ex-alcoholics and their families. These factors make powerfully for his extroversion.

"4-- Because of objects aplenty in whom he can vest his confidence, the patient can turn to the individuals to whom he first gave his confidence, the ex-alcoholic group as a whole, or to the Deity."

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Mon Apr 1, 2002 4:47pm
Subject: LIBERTY MAGAZINE, September 1939

  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 which 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 Wilson's and served as a trustee of the Alcoholic Foundation.)

In September, 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 his secretary, 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 A.A.'s first successful piece of national publicity. The stories in the Cleveland Plain Dealer followed shortly hereafter.  (See posts 1 through 7.)

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."


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.

Here is the text of a Liberty Magazine article which appeared in the
September 1939 issue.

Alcoholics and God
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, mentally, 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.


From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Tue Apr 2, 2002 11:00am
Subject: Saturday Evening Post Article March 1941, How It Came About

  In March 1941, a feature article entitled "Alcoholics Anonymous" appeared in the "Saturday Evening Post."  This is how it came about.

Jim Burwell ("The Vicious Cycle" in the Big Book) had just moved to Philadelphia and was trying to get a local bookstore to carry the Big Book.  The bookstore's manager was uninterested, but the conversation was overheard by a woman named Helen Hammer.

She spoke up and said she had sent the book to her alcoholic nephew in Los Angeles, who had sobered up instantly and had stayed that way for some three months. But the store manager remained unimpressed.

When Mrs. Hammer heard of Jim's attempt to start a group in Philadelphia, she introduced him to her husband, Dr. A. Weise Hammer.

Dr. Hammer was a friend of Judge Curtis Bok, the owner of the Saturday
Evening Post. He persuaded Bok to do a story on A.A.  Bok urged his editors to assigned Jack Alexander, an experienced, even cynical reporter, to do a feature story.

Alexander was chosen because he had a reputation for being "hard nosed." 
He had just completed a major story exposing the New jersey rackets and prided himself on his cynicism.

Alexander had many doubts about doing a story on a bunch of ex-drunks.  In a story he wrote for the A.A. Grapevine in May 1945 ("Was My Leg Being Pulled?") he said: "All I knew of alcoholism at the time was that, like most other nonalcoholics, I had had my hand bitten (and my nose punched) on numerous occasions by alcoholic pals to whom I had extended a hand -- unwisely, it always seemed afterward.  Anyway, I had an understandable skepticism about the whole business."

But he spent a week with Bill Wilson and other AA members in New York.  "We
gave him the most exhaustive briefing on Alcoholics Anonymous any writer has
ever had," according to Bill. "First he met our Trustees and New York people,
and then we towed him all over the country."

One of the people he interviewed in New York was Marty Mann, the first woman
to achieve lasting sobriety in AA. (See "Women Suffer Too" in the Big Book.) She is called "Sara Martin" in the story, and she is disguised further by changing her time in London to time in Paris. But Sarah Martin is without doubt, Marty Mann. When the story came out Marty said "it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened, because we wanted publicity so badly. We wanted somebody to know about us."

Alexander felt the week was a success from one standpoint. "I knew I had the
makings of a readable report," he wrote, "but, unfortunately, I didn't quite
believe in it and told Bill so."  But Bill convinced him that he should visit other cities to visit groups, and interview and get to know other members.

Bill, Dr. Bob and elders of the groups at Akron, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Chicago spent uncounted hours with him.  But when he reached his own home town of St. Louis, he met a number of his own friends who were now A.A. members, and the last remnants of skepticism vanished.  "Once rollicking rumpots, they were now sober. It didn't seem possible, but there it was," he wrote.

When Alexander "could feel A.A. in the very marrow of his bones," he proceeded
to write the story that rocked drunks and their families all over the world.

"Came then the deluge," Bill wrote. Six thousand frantic appeals from alcoholics and their families hit the New York office, PO Box 658.  Bill and Ruth Hock, AA's first secretary, pawed at random through the mass of letters, laughing and crying by turns. But it was clear they couldn't handle the mail by themselves, and form letters wouldn't be enough.  Each letter had to have an understanding personal reply.

Fortunately, they had anticipated this problem and Lois Wilson, in anticipation of the story bringing a strong response, had been organizing anyone who could type into squads, and scheduling those who could not type to answer the telephones in preparation for the expected deluge.

But even so, the response exceeded anyone's wildest expectations. Within
days, meeting attendance doubled. Within weeks, newcomers were being sent
out on Twelve Step calls to other alcoholics. Ruth Hock and Bobbie Berger,
along with Lois and her volunteers, worked day and night for five or six
weeks to answer all the mail.

The chain reaction Bill had envisioned when he was still a patient at Towns
Hospital had become a fact, and nothing would stop it. A.A. was now
established as an American institution.

Bill realized that he must, for the first time, ask the groups for assistance. It was determined that if each group gave $1 a year per member, they would eventually have enough money to pay the New York office's expenses and rely no further upon outside charity or insufficient book sales.  Most groups were happy to contribute to pay the expense of the New York office, and most continue to do so today.

Thus the tradition of self-support had a firm beginning.

The magazine's decision to do a feature story on A.A. would have been enough
for editors all across the country to find A.A. newsworthy, but the story didn't stop with merely reporting on AA. It endorsed its effectiveness.  It is hard for us today to imagine the enormous excitement that this article generated among A.A. members.  By 1950, AA membership was approaching a hundred thousand and there were thirty-five hundred groups worldwide.

In April of that year the Saturday Evening Post featured another article by
Alexander entitled the "Drunkards Best Friend."

In 1953 Alexander became a member of the Alcoholic Foundation's board of
trustees. He wrote articles for the A.A. Grapevine and helped Bill edit "Twelve
Steps and Twelve Traditions."  He was truly a great friend of Bill's and of A.A.

AA has World Services has reprinted the article regularly in pamphlet form,
at first under its original title, and now as "The Jack Alexander Article."

"How well we love that Jack" wrote Bill in 1951.  "We should all be grateful to Jack Alexander, one of AA's earliest friends from the press."

The Jack Alexander articles follow in the net posts.


"Bill W." by Robert Thomsen
"Bill W." by Francis Hartigan.
"Pass It On."
"The Language of the Heart, Bill W.'s Grapevine Writings."
"Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers."
"Best of the Grapevine, Volume II."

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Tue Apr 2, 2002 11:28am
Subject: The Saturday Evening Post, March 1941 -- Part 1

  This is the Jack Alexander article from the March 1941 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

THREE MEN sat around the bed of an alcoholic patient in the psychopathic ward
of Philadelphia General Hospital one afternoon a few weeks ago. The man in
the bed, who was a complete stranger to them, had the drawn and slightly stupid look the inebriates get while being defogged after a bender. The only thing that was noteworthy about the callers, except for the obvious contrast between their well-groomed appearances and that of the patient, was the fact that each had been through the defogging process many times himself. They were members of Alcoholics Anonymous, a band of ex-problem drinkers who make an avocation of helping other alcoholics to beat the liquor habit.

The man in the bed was a mechanic.  His visitors had been educated at Princeton, Yale and Pennsylvania and were, by occupation, a salesman, a
lawyer and a publicity man. Less than a year before, one had been in shackles in the same ward. One of his companions had been what is known among alcoholics as a sanitarium commuter. He had moved from place to place, bedeviling the staffs of the country's leading institutions for the treatment of alcoholics. The other had spent twenty years of life, all outside institution walls, making life miserable for himself, and his family and his employers, as well as sundry well-meaning relatives who had had the temerity to intervene.

The air of the ward was thick with the aroma of paraldehyde, an unpleasant
cocktail smelling like a mixture of alcohol and ether which hospitals sometimes use to taper off the paralyzed drinker and soothe his squirming nerves. The visitors seemed oblivious of this and of the depressing atmosphere of psychopathic wards. They smoked and talked with the patient for twenty minutes or so, then left their personal cards and departed. If the man in the bed felt that he would like to see one of them again, they told him, he had only to put in a telephone call.

THEY MADE it plain that if he actually wanted to stop drinking, they would
leave their work or get up in the middle of the night to hurry to where he was. If he did not choose to call, that would be the end of it. The members of Alcoholics Anonymous do not pursue or coddle a malingering prospect, and they know the strange tricks of the alcoholic as a reformed swindler knows the art of bamboozling.

Herein lies much of the unique strength of a movement, which in the past six
years, has brought recovery to around 2,000 men and women, a large percentage of whom had been considered medically hopeless. Doctors and clergymen, working separately or together, have always managed to salvage a few cases. In isolated instances, drinkers have found their own methods of quitting. But the inroads into alcoholism have been negligible, and it remains one of the great, unsolved public-health enigmas.

By nature touchy and suspicious, the alcoholic likes to be left alone to work
out his puzzle, and he has a convenient way of ignoring the tragedy which he
inflicts meanwhile upon those who are close to him. He holds desperately to
a conviction that, although he has not been able to handle alcohol in the past, he will ultimately succeed in becoming a controlled drinker. One of medicine's queerest animals, he is, as often as not, an acutely intelligent person. He fences with professional men and relatives who attempt to aid him and he gets a perverse satisfaction out of tripping them up in argument.

THERE IS no specious excuse for drinking which the troubleshooters of Alcoholics Anonymous have not heard or used themselves. When one of their
prospects hands them a rationalization for getting soused, they match it with
a half a dozen out of their own experience. This upsets him a little, and he gets defensive. He looks at their neat clothing and smoothly shaved faces and charges them with being goody-goodies who don't know what it is to struggle with drink. They reply by relating their own stories: the double Scotches and brandies before breakfast; the vague feeling of discomfort which precedes a drinking bout; the awakening from a spree without being able to account for the actions of several days and the haunting fear that possibly they had run down someone with their automobiles.

They tell of the eight-ounce bottles of gin hidden behind pictures and in
caches from cellar to attic; of spending whole days in motion-picture houses to stave off the temptation to drink; of sneaking out of the office for quickies during the day. They talk of losing jobs and stealing money from their wives' purses; of putting pepper into whiskey to give it a tang; of tippling on bitters and sedative tablets, or on mouthwash or hair tonic; of getting into the habit of camping outside the neighborhood tavern ten minutes before opening time. They describe a hand so jittery that it could not lift a pony to the lips without spilling the contents; drinking liquor from a beer stein because it can be steadied with two hands, although at the risk of chipping a front tooth; tying an end of a towel about a glass, looping the towel around the back of the neck, and drawing the free end with the other hand; hands so shaky they feel as if they were about to snap off and fly into space; sitting on hands for hours to keep them from doing this.

These and other bits of drinking lore usually manage to convince the alcoholic that he is talking to blood brothers. A bridge of confidence is thereby erected, spanning a gap, which has baffled the physician, the minister, the priest, or the hapless relatives. Over this connection, the troubleshooters convey, bit by bit, the details of a program for living which has worked for them and which, they feel, can work for any other alcoholic. They concede as out of their orbit only those who are psychotic or who are already suffering from the physical impairment known as wet brain. At the same time, they see to it that the prospect gets whatever medical attention is needed.

MANY DOCTORS and staffs of institutions throughout the country now suggest
Alcoholics Anonymous to their drinking patients. In some towns, the courts
and probation officers cooperate with the local group. In a few city psychopathic divisions, the workers of Alcoholics Anonymous are accorded the same visiting privileges as staff members. Philadelphia General is one of these. Dr. John F. Stouffer, the chief psychiatrist, says: "the alcoholics we get here are mostly those who cannot afford private treatment, and this is by far the greatest thing we have ever been able to offer them. Even among those who occasionally land back in here again, we observe a profound change in personality. You would hardly recognize them."

The Illinois Medical Journal, in an editorial last December, went further than D. Stouffer, in stating: "It is indeed a miracle when a person who for years has been more of less constantly under the influence of alcohol and in whom his friends have lost all confidence, will sit up all night with a drunk and at stated intervals administer a small amount of liquor in accordance with a doctor's order without taking a drop himself."

This is a reference to a common aspect of the Arabian Nights adventures to
which Alcoholics Anonymous workers dedicate themselves. Often it involves
sitting upon, as well as up with, the intoxicated person, as the impulse to
jump out a window seems to be an attractive one to many alcoholics when in
their cups. Only an alcoholic can squat on another alcoholic's chest for hours with the proper combination of discipline and sympathy.

During a recent trip around the East and Middle West, I met and talked with
scores of A.A.s, as they call themselves, and found them to be unusually calm
tolerant people. Somehow, they seemed better integrated than the average
group of nonalcoholic individuals. Their transformation from cop fighters, canned-heat drinkers, and, in some instances, wife beaters, was startling.  On one of the most influential newspapers in the country, I found that the city editor, the assistant city editor, and a nationally known reporter were A.A.s, and strong in the confidence of their publisher.

IN ANOTHER city, I heard a judge parole a drunken driver to an A.A. member.
The latter, during his drinking days, had smashed several cars and had had
his own operator's license suspended. The judge knew him and was glad to
trust him. A brilliant executive of an advertising firm disclosed that two years ago he had been panhandling and sleeping in a doorway under an elevated
structure. He had a favorite doorway, which he shared with other vagrants, and every few weeks he goes back and pays them a visit just to assure himself he isn't dreaming.

In Akron, as in other manufacturing centers, the groups include a heavy
element of manual workers. In the Cleveland Athletic Club, I had luncheon
with five lawyers, an accountant, an engineer, three salesmen, an insurance man, a buyer, a bartender, a chain-store manager, a manager of an independent store, and a manufacturer's representative. They were members of a central committee, which coordinates the work of nine neighborhood groups. Cleveland, with more than 450 members, is the biggest of the A.A. centers. The next largest are located in Chicago, Akron, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington and New
York. All told, there are groups in about fifty cities and towns.

IN DISCUSSING their work, the A.A.s spoke of their drunk rescuing as "insurance" for themselves.  Experience within the group has shown, they
said, that once a recovered drinker slows up in this work he is likely to go back to drinking himself. There is, they agreed, no such thing as an ex-alcoholic. If one is an alcoholic -- that is, a person who is unable to drink normally -- one remains an alcoholic until he dies, just as a diabetic remains a diabetic. The best he can hope for is to become an arrested case, with drunk saving as his insulin. At least, the A.A.s say so, and medical opinion tends to support them. All but a few said that they had lost all desire for alcohol. Most serve liquor in their homes when friends drop in, and they still go to bars with companions who drink. A.A.s tipple on soft drinks and coffee.

One, a sales manager, acts as bartender at his company's annual jamboree in
Atlantic City and spends his nights tucking the celebrators into their beds. 
Only a few of those who recover fail to lose the felling that at any minute they may thoughtlessly take one drink and skyrocket off on a disastrous binge. An A.A. who is a clerk in an Eastern city hasn't had a snifter in three and a half years, but says that he still has to walk fast past saloons to circumvent the old impulse; but he is an exception. The only hangover from the wild days that plagues the A.A. is a recurrent nightmare. In the dream, he finds himself off on a rousing whooper-dooper, frantically trying to conceal his condition from the community. Even this symptom disappears shortly, in most cases. Surprisingly, the rate of employment among these people, who formerly drank themselves out of job after job, is said to be around ninety percent.

One-hundred-percent effectiveness with non-psychotic drinkers who sincerely
want to quit is claimed by the workers of Alcoholics Anonymous. The program
will not work, they add, with those who only "want to want to quit," or who
want to quit because they are afraid of losing their families or their jobs.  The effective desire, the state, must be based upon enlightened self-interest; the applicant must want to get away from liquor to head off incarceration or premature death. He must be fed up with the stark social loneliness, which engulfs the uncontrolled drinker, and he must want to put some order into his bungled life.

As it is impossible to disqualify all borderline applicants, the working percentage of recovery falls below the 100-percent mark. According to A.A.'s estimation, fifty percent of the alcoholics taken in hand recover immediately; twenty-five percent get well after suffering a relapse or two; and the rest remain doubtful. This rate of success is exceptionally high.  Statistics on traditional medical and religious cures are lacking, but it has been informally estimated that they are no more than two or three percent effective on run-of-the-mill cases.

Although it is too early to state that Alcoholics Anonymous is the definitive
answer to alcoholism, its brief record is impressive, and it is receiving hopeful support. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. helped defray the expense of getting it started and has gone out of his way to get other prominent men interested.

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Tue Apr 2, 2002 0:05pm
Subject: The Saturday Evening Post, March 1941 -- Part 2

  ROCKEFELLER'S GIFT was a small one, in deference to the insistence of the
originators that the movement be kept on a voluntary, non paid basis. There are no salaried organizers, no dues, no officers, and no central control. Locally, the rents of assemble halls are met by passing the hat at meetings. In small communities, no collections are taken, as the gatherings are held in private homes. A small office in downtown New York acts merely as a clearinghouse for information. There is no name on the door, and mail is received anonymously through a post-office box. The only income, which is money received from the sale of a book describing the work, is handled by the Alcoholic Foundation, a board composed of three alcoholics and four non-alcoholics.

In Chicago, twenty-five doctors work hand in hand with Alcoholics Anonymous,
contributing their services and referring their own alcoholic patients to the
group, which now numbers around 200. The same cooperation exists in Cleveland and to a lesser degree in other centers. A physician, Dr. W. D. Silkworth, of New York City, gave the movement its first encouragement.  However, many doctors remain skeptical. Dr. Foster Kennedy, an eminent New York neurologist, probably had these in mind when he stated at a meeting a year ago: "The aim of those concerned in this effort against alcoholism is high; their success has been considerable; and I believe medical men of goodwill should aid."

The active help of two medical men of goodwill, Drs. A. Wiese Hammer and C.
Dudley Saul, has assisted greatly in making the Philadelphia unit one of the more effective of the younger groups. The movement there had its beginning
in an offhand way in February 1940, when a businessman who was an A.A.
convert was transferred to Philadelphia from New York.  Fearful of backsliding for lack of rescue work, the newcomer rounded up three local barflies and started to work on them. He got them dry, and the quartet began ferreting out other cases. By last December fifteenth, ninety-nine alcoholics had joined up. Of these, eighty-six were now total abstainers -- thirty-nine from one to three months, seventeen from three to six months, and twenty-five from six to ten months. Five who had joined the unit after having belonged in other cities had been nondrinkers from one to three years.

At the end of the time scale, Akron, which cradled the movement, holds the
intramural record for sustained abstinence. According to a recent checkup,
two members have been riding the A.A. wagon for five and a half years, one
for five years, three for four and a half years, one for the same period with one skid, three for three and a half year, seven for three years, three for three years with one skid each, one for two and a half years, and thirteen for two years. Previously, most of the Akronites and Philadephians had been unable to stay away from liquor for longer than a few weeks.

In the Middle West, the work has been almost exclusively among persons who
have not arrived at the institutional stage. The New York group, which has a
similar nucleus, takes a sideline specialty of committed cases and has
achieved striking results. In the summer of 1939, the group began working on the alcoholics confined in Rockland State Hospital, at Orangeburg, a vast mental sanitarium, which get the hopeless alcoholic backwash of the big population centers. With the encouragement of Dr. R. E. Baisdell, the medical superintendent, a unit was formed within the wall, and meetings were held in the recreation hall. New York A.A.s went to Orangeburg to give talks, and on Sunday evenings, the patients were brought in state-owned buses to a clubhouse which the Manhattan group rents on the West Side.

Last July first, eleven months later, records kept at the hospital showed that of fifty-four patients released to Alcoholics Anonymous, seventeen had had no relapse and fourteen others had had only one. Of the rest, nine had gone back to drinking in their home communities, twelve had returned to the hospital and two had not been traced. Dr. Baisdell has written favorably about the work to the State Department of Mental Hygiene, and he praised it officially in his last annual report.

Even better results were obtained in two public institutions in New Jersey,
Greystone Park and Overbrook, which attract patients of better economic and
social background, than Rockland, because of their nearness to prosperous
suburban villages. Of seven patients released from the Greystone Park
institution in two years, five have abstained for periods of one to two years, according to A.A. records. Eight of ten released from Overbrook have abstained for about the same length of time. The others have had from one to several relapses.

WHY SOME people become alcoholics is a question on which authorities
disagree. Few think that anyone is "born an alcoholic." One may be born,
they say, with a hereditary predisposition to alcoholism, just as one may be
born with a vulnerability to tuberculosis. The rest seems to depend upon environment and experience, although one theory has it that some people are
allergic to alcohol, as hay fever sufferers are to pollens. Only one note is found to be common to all alcoholics - emotional immaturity. Closely related to this is an observation that an unusually large number of alcoholics start out in life as an only child, as a younger child, as the only boy in a family of girls or the only girl in a family of boys. Many have records of childhood precocity and were what are known as spoiled children.

Frequently, the situation is complicated by an off-center home atmosphere in
which one parent is unduly cruel, the other overindulgent. Any combination of these factors, plus a divorce or two, tends to produce neurotic children who are poorly equipped emotionally to face the ordinary realities of adult life. In seeking escapes, one may immerse himself in his business, working twelve to fifteen hours a day, or in what he thinks is a pleasant escape in drink. It bolsters his opinion of himself and temporarily wipes away any feeling of social inferiority, which he may have. Light drinking leads to heavy drinking. Friend and family are alienated and employers become disgusted. The drinker smolders with resentment and wallows in self-pity.  He indulges in childish rationalizations to justify his drinking: He has been working hard and he deserves to relax; his throat hurts from an old tonsillectomy and a drink would ease the pain: he has a headache; his wife does not understand him; his nerves are jumpy; everybody is against him; and so on and on. He unconsciously becomes a chronic excuse-maker for himself.

All the time he is drinking, he tells himself and those who butt into his affairs that he can really become a controlled drinker if he wants to. To demonstrate his strength of will, he goes for weeks without taking a drop. He makes a point of calling at his favorite bar at a certain time each day and ostentatiously sipping milk or a carbonated beverage, not realizing that he is indulging in juvenile exhibitionism. Falsely encouraged, he shifts to a routine of one beer a day and that is the beginning of the end once more.  Beer leads inevitably to more beer and then to hard liquor. Hard liquor leads to another first-rate bender. Oddly, the trigger, which sets off the explosion, is as apt to be a stroke of business success as it is to be a run of bad luck. An alcoholic can stand neither prosperity nor adversity. 

THE VICTIM is puzzled on coming out of the alcoholic fog. Without his being
aware of any change, a habit has gradually become an obsession. After a while, he no longer needs rationalization to justify the fatal first drink.  All he knows is that he feels swamped by uneasiness or elation, and before he realizes what is happening, he is standing at a bar with an empty whisky pony in front of him and a stimulating sensation in his throat. By some peculiar quirk of his mind, he has been able to draw a curtain over the memory of the intense pain and remorse caused by preceding stem-winders.  After many experiences of this kind, the alcoholic begins to realize that he does not understand himself; he wonders whether his power of will, though strong in other fields, isn't defenseless against alcohol. He may go on trying to defeat his obsession and wind up in a sanitarium. He may give up the fight as hopeless and try to kill himself. Or he may seek outside help.

If he applies to Alcoholics Anonymous, he is first brought around to admit
that alcohol has him whipped and that his life has become unmanageable. 
Having achieved this state of intellectual humility he is given a dose of religion in the broadest sense. He is asked to believe in a Power that is greater than himself, or at least to keep an open mind on that subject while he goes on with the rest the rest of the program. Any concept of the Higher Power is acceptable. A skeptic or agnostic may choose to think of his Inner Self, the miracle of growth, a tree, man's wonderment at the physical universe, the structure of the atom, or mere mathematical infinity. Whatever form is visualized, the neophyte is taught that he must rely upon it and, in his own way, to pray to the Power for strength.

He next makes a short moral inventory of himself with the private aid of
another person -- one of his A.A. sponsors, a priest, a minister a psychiatrist, or anyone else he fancies. If it gives him any relief, he may get up at a meeting and recite his misdeed, but he is not required to do so. He restores what he may have stolen while intoxicated and arranges to pay off old debts and to make good on rubber checks; he makes amends to persons he has abused and in general, cleans up his past as well as he is able to. It is not uncommon for his sponsors to lend him money to help out in the early stages.

This catharsis is regarded as important because of the compulsion, which a
feeling of guilt exerts in the alcoholic obsession. As nothing tends to push an alcoholic toward the bottle more than personal resentments, the pupil also makes out a list of his grudges and resolves not to be stirred by them. At this point, he is ready to start working on other, active alcoholics. By the process of extroversion, which the work entails, he is able to think less of his own troubles.

The more drinkers he succeeds in swinging into Alcoholics Anonymous, the
greater his responsibility to the group becomes. He can't get drunk now
without injuring the people who have proved themselves his best friends. He is beginning to grow up emotionally and to quit being a leaner. If raised in an Orthodox Church, he usually, but not always, becomes a regular communicant

SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH the making over of the alcoholic goes the process of
adjusting his family to his new way of living. The wife or husband of an alcoholic, and the children, too, frequently become neurotics from being exposed to drinking excesses over a period of years. Reeducation of the family is an essential part of a follow-up program, which has been devised.

Alcoholics Anonymous, which is synthesis of old ideas rather than a new discovery, owes its existence to the collaboration of a New York stockbroker
and an Akron physician. Both alcoholics, they met for the first time a little less than six years ago. In thirty-five years of periodic drinking, Dr. Armstrong, to give the physician a fictitious name, had drunk himself out of most of his practice. Armstrong had tried everything, including the Oxford Group, and had shown no improvement. On Mother's Day 1935, he staggered home, in typical drunk fashion, lugging an expensive potted plant, which he placed in his wife's lap. The he went upstairs and passed out.

At that moment, nervously pacing the lobby of an Akron hotel, was the broker
from New York, whom we shall arbitrarily call Griffith. Griffith was in a
jam. In an attempt to obtain control of a company and rebuild his financial
fences, he had come out to Akron and engaged in a fight for proxies. He had
lost the fight. His hotel bill was unpaid. He was almost flat broke.  Griffith wanted a drink.

During his career in Wall Street, Griffith had turned some sizable deals and
had prospered, but, through ill-timed drinking bouts, had lost out on his main chances. Five months before coming to Akron, he had gone on the water
wagon through the ministration of the Oxford Group in New York. Fascinated by the problem of alcoholism, he had many times gone back as a visitor to a Central Park West detoxicating hospital, where he had been a patient, and talked to the inmates. He effected no recoveries, but found that by working on other alcoholics he could stave off his own craving.

A stranger in Akron, Griffith knew no alcoholics with whom he could wrestle.  A church directory, which hung in the lobby opposite the bar, gave him an idea. He telephoned one of the clergymen listed and through him got in touch with a member of the local Oxford Group. This person was a friend of Dr. Armstrong's and was able to introduce the physician and the broker at dinner. In this manner, Dr. Armstrong became Griffith's first real disciple. He was a shaky one at first. After a few weeks of abstinence, he went east to a medical convention and came home in a liquid state. Griffith, who had stayed in Akron to iron out some legal tangles arising from the proxy battle, talked him back to sobriety. That was on June 10, 1935. The nips the physician took from a bottle proffered by Griffith on that day were the last drinks he ever took.

GRIFFITH'S lawsuits dragged on, holding him over in Akron for six months. He
moved his baggage to the Armstrong home, and together the pair struggled with
other alcoholics. Before Griffith went back to New York, two more Akron converts had been obtained. Meanwhile, both Griffith and Dr. Armstrong had withdrawn from the Oxford Group, because they felt that its aggressive evangelism and some of its other methods were hindrances in working with alcoholics. They put their own technique on a strict take-it-or-leave-it basis and kept it there.

Progress was slow. After Griffith had returned East, Dr. Armstrong and his
wife, a Wellesley graduate, converted their home into a free refuge for alcoholics and an experimental laboratory for the study of the guest's behavior. One of the guest, who unknown to his hosts, was a manic-depressive as well as an alcoholic, ran wild one night with a kitchen knife. He was overcome before he stabbed anyone. After a year and a half, a total of ten persons had responded to the program and were abstaining. What was left of the family savings had gone into the work. The physician's new sobriety caused a revival in his practice, but not enough of one to carry the extra expense. The Armstrongs, nevertheless, carried on, on borrowed money. 

Griffith, who had a Spartan wife, too, turned his Brooklyn home into a duplicate of Akron ménage. Mrs. Griffith, a member of an old Brooklyn family, took a job in a department store and in her spare time played nurse to inebriates. The Griffiths also borrowed, and Griffith managed to make odd bits of money around the brokerage houses. By the spring of 1939, the Armstrongs and the Griffiths had between them cozened about one hundred alcoholics into sobriety.

IN A BOOK, which they published at that time, the recovered drinkers described the cure program and related their personal stories. The title was Alcoholics Anonymous. It was adopted as a name for the movement itself, which up to then had none. As the book got into circulation, the movement spread rapidly. Today, Dr. Armstrong is still struggling to patch up his practice. The going is hard. He is in debt because of his contributions to the movement and the time he devotes gratis to alcoholics. Being a pivotal man in the group, he is unable to turn down the requests for help, which flood his office.

Griffith is even deeper in the hole. For the past two years, he and his wife
have had no home in the ordinary sense of the word. In a manner reminiscent
of the primitive Christians, they have moved about, finding shelter in the home of A.A. colleagues and sometimes wearing borrowed clothing.

Having got something started, both the prime movers want to retire to the fringe of their movement and spend more time getting back on their feet financially. They feel that the way the thing is set up, it is virtually self-operating and self-multiplying. Because of the absence of figureheads and the fact that there is no formal body of belief to promote, they have no fears that Alcoholics Anonymous will degenerate into a cult.

The self-starting nature of the movement is apparent from letters in the files of the New York office. Many persons have written in saying that they stopped drinking as soon as they read the book, and made their homes meeting places for small local chapters. Even a fairly large unit, in Little Rock, got started in this way. An Akron civil engineer and his wife, in gratitude for his cure four years ago, have been steadily taking alcoholics into their home. Out of thirty-five such wards, thirty-one have recovered.

TWENTY PILGRIMS from Cleveland caught the idea in Akron and returned home to start a group of their own. From Cleveland, by various means, the movement
has spread to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Evansville, and other cities. An alcoholic Cleveland newspaperman with a surgically collapsed lung moved to Houston for his health. He got a job on a Houston paper, and through a series of articles, which he wrote for it, started an A.A. unit, which now has thirty-five members. One Houston member has moved to Miami and is now laboring to snare some of the more eminent winter-colony lushes. A Cleveland traveling salesman is responsible for starting small units in many different parts of the county. Fewer than half of the A.A. members has ever seen Griffith or Dr. Armstrong.

To an outsider who is mystified, as most of us are, by the antics of problem-drinking friends, the results, which have been achieved, are amazing. This is especially true of the more virulent cases, a few of which are herewith sketched under names that are not their own.

Sara Martin was a product of the F. Scott Fitzgerald era. Born of wealthy parents in a Western City, she went to Eastern boarding schools and "finished" in France. After making her debut, she married. Sara spent her nights drinking and dancing until daylight. She was known as a girl who could carry a lot of liquor. Her husband had a weak stomach, and she became disgusted with him. They were quickly divorced. After her father's fortune had been erased in 1929, Sara got a job in New York and supported herself. In 1932, seeking adventure, she went to Paris to live and set up a business of her own, which was successful. She continued to drink heavily and stayed drunk longer than usual. After a spree in 1933, she was informed that she had tried to throw herself out a window. During another bout, she did jump or fall -- she doesn't remember which -- out of a
first-floor window. She landed face first on the sidewalk and was laid up for six months of bone setting, dental work, and plastic surgery.

In 1936, Sara Martin decided that if she changed her environment by returning
to the United States, she would be able to drink normally. This childish faith in geographical change is a classic delusion, which all alcoholics get at one time, or another. She was drunk all the way home on the boat. New York frightened her and she drank to escape it. Her money ran out and she borrowed from friends. When the friends cut her, she hung around Third Avenue bars, cadging drinks from strangers. Up to this point she had diagnosed her trouble as a nervous breakdown. Not until she had committed herself to several sanitariums did she realize, through reading, that she was an alcoholic. On advice of a staff doctor, she got in touch with an Alcoholics Anonymous group. Today, she has another good job and spends many of her nights sitting on hysterical women drinkers to prevent them from diving out of windows. In her late thirties, Sarah Martin is an
attractively serene woman. The Paris surgeons did handsomely by her.

Watkins is a shipping clerk in a factory. Injured in an elevator mishap in 1927, he was furloughed with pay by a company, which was thankful that he did not sue for damages. Having nothing to do during a long convalescence, Watkins loafed in speakeasies. Formerly a moderate drinker, he started to go on drunks lasting several months. His furniture went for debt, and his wife fled, taking their three children. In eleven years, Watkins was arrested twelve times and served eight workhouse sentences. Once, in an attack of delirium tremens, he circulated a rumor among the prisoners that the county was poisoning the food in order to reduce the workhouse population and save expenses. A mess-hall riot resulted. In
another fit of D.T.'s, during which he thought the man in the cell above was trying to pour hot lead on him, Watkins slashed his own wrists and throat with a razor blade. While recuperating in an outside hospital, with eighty-six stitches, he swore never to drink again. He was drunk before the final bandages were removed. Two years ago, a former drinking companion got him to Alcoholics Anonymous, and he hasn't touched liquor since. His wife and children have returned, and the home has new furniture. Back at work, Watkins has paid off the major part of $2,000 in debts and petty alcoholic thefts and has his eye on a new automobile.

AT TWENTY-TWO, Tracy, a precocious son of well-to-do parents, was credit
manager for an investment-banking firm whose name has become a symbol of the money-mad twenties. After the firm's collapse during the stock market crash,
he went into advertising and worked up to a post, which paid him $23,000 a year. On the day his son was born, Tracy was fired. Instead of appearing in Boston to close a big advertising contract, he had gone on a spree and had wound up in Chicago, losing out on the contract. Always a heavy drinker, Tracy became a bum. He tippled on Canned Heat and hair tonic and begged from cops, who are always easy touches for amounts up to a dime. On one sleety night, Tracy sold his shoes to buy a drink, putting on a pair of rubbers he had found in a doorway and stuffing them with paper to keep his feet warm.

He started committing himself to sanitariums, more to get in out of the cold
than anything else. In one institution, a physician got him interested in the A.A. program. As part of it, Tracy, a Catholic made a general confession and returned to the church, which he had long since abandoned. He skidded back to alcohol a few times, but after a relapse in February 1939, Tracy took no more drinks. He has since then beat his way up again to $18,000 a year in advertising.

Victor Hugo would have delighted in Brewster, a heavy-thewed adventurer who
took life the hard way. Brewster was a lumberjack; cowhand, and wartime aviator. During the postwar era, he took up flask toting and was soon doing a Cook's tour of the sanitariums. In one of them, after hearing about shock cures, he bribed the Negro attendant in the morgue, with gifts of cigarettes, to permit him to drop in each afternoon and meditate over a cadaver. The plan worked well until one day he came upon a dead man who, by a freak facial contortion, wore what looked like a grin. Brewster met up with the A.A.s in December 1938, and after achieving abstinence, got a sales job, which involved much walking. Meanwhile, he had got cataracts on both eyes. One was removed, giving him distance sight with the aid of thick-lens spectacles. He used the other eye for close-up vision, keeping it dilated with an eye-drop solution in order to avoid being run down in traffic. The he developed a swollen, or milk, leg. With these disabilities, Brewster tramped the streets for six months before he caught up with his drawing account. Today, at fifty, still hampered by his physical handicaps, he is making his calls and earning around $400 a month.

FOR THE Brewsters, the Martins, the Watkinses, the Tracys, and the other reformed alcoholics, congenial company is now available wherever they happen
to be. In the larger cities, A.A.s meet one another daily at lunch in favored restaurants. The Cleveland groups give big parties on New Year's and other holidays, at which gallons of coffee and soft drinks are consumed. Chicago holds open house on Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- alternating, on the North, West, and South Sides -- so that no lonesome A.A. need revert to liquor over the weekend for lack of companionship. Some play cribbage or bridge, the winner of each hand contributing to a kitty for paying of entertainment expenses. The others listen to the radio, dance, eat, or just talk. All alcoholics, drunk or sober, like to gab. They are among the most society-loving people in the world, which may help to explain why they got to be alcoholics in the first place.

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Tue Apr 2, 2002 0:41pm
Subject: The Saturday Evening Post, April 1950 -- Part 1

  This is Jack Alexander's second story.  It was published in April of 1950, when A.A. was just shy of 15 years old.

The Drunkard's Best Friend
By 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.

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's 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 ex-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 a meetings. One of his more fascinating communiques, 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

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 oversanguine 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 educed 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 nonevangelistic 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 nonalcoholics 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 oversevere 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 even 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.


From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Tue Apr 2, 2002 1:21pm
Subject: The Saturday Evening Post, April 1950 -- Part 2

  Part 2 of Jack Alexander's story in the Saturday Evening Post, April 1950:

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.

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

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

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.

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 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


From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Wed Apr 3, 2002 2:53pm
Subject: Rollie Hemsley

  The first case of an anonymity break at the national level occurred in May 1940.

Ralston Burdett "Rollie" Hemsley was born June 24, 1907, in Syracuse, Ohio.  His debut as a catcher was April 13, 1928.  He was the catcher for the Cleveland Indians, and had just caught a no-hit game pitched by Bob Feller when publicity about his alcoholism hit the papers.  Rollie had been sober for about a year at that time.  It was big news, not only in Cleveland and Ohio, but in the sports sections of newspapers throughout the country.

Rollie had once been called "Rollicking Rollie," during his drinking days.  He had set fire to a car, raised hell on trains, caught a ball dropped from Cleveland's Terminal Tower when drunk (and did it again sober), and was on the way out of the big leagues when he finally received help.

Dr. Bob called John R. in April 1939 and said: You're the only one around here who knows anything about baseball.  Do you know a player named Rollie Hemsley?

John replied: "Yes, sure I do.  He's a catcher for the Cleveland team."

Dr. Bob said: "Well, someone brought  him down  here, and we've got him over at the hospital.  You come up and talk to him." 

They had put him in the hospital under a false name which reportedly made a sportswriter at the Beacon-Journal very angry that Dr. Bob wouldn't reveal it.  When Rollie was released from the hospital he joined the Oxford Group in Akron.  When the Akron A.A.s left the Oxford Group, Rollie stayed with the Oxford Group for a time, but then joined the A.A. group in Cleveland.

So when the story of his alcoholism broke in 1940, credit for his recovery was given to the Oxford Group.  Then Rollie broke his silence for the first time, and gave the credit for his sobriety to Alcoholics Anonymous.  This caused some concern among AA's, but Rollie could hardly be blamed, and the story of his recovery in A.A. brought many new recruits.

The first story about A.A. that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (see Message 1) spoke "a former big league ball player who is recruiting officer ..."

Rollie explained the difference between the Oxford Group and A.A. like this: "You know, if someone gave me tips about baseball and I found out he never played, I wouldn't pay much attention to him.  It's the same thing with alcohol."

In the Dr. Bob collection at Brown University is a 1948 Cleveland Indians World Series baseball, signed by player and A.A. member Rollie Hemsley and his teammates.

Rollie died July 31, 1972, in Washington, DC.


Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers.
A.A. Comes of Age.

From: NMOlson@a...
Date: Wed Apr 3, 2002 5:23pm

  April 14, 1959

Dear Russ,

Am right sorry for my delay in answering.  Lois and I were a long time out of the country and this was followed by an attack of the marathon type of flu that has been around here in New York.  We are okay now, however, but I did want to explain my delay.

Now about the business of adding the Lord's Prayer to each A.A. meeting.

This practice probably came from the Oxford Groups who were influential in the early days of A.A. You have probably noted in AA. Comes of Age what the connection of these people in A.A. really was. I think saying the Lord's Prayer was a custom of theirs following the close of each meeting. Therefore it quite easily got shifted into a general custom among us.

Of course there will always be those who seem to be offended by the introduction of any prayer whatever into an ordinary A.A. gathering. Also, it is sometimes complained that the Lord's Prayer is a Christian document.

Nevertheless this Prayer is of such widespread use and recognition that the arguments of its Christian origin seems to be a little farfetched. It is also true that most A.A.s believe in some kind of God and that communication and strength is obtainable through His grace. Since this is the general consensus it seems only right that at least the Serenity Prayer and the Lord's Prayer be used in connection with our meetings. It does not seem necessary to defer to the feelings of our agnostic and atheist newcomers to the extent of completely hiding our light under a bushel.

However, around here, the leader of the meeting usually asks those to join him in the Lord's Prayer who feel that they would care to do so. The worst that happens to the objectors is that they have to listen to it.  This is doubtless a salutary exercise in tolerance at their stage of progress.

So that's the sum of the Lord's Prayer business as I recall it. Your letter made me wonder in just what connection you raise the question.

Meanwhile, please know just how much Lois and I treasure the friendship of you both.  May Providence let our paths presently cross one of these days.

Devotedly yours,

Bill Wilson

Mr. Russ

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