Vision For You
MOST normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship
and colorful imagination. It means release from care,
boredom and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends
and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in
those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were
gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture
the great moments of the past. There was an insistent
yearning to enjoy life as we once did and a heartbreaking
obsession that some new miracle of control would enable
us to do it. There was always one more attempt—and one
The less people tolerated
us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself.
As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens
of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness
settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some
of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding
companionship and approval. Momentarily we did—then would
come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous
Four Horsemen—Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair.
Unhappy drinkers who read this page will understand!
Now and then a serious
drinker, being dry at the moment says, “I don’t miss it
at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time.”
As ex-problem drink-
we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a
boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools
himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half
a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently
try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety.
He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will
be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without
it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will
be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.
We have shown how
we got out from under. You say, “Yes, I’m willing. But
am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid,
boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know
I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you
a sufficient substitute?”
Yes, there is a substitute
and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in
Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from
care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired.
Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory
years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship,
and so will you.
“How is that to come
about?” you ask. “Where am I to find these people?”
You are going to meet
these new friends in your own community. Near you, alcoholics
are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If
you live in a large place, there are hundreds. High and
low, rich and poor, these are future fellows of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends.
You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties,
for you will escape disaster together and you will
VISION FOR YOU
shoulder to shoulder your common journey. Then you will
know what it means to give of yourself that others may
survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning
of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
It may seem incredible
that these men are to become happy, respected, and useful
once more. How can they rise out of such misery, bad repute
and hopelessness? The practical answer is that since these
things have happened among us, they can happen with you.
Should you wish them above all else, and be willing to
make use of our experience, we are sure they will come.
The age of miracles is till with us. Our own recovery
Our hope is that when
this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of alcoholism,
defeated drinkers will seize upon it, to follow its suggestions.
Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march on.
They will approach still other sick ones and fellowships
of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and
hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.
In the chapter “Working
With Others” you gathered an idea of how we approach and
aid others to health. Suppose now that through you several
families have adopted this way of life. You will want
to know more of how to proceed from that point. Perhaps
the best way of treating you to a glimpse of your future
will be to describe the growth or the fellowship among
us. Here is a brief account:
Years ago, in 1935,
one of our number made a journey to a certain western
city. From a business standpoint, his trip came off badly.
Had he been suc-
in his enterprise, he would have been set on his feet
financially which, at the time, seemed vitally important.
But his venture would up in a law suit and bogged down
completely. The proceeding was shot through with much
hard feeling and controversy.
he found himself in a strange place, discredited and almost
broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a few months,
he saw that his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so
much to talk with someone, but whom?
One dismal afternoon
he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be
paid. At the end of the room stood a glass covered directory
of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an
attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In
there he would find companionship and release. Unless
he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to
scrape an acquaintance and would have a lonely week-end.
Of course he couldn’t
drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle
of ginger ale before him? After all, had he not been sober
six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks—no
more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was
the old, insidious insanity—that first drink. With a shiver,
he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church
directory. Music and gay chatter still floated to him
from the bar.
But what about his
responsibilities—his family and the men who would die
because they would not know how to get well, ah—yes, those
other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town.
He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he
VISION FOR YOU
Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped
into a booth and lifted the receiver.
His call to the clergyman
led him presently to a certain resident of the town, who,
though formerly able and respected, was then nearing the
nadir of alcoholic despair. It was the usual situation;
home in jeopardy, wife ill, children distracted, bills
in arrears and standing damaged. He had a desperate desire
to stop, but saw no way out, for he had earnestly tried
many avenues of escape. Painfully aware of being somehow
abnormal, the man did not fully realize what it meant
to be alcoholic.*
When our friend related
his experience, the man agreed that no amount of will
power he might muster could stop his drinking for long.
A spiritual experience, he conceded, was absolutely necessary,
but the price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He
told how he lived in constant worry about those who might
find out about his alcoholism. He had, of course, the
familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his drinking.
Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder of his business,
only to bring still more suffering to his family by foolishly
admitting his plight to people from whom he made his livelihood?
He would do anything, he said, but that.
Being intrigued, however,
he invited our friend to his home. Some time later, and
just as he thought he was getting control of his liquor
situation, he went on a roaring bender. For him, this
was the spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he would
have to face
This refers to Bill's first visit with Dr. Bob. These
men later became co-founders of A.A. Bill's story opens
the text of this book; Dr. Bob's heads the Story Section.
problems squarely that God might give him mastery.
One morning he took
the bull by the horns and set out to tell those he feared
what his trouble had been. He found himself surprisingly
well received, and learned that many knew of his drinking.
Stepping into his car, he made the rounds of people he
had hurt. He trembled as he went about, for this might
mean ruin, particularly to a person in his line of business.
At midnight he came
home exhausted, but very happy. He has not had a drink
since. As we shall see, he now means a great deal to his
community, and the major liabilities of thirty years of
hard drinking have been repaired in four.
But life was not easy
for the two friends. Plenty of difficulties presented
themselves. Both saw that they must keep spiritually active.
One day they called up the head nurse of a local hospital.
They explained their need and inquired if she had a first
class alcoholic prospect.
She replied, “Yes,
we’ve got a corker. He’s just beaten up a couple of nurses.
Goes off his head completely when he’s drinking. But he’s
a grand chap when he’s sober, though he’s been in here
eight times in the last six months. Understand he was
once a well-known lawyer in town, but just now we’ve got
him strapped down tight.”*
Here was a prospect
all right but, by the description, none too promising.
The use of spiritual principles in
This refers to Bill's and Dr. Bob's first visit to A.A.
Number Three. See the Pioneer Section. This resulted in
A.A.'s first group, at Akron, Ohio, in 1935.
VISION FOR YOU
case was not so well understood as it is now. But one
of the friends said, “Put him in a private room. We’ll
Two days later, a
future fellow of Alcoholics Anonymous stared glassily
at the strangers beside his bed. “Who are you fellows,
and why this private room? I was always in a ward before.”
Said one of the visitors,
“We’re giving you a treatment for alcoholism.”
Hopelessness was written
large on the man’s face as he replied, “Oh, but that’s
no use. Nothing would fix me. I’m a goner. The last three
times, I got drunk on the way home from here. I’m afraid
to go out the door. I can’t understand it.”
For an hour, the two
friends told him about their drinking experiences. Over
and over, he would say: “That’s me. That’s me. I drink
The man in the bed
was told of the acute poisoning from which he suffered,
how it deteriorates the body of an alcoholic and warps
his mind. There was much talk about the mental state preceding
the first drink.
“Yes, that’s me,”
said the sick man, “the very image. You fellows know your
stuff all right, but I don’t see what good it’ll do. You
fellows are somebody. I was once, but I’m a nobody now.
From what you tell me, I know more than ever I can’t stop.”
At this both the visitors burst into a laugh. Said the
future Fellow Anonymous: “Damn little to laugh about that
I can see.”
The two friends spoke
of their spiritual experience and told him about the course
of action they carried out.
He interrupted: “I
used to be strong for the church,
that won’t fix it. I’ve prayed to God on hangover mornings
and sworn that I’d never touch another drop but by nine
o’clock I’d be boiled as an owl.”
Next day found the
prospect more receptive. He had been thinking it over.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said. “God ought to be able to
do anything.” Then he added, “He sure didn’t do much for
me when I was trying to fight this booze racket alone.”
On the third day the
lawyer gave his life to the care and direction of his
Creator, and said he was perfectly willing to do anything
necessary. His wife came, scarcely daring to be hopeful,
though she thought she saw something different about her
husband already. He had begun to have a spiritual experience.
That afternoon he
put on his clothes and walked from the hospital a free
man. He entered a political campaign, making speeches,
frequenting men’s gathering places of all sorts, often
staying up all night. He lost the race by only a narrow
margin. But he had found God—and in finding God had found
That was in June,
1935. He never drank again. He too, has become a respected
and useful member of his community. He has helped other
men recover, and is a power in the church from which he
was long absent.
So, you see, there
were three alcoholics in that town, who now felt they
had to give to others what they had found, or be sunk.
After several failures to find others, a fourth turned
up. He came through an acquaintance who had heard the
good news. He proved to be a devil-may-care young fellow
whose parents could not make out whether he wanted to
stop drinking or not. They were deeply religious people,
much shocked by their son’s refusal to have anything to
do with the
VISION FOR YOU
He suffered horribly from his sprees, but it seemed as
if nothing could be done for him. He consented, however,
to go to the hospital, where he occupied the very room
recently vacated by the lawyer.
He had three visitors.
After a bit, he said, “The way you fellows put this spiritual
stuff makes sense. I’m ready to do business. I guess the
old folks were right after all.” So one more was added
to the Fellowship.
All this time our
friend of the hotel lobby incident remained in that town.
He was there three months. He now returned home, leaving
behind his first acquaintances, the lawyer and the devil-may-care
chap. These men had found something brand new in life.
Though they knew they must help other alcoholics if they
would remain sober, that motive became secondary. It was
transcended by the happiness they found in giving themselves
for others. They shared their homes, their slender resources,
and gladly devoted their spare hours to fellow-sufferers.
They were willing, by day or night, to place a new man
in the hospital and visit him afterward. They grew in
numbers. They experienced a few distressing failures,
but in those cases they made an effort to bring the man’s
family into a spiritual way of living, thus relieving
much worry and suffering.
A year and six months
later these three had succeeded with seven more. Seeing
much of each other, scarce an evening passed that someone’s
home did not shelter a little gathering of men and women,
happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they
might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition
to these casual get-togethers, it became customary to
set apart one night a week for a meeting to be at-
by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of
life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime
object was to provide a time and place where new people
might bring their problems.
Outsiders became interested.
One man and his wife placed their large home at the disposal
of this strangely assorted crowd. This couple has since
become so fascinated that they have dedicated their home
to the word. Many a distracted wife has visited this house
to find loving and understanding companionship among women
who knew her problem, to hear from the lips of their husbands
what had happened to them, to be advised how her own wayward
mate might be hospitalized and approached when next he
Many a man, yet dazed
from his hospital experience, has stepped over the threshold
of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered
there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay
crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes and
understood his. Impressed by those who visited him at
the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later, in
an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some
man whose experience closely tallied with his own. The
expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable
something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating and
electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him
know that here was haven at last.
The very practical
approach to his problems, the absence of intolerance of
any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the
uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible.
He and his
VISION FOR YOU
would leave elated by the thought of what they could now
do for some stricken acquaintance and his family. They
knew they had a host of new friends; it seemed they had
known these strangers always. They had seen miracles,
and one was to come to them. They had visioned the Great
Reality—their loving and All Powerful Creator.
Now, this house will
hardly accommodate its weekly visitors, for they number
sixty or eighty as a rule. Alcoholics are being attracted
from far and near. From surrounding towns, families drive
long distances to be present. A community thirty miles
away has fifteen fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being
a large place, we think that some day its Fellowship will
number many hundreds.*
But life among Alcoholics
Anonymous is more than attending gatherings and visiting
hospitals. Cleaning up old scrapes, helping to settle
family differences, explaining the disinherited son to
his irate parents, lending money and securing jobs for
each other, when justified—these are everyday occurrences.
No one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed
cordially—if he means business. Social distinctions, petty
rivalries and jealousies—these are laughed out of countenance.
Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united
under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare
of others, the things which matter so much to some people
no longer signify much to them. How could they?
Under only slightly
different conditions, the same thing is taking place in
many eastern cities. In one of
Written in 1939.
there is a well-know hospital for the treatment of alcoholic
and drug addiction. Six years ago one of our number was
a patient there. Many of us have felt, for the first time,
the Presence and Power of God within its walls. We are
greatly indebted to the doctor in attendance there, for
he, although it might prejudice his own work, has told
us of his belief in ours.
Every few days this
doctor suggests our approach to one of his patients. Understanding
our work, he can do this with an eye to selecting those
who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis.
Many of us, former patients, go there to help. Then, in
this eastern city, there are informal meetings such as
we have described to you, where you may now see scores
of members. There are the same fast friendships, there
is the same helpfulness to one another as you find among
our western friends. There is a good bit or travel between
East and West and we foresee a great increase in this
Some day we hope that
every alcoholic who journeys will find a Fellowship of
Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. To some extent
this is already true. Some of us are salesmen and go about.
Little clusters of twos and threes and fives of us have
sprung up in other communities, through contact with our
two larger centers. Those of us who travel drop in as
often as we can. This practice enables us to lend a hand,
at the same time avoiding certain alluring distractions
of the road, about which any travelling man can inform
Thus we grow. And
so can you, though you be but
Written in 1939. In 1990, there are about 88,000 groups.
There is A.A. activity in 134 countries, with an estimated
membership of two million.
VISION FOR YOU
man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it
contains all you will need to begin.
We know what you are
thinking. You are saying to yourself: “I’m jittery and
alone. I couldn’t do that.” But you can. You forget that
you have just now tapped a source of power much greater
than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we
have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience
We know of an A.A.
member who was living in a large community. He had lived
there but a few weeks when he found that the place probably
contained more alcoholics per square mile than any city
in the country. This was only a few days ago at this writing.
(1939) The authorities were much concerned. He got in
touch with a prominent psychiatrist who had undertaken
certain responsibilities for the mental health of the
community. The doctor proved to be able and exceedingly
anxious to adopt any workable method of handling the situation.
So he inquired, what did our friend have on the ball?
Our friend proceeded
to tell him. And with such good effect that the doctor
agreed to a test among his patients and certain other
alcoholics from a clinic which he attends. Arrangements
were also made with the chief psychiatrist of a large
public hospital to select still others from the stream
of misery which flows through that institution.
So our fellow worker
will soon have friends galore. Some of them may sink and
perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a criterion,
more than half of those approached will become fellows
of Alcoholics Anonymous. When a few men in this city have
and have discovered the joy of helping others to face
life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in
that town has had his opportunity to recover—if he can
Still you may say:
“But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who
wrote this book.” We cannot be sure. God will determine
that, so you must remember that your real reliance is
always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship
Our book is meant
to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.
God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask
Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day
for the man who is still sick. The answers will come,
if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot
transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your
relationship with Him is right, and great events will
come to pass for you and countless others. This is the
Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to
God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and
to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past.
Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be
with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will
surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy
May God bless you and keep you—until then.
Alcoholics Anonymous will be glad to hear from you.
Address: P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York,
for chapter 11 of the pre-1939 Original Manuscript.