Is A Solution
OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS know thousands of men and women
who were once just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have
recovered. They have solved the drink problem.
We are average Americans.
All sections of this country and many of its occupations
are represented, as well as many political, economic,
social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally
would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship,
a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably
wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner
the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie,
joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage
to Captain's table. Unlike the feelings of the ships passengers,
however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside
as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared
in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement
which binds us. But that in itself would never have held
us together as we are now joined.
The tremendous fact
for everyone of us is that we have discovered a common
solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely
agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious
action. This is the great news this book carries to those
who suffer from alcoholism.
illness of this sort—and we have come to believe it an
illness—involves those about us in a way no other human
sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for
him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic
illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the
things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives
touch the sufferer's. It brings misunderstanding, fierce
resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and
employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives
and parents—anyone can increase the list.
We hope this volume
will inform and comfort those who are, or who may be affected.
There are many.
Highly competent psychiatrists
who have dealt with us have found it sometimes impossible
to persuade an alcoholic to discuss his situation without
reserve. Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate
friends usually find us even more unapproachable than
do the psychiatrist and the doctor.
But the ex-problem
drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed
with facts about himself, can generally win the entire
confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until
such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can
That the man who is
making the approach has had the same difficulty, that
he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his
whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is
a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier
Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire
to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes
to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured—these
are the condi-
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we have found most effective. After such an approach many
take up their beds and walk again.
None of us makes a
sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness
would be increased if we did. We feel that elimination
of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important
demonstration of our principles lies before us in our
respective homes, occupations and affairs. All of us spend
much of our spare time in the sort of effort which we
are going to describe. A few are fortunate enough to be
so situated that they can give nearly all their time to
If we keep on the
way we are going there is little doubt that much good
will result, but the surface of the problem would hardly
be scratched. Those of us who live in large cities are
overcome by the reflection that close by hundreds are
dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recover if
they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall
we present that which has been so freely given us?
We have concluded
to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem
as we see it. We shall bring to the task our combined
experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful
program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem.
Of necessity there
will have to be discussion of matters medical, psychiatric,
social, and religious. We are aware that these matters
are from their very nature, controversial. Nothing would
please us so much as to write a book which would contain
no basis for contention or argument. We shall do our utmost
to achieve that ideal. Most of us sense that real tolerance
of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect
for their opinions are attitudes which make us
useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers,
depend upon our constant thought of others and how we
may help meet their needs.
You may already have
asked yourself why it is that all of us became so very
ill from drinking. Doubtless you are curious to discover
how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary,
we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and
body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it,
you may already be asking—“What do I have to do?”
It is the purpose
of this book to answer such questions specifically. We
shall tell you what we have done. Before going into a
detailed discussion, it may be well to summarize some
points as we see them.
How many time people
have said to us: “I can take it or leave it alone. Why
can’t he?” “Why don’t you drink like a gentleman
or quit?” “That fellow can’t handle his liquor.”
“Why don’t you try beer and wine?” “Lay off
the hard stuff.” “His will power must be weak.”
“He could stop if he wanted to.” “She’s such
a sweet girl, I should think he’d stop for her sake.”
“The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would
kill him, but there he is all lit up again.”
Now these are commonplace
observations on drinkers which we hear all the time. Back
of them is a world of ignorance and misunderstanding.
We see that these expressions refer to people whose reactions
are very different from ours.
have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they
have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it
Then we have a certain
type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough
to gradually impair
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physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few
years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason—ill
health, falling in love, change of environment, or the
warning of a doctor—becomes operative, this man can also
stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and
troublesome and may even need medical attention.
But what about the
real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker;
he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but
at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose
all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts
Here is a fellow who
has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control.
He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking.
He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly
intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk.
His disposition while drinking resembles his normal nature
but little. He may be one of the finest fellows in the
world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently
becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social.
He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly
the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision
must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly
sensible and well balanced concerning everything except
liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest
and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills,
and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him.
He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his
family and himself, and then pulls the structure down
on his head by a senseless series of sprees. He is the
fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep
the clock around. Yet early next
he searches madly for the bottle he misplace the night
before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed
all over his house to be certain no one gets his entire
supply away from him to throw down the wastepipe. As matters
grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered
sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to
work. Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it
and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a doctor
who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to
taper off. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitariums.
This is by no means
a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our
behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify
Why does he behave
like this? If hundreds of experiences have shown him that
one drink means another debacle with all its attendant
suffering and humiliation, why is it he takes that one
drink? Why can’t he stay on the water wagon? What has
become of the common sense and will power that he still
sometimes displays with respect to other matters?
Perhaps there never
will be a full answer to these questions. Opinions vary
considerably as to why the alcoholic reacts differently
from normal people. We are not sure why, once a certain
point is reached, little can be done for him. We cannot
answer the riddle.
We know that while
the alcoholic keeps away from drink, as he may do for
months or years, he reacts much like other men. We are
equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever
into his system, something happens, both in the bodily
and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible
for him to
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The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm
would be academic and pointless if our friend never took
the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in
motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers
in his mind, rather than in his body. If you ask him why
he started on that last bender, the chances are he will
offer you any one of a hundred alibis. Sometimes these
excuses have a certain plausibility, but none of them
really makes sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic’s
drinking bout creates. They sound like the philosophy
of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on the
head with a hammer so that he can’t feel the ache. If
you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention of
an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irritated
and refuse to talk.
Once in a while he
may tell the truth. And the truth, strange to say, is
usually that he has no more idea why he took that first
drink than you have. Some drinkers have excuses with which
they are satisfied part of the time. But in their hearts
they really do not know why they do it. Once this malady
has a real hold, they are a baffled lot. There is the
obsession that somehow, someday, they will beat the game.
But they often suspect they are down for the count.
How true this is,
few realize. In a vague way their families and friends
sense that these drinkers are abnormal, but everybody
hopefully awaits the day when the sufferer will rouse
himself from his lethargy and assert his power of will.
The tragic truth is
that if the man be a real alcoholic, the happy day may
not arrive. He has lost
At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic,
he passes into a state where the most powerful desire
to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic
situation has already arrived in practically every case
long before it is suspected.
The fact is that
most alcoholics, for some reason yet obscure, have lost
the power of choice in drink. our so-called will power
becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain
times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient
force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even
a week or a month ago. We are without defense against
the first drink.
The almost certain
consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do
not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts
occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old
threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves
like other people. There is a complete failure of the
kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on
a hot stove.
The alcoholic may
say to himself in the most casual way, “It won’t burn
me this time, so here’s how!” Or perhaps he doesn’t think
at all. How often have some of us begun to drink in this
nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth, pounded
on the bar and said to ourselves, “For God’s sake, how
did I ever get started again?” Only to have that thought
supplanted by “Well, I’ll stop with the sixth drink.”
Or “What’s the use anyhow?”
When this sort of
thinking is fully established in an individual with alcoholic
tendencies, he has probably placed himself beyond human
aid, and unless locked up, may die or to permanently insane.
These stark and ugly facts have been confirmed by legions
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throughout history. But for the grace of God, there would
have been thousands more convincing demonstrations. So
many want to stop but cannot.
There is a solution.
Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling
of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the
process requires for its successful consummation. But
we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come
to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as
we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached
by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was
nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual
tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven and
we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence
of which we had not even dreamed.
The great fact is
just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and
effective spiritual experiences* which have revolutionized
our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and
toward God’s universe. The central fact of our lives today
is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered
into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous.
He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which
we could never do by ourselves.
If you are as seriously
alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road
solution. We were in a position where life was becoming
impossible, and if we had passed into the region from
which there is no return through human aid, we had but
two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end,
blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation
as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.
did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to
make the effort.
A certain American
business man had ability, good sense, and high character.
For years he had floundered from one sanitarium to another.
He had consulted the best known American psychiatrists.
Then he had gone to Europe, placing himself in the care
of a celebrated physician (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung)
who prescribed for him. Though experience had made him
skeptical, he finished his treatment with unusual confidence.
His physical and mental condition were unusually good.
Above all, he believed he had acquired such a profound
knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden
springs that relapse was unthinkable. Nevertheless, he
was drunk in a short time. More baffling still, he could
give himself no satisfactory explanation for his fall.
So he returned to
this doctor, whom he admired, and asked him point-blank
why he could not recover. He wished above all things to
regain self-control. He seemed quite rational and well-balanced
with respect to other problems. Yet he had no control
whatever over alcohol. Why was this?
He begged the doctor
to tell him the whole truth, and he got it. In the doctor’s
judgment he was utterly hopeless; he could never regain
his position in society and he would have to place himself
under lock and key or hire a bodyguard if he expected
to live long. That was a great physician’s opinion.
But this man still
lives, and is a free man. He does not need a bodyguard
nor is he confined. He can go anywhere on this earth where
other free men may go
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disaster, provided he remains willing to maintain a certain
Some of our alcoholic
readers may think they can do without spiritual help.
Let us tell you the rest of the conversation our friend
had with his doctor.
The doctor said: “You
have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen
one single case recover, where that state of mind existed
to the extent that it does in you.” Our friend felt as
though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.
He said to the doctor,
“Is there no exception?”
“Yes,” replied the
doctor, “there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have
been occurring since early times. Here and there, once
in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital
spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena.
They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements
and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which
were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men
are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set
of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In
fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional
rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods
which I employed are successful, but I have never been
successful with an alcoholic of your description.”*
hearing this, our friend was somewhat relieved, for he
reflected that, after all, he was a good church member.
This hope, however, was destroyed by the doctor’s telling
him that while his religious convictions were very good,
in his case they did not spell the necessary vital spiritual
was the terrible dilemma in which our friend found himself
when he had the extraordinary experience, which as we
have already told you, made him a free man.
We, in our turn, sought
the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men.
What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the
loving and powerful hand of God. A new life has been given
us or, if you prefer, “a design for living” that really
American psychologist, William James, in his book “Varieties
of Religious Experience,” indicates a multitude of ways
in which men have discovered God. We have no desire to
convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith
can be acquired. If what we have learned and felt and
seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever
our race, creed, or color are the children of a living
Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple
and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and
honest enough to try. Those having religious affiliations
will find here nothing disturbing to their beliefs or
ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.
We think it no concern
of ours what religious bodies our members identify themselves
with as individuals. this should be an entirely personal
affair which each one decides for himself in the light
of past associations, or his present choice. Not all of
join religious bodies, but most of us favor such memberships.
In the following chapter,
there appears an explanation of alcoholism, as we understand
it, then a chapter addressed to the agnostic. Many who
once were in this class are now among our members. Surprisingly
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we find such convictions no great obstacle to a spiritual
Further on, clear-cut
directions are given showing how we recovered. These are
followed by three dozen personal experiences.
Each individual, in
the personal stories, describes in his own language and
from his own point of view the way he established his
relationship with God. These give a fair cross section
of our membership and a clear-cut idea of what has actually
happened in their lives.
We hope no one will
consider these self-revealing accounts in bad taste. Our
hope is that many alcoholic men and women, desperately
in need, will see these pages, and we believe that it
is only by fully disclosing ourselves and our problems
that they will be persuaded to say, “Yes, I am one of
them too; I must have this thing.”
for chapter 2 of the pre-1939 Original Manuscript.