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ALCOHOLIC ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE
member of Akron's Group No. 1, the first
A.A. group in the world. He kept the faith; therefore,
he and countless others found a new life.
OF FIVE children, I was born on a Kentucky farm in Carlyle
County. My parents were well-to-do people and there
marriage was a happy one. My wife, a Kentucky girl,
came with me to Akron where I completed my course in
law at the Akron Law School.
My case is rather
unusual in one respect. There were no childhood episodes
of unhappiness to account for my alcoholism. I had,
seemingly, just a natural affinity for grog. My marriage
was happy and, as I have said, I never had any of the
reasons, conscious or unconscious, which are often given
for drinking. Yet, as my record shows, I did become
an extremely serious case.
Before my drinking
had cut me down completely, I achieved a considerable
measure of success, having been a City Councilman for
five years and a financial director of Kenmore, a suburb
later taken into the city itself. But, of course, this
all went up the spout with my increased drinking. So,
at the time Dr. Bob and Bill came along I had about
run out my strength.
The first time I
became intoxicated I was eight years old. This was no
fault of my father or my mother,
they were both very much opposed to drinking. A couple
of hired hands were cleaning out the barn on the farm
and I would ride to and fro on the sled, and while they
were loading I would drink hard cider out of a barrel
in the barn. On the return trip, after two or three
loads, I passed out and had to be carried to the house.
I remember that my father kept whiskey around the house
for medical purposes and entertainment, and I would
drink from this when no one was about and then water
it to keep my parents from knowing I was drinking.
until I enrolled in our state university and, at the
end of the four years, I realized that I was a drunk.
Morning after morning I would awake sick and with terrible
jitters, but there was always a flask of liquor sitting
on the table beside my bed. I would reach over and get
this and take a shot and in a few moments get up and
take another, shave and eat my breakfast, slip a half
pint of liquor in my hip pocket, and go on to school.
Between classes I would run down to the wash room, take
enough to steady ny nerves and then go on to the next
class. This was in 1917.
I left the university
in the latter part of my senior year and enlisted in
the army. At the time, I called it patriotism. Later,
I realized that I was running from alcohol. It did help
to a certain extent, since I got in places where I could
not obtain anything to drink, and so broke the habitual
came into effect, and the facts that the stuff obtainable
was so horrible and sometimes deadly, and that I had
married and had a job which I had to look after, helped
me for a period of some three
four years, although I would get drunk every time I
could get hold of enough to drink to get started. My
wife and I belonged to some bridge clubs and they began
to make wine and serve it. However, after two or three
trials, I found this was not satisfactory because they
did not serve enough to satisfy me. So I would refuse
to drink. This problem was soon solved, however, as
I began to take my bottle along with me and hide it
in the bathroom or in the shrubbery outside.
As time went on
my drinking became progressively worse. Away from my
office two or three weeks at a time; horrible days and
nights when I would lie on the floor of my home, lying
awake and reaching over to get the bottle, taking a
drink and going back into oblivion.
During the first
six months of 1935, I was hospitalized eight times for
intoxication and shackled to the bed two or three days
before I even knew where I was.
On June 26, 1935,
I came to in the hospital and to say I was discouraged
is to put it mildly. Each of the seven times that I
had left this hospital in the last six months, I had
come out fully determined in my own mind that I would
not get drunk again—for at least six or eight months.
It hadn't worked out that way and I didn't know what
the matter was and did not know what to do.
I was moved into
another room that morning and there was my wife. I thought
to myself, "Well, she is going to tell me this
is the end," and I certainly couldn't blame her
and did not intend to try to justify myself. She told
me that she had been talking to a couple of fellows
about drinking. I resented this very
until she informed me that they were a couple of drunks
just as I was. That wasn't so bad, to tell it to another
She said "You
are going to quit." That was worth a lot even though
I did not believe it. Then she told me that these two
drunks she had been talking to had a plan whereby they
thought they could quit drinking, and part of that plan
was that they tell it to another drunk. This was going
to help them stay sober. All the other people that had
talked to me wanted to help me, and my pride
prevented me from listening to them, and caused only
resentment on my part, but I felt as if I would be a
real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows
for a short time, if that would cure them. She
also told me that I could not pay them even if I wanted
to and had the money, which I did not.
in and began to give me instruction in the program which
later became known as Alcoholics Anonymous. There was
not much of it at the time.
I looked up
and there were two great big fellows over six foot tall,
very likable looking. (I knew afterwards that the two
who came in were Bill W. and Doctor Bob.) Before very
long we began to relate some incidents of our drinking,
and, naturally, pretty soon, I realized both of them
knew what they were talking about because you can see
things and smell things when you're drunk, that you
can't other times, and, if I had thought they didn't
know what they were talking about, I wouldn't have been
willing to talk to them at all.
After a while,
Bill said, "Well, now, you've been talking a good
long time, let me talk a minute or two." So, after
hearing some more of my story, he turned
and said to Doc—I don't think he knew I heard him, but
I did—he said, "Well, I believe he's worth saving
and working on." They said to me, "Do you
want to quit drinking? It's none of our business about
your drinking. We're not up here trying to take any
of your rights or privileges away from you, but we have
a program whereby we think we can stay sober. Part of
that program is that we take it to someone else, that
needs it and wants it. Now, if you don't want it, we'll
not take up your time, and we'll be going and looking
for someone else."
The next thing
they wanted to know was if I thought I could quit of
my own accord, without any help, if I could just walk
out of the hospital and never take another drink. If
I could, that was wonderful, that was just fine, and
they would very much appreciate a person who had that
kind of power, but they were looking for a man that
knew he had a problem, and knew that he couldn't handle
it himself and needed outside help. The next question,
they wanted to know was if I believed in a Higher Power.
I had no trouble there because I had never actually
ceased to believe in God, and had tried lots of times
to get help but hadn't succeeded. The next thing they
wanted to know was would I be willing to go to this
Higher Power and ask for help, calmly and without any
this with me to think over, and I lay there on that
hospital bed and went back over and reviewed my life.
I thought of what liquor had done to me, the opportunities
that I had discarded, the abilities that had been given
to me and how I had wasted them, and I finally came
to the conclusion, that if I didn't want
quit, I certainly ought to want to, and that I was willing
to do anything in the world to stop drinking.
I was willing
to admit to myself that I had hit bottom, that I had
gotten hold of something that I didn't know how to handle
by myself. So, after reviewing these things and realizing
what liquor had cost me, I went to this Higher Power
which, to me, was God, without any reservation, and
admitted that I was completely powerless over alcohol,
and that I was willing to do anything in the world to
get rid of the problem. In fact, I admitted that from
now on I was willing to let God take over, instead 0f
me. Each day I would try to find out what His will was,
and try to follow that, rather than trying to get Him
to always agree that the things I thought of myself
were the things best for me. So, when they came back,
I told them.
One of the
fellows, I think it was Doc, said, "Well, you want
to quit?" I said, "Yes, Doc, I would like
to quit, at least for five, six, or eight months, until
I get things straightened up, and begin to get the respect
of my wife and some other people back, and get my finances
fixed up and so on." And they both laughed very
heartily, and said, "Thats better than you've been
doing, isn't it?" Which of course was true. They
said, "We've got some bad news for you. It was
bad news for us, and it will probably be bad news for
you. Weather you quit six days, months, or years, if
you go out and take a drink or two you'll end up in
the hospital tied down, just like you have been in these
past six months. You are an alcoholic." As far
as I know that was the first time I had ever paid any
attention to that word. I figured I was a drunk. And
they said, " No, you have a disease, and it doesn't
how long you do without it, after a drink or two you'll
end up just like you are now." That certainly was
real disheartening news, at the time.
The next question
they asked was, "You can quit twenty-four hours,
can't you?" I said, "Sure, yes, anybody can
do that, for twenty-four hours." They said, "That's
what we're talking about. Just twenty-four hours at
a time." That sure did take a load off of my mind.
Every time I'd start thinking about drinking, I would
think of the long, dry years ahead without having a
drink; but this idea of twenty-four hours, that it was
up to me from then on, was a lot of help.
this point, the Editors intrude just long enough to
supplement Bill D.'s account, that of the man on the
bed, with that of Bill W., the man who sat by the side
of the bed.) Says Bill W.:
Nineteen years ago last
summer, Dr. Bob and I saw him (Bill D.) for the first
time. Bill lay on his hospital bed and looked at us
Two days before this,
Dr. Bob had said to me, "If you and I are going
to stay sober, we had better get busy." Straightway,
Bob called Akron's City Hospital and asked for the nurse
on the receiving ward. He explained that he and a man
from New York had a cure for alcoholism. did she have
an alcoholic customer on whom it could be tried? Knowing
Bob of old, she jokingly replied, "Well, Doctor,
I suppose you've already tried it yourself?"
Yes, she did have a customer—a
dandy. He just arrived in D.T.'s. Had blacked the eyes
of two nurses, and now they had him strapped down tight.
Would this one do? After prescribing medicines, Dr.
Bob ordered, "Put him in a private room. We'll
be down as soon as he clears up."
Bill didn't seem too impressed.
Looking sadder than ever, he wearily ventured, "Well,
this is wonderful for you fellows, but it can't be for
me. My case is so terrible that I'm scared to go out
of this hospital at all. You don't have
sell me religion, either. I
was at one time a deacon in the church and I still believe
in God. But I guess He doesn't believe much in me."
Then Dr. Bob said, "Well,
Bill, maybe you'll feel better tomarrow. Wouldn't you
like to see us again?"
"Sure I would,"
replied Bill, "Maybe it won't do any good, but
I'd like to see you both, anyhow. You certainly know
what you are talking about."
Looking in later we found
Bill with his wife, Henrietta. Eagerly he pointed to
us saying, "These are the fellows I told you about;
they are the ones who understands."
Bill then related how
he had lain awake nearly all night. Down in the pit
of his depression, new hope had somehow been born. The
thought flashed through his mind, "If they can
do it, I can do it!" Over and over he said
this to himself. Finally, out of his hope, there burst
conviction. Now he was sure. Then came a great joy.
At length peace stole over him and he slept.
Before our visit was over,
Bill suddenly turned to his wife and said, "Go
fetch my clothes, dear. We're going to get up and get
out of here." Bill D. walked out of that
hospital a free man never to drink again.
A.A.'s Number One Group
dates from that very day.
(Bill D. now continues
It was in the next two or three days after I had first
met Doc and Bill, That I finally came to a decision to
turn my will over to God and to go along with this program
the best that I could. Their talk and action had instilled
me with a certain amount of confidence, although I was
not too absolutely certain. I wasn't afraid that the program
wouldn't work, but I still was doubtful whether I would
be able to hang on to the program, but I did come to the
conclusion that I was willing to put everything I had
into it, with God's power, and that I wanted to do just
that. As soon as I had done that I did feel a great release.
I knew that
had a helper that I could rely upon, who wouldn't fail
me. If I could stick to Him and listen, I would make
it. Then I remember when the boys came back, that I
told them, "I have gone to this Higher Power and
I have told Him that I am willing to put His world first,
above everything. I have already done it, and I am willing
to do it again here in the presence of you or I am willing
to say it any place, anywhere in the world from now
on and not be ashamed of it." And this, as I said,
certainly gave me a lot of confidence, seemed to take
a lot of the burden off me.
I remember telling
them too that it was going to be awfully tough, because
I did some other things, smoked cigarettes and played
penny ante poker, sometimes bet on the horse races and
they said, "Don't you think you're having more
trouble with this drinking than with anything else at
the present time? Don't you believe you are going to
have all you can do to get rid of that?" I said,
"Yes," reluctantly, "I probably will."
They said, "Let's forget about those other things,
that is, trying to eliminate them all at once, and concentrate
on the drink." Of course, we had talked over quite
a number of failings that I had and made a sort of an
inventory, which wasn't to difficult, because I had
an awful lot of things wrong that were very apparent
to me, because I knew all about them. Then they said,
"There is one more thing. You should go out and
take this program to somebody else that needs it and
Of course, by this
time, my business was practically non-existent. I didn't
have any. Naturally, for quite a time, I wasn't too
well physically, either. It took me a year, or a year
and a half to get to feeling physically
and it was rather tough, but I soon found folks whose
friendship I had once had, and I found, after I had
been sober for quite some little time, that these people
began to act like they had in previous years, before
I had gotten so bad, so that I didn't pay too awful
much attention to financial gains. I spent most of my
time trying to get back these friendships, and to make
some recompense towards my wife, whom I had hurt a lot.
It would be hard
to estimate how much A.A. has done for me. I really
wanted the program and I wanted to go along with it.
I noticed that the others seemed to have such a release,
a happiness, a something that I thought a person ought
to have. I was trying to find the answer. I knew there
was even more, something that I hadn't got, and I remember
one day, a week or two after I had come out of the hospital,
Bill was over to my house talking to my wife and me.
We were eating lunch, and I was listening and trying
to find out why they had this release that they seemed
to have. Bill looked across at my wife, and said to
her, "Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful
to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just
want to keep talking about it and telling people."
I thought, "I
think I have the answer." Bill was very, very grateful
that he had been released from this terrible thing and
he had given God the credit for having done it, and
he's so grateful about it he wants to tell other people
about it. That sentence, "The Lord has been so
wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease,
that I just want to keep telling people about it,"
has been a sort of a golden text for the A.A. program
and for me.
Of course, as time went on, and I began to get my health
back and began to be so I didn't have to hide from people
all the time, it's just been wonderful. I still go to
meetings, because I like to go. I meet the people that
I like to talk to. Another reason that I go is that
I'm still grateful for the good years that I've had.
I'm so grateful for both the program and the people
in it that I still want to go, and then probably the
most wonderful thing that I learned from the program—I've
seen this in the 'A.A. Grapevine' a lot of times, and
I've had people say it to me personally, and I've heard
people get up in meetings and make the same statement:
The statement is, "I came into A.A. solely for
the purpose of sobriety, but it has been through A.A.
that I have found God."
I feel that is
about the most wonderful thing that a person can do.
Anonymous Number Three" Bill
for more resources on Bill D.