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25, 1939 Cleveland Plain Dealer
Alcoholics Anonymous Makes
Its Stand Here
ELRICK B. DAVIS
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 quite drinking, you'll
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."
the alcoholic whispers in his heart. "No one but I
can know that I must drink to kill suffering too great to
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
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.
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
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.
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