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A.A. is a Bridge to Happy Living

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., May 1948

The Alcoholics Anonymous program is a bridge from the negative or egocentric personality of the sick alcoholic to the more desirable affirmative personality of the sober man, Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, physician in charge of Blythwood Hospital, Old Greenwich, Connecticut, believes. "An incident that happened twenty-five years ago when I was an intern, explains to me the alcoholic personality," Dr. Tiebout told an open meeting of the Manhattan Inter-Group recently. Patients of the "quiet ward" in the hospital where the doctor was an intern became upset and jittery. The nurses on the floor told the doctor that the trouble was caused by a patient who claimed to be able to read minds—and seemed to be doing so. "This of course was of great interest to me," said the doctor. "I couldn't read anybody's mind so it seemed like a good idea if I met the man who could. I called the patient to my office. I asked him how he could do this impossible thing."

A Matter of Muscles

"'It's easy,' the man said. 'All you have to do is watch the muscle reaction. If a man is thinking "no" his muscles unconsciously contract and he pulls away. When he is thinking "yes" he is relaxed.'" "It wasn't until this summer, twenty-five years later, that the full impact of that incident hit me," Dr. Tiebout continued. "When the alcoholic is sick, he is an 'aginner.' His mental attitude is one of withdrawal—his psychological 'muscles' contract." The "aginner" cannot enjoy life, Dr. Tiebout continued, "No, I won't go along, I'll do it myself," is his attitude. He feels an apartness from others because of this inner refusal to go along. This person feels unrest, discomfort, tension, dissatisfaction. He is full of resentments and hostility. In order to overcome these feelings, he seeks happiness in excitement and liquor is one outlet. Then he becomes gregarious, noisy, opinionated, in his fear of becoming a "Mr. Milquetoast." This person, too, may become overconscientious - he is selfish and full of guilt. "The 'aginner,' said Dr. Tiebout, "has no acceptance of life and the world as it is. He hasn't a chance of living on a twenty-four-hour program. Why doesn't this man give up? Because he has will power—he can fight the world, alone - he thinks." The more desirable, affirmative personality is quieter and feels fewer compulsions. He shares in fellowship and feels less guilt. This man is even-tempered and has learned to take things in his stride. He has an affirmative enjoyment of life as it is. He no longer demands that life produce thus-and-so. He's no longer trying to whip the world single handedly. "The Alcoholics Anonymous program," Dr. Tiebout continued, "tends to produce the 'yes' state of mind.

Admits It

"In your First Step the alcoholic admits that his life has become unmanageable. He can't whip the world alone - and admits it. Then in the Second Step, he reiterates; admitting that he cannot manage his life himself, he asks for help from the Power greater than he. He reminds himself of this constantly. "By attending group meetings he gradually loses the feeling of aloneness - he is no longer set apart. He has become an integral part of a group of people, enjoying their activities with them; he belongs. "By doing Twelfth Step work, the man or woman begins to 'sell' someone else and, by so doing, sells himself for what he is. "The person on the AA program then begins to say 'yes' to the kind of person he is. He takes a moral inventory and when he begins to say 'yes' he begins to grow. "Then as he begins to grow, he says 'yes' to God. Thy will be done. Through this he gains humbleness and humility," Dr. Tiebout emphasized.

Anonymous, New York, New York

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., May 1948

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