of Tall Man
American Indian shares his strength, hope and experience*
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., February 1976
proud to be son of Tall Man, American Indian, and member
of AA for many moons. We all one as Great Spirit walks
through AA like sun walks through day. This first story
I ever write. Sorry for mistakes. Love has no words to
spell or lines to start and stop. Our language has few
words to say many things.
was born a Maliseet Indian on reservation in Canada, oldest
of thirteen children. Was alter boy at church reservation.
Had first drink in young teens, but was scared of my father,
so didn't drink much then. Now think I was alcoholic from
first drink. Never forgot magic in firewater.
I was twenty-one, my cousin come home from U.S. Army on
leave, just before Pearl Harbor. I stay with him at aunt's
house in Maine. That night, we drink beer at taverns.
He had bottle of hard stuff. He gave me many drinks from
bottle. Next thing I know, it was day. First time I have
blackout, but not last. My aunt had sharp words for me
about drinking. I not listen to old woman.
hear about Pearl Harbor and join Canadian Army, December
13, 1941. Could not run away from problem. Soon found
wet canteens serve drinks to Indians in uniform. Went
overseas on beer. Soon change to hard stuff. Then many
blackouts for next two years. God must watch over me.
Got into no trouble. Came home just before D Day. Met
father (Tall Man) at fork in road -- one way to reservation,
other way to State of Maine. We went to booze joint in
Maine. Remember only first two drinks. Then I black out
and get home four days later. Now I slide down mountain
fast. Take many pledges but break them.
get arrested on VE Day, again on VJ Day. Judge say I go
to jail next time. So I change counties in Maine. When
counties run out, I move to Connecticut. Climb on water
wagon for few months. Build houses for some cops -- ha-ha.
Soon I drink beer. Then hard stuff. Then I find jails
in Connecticut, too. Cops say for me to call them, they
get me out. I think they sorry they tell me this. Next
two years, I call them many times. Last time in jail,
I have two black eyes. Cops now sick of me, so they buy
me one-way ticket to Canada. Pack my clothes and put me
brother and me find work on turnpike in Maine. I stay
on wagon for while, but miserable. Then drink again, but
more miserable. I want to stop this bad life, but where
to turn? Last time I drink, I go to room. Think about
kill myself. Then went on bridge to jump. By grace of
God I stop, think two things: This would kill good father
and mother; then remember boys talk about Indian fellow
who been sober three years. I hear about AA, but think
it religion. I have a religion. But now I change if it
bring good life.
find Indian fellow. We talk long time. Tell him I want
to get away from bottle and misery. How he do it? He say
he take me to AA meeting. I go with him to first meeting,
in small town in Maine. My sponsor say men who talk speak
truth. Then I know we walk same trail. This was July 15,
1954. Have not take drink since.
hear men say, "One day not drink. Not try no drinks
for Lent or for life. Just one day." This sound easy,
so will try. They say call friend before I buy drink.
Tank and meetings make me feel good. So I jump quick from
First Step to Twelfth Step to help my brother, living
with me. Two weeks later, he come to AA meeting. Came
to believe. Have not drink since. We both happy. After
six months, we move to Bridgeport Conn. Find same AA,
same Spirit. Year later, I go to Canada to carry message
to Tall Man, but he not listen to son. He old, sick, want
to be alone with bottle.
happen all time in AA. Two years later, brother take Tall
Man to first AA meeting, September 1957. Tall Man was
blind, but soon he see. He stay sober. Start group on
reservation, and carry message, help start other groups
all over Maritimes and New England. He was old, but now
he grow young with new life in AA, and travel all time.
When he speak from heart, big men cry. Words of truth
and love are strong medicine. Tall Man die September 1970,
a sober, peaceful, happy man. Maine newsletter (Boomerang)
say : "With tireless devotion and humility, this
venerable Indian gentleman traveled thousands of miles
humbly pleading for sobriety. He planted many seeds, and
it will be many moons before another rises to walk in
his shoes." Tall Man now see Great Spirit in Big
Group in sky. *
find work, I have travel much. At every place, I find
AA group first. I keep it simple, go to many meetings,
carry message to those who listen. To me, program is spiritual.
I feel Great Spirit at all meetings and when talk to AA
friends. I know peace. "How?" they ask me.
say, "Just let it happen." This sober Indian
say to sick, red-eyed alcoholic who want good medicine:
"Put cook in bottle. No drunk hopeless if he want
to follow sober guide along right trail. Go to AA meetings.
Listen, not just hear noise. Call friend in AA when bad
thoughts come. Let group spirit of love and understanding
protect you. Take my hand. Walk with me up Twelve Steps
of AA to peace."
Indians, I say: "Don't be afraid to join AA. I once
hear people say only Indians crazy when drunk. If so,
AA full of Indians. Join the tribe!"
B, Fairfield, Conn.
the story of Tall Man was told in the November 1962 Grapevine.
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., February 1976
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