Author unknown, Chicago, Illinois.
(p. 355 in 2nd edition, p. 422 in 3rd edition.)
They Stopped in Time
"A young veteran tells how a few rough experiences pushed him into A.A. - and how he was therefore spared years of suffering."
This man's date of sobriety is believed to be February 1950.
He began drinking at about fifteen. In high school all the students had lockers in which they kept books, pencils, paper, gym equipment, etc. He did too, but he also kept beer in his locker. At sixteen he graduated to the "hard stuff." When the other kids went out to hamburger huts or ice cream parlors, pizza joints or bowling alleys after football games and dances, he headed for saloons where he could get drinks.
He worked after school pumping gas until ten or eleven at night. He tried to imitate the men he worked with by talking out of the side of his mouth as they did. He smoked as much, tried to drink as much, and do everything they did, only more so. He boosted his income by filching money from the Coke machine, short-sticking customers on oil, and selling oil he'd drained out of other cars.
He quit school when he was just past sixteen, already with a drinking problem. His parents both drank excessively and were getting progressively worse. He wanted love and affection from his parents but didn't get it so did what he pleased most of the time.
He and another boy ran away to Omaha from his home in Chicago. They broke into a church to find a place to sleep and accidentally set the church on fire. He spent the next three days in jail. His father, a newspaperman, had meanwhile filed a missing person report on him. He was identified and put on a train back to Chicago. He went to work for the newspaper that employed his father, and began dating a girl he worked with.
Nearly eighteen he enlisted in the Navy to escape the Army draft. The night before he left for active duty he had planned to stay home, but his parents were drunk so he spent the night with his girlfriend and got very drunk himself. He was drunk when he was sworn in next morning, and drunk when he was discharged three years later.
At Great Lakes Boot Camp he landed a soft job which exempted him from ordinary recruit training activities. Although he wasn't allowed visitors for the first eight weeks, his dad pulled some strings and his parents managed to visit him after three weeks. They smuggled in a couple of pints for him, but he'd already made connections to get a regular supply of alcohol.
When stationed at Pearl Harbor he managed to be allowed to live in the photo lab where he worked, and to get a constant supply of alcohol. The result was that he woke up one day in a hospital. The doctor told him he had been brought into the hospital "like a madman, crying, raving, ranting, swearing, completely in the throes of delirium tremens. The diagnosis was acute alcoholism.
At the court martial that followed he received only thirty days confinement, fifteen in solitary.
Two months later he was sent back to the States to be discharged. When the plane landed in San Diego he headed for Tijuana where he landed in jail for being drunk and causing a brawl. He was escorted back to San Diego the next morning by the Shore Patrol, but was discharged on schedule.
His parents in the meantime had joined A.A. and he found them quite different from the parents he had known. "They had color in their faces, sparkle in their eyes and love in their hearts. It was a glorious homecoming." His Dad poured him welcome home drinks, not knowing how serious his drinking problem had become.
His drinking continued and when he had a second experience with D.T.'s he knew he was licked. He had packed more drinking into seven years than most people do in a lifetime.
The doctor in Hawaii had told him if he didn't stop drinking he wouldn't live five years. He knew he had to stop. He didn't want to break his parents' hearts and maybe jeopardize their own carefully built up and hard-fought-for sobriety.
Though the red carpet had been rolled out for him, it wasn't easy. His new girlfriend called it quits a week after his decision to join A.A. Three days later he lost his job. The combination nearly threw him, but he attended meetings, talked to his folks and the younger people they had put him in contact with, and he stayed sober.
He joined A.A. at the age of twenty-two. He wrote his story when he was twenty-six. He said even if he were to revert to drinking he still wouldn't give anything for the four years in A.A. They had been the happiest of his life. He had been helped morally, spiritually, mentally and materially through A.A. He used to think "Why live without whiskey?" Now he knew he couldn't live without A.A.
Four years earlier he had "nothing but a jumbled, mad existence." When he wrote his story he had all anyone could ask. He had a lovely wife who understood his problems and tried to help him; two wonderful little boys; a good job; and kind and sympathetic parents. He was buying his house and owed no one - except A.A.