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MAN'S PURSUIT OF MATURITY
NEW BIG BOOK
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS Second Edition, revised. 612 pages.
A.A. Publishing, Inc. Reviewed here by an A.A. who is, among
other things, a professional book critic. Price to be set
by the General Service Conference, June 1955
book is so full of wisdom; each of its stories is so dead
on the target, that Alcoholics Anonymous should be left
on the alcoholic's night-table for continuous reference,
for active and unexpected support, for the comfort of sudden
insight, the re-inforcement of forgotten incidents, the
reminder of chagrin, of hysteria, wreckage, betrayal, and
loneliness that can be described only as outer-spatial.
were all these, many of us for years, and these re-visits
in their multitude on the one hand and their merciful objectivity
on the other - now that we are calmly passing the cage instead
of whimpering on its floor - are the most moving and powerful
paragraphs of our past that we can encounter in the days
of our sobriety. This is an album of our individual past,
in all its grotesquerie, its homicidal ebullience, its sophomoric
idiocy, its abuse and obscenity, its marathon emptiness
of talk, its gulping fantasy. It is a good thing for us
to traverse this rutted acreage once more; this pitted pot-hole
promenade. It's an important refresher course in our unbroken
need - not for glimpses of what we were and where we went
- but for hard cold steady-eyed explorations of it; deliberate
returns to it; continuous meditations upon it.
the new book, as with reading the old, is part of our life
and of our continuing education in continuing self-discovery.
We can't stay sober without thinking about being sober;
thinking actively and purposefully about it. The editorial
selection of new material is especially commendable. Here,
indeed, is a tour-de-force of today s miracle, one bravura
story after another,all familiar yet all unendingly new,
each one providing its special and deeply personal increment
to the full treasure of what is without any doubt the richest
story in print of human salvage out of the jaws of human
degradation and spiritual catastrophe; of last-minute rescue
at the edge of insanity, of total recovery from total insanity.
fascination of the dilemma of obsession in the known and
acknowledged presence of abhorrence seizes the reader's
imagination all over again. And it seizes his remembrance
too, for all the known antidotes come back in these pages
to straighten our sights, refortify our nerve, and reemphasize
the importance of one of A.A.'s basics: the constant thought
of others. It's a joy and a sudden challenge too, to re-encounter
the blunt question: "Why don't you choose your own
conception of God?"
can quarrel with propositions so basically sporting as this?
What arrested alcoholic can hold back a slight shudder when
he reads this once more:
you want to test yourself, go to a bar and do a little controlled
drinking. Drink, then stop"
is stabilizing and reassuring to go over, in careful but
compassionate prose, the description of the mental states
that precede a relapse; to be reimpressed with the sameness
of the distortion that afflicts the alcoholic and the insane;
to behold once again the great resource for rationalizing
that both share. It is good for us all to be warned again:
that there is no safety in a long sobriety; that patterns
of susceptibility are as set as blood types; that the disease
is progressive, whether we're drinking or not drinking.
meditations on the problem of agnosticism become more illuminating
as the years pass; acquire more meaning and a greater sympathy
with the pragmatic challenges which the serious agnostic
puts up to the face of Faith. If the sincere agnostic --
and there are millions -- can find a safe sobriety while
denying the existence of God, surely he cannot read these
pages in Alcoholics Anonymous without feeling a sudden dispersion
of the pressures of his own life; a lessening of his built-in
prejudices; a falling away of antagonisms. "We've stopped
fighting anybody or anything. We have to" "Who
are you to say there is no God?"
to A.A (there are 6,000 groups of us now) can have a disturbing
time - old-timers an amusing one - in going over the list
of methods we alcoholics use (or used to use) to prove we
weren t alcoholics. Do you remember them? Beer only? Never
more than two drinks' (or three or four?) Never to drink
alone? To drink only at home? To drink only at parties and
never at home? Never to drink in the morning? Never to keep
liquor in the house? Switching from Scotch to Brandy? (a
gruesome lateral ,as this reviewer can testify) Taking a
trip? Agreeing to resign if caught drunk? More exercise?
Changing towns? Going to health farms? Committing ourselves
to the loony-roost.
had fun playing this game, didn't we? With no defense against
the first drink, with our power of choice lost for all time.
The book's explanation as to how so many alcoholics can
go on and on for long periods of time - even for pears -
though drinking hard, is as simple as it is penetrating:
the will, unable to combat liquor, can remain strong in
A.A. gets older, it is also getting younger and younger.
For those just coming in, or thinking about sampling what
it is that we have, the diagram for sensible living is laid
down in these pages, the testimony of those whose eloquent
first-person narratives of the unbelievable wreckage they
have survived is here given; the strange but visible phenomenon
of our interdependence - as alcoholics - for our continued
serenity; the promise of a safe return to it after the occasional
departure: this is our diagram.
when drinking, we "extreme examples of self-will run
riot," when not drinking we're pretty useful and fairly
good company. We derive our strength from each other, in
the group. And from a higher power by whatever name. Where
it comes from, none of us entirely knows. But how to find
it is told, in rich detail by many who have been all the
way there and have come all the way back, in the new edition
of Alcoholics Anonymous.
, New York City