go into the drinking pattern that is so much the same
with all of us? Three times I had left the hospital with
hope that I was saying goodbye forever. And here I was
The first day there
I told the kindly doctor that I was a thoroughly hopeless
case and would probably continue to return as long as
I could beg, borrow, or steal the money to get in. On
the second day he told me that he knew of something that
would keep m e off liquor for life. I laughed at him.
Yes, indeed, I would do anything or take anything that
would produce such results, but there wasn't anything.
On the third day a man came to talk with me. He was an
alcoholic who had stopped! He talked about alcoholism
and a spiritual way of life. I was deeply impressed by
his seriousness, but nothing that he said made sense to
me. He spoke about God, and a power greater than one's
self. I remember being very careful not to say anything
that might shake his faith i n whatever it was he believed!
I was deeply grateful to him for taking the trouble to
talk with me, but what he had was not for me. I had thought
much about religion and had come to rather definite conclusions.
There was no God. The universe was an inexplicable phenomenon.
In spite of my sorry state and outlook, there were many
beautiful things in life, but no beauty. There were truths
discoverable about life, but no truth.
were people who were good, kind, considerate, but no such
thing as goodness. I had read rather extensively, but
when people began to talk in such ultimates I was lost.
I could find in life no eternal purpose nor anything that
might be labeled "divine guidance." War, illness, cruelty,
stupidity, poverty and greed were not and could not be
the product of any purposeful creation. The whole thing
simply didn't make sense.
About this I felt
no deep emotion. I had struggled with the problem during
late adolescence, but had long since ceased to give it
anxious thought. Many people believe in a god of some
sort and worship him in various ways. That was excellent.
I thought it nice that so many people, poor misguided
souls, could find so simple a solution to their problems.
If this world proved too hopelessly disillusioning they
could always seek comfort in a more pleasant existence
promised in a world to come, where wrongs would be righted
and justice tempered with tender mercy would prevail.
But none of that was for me. I had enough courage and
intellectual honesty to face life as I saw it without
recourse to a self-erected deity.
The next day another
man visited me. He, too, had been an alcoholic and stopped
drinking. He pointed out that I had found myself unable
to handle my liquor problem by myself. He had been in
the same position, yet he hadn't had a drink in over three
years! He told me of other men who had found sobriety
through the recognition of some power beyond themselves.
If I cared to I was to consider myself invited to a gathering
following Tuesday where I would meet other alcoholics
who had stopped.
With the knowledge
I now have, it is hard for me to recall how screwy the
whole thing sounded-the blind leading the blind, a union
of drunks, all banded together in some kind of a spiritual
belief! What could be more idiotic! But . . . these men
were sober! Nuts!
I returned to my despairing
wife with this incoherent story of a bunch of drunks who
had found a cure for their alcoholism through some kind
of spiritual exercise and who held regular meetings where,
as far as I could figure out, they went through some kind
of spiritual exercise! She was very nearly convinced that
my mental balance had now been completely and probably
permanently destroyed. The only rational support I could
find for giving it a try was that it was vouched for by
the kindly doctor whom she had met on several occasions
at the hospital. That and the fact that nothing else worked.
May I stop at this
point and address a few sentences direct to agnostic or
atheistically inclined alcoholics: You can't take less
stock in the references made to God in this book than
I would have if this book had been available to me at
that time. To you those references have no meaning. They
have simply used a name that people give to a fond delusion.
All your life, except possibly in early childhood, when
you conceived of an enormous figure with a flowing white
beard somewhere beyond the clouds, it has meant nothing.
You have now too much intelligence and honesty to allow
of such delusions. Even if you could, you are too proud
belief now that you are in desperate trouble, that you
denied when things were rosy. Or, you might possibly persuade
yourself to believe in some creative force, or algebraic
"X," but what earthly good would an "X" be in solving
such a problem as you face? And, even admitting, from
your knowledge of psychology, it is possible you might
acquire such delusions, how could you possibly believe
in them if you recognized them as delusions? Some such
thinking must have been going on in your mind as you have
weighed these incredible experiences against your own
inability to cope with a problem that is gradually destroying
your personality. Rest assured that such questions were
in my mind. I could see no satisfactory solution to any
of them. But I kept hard to the only thing that seemed
to hold out any hope, and gradually my difficulties were
lessened. I have not given up my intellect for the sake
of my soul, nor have I destroyed my integrity to preserve
my health and sanity. All I had feared to lose I have
gained and all I feared to gain I have lost.
But to conclude my
story: The following Tuesday, hardly daring to hope and
fearful of the worst, my wife and I attended our first
gathering with former alcoholic slaves who had been made
free through the rediscovery of a power for good, found
through a spiritual attitude toward life. I know that
I have never before been so inspired. It was not anything
that happened. Because nothing happened. Nor yet by anything
that was said, but more by an atmosphere created by friendliness,
sincerity, honesty, confidence, and good cheer. I couldn't
that these men could have been drunks, and yet gradually
I learned their stories, alcoholics every one!
That was, with me,
the beginning of a new life. It would be difficult, if
not impossible, for me to put into words the change that
has taken place in me, I have since learned that with
many members the change has been almost instantaneous.
This was not the case with me. I was tremendously inspired
at first, but my basic thinking was not altered that evening
nor did I expect any profound change. I felt that while
the spiritual aspect of what these men had was not for
me, I did believe strongly in the emphasis they put on
the need to help others. I felt that if I could have the
inspiration of these gatherings and if I could have an
opportunity to try to help others that the two together
would re-enforce my own willpower and thus be of tremendous
assistance. But gradually, in a manner I cannot explain,
I began to re-examine the beliefs I had thought beyond
criticism. Almost imperceptibly my whole attitude toward
life underwent a silent revolution. I lost many worries
and gained confidence. I found myself saying and thinking
things that a short time ago I would have condemned as
platitudes! A belief in the basic spirituality of life
has grown and with it belief in a supreme and guiding
power for good.
In the process of
this change I can recognize two immensely significant
steps for me. The first step I took when I admitted to
myself for the first time that all my previous thinking
might be wrong. The second step came when I first consciously
wished to believe. As a
of this experience I am convinced that to seek is to find,
to ask is to be given. The day never passes that I do
not silently cry out in thankfulness, not merely for my
release from alcohol, but even more for a change that
has given life new meaning, dignity, and beauty.
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