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21, 1939 Cleveland Plain Dealer
Alcoholics Anonymous Makes
Its Stand Here
ELRICK B. DAVIS
has been written about Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization
doing major work in reclaiming the habitual drinker. This
is the first of a series describing the work the group
is doing in Cleveland.
By now it is a rare Clevelander who does not know, or
know of, at least one man or woman of high talent whose
drinking had become a public scandal, and who suddenly
has straightened out "over night," as the saying
goes-the liquor habit licked. Men who have lost $15,000
a year jobs have them back again. Drunks who have taken
every "cure" available to the most lavish purse,
only to take them over again with equally spectacular
lack of success, suddenly have become total abstainers,
apparently without anything to account for their reform.
Yet something must account for the seeming miracle. Something
Alcoholics Anonymous has reached the town.
Every Thursday evening at the home of some ex-drunk in
Cleveland, 40 or 50 former hopeless rummies meet for a
social evening during which they buck each other up. Nearly
every Saturday evening they and their families have a
party just as gay as any other party held that
evening despite the fact that there is nothing alcoholic
to drink. From time to time they have a picnic, where
everyone has a roaring good time without the aid of even
one bottle of beer. Yet these are men and women who, until
recently, had scarcely been sober a day for years, and
members of their families who all that time had been emotionally
distraught, social and economic victims of another's addition.
These ex-rummies, as they call themselves, suddenly salvaged
from the most socially noisome of fates, are the members
of the Cleveland Fellowship of an informal society called
"Alcoholics Anonymous." Who they are cannot
be told, because the name means exactly what it says.
But any incurable alcoholic who really wants to be cured
will find the members of the Cleveland chapter eager to
The society maintains a "blind" address: The
Alcoholic Foundation, Box 657, Church Street Annex Postoffice,
New York City. Inquiries made there are forwarded to a
Cleveland banker, who is head of the local Fellowship,
or to a former big league ball player who is recruiting
officer of the Akron Fellowship, which meets Wednesday
evenings in a mansion loaned for the purpose by a non-alcoholic
supporter of the movement.
The basic point about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it
is a fellowship of "cured" alcoholics. And that
both old-line medicine and modern psychiatry had agreed
on the one point that no alcoholic could be cured. Repeat
the astounding fact:
These are cured.
They have cured each other.
They have done it by adopting, with each other's aid,
what they call "a spiritual way of life."
alcoholism is not a moral vice. It is a disease. No dipsomaniac
drinks because he wants to. He drinks because he can't
He will drink when he had rather die than take a drink.
That is why so many alcoholics die as suicides. He will
get drunk on the way home from the hospital or sanitarium
that has just discharged him as "cured." He
will get drunk at the wake of a friend who died of drink.
He will swear off for a year, and suddenly find himself
half-seas over, well into another "bust." He
will get drunk at the gates of an insane asylum where
he has just visited an old friend, hopeless victim of
These are the alcoholics that "Alcoholics Anonymous"
cures. Cure is impossible until the victim is convinced
that nothing that he or a "cure" hospital can
do, can help. He must know that his disease is fatal.
He must be convinced that he is hopelessly sick of body,
and of mind and of soul. He must be eager to accept
help from any source even God.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a simple explanation for an alcoholic's
physical disease. It was provided them by the head of
one of New York City's oldest and most famous "cure"
sanitariums. The alcoholic is allergic
to alcohol. One drink sets up a poisonous craving that
only more of the poison can assuage. That is why after
the first drink the alcoholic cannot stop.
They have a psychiatric theory equally simple and convincing.
Only an alcoholic can understand another alcoholic's mental
processes and state. And they have an equally simple,
if unorthodox, conception of God.