THERE IS A SOLUTION
WE, OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know
thousands of men and women who were once
just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered.
They have solved the drink problem.
We are average Americans. All sections of this
country and many of its occupations are represented,
as well as many political, economic, social, and reli-
gious backgrounds. We are people who normally
would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship,
a friendliness, and an understanding which is inde-
scribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a
great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck
when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade
the vessel from steerage to Captain's table. Unlike the
feelings of the ship's passengers, however, our joy in
escape from disaster does not subside as we go our in-
dividual ways. The feeling of having shared in a com-
mon peril is one element in the powerful cement
which binds us. But that in itself would never have
held us together as we are now joined.
The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we
have discovered a common solution. We have a way
out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which
we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This
is the great news this book carries to those who suffer
18 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
An illness of this sort--and we have come to believe
it an illness--involves those about us in a way no other
human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are
sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so
with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes anni-
hilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs
all whose lives touch the sufferer's. It brings misun-
derstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity,
disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of
blameless children, sad wives and parents--anyone
can increase the list.
We hope this volume will inform and comfort those
who are, or who may be affected. There are many.
Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with
us have found it sometimes impossible to persuade an
alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve.
Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends
usually find us even more unapproachable than do the
psychiatrist and the doctor.
But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solu-
tion, who is properly armed with facts about himself,
can generally win the entire confidence of another al-
coholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding
is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.
That the man who is making the approach has had
the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is
talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the
new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that
he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing what-
ever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there
are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to
please, no lectures to be endured--these are the condi-
THERE IS A SOLUTION 19
tions we have found most effective. After such an ap-
proach many take up their beds and walk again.
None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor
do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we
did. We feel that elimination of our drinking is but
a beginning. A much more important demonstration
of our principles lies before us in our respective homes,
occupations and affairs. All of us spend much of our
spare time in the sort of effort which we are going to
describe. A few are fortunate enough to be so situated
that they can give nearly all their time to the work.
If we keep on the way we are going there is little
doubt that much good will result, but the surface of
the problem would hardly be scratched. Those of us
who live in large cities are overcome by the reflection
that close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion
every day. Many could recover if they had the oppor-
tunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present
that which had been so freely given us?
We have concluded to publish an anonymous vol-
ume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall
bring to the task our combined experience and knowl-
edge. This should suggest a useful program for any-
one concerned with a drinking problem.
Of necessity there will have to be discussion of
matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. We
are aware that these matters are, from their very na-
ture, controversial. Nothing would please us so much
as to write a book which would contain no basis for
contention or argument. We shall do our utmost to
achieve that ideal. Most of us sense that real tolerance
of other people's shortcomings and viewpoints and a
respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us
20 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
more useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem
drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others
and how we may help meet their needs.
You may already have asked yourself why it is that
all of us become so very ill from drinking. Doubtless
you are curious to discover how and why, in the face
of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered
from a hopeless condition of mind and body. If you
are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may
already be asking--"What do I have to do?"
It is the purpose of this book to answer such ques-
tions specifically. We shall tell you what we have
done. Before going into a detailed discussion, it may
be well to summarize some points as we see them.
How many times people have said to us: "I can take
it or leave it alone. Why can't he?" "Why don't you
drink like a gentleman or quit?" "That fellow can't
handle his liquor." "Why don't you try beer and
wine?" "Lay off the hard stuff." "His will power must
be weak." "He could stop if he wanted to." "She's
such a sweet girl, I should think he'd stop for her
sake." "The doctor told him that if he ever drank
again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again."
Now these are commonplace observations on drink-
ers which we hear all the time. Back of them is a
world of ignorance and misunderstanding. We see
that these expressions refer to people whose reactions
are very different from ours.
Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up
liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They
can take it or leave it alone.
Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He
may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair
THERE IS A SOLUTION 21
him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die
a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong rea-
son--ill health, falling in love, change of environment,
or the warning of a doctor--becomes operative, this
man can also stop or moderate, although he may find
it difficult and troublesome and may even need med-
But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off
as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a
continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his
drinking career he begins to lose all control of his
liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.
Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, espe-
cially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredi-
ble, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly intoxicated.
He is always more or less insanely drunk. His disposi-
tion while drinking resembles his normal nature but
little. He may be one of the finest fellows in the world.
Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes
disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has
a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong
moment, particularly when some important decision
must be made or engagement kept. He is often per-
fectly sensible and well balanced concerning every-
thing except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly
dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abili-
ties, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career
ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright
outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the
structure down on his head by a senseless series of
sprees. He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated
he ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next
22 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced
the night before. If he can afford it, he may have
liquor concealed all over his house to be certain no
one gets his entire supply away from him to throw
down the wastepipe. As matters grow worse, he be-
gins to use a combination of high-powered sedative
and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work.
Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it
and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a
doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with
which to taper off. Then he begins to appear at hos-
pitals and sanitariums.
This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the
true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this
description should identify him roughly.
Why does he behave like this? If hundreds of ex-
periences have shown him that one drink means an-
other debacle with all its attendant suffering and
humiliation, why is it he takes that one drink? Why
can't he stay on the water wagon? What has become
of the common sense and will power that he still some-
times displays with respect to other matters?
Perhaps there never will be a full answer to these
questions. Opinions vary considerably as to why the
alcoholic reacts differently from normal people. We
are not sure why, once a certain point is reached, little
can be done for him. We cannot answer the riddle.
We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from
drink, as he may so for months or years, he reacts
much like other men. We are equally positive that
once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system,
something happens, both in the bodily and mental
sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to
THERE IS A SOLUTION 23
stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly
These observations would be academic and point-
less if our friend never took the first drink, thereby
setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the
main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind,
rather than in his body. If you ask him why he started
on that last bender, the chances are he will offer you
any one of a hundred alibis. Sometimes these excuses
have a certain plausibility, but none of them really
makes sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic's
drinking bout creates. They sound like the philosophy
of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on
the head with a hammer so that he can't feel the ache.
If you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention
of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irri-
tated and refuse to talk.
Once in a while he may tell the truth. And the
truth, strange to say, is usually that he has no more
idea why he took that first drink than you have. Some
drinkers have excuses with which they are satisfied
part of the time. But in their hearts they really do not
know why they do it. Once this malady has a real
hold, they are a baffled lot. There is the obsession that
somehow, someday, they will beat the game. But they
often suspect they are down for the count.
How true this is, few realize. In a vague way their
families and friends sense that these drinkers are ab-
normal, but everybody hopefully awaits the day when
the sufferer will rouse himself from his lethargy and
assert his power of will.
The tragic truth is that if the man be a real alco-
holic, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost
24 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
control. At a certain point in the drinking of every
alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most power-
ful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail.
This tragic situation has already arrived in practically
every case long before it is suspected.
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet ob-
scure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-
called will power becomes practically nonexistent.
We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our con-
sciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suf-
fering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.
We are without defense against the first drink.
The almost certain consequences that follow taking
even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to
deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and
readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that
this time we shall handle ourselves like other people.
There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that
keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.
The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual
way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's how!" Or
perhaps he doesn't think at all. How often have some
of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and after
the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to
ourselves, "For God's sake, how did I ever get started
again?" Only to have that thought supplanted by
"Well, I'll stop with the sixth drink." Or "What's the
When this sort of thinking is fully established in an
individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably
placed himself beyond human aid, and unless locked
up, may die or go permanently insane. These stark
and ugly facts have been confirmed by legions of alco-
THERE IS A SOLUTION 25
holics throughout history. But for the grace of God,
there would have been thousands more convincing
demonstrations. So many want to stop but cannot.
There is a solution. Almost none of us likes the self-
searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of
shortcomings which the process requires for its suc-
cessful consummation. But we saw that it really
worked in others, and we had come to believe in the
hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living
it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in
whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing
left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual
tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven
and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of
existence of which we had not even dreamed.
The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we
have had deep and effective spiritual experiences
which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward
life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe.
The central fact of our lives today is the absolute cer-
tainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and
lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has
commenced to accomplish those things for us which
we could never do by ourselves.
If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we be-
lieve there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were
in a position where life was becoming impossible, and
if we had passed into the region from which there is
no return through human aid, we had but two alterna-
tives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out
the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best
we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This
26 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
we did because we honestly wanted to, and were will-
ing to make the effort.
A certain American business man had ability, good
sense, and high character. For years he had floundered
from one sanitarium to another. He had consulted the
best known American psychiatrists. Then he had gone
to Europe, placing himself in the care of the celebrated
physician (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung) who prescribed
for him. Though experience had made him skeptical,
he finished his treatment with unusual confidence.
His physical and mental condition were unusually
good. Above all, he believed he had acquired such a
profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind
and its hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable.
Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time. More
baffling still, he could give himself no satisfactory ex-
planation for his fall.
So he turned to this doctor, whom he admired,
and asked him point-blank why he could not recover.
He wished above all things to regain self-control. He
seemed quite rational and well-balanced with respect
to other problems. Yet he had no control whatever
over alcohol. Why was this?
He begged the doctor to tell him the whole truth,
and he got it. In the doctor's judgment he was utterly
hopeless; he could never regain his position in society
and he would have to place himself under lock and
key or hire a bodyguard if he expected to live long.
That was a great physician's opinion.
But this man still lives, and is a free man. He does
not need a bodyguard nor is he confined. He can go
anywhere on this earth where other free men may go
THERE IS A SOLUTION 27
without disaster, provided he remains willing to main-
tain a certain simple attitude.
Some of our alcoholic readers may think they can do
without spiritual help. Let us tell you the rest of the
conversation our friend had with his doctor.
The doctor said: "You have the mind of a chronic
alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover,
where that state of mind existed to the extent that it
does in you." Our friend felt as though the gates of
hell had closed on him with a clang.
He said to the doctor, "Is there no exception?"
"Yes," replied the doctor, "there is. Exceptions to
cases such as yours have been occurring since early
times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics
have had what are called vital spiritual experiences.
To me these occurrences are phenomena. They ap-
pear to be in the nature of huge emotional displace-
ments and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and
attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the
lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a
completely new set of conceptions and motives begin
to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to
produce some such emotional rearrangements within
you. With many individuals the methods which I em-
ployed are successful, but I have never been successful
with an alcoholic of your description."
Upon hearing this, our friend was somewhat re-
lieved, for he reflected that, after all, he was a good
church member. This hope, however, was destroyed
by the doctor's telling him that while his religious
convictions were very good, in his case they did not
spell the necessary vital spiritual experience.
28 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
Here was the terrible dilemma in which our friend
found himself when he had the extraordinary experi-
ence, which as we have already told you, made him a
We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all the
desperation of drowning men. What seemed at first a
flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful
hand of God. A new life has been given us or, if you
prefer, "a design for living" that really works.
The distinguished American psychologist, William
James, in his book "Varieties of Religious Experience,"
indicates a multitude of ways in which men have dis-
covered God. We have no desire to convince anyone
that there is only one way by which faith can be ac-
quired. If what we have learned and felt and seen
means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever
our race, creed, or color are the children of a living
Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon
simple and understandable terms as soon as we are
willing and honest enough to try. Those having reli-
gious affiliations will find here nothing disturbing to
their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among
us over such matters.
We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies
our members identify themselves with as individuals.
This should be an entirely personal affair which each
one decides for himself in the light of past associations,
or his present choice. Not all of us join religious
bodies, but most of us favor such memberships.
In the following chapter, there appears an explana-
tion of alcoholism, as we understand it, then a chapter
addressed to the agnostic. Many who once were in
this class are now among our members. Surprisingly
THERE IS A SOLUTION 29
enough, we find such convictions no great obstacle
to a spiritual experience.
Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing
how we recovered. These are followed by forty-three
Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in
his own language and from his own point of view the
way he established his relationship with God. These
give a fair cross section of our membership and a clear-
cut idea of what has actually happened in their lives.
We hope no one will consider these self-revealing
accounts in bad taste. Our hope is that many alcoholic
men and women, desperately in need, will see these
pages, and we believe that it is only by fully disclos-
ing ourselves and our problems that they will be
persuaded to say, "Yes, I am one of them too; I must
have this thing."