One of our friends, whose gripping story you have
read, has spent much of his life in the world
of big business. He has hired and fired hundreds
of men. He knows the alcoholic as the employer
sees him. His present views ought to prove exceptionally
useful to business men everywhere.
But let him tell you:
I was at one time assistant manager of a corporation
department employing sixty-six hundred men. One
day my secretary came in saying that Mr. B - insisted
on speaking with me. I told her to say that I
was not interested. I had warned this man several
times that he had but one more chance. Not long
afterward he had called me from Hartford on two
successive days, so drunk he could hardly speak.
I told him he was through - finally and forever.
My secretary returned to say that it was not Mr.
B - on the phone; it was Mr. B - 's brother, and
he wished to give me a message. I still expected
a plea for clemency, but these words came through
the receiver: "I just wanted to tell you Paul
jumped from a hotel window in Hartford last Saturday.
He left us a note saying you were the best boss
he ever had, and that you were not to blame in
Another time, as I opened a letter which lay on
my desk, a newspaper clipping fell out. It was
the obituary of one of the best salesman I ever
had. After two weeks of drinking, he had placed
his foot on the trigger of a loaded shotgun -
the barrel was in his mouth. I had discharged
him for drinking six weeks before.
Still another experience: A woman's voice came
faintly over long distance from Virginia. She
wanted to know if her husband's company insurance
was still in force. Four days before he had hanged
himself in his woodshed. I had been obliged to
discharge him for drinking, though he was brilliant,
alert, and one of the best organizers I have ever
Here were three exceptional men lost to this world
because I did not understand as I do now. Then
I became an alcoholic myself! And but for the
intervention of an understanding person, I might
have followed in their footsteps. My downfall
cost the business community unknown thousands
of dollars, for it takes real money to train a
man for an executive position. This kind of waste
goes on unabated. Our business fabric is shot
through with it and nothing will stop it but better
understanding all around.
You, an employer, want to understand. Nearly every
modern employer feels a moral responsibility for
the well-being of his help, and he usually tries
to meet these responsibilities. That he has not
always done so for the alcoholic is easily understood.
To him the alcoholic has often seemed to be a
fool of the first magnitude. Because of the employee's
special ability, or of his own strong personal
attachment to him, the employer has sometimes
kept such a man at work long beyond the time he
ordinarily would. Some employers have tried every
known remedy. More often, however, there is very
little patience and tolerance. And we, who have
imposed on the best of employers, can scarcely
blame them if they have been short with us.
Here, for instance, is a typical example: An officer
of one of the largest banking institutions in
America knows I no longer drink. One day he told
me about an executive of the same bank, who, from
his description, was undoubtedly alcoholic. This
seemed to me like an opportunity to be helpful.
So I spent a good two hours talking about alcoholism,
the malady. I described the symptoms and supported
my statements with plenty of evidence. His comment
was: "Very interesting. But I'm sure this man
is done drinking. He has just returned from a
three-months' leave of absence, has taken a cure,
looks fine, and to clinch the matter, the board
of directors told him this was his last chance."
My rejoinder was that if I could afford it, I
would bet him a hundred to one the man would go
on a bigger bust than ever. I felt this was inevitable
and that the bank was doing a possible injustice.
Why not bring the man in contact with some of
our alcoholic crowd? He might have a chance. I
pointed out I had had nothing to drink whatever
for three years, and this in the face of difficulties
that would have made nine out of ten men drink
their heads off. Why not at least afford him an
opportunity to hear my story? "Oh no", said my
friend, "this chap is either through with liquor,
or he is minus a job. If he has your will power
and guts, he will make the grade."
I wanted to throw up my hands in discouragement,
for I saw that my banking acquaintance had missed
the point entirely. He simply could not believe
that his brother-executive suffered from a deadly
malady. There was nothing to do but wait.
Presently the man did slip and, of course, was
fired. Following his discharge, our group contacted
him. Without much ado, he accepted our principles
and procedure. He is undoubtedly on the high road
to recovery. To me, this incident illustrates
a lack of understanding and knowledge on the part
of employers - lack of understanding as to what
really ails the alcoholic, and lack of knowledge
as to what part employers might profitably take
in salvaging their sick employees.
To begin with, I think you employers would do
well to disregard your own drinking experience,
or lack of it. Whether you are a hard drinker,
a moderate drinker, or a teetotaler, you have
but little notion of the inner workings of the
alcoholic mind. Instead, you may have some pretty
strong opinions, perhaps prejudices, based upon
your own experiences. Those of you who drink moderately
are almost certain to be more annoyed with an
alcoholic than a total abstainer would be. Drinking
occasionally, and understanding your own reactions,
it is possible for you to become quite sure of
many things, which, so far as the alcoholic is
concerned, are not always so.
As a moderate drinker, you can take your liquor
or leave it alone. Whenever you want to, you can
control your drinking. Of an evening, you can
go on a mild bender, get up in the morning, shake
your head, and go to business. To you, liquor
is no real problem. You cannot see why it should
be to anyone else, save the spineless and stupid.
When dealing with an alcoholic, you have to fight
an ingrained annoyance that he could be so weak,
stupid and irresponsible. Even when you understand
the malady better, you may still have to check
this feeling and remember that your employee is
very ill, being seldom as weak and irresponsible
as he appears.
Take a look at the alcoholic in your organization.
Is he not usually brilliant, fast-thinking, imaginative
and likeable? When sober, does he not work hard
and have a knack of getting things done? Review
his qualities and ask yourself whether he would
be worth retaining, if sober. And do you owe him
the same obligation you feel toward other sick
employees? Is he worth salvaging? If your decision
is yes, whether the reason be humanitarian, or
business, or both, then you will wish to know
what to do.
The first part has to do with you. Can you stop
feeling that you are dealing only with habit,
with stubborness, or a weak will? If you have
difficulty about that I suggest you re-read chapters
two and three of this book, where the alcoholic
sickness is discussed at length. You, as a business
man, know better than most that when you deal
with any problem, you must know what it is. Having
conceded that your employee is ill, can you forgive
him for what he has done in the past? Can you
shelve the resentment you may hold because of
his past absurdities? Can you fully appreciate
that the man has been a victim of crooked thinking,
directly caused by the action of alcohol on his
I well remember the shock I received when a prominent
doctor in Chicago told me of cases where pressure
of the spinal fluid actually ruptured the brain
from within. No wonder an alcoholic is strangely
irrational. Who wouldn't be, with such a fevered
brain? Normal drinkers are not so handicapped.
Your man has probably been trying to conceal a
number of scrapes, perhaps pretty messy ones.
They may disgust you. You may be puzzled by them,
being unable to understand how such a seemingly
above board chap could be so involved. But you
can generally charge these, no matter how bad,
to the abnormal action of alcohol on his mind.
When drinking, or getting over a bout, an alcoholic,
sometimes the model of honesty when normal, will
do incredible things. Afterward, his revulsion
will be terrible. Nearly always, these antics
indicate nothing more than temporary abberations
and you should so treat them.
This is not to say that all alcoholics are honest
and upright when not drinking. Of course that
isn't so, and you will have to be careful that
such people don't impose on you. Seeing your attempt
to understand and help, some men will try to take
advantage of your kindness. If you are sure your
man does not want to stop, you may as well discharge
him, the sooner the better. You are not doing
him a favor by keeping him on. Firing such an
individual may prove a blessing to him. It may
be just the jolt he needs. I know, in my own particular
case, that nothing my company could have done
would have stopped me,for so long as I was able
to hold my position, I could not possibly realize
how serious my situation was. Had they fired me
first, and had they then taken steps to see that
I was presented with the solution contained in
this book, I might have returned to them six months
later, a well man.
But there are many men who want to stop right
now, and with them you can go far. If you make
a start, you should be prepared to go the limit,
not in the sense that any great expense or trouble
is to be expected, but rather in the matter of
your own attitude, your understanding treatment
of the case.
Perhaps you have such a man in mind. He wants
to quit drinking, and you want to help him, even
if it be only a matter of good business. You know
something of alcoholism. You see that he is mentally
and physically sick. You are willing to overlook
his past performances. Suppose you call the man
in and go at him like this:
Hit him point blank with the thought that you
know all about his drinking, that it must stop.
Say you appreciate his abilities, would like to
keep him, but cannot, if he continues to drink.
That you mean just what you say. And you should
mean it too!
Next, assure him that you are not proposing to
lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if you have
done so formerly, it is because you misunderstood.
Say, if you possibly can, that you have no hard
feeling toward him. At this point, bring out the
idea of alcoholism, the sickness. Enlarge on that
fully. Remark that you have been looking into
the matter. You are sure of what you say, hence
your change of attitude, hence your willingness
to deal with the problem as though it were a disease.
You are willing to look at your man as a gravely-ill
person, with this qualification - being perhaps
fatally ill, does your man want to get well, and
right now? You ask because many alcoholics, being
warped and drugged, do not want to quit. But does
he? Will he take every necessary step, submit
to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?
If he says yes, does he really mean it, or down
inside does he think he is fooling you, and that
after rest and treatment he will be able to get
away with a few drinks now and then? Probe your
man thoroughly on these points. Be satisfied he
is not deceiving himself or you.
Not a word about this book, unless you are sure
you ought to introduce it at this juncture. If
he temporizes and still thinks he can ever drink
again, even beer, you may as well discharge him
after the next bender which, if an alcoholic,
he is certain to have. Tell him that emphatically,
and mean it! Either you are dealing with a man
who can and will get well, or you are not. If
not, don't waste time with him. This may seem
severe, but it is usually the best course.
After satisfying yourself that your man wants
to recover and that he will go to any extreme
to do so, you may suggest a definite course of
action. For most alcoholics who are drinking,
or who are just getting over a spree, a certain
amount of physical treatment is desirable, even
imperative. Some physicians favor cutting off
the liquor sharply, and prefer to use little or
no sedative. This may be wise in some instances,
but for the most of us it is a barbaric torture.
For severe cases, some doctors prefer a slower
tapering-down process, followed by a health farm
or sanitarium. Other doctors prefer a few days
of de-toxication, removal of poisons from the
system by cathartics, belladonna, and the like,
followed by a week of mild exercise and rest.
Having tried them all, I personally favor the
latter, though the matter of physical treatment
should, of course, be referred to your own doctor.
Whatever the method, its object should be to thoroughly
clear mind and body of the effects of alcohol.
In competent hands, this seldom takes long, nor
should it be very expensive. Your man is entitled
to be placed in such physical condition that he
can think straight and no longer physically craves
liquor. These handicaps must be removed if you
are going to give him the chance you want him
to have. Propose such a procedure to him. Offer
to advance the cost of treatment, if necessary,
but make it plain that any expense will later
be deducted from his pay. Make him fully responsible;
it is much better for him.
When your man accepts your offer, point out that
physical treatment is but a small part of the
picture. Though you are providing him with the
best possible medical attention, he should understand
that he must undergo a change of heart. To get
over drinking will require a transformation of
thought and attitude. He must place recovery above
everything, even home and business, for without
recovery he will lose both.
Show that you have every confidence in his ability
to recover. While on the subject of confidence,
tell him that so far as you are concerned, this
will be a strictly personal matter. His alcoholic
derelictions, the treatment about to be undertaken,
these will never be discussed without his consent.
Cordially wish him success and say you want to
have a long chat with him on his return.
To return to the subject matter of this book:
It contains, as you have seen, full directions
by which your employee may solve his problem.
To you, some of the ideas which it contains are
novel. Perhaps some of them don't make sense to
you. Possibly you are not quite in sympathy with
the approach we suggest. By no means do we offer
it as the last word on this subject, but so far
as we are concerned, it has been the best word
so far. Our approach often does work. After all,
you are looking for results rather than methods.
Whether your employee likes it or not, he will
learn the grim truth about alcoholism. That won't
hurt him a bit, though he does not go for the
remedy at first.
I suggest you draw our book to the attention of
the doctor who is to attend your patient during
treatment. Ask that the book be read the moment
the patient is able - while he is acutely depressed,
The doctor should approve a spiritual approach.
And besides, he ought to tell the patient the
truth about his condition, whatever that happens
to be. The doctor should encourage him to acquire
a spiritual experience. At this stage it will
be just as well if the doctor does not mention
you in connection with the book. Above all, neither
you, the doctor, nor anyone should place himself
in the position of telling the man he must abide
by the contents of this volume. The man must decide
for himself. You cannot command him, you can only
encourage. And you will surely agree that it may
be better to withold~ any criticism you may have
of our method until you see whether it works.
You are betting, of course, that your changed
attitude and the contents of this book will turn
the trick. In some cases it will, and in others
it will not. But we think that if you persist,
the percentage of successes will gratify you.
When our work spreads and our numbers increase,
we hope your employees may be put in personal
contact with some of us, which, needless to say,
will be more effective. Meanwhile, we are sure
a great deal can be accomplished if you will follow
the suggestions of this chapter.
On your employee's return, call him in and ask
what happened. Ask him if he thinks he has the
answer. Get him to tell you how he thinks it will
work, and what he has to do about it. Make him
feel free to discuss his problems with you, if
he cares to. Show him you understand, and that
you will not be upset by anything he wishes to
In this connection, it is important that you remain
undisturbed if the man proceeds to tell you things
which shock you. He may, for example, reveal that
he has padded his expense account, or that he
has planned to take your best customers away from
you. In fact, he may say almost anything if he
has accepted our solution which, as you know,
demands rigorous honesty. Charge this off as you
would a bad account and start afresh with him.
If he owes you money, make terms which are reasonable.
From this point on, never rake up the past unless
he wants to discuss it.
If he speaks of his home situation, be patient
and make helpful suggestions. Let him see that
he can talk frankly with you so long as he does
not bear tales or criticize others. With the kind
of employee you want to keep, such an attitude
will command undying loyalty.
The greatest enemies of the alcoholic are resentment,
jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear. Wherever
men are gathered together in business, there will
be rivalries, and, arising out of these, a certain
amount of office politics. Sometimes the alcoholic
has an idea that people are trying to pull him
down. Often this is not so at all. But sometimes
his drinking will be used as a basis of criticism.
One instance comes to mind in which a malicious
individual was always making friendly little jokes
of an alcoholic's drinking exploits. In another
case, an alcoholic was sent to a hospital for
treatment. Only a few knew of it at first, but
within a short time, it was bill-boarded throughout
the entire company. Naturally, this sort of thing
decreases a man's chance of recovery. The employer
should make it his business to protect the victim
from this kind of talk if he can. The employer
cannot play favorites, but he can always try to
defend a man from needless provocation and unfair
As a class, alcoholics are energetic people. They
work hard and they play hard. Your man will be
on his mettle to make good. Being somewhat weakened,
and faced with physical and mental readjustment
to a life which knows no alcohol, he may overdo.
Don't let him work sixteen hours a day just because
he wants to. Encourage him to play once in a while.
Make it possible for him to do so. He may wish
to do a lot for other alcoholics and something
of the sort may come up during business hours.
Don't begrudge him a reasonable amount of time.
This work is necessary to maintain his sobriety.
After your man has gone along without drinking
a few months, try to make use of his services
with other employees who are giving you the alcoholic
run-around - provided, of course, they are willing
to have a third party in the picture. Don't hesitate
to let an alcoholic who has recovered, but holds
a relatively unimportant job, talk to a man with
a better position. Being on radically different
basis of life, he will never take advantage of
You must trust your man. Long experience with
alcoholic excuses naturally makes you suspicious.
When his wife next calls saying he is sick, don't
jump to the conclusion he is drunk. If he is,
and is still trying to recover upon our basis,
he will presently tell you about it, even if it
means the loss of his job. For he knows he must
be honest if he would live at all. Let him see
you are not bothering your head about him at all,
that you are not suspicious, nor are you trying
to run his life so he will be shielded from temptation
to drink. If he is conscientiously following the
Program of Recovery he can go anywhere your business
may call him. Do not promote him, however, until
you are sure.
In case he does stumble, even once, you will have
to decide whether to let him go. If you are sure
he doesn't mean business, there is no doubt you
should discharge him. If, on the contrary, you
are sure he is doing his utmost, you may wish
to give him another chance. But you should feel
under no obligation to do so, for your obligation
has been well discharged already. In any event,
don't let him fool you, and don't let sentiment
get the better of you if you are sure he ought
There is another thing you might do. If your organization
is a large one, your junior executives might be
provided with this book. You might let them know
you have no quarrel with the alcoholics of your
organization. These juniors are often in a difficult
position. Men under them are frequently their
friends. So, for one reason or another, they cover
these men, hoping matters will take a turn for
the better. They often jeopardize their own positions
by trying to help serious drinkers who should
have been fired long ago, or else given an opportunity
to get well.
After reading this book, a junior executive can
go to such a man and say, "look here, Ed. Do you
want to stop drinking or not? You put me on the
spot every time you get drunk. It isn't fair to
me or the firm. I have been learning something
about alcoholism. If you are an alcoholic, you
are a mighty sick man. You act like one. The firm
wants to help you get over it, if you are interested.
There is a way out, and I hope you have sense
enough to try it. If you do, your past will be
forgotten and the fact that you went away for
treatment will not be mentioned. But if you cannot,
or will not stop drinking, I think you ought to
Your junior executive may not agree with the contents
of our book. He need not, and often should not,
show it to his alcoholic prospect. But at least
he will understand the problem and will no longer
be misled by ordinary promises. He will be able
to take a position with such a man which is eminently
fair and square. He will have no further reason
for covering up an alcoholic employee.
It boils right down to this: No man should be
fired just because he is alcoholic. If he wants
to stop, he should be afforded a real chance.
If he cannot, or does not want to stop, he should
usually be discharged. The exceptions are few.
We think this method of approach will accomplish
several things for you. It will promptly bring
drinking situations to light. It will enable you
to restore good men to useful activity. At the
same time you will feel no reluctance to rid yourself
of those who cannot, or will not, stop. Alcoholism
may be causing your organization considerable
damage in its waste of money, men and reputation.
We hope our suggestions will help you plug up
this sometimes serious leak. We do not expect
you to become a missionary, attempting to save
all who happen to be alcoholic. Being a business
man is enough these days. But we can sensibly
urge that you stop this waste and give your worth-while
man a chance.
The other day an approach was made to the vice-president
of a large industrial concern. He remarked: "I'm
mighty glad you fellows got over your drinking.
But the policy of this company is not to interfere
with the habits of our employees. If a man drinks
so much that his job suffers, we fire him. I don't
see how you can be of any help to us, for as you
see, we don't have any alcoholic problem." This
same company spends millions for research every
year. Their cost of production is figured to a
fine decimal point. They have recreational facilities.
There is company insurance. There is a real interest,
both humanitarian and business, in the well-being
of employees. But alcoholism - well, they just
don't have that.
Perhaps this is a typical attitude. We, who have
collectively seen a great deal of business life,
at least from the alcoholic angle, had to smile
at this gentleman's opinion. He might be shocked
if he knew how much alcoholism cost his organization
a year. That company may harbor many actual or
potential alcoholics. We believe that managers
of large enterprises often have little idea how
prevalent this problem is. Perhaps this is a guess,
but we have a hunch it's a good one. If you still
feel your organization has no alcoholic problem,
you might well take another look down the line.
You may make some interesting discoveries.
Of course, this chapter refers to alcoholics,
sick people, deranged men. What our friend, the
vice-president, had in mind, was the habitual
or whoopee drinker. As to them, his policy is
probably sound, but as you see, he does not distinguish
between such people and the alcoholic.
Being a business man, you might like to have a
summary of this chapter. Here it Is~ :
- One: Acquaint yourself
with the nature of alcoholism.
- Two: Be prepared to discount
and forget your man's past.
- Three: Confidentially
offer him medical treatment and cooperation,
provided you think he wants to stop.
- Four: Have the alcohol
thoroughly removed from his system and give
him a suitable chance to recover physically.
- Five: Have the doctor
in attendance present him with this book,
but don't cram it down his throat.
- Six: Have a frank talk
with him when he gets back from his treatment,
assuring him of your full support, encouraging
him to say anything he wishes about himself,
and making it clear the past will not be held
- Seven: Ask him to place
recovery from alcoholism ahead of all else.
- Eight: Don't let him
- Nine: Protect him, when
justified, from malicious gossip.
- Ten: If, after you have
shot the works, he will not stop, then let
It is not to be expected that you give your alcoholic
employee a disproportionate amount of time and
attention. He is not to be made a favorite. The
right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will
not want this sort of thing. He will not impose
upon you. Far from it. He will work like the devil,
and thank you to his dying day.
Today, I own a little company. There are two alcoholic
employees, who produce as much as five normal
salesmen. But why not? They have a better way
of life, and they have been saved from a living
death. I have enjoyed every moment spent in getting
them straightened out. You, Mr. Employer, may
have the same experience!*
* See appendix
- The Alcoholic Foundation. We may be able to
carry on a limited correspondence.