John P

Authors of the Stories from the Book

Biography: "The Professor and the Paradox"

John P., Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
(p. 336 in 2nd edition.)

"Says he, 'We A.A.s surrender to win; we give away to keep; we suffer to get well; and we die to live.'"

According to a talk John gave on Founders Day 1978 in Akron, he entered A.A. in February of 1949.

He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and had a thick southern accent. He described himself as having always been shy, sensitive, fearful, envious, and resentful, which in turn lead him to be arrogantly independent, a defiant personality. He believed he got his Ph.D. degree principally because he wanted to either outdo or defy everybody else. He published a great deal of scholarly research, perhaps for the same reason.

He finished graduate school at the age of 30, and taught English at the University of Alabama for 21 years. That is where he was working when he entered A.A. He later taught at Kent State University in Ohio. (He joked in a talk he gave in 1978 about teaching Shakespeare with a southern accent, and having taught freshman English to Jim Nabors, television's Gomer Pyle. Had he known Nabors was going to make so much money, he would have sat in Nabors' seat and let Nabors teach the class.)

He began as a social drinker, in his early twenties, and did not experience any problems with drinking until well after he finished graduate school. But as the tensions and anxieties of his life mounted, and the set-backs from perfection began to increase, he "slipped over the line between moderate drinking and alcoholism."

John said "there are all kinds of drunks: melancholy drunks, weeping drunks, traveling drunks, slap-happy and stupid drunks, and a number of other varieties." He was a self-aggrandizing and occasionally violent drunk.

His crises came when, during a drunk, he became "violently insane" and landed in the City Jail. Soon after he was ready for A.A.

John gave very humorous talks. For example, he said in his 1978 talk that he did not know why his story was removed from the third edition, perhaps the New York office thought he had died.

He also joked about how having your story in the Big Book could sometimes cause problems. He told how after he had talked at a state A.A. convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, he overheard a man say that he was a fake, a liar, and a thief. The man thought he had stolen every word of his story out of a story in the Big Book which the man had just read the night before.

He discusses four paradoxes in his story. (A paradox, he explains, is a statement seemingly self-contradictory; a statement which appears to be false, but which, upon careful examination, in certain instances proves to be true.) The four paradoxes are, (1) we surrender to win, (2) we give away to keep, (3) we suffer to get well and (4) we die to live.

John updated his story for the January 1968 A.A. Grapevine. In the update he said that in A.A. we don't just quit drinking. "We learn to change our self-centeredness, to stop running away from things we don't like, and to remove or at least adjust our emotional shortcomings. We do these things by taking seriously and honestly our Twelve Steps, the nearest thing to a 'cure' for alcoholism that anybody has yet discovered. We learn to do these things not by just memorizing the Steps (though that is a good idea), but by attempting to live and act them each day of our lives. And eventually, often when we least expect it, we discover that as a result of all this we are happy and contented and full of thanksgiving -- something I once knew (or thought I knew) I could never be, without drinking."

Special thanks to Charles K. of California for some of the information on John P.


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