Having made your personal inventory, what shall you do about it? You have been
trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship with your Creator, and to
discover the obstacles in your path. You have admitted certain defects; you have
ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; you have put your finger on the
weak items in your personal inventory. Now these are about to be case out. This
requires action on your part, which, when completed, will mean that you have
admitted to God, to yourself, and to another human being, the exact nature of
your defects. This brings us to the fifth step in the Program of Recovery
mentioned in the preceding chapter.
This is perhaps difficult — especially discussing your defects with another
person. You think you have done well enough in admitting these things to
yourself, perhaps. We doubt that. In actual practice, we usually find a solitary
self-appraisal insufficient. We strenuously urge you to go much further. But you
will be more reconciled to discussing yourself with another person if we offer
good reasons why you should do so. The best reason first: if you skip this vital
step, you may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to
keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this
humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they
got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why
they fell. The answer is that they never completed their housecleaning. They
took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They
only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had
humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness
and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all
their life story.
More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the
actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he
likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in
his heart he doesn't deserve it.
The inconsistency is made worse by the things he does on his sprees. Coming to
his senses, he is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These
memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think someone might have observed him.
As fast as he can, he pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes they
will never see the light of day. He is under constant fear and tension — that
makes for more drinking.
Psychologists agree with us. Members of our group have spent thousands of
dollars for examinations by psychologists and psychiatrists. We know but few
instances where we have given these doctors a fair break. We have seldom told
them the whole truth. Unwilling to be honest with these sympathetic men, we were
honest with no one else. Small wonder the medical profession has a low opinion
of alcoholics and their chance for recovery!
You must be entirely honest with somebody if you expect to live long or
happily in this world. Rightly and naturally, you are going to think well before
you choose the person or persons with whom to take this intimate and
confidential step. If you belong to a religious denomination which requires
confession, you must, and
of course, will want to go to the properly appointed authority whose duty it is
to receive it. Though you have no religious connection, you may still do well to
talk with someone ordained by an established religion. You will often find such
a person quick to see and understand your problem. Of course, we sometimes
encounter ministers who do not understand alcoholics.
If you cannot, or would rather not do this, search your acquaintance for a
close-mouthed, understanding friend. Perhaps your doctor or your psychologist
will be the person. It may be one of your own family, but you should not
disclose anything to your wife or your parents which will hurt them and make
them unhappy. You have no right to save your own skin at another person's
expense. Such parts of your story you should tell to someone who will
understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is you must be hard on yourself, but
always considerate of others.
Notwithstanding the great necessity for discussing yourself with someone, it may
be that you are so situated that there is no suitable person available. If that
is so, you may postpone this step, only, however, if you hold yourself in
complete readiness to go through with it at the first opportunity. We say this
because we are very anxious that you talk to the right person. It is important
that he be able to keep a confidence; that he fully understand and approve what
you are driving at; that he will not try to change your plan. But don't use this
as a mere excuse to postpone.
When you decide who is to hear your story, waste no time. Have a written
inventory. Be prepared for a long talk. Explain to your partner what you are
about to do, and why you have to do it. He should realize that you are engaged
upon a life-and-death errand. Most people approached in this way will be glad to
help; they will be honored by your confidence.
Pocket your pride and go to it! Illumine every twist of character, every dark
cranny of the past. Once you have taken this step, witholding nothing, you will
be delighted. You can look the world in the eye. You can be alone at perfect
peace and ease. Your fears will fall from you. You will begin to feel the
nearness of your Creator. You may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now
you will begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink
problem has disappeared will come strongly. You will know you are on the Broad
Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
Return home and find a place where you can be quiet for an hour. Carefully
review what you have done. Thank God from the bottom of your heart that you know
Him better. Take this book down from your shelf and turn to the page which
contains the twelve steps. Carefully read the first five proposals and ask if
you have omitted anything, for you are building an arch through which you will
walk a free man at last. Is your part of the work solid so far? Are the stones
properly in place? Have you skimped on the cement you have put into the
foundation? Have you tried to make mortar without sand?
If you can answer to your satisfaction, look at step six. We have emphasized
willingness as being indispensable. Are you now perfectly willing to let God
remove from you all the things which you have admitted are objectionable? Can He
now take them all — every one? If you yet cling to something you will not let
go, ask God to help you be willing.
When you are ready, say something like this: "My Creator, I am now willing that
you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me
every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you
and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.
Amen. You have then completed step seven.
Now you need more action without which you will find that "Faith without works
is dead. " Look at steps eight and nine. You have a list of all persons you have
harmed and to whom you are willing to make complete amends. You made it when you
took inventory. You subjected yourself to a drastic self-appraisal. Now you are
to go out to your fellows and repair the damage you did in the past. You are to
sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of your effort to live on
self-will and run the show yourself. If you haven't the will to do this, ask
until it comes. Remember you agreed at the beginning you would go to any lengths
for victory over alcohol.
You probably still have some misgivings. We can help you dispel them. As you
look over the list of business acquaintances and friends you have hurt, you will
feel diffident about going to some of them on a spiritual basis. Let us reassure
you. To some people you need not, and probably should not emphasize the
spiritual feature on your first approach. You might prejudice them. At the
moment you are trying to put your own life in order. But this is not an end in
itself. Your real purpose is to fit yourself to be of maximum service to God and
the people about you. It is seldom wise to approach an individual, who still
smarts from your injustice to him, and announce that you have given your life to
God. In the prize ring, this would be called leading with the chin. Why lay
yourself open to being branded a fanatic or a religious bore? You may kill a
future opportunity to carry a beneficial message. But he is sure to be impressed
with a sincere desire to set right the wrong. He is going to be more interested
in your demonstration of good will than in your talk of spiritual discoveries.
Don't use this advice as an excuse for shying away from the subject of God. When
it will serve any good purpose, you should be willing to announce your
convictions with tact and common sense. The question of how to approach the man
you have hated will arise. It may be he has done you more harm than you have
dome him and, though you may have acquired a better attitude toward him, you are
still not too keen about admitting your faults. Nevertheless, with a person you
dislike, we advise you to take the bit in your teeth. He is an ideal subject
upon which to practice your new principles. Remember that he, like yourself, is
sick spiritually. Go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit. Be sure to
confess your former ill feeling and express your regret of it.
Under no condition should you criticize such a person or be drawn into an
argument with him. Simply tell him that you realize you will never get over
drinking until you have done your utmost to straighten out the past. You are
there to sweep off your side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while
can be accomplished until you do so. Never try to tell him what he should do.
Don't discuss his faults. Stick to your own. If your manner is calm, frank, and
open, you will be gratified with the result.
In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens. Sometimes the man you are
calling upon admits his own fault; so feuds of years' standing melt away in an
hour. Rarely will you fail to make satisfactory progress. Your former enemies
will sometimes praise what you are doing and wish you well. Occasionally, they
will cancel a debt, or otherwise offer assistance. Its should not matter,
however, if someone does throw you out of his office. You have made your
demonstration, done your part. It's water over the dam.
Most alcoholics owe money. Do not dodge your creditors. Tell them what you are
trying to do. Make no bones about your drinking; they usually know it anyway,
whether you think so or not. Never be afraid of disclosing your alcoholism on
the theory it may cause you financial harm. Approached in this way, the most
ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise you. Arrange the best deal you can and
let these people know you are sorry your drinking has made you slow to pay. You
your fear of creditors no matter how far you have to go, for you are liable to
drink if you are afraid to face them.
Perhaps you have committed a criminal offense which might land you in jail if
known to the authorities. You may be short in your accounts and can't make good.
You have already admitted this in confidence to another person, but you are sure
you would be imprisoned or lose your job if it were known. Maybe it's only a
petty offence such as padding your expense account. Most of us have done that
sort of thing. Maybe you have divorced your wife. You have remarried but haven't
kept up the alimony to number one. She is indignant about it, and has a warrant
out for your arrest. That's a common form of trouble too.
Although these reparations take innumerable forms, there are some general
principles which we find guiding. Remind yourself that you have decided to go to
any lengths to find a spiritual experience. Ask that you be given the strength
and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequence to
you. You may lose your position or reputation, or face jail, but you are
willing. You have to be. You must not shrink at anything.
Usually, however, other people are involved. Therefore, you are not to be the
hasty and foolish martyr who would needlessly sacrifice others to save himself
from the alcoholic pit. A man we know had remarried. Because of resentment and
drinking, he had not paid alimony to his first wife. She was furious. She went
to court and got an order for his arrest. He had commenced our way of life, had
secured a position, and was getting his head above water. It would have been
impressive heroics if he had walked up to the Judge and said, "Here I am. "
We thought he ought to be willing to do that if necessary, but if he were in
jail, he could provide nothing for either family. We suggested he write his
first wife admitting his faults and asking forgiveness. He did, and also sent a
small amount of money. He told her that he would try to do in the future. He
said he was perfectly willing to go to jail if she insisted. Of course she did
not, and the whole situation has long since been adjusted.
If taking drastic action is going to implicate other people, they should be
consulted. Use every means to avoid wide-spread damage. You cannot shrink,
however, from the final step if that is clearly indicated. If, after seeking
advice, consulting others involved, and asking God to guide you, there appears
no other just and honorable solution than the most drastic one, you must take
your medicine. Trust that the eventual outcome will be right.
This brings to mind a story about one of our friends. While drinking, he
accepted a sum of money from a bitterly-hated business rival, giving him no
receipt for it. He subsequently denied having taken the money and used the
incident as a basis for discrediting the man. He thus used his own wrong-doing
as a means of destroying the reputation of another. In fact, his rival was
He felt he had done a wrong he could not possible make right. If he opened that
old affair, he was sure it would destroy the reputation of his partner, disgrace
his family and take away his own means of livelhood. What right had he to
involve those dependent upon him? How could he possibly make a public statement
exonerating his rival?
He finally came to the conclusion that it was better to take those risks than to
stand before his Creator guilty of such ruinous slander. He saw that he had to
place the outcome in God's hands or he would soon start drinking again, and all
would be lose anyhow. He attended church for the first time in many years. After
the sermon, he quietly got up and made an explanation. His action met widespread
approval, and today he is one of the most trusted citizens of his town. This all
happened three years ago.
The chances are that you have serious domestic troubles. We are perhaps mixed up
with women in a fashion you wouldn't care to have advertised. We doubt if, in
this respect, alcoholics are fundamentally much worse than other people. But
drinking does complicate sex relations in the home. After a few years with an
alcoholic, a wife gets worn out, resentful, and uncommunicative. How could she
be anything else? The husband begins to feel lonely, sorry for himself. He
commences to look around in the night clubs, or their equivalent, for something
besides liquor. You may be having a secret and exciting affair with "the girl
who understands me. " In fairness we must say that she may understand, but what
are you going to do about a thing like that? A man so involved often feels very
remorseful at times, especially if he is married to a loyal and courageous girl
who has literally gone through hell for him.
Whatever the situation, you usually have to do something about it. If you are
sure your wife does not know, should you tell her? Not always, we think. If she
knows in a general way that you have been wild, should you tell her in detail?
Undoubtedly you should admit your fault. Your wife may insist on knowing all the
particulars. She will want to know who the woman is and where she is. We feel
you ought to say to her that you have no right to involve another person. You
are sorry for what you have done, and God willing, it shall not be repeated.
More than that you cannot do; you have no right to go further. Though there may
be justifiable exceptions, and though we wish to lay down no rule of any sort,
we have often found this the best course to take.
Our design for living is not a one-way street. It is as good for the wife as for
the husband. If you can forget, so can she. It is better, however, that you do
not needless name a person upon whom she can vent her natural jealousy.
There are some cases where the utmost frankness is demanded. Perhaps yours is
one of them. No outsider can appraise such an intimate situation. It may be you
will both decide that the way of good sense and loving kindness is to let
by-gones be by-gones. Each of you might pray about it, having the other one's
happiness uppermost in mind. Keep it always in sight that you deal with that
most terrible human emotion — jealousy. Good generalship may decide that you and
your wife attack the problem on the flank, rather than risk face-to-face combat.
You have to decide about that alone with your Creator.
Should you have no such complication, there is still plenty you should do at
home. Sometimes we hear an alcoholic say that the only thing he needs to do is
to keep sober. Certainly he needs to keep sober, for there will be no home if he
doesn't. But he is yet a long way from making good to the wife or parents whom
for years he has so shockingly treated. Passing all understanding is the
patience mothers and wives have had with alcoholics. Had this not been so, many
of us would have no homes today, would perhaps be dead.
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others.
Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted.
Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is
unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came
up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked,
"Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped
Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. You must take the lead. A
remorseful mumbling that you are sorry won't fills the bill at all. You ought to
sit down with your family and frankly analyze your past as you now see it, being
very careful not to criticize them. Never mind their defects. They may be
glaring, but the chances are that your own actions are partly responsible. So
clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that your Creator
show you the way of patience, tolerance kindliness, and love.
The spiritual life is not a theory. You have to live it. Unless your
family expresses a desire to live upon spiritual principles, however, we think
you ought to leave them alone. You should not talk incessantly about spiritual
matters to them. They will change in time. Your practice will convince them more
than your words. Remember that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would make a
skeptic out of anyone.
There may be some wrongs you can never fully right. Don't worry about them if
you can honestly say to yourself that you would right them if you could. Some
people you cannot see — send them an honest letter. And there may be a valid
reason for postponement in some cases. But don't delay if it can be avoided. Be
sensible, tactful, and considerate. Be humble without being servile or scraping.
As one of God's people you are to stand on your feet; don't crawl on your belly
If you are painstaking about this phase of your development, you will be amazed
before you are half through. You are going to know a new freedom and happiness.
You will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. You will
comprehend the word serenity and know peace. No matter how far down the scale
you have gone, you will see how your experience can benefit others. That feeling
of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. You will lose interest in selfish
things and gain interest in your fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Your
whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic
insecurity will leave you. You will intuitively know how to handle situations
which used to baffle you. You will suddenly realize that God is doing for you
what you could not do for yourself.
You say these are extravigent promises. They are not. They are being fulfilled
among us — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will materialize in you if
you work for them.
This thought brings us to step ten, which suggests you continue to take personal
inventory and continue to set any new mistakes right as you go along. You
vigorously commenced this way of life as you cleaned up your past. You have
entered the world of Spirit. Your next function is to grow in understanding and
effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for your life
time. Continue to watch yourself for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and
fear. When these crop up, ask God at once to remove them. Discuss them with
someone immediately. Make amends quickly if you have harmed anyone. Then
resolutely turn your thoughts to someone you can help. Love and tolerance of
others is your code.
And you have ceased fighting anything or anyone — even alcohol. For by this time
your sanity will have returned. You will seldom be interested in liquor. If
tempted, you will recoil from it as you would from a hot flame. You will react
sanely and normally. You will find this has happened automatically. You will see
that your new attitude toward liquor has been given you without any thought or
effort on your part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. You are not
fighting it, neither are you avoiding temptation. You feel as though you had
been placed in a position of neutrality. You feel safe and protected. You have
not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for
you. You are neither cocky, nor are you afraid. That is our experience. That is
how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on your
laurels. You are headed for trouble if you do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We
are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve. Every day
is a day when you have to carry the vision of God's will into all of your
activities. "How can I best serve Thee — Thy will (not mine) be done. " These
are thoughts which must go with you constantly. You can exercise your will power
along this line all you wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction
from Him who has all knowledge and power. If you have carefully followed
directions, you have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into you. To some
extent you have become God-conscious. You have begun to develop this vital sixth
sense. But you must go further and that means more action.
Step eleven suggests prayer and meditation. Don't by shy on this matter of
prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if you have the
proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague about this matter.
Yet, we believe we can give you some definite and valuable suggestions.
When you awake tomorrow morning, look back over the day before. Were you
resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid? Do you owe an apology? Have you kept
something to yourself which should be discussed with another person at once?
Were you kind and loving toward all? What could you have done better? Were you
thinking of yourself most of the time? Or were you thinking of what you could do
for others, of what you could pack into the stream of life? After you have faced
yesterday, ask God's forgiveness for any wrong. Ask to be shown what to do. Thus
you keep clean as you live each day.
Next, think about the twenty-four hours ahead. Consider your plans for the day.
Before you begin, ask God to guide your thinking. Especially ask that it be
divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Then go ahead and
use your common sense. There is nothing hard or mysterious about this. God gave
you brains to use. Clear your thinking of wrong motives. Your thought life will
be placed on a much higher plane.
In thinking through your day you may face indecision. You may not be able to
determine which course to take. Here you ask God for inspiration, an intuitive
thought or a decision. Relax and take it easy. Don't struggle. Ask God's help.
You will be surprised how the right answers come after you have practiced a few
days. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration becomes a working
part of your mind. Being still inexperienced and just making your contact with
God, it is not probable that you are going to be divinely inspired all the time.
That would be a large piece of conceit, for which you might pay in all sorts of
absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless you will find that your thinking will, as
time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration and guidance. You will
come to rely upon it. This is not weird or silly. Most psychologists pronounce
these methods sound.
You might conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that you be shown all
through the day what your next step is to be, that He give you whatever you need
to take care of every situation. Ask especially for freedom from self-will. Be
careful to make no request for yourself only. You may ask for yourself, however,
if others will be helped. Never pray for your own selfish ends. People waste a
lot of time doing that, and it doesn't work. You can easily see why.
If circumstances warrant, ask your wife or a friend to join you in morning
meditation. If you belong to a religious denomination which requires a definite
morning devotion, be sure to attend to that also. If you are not a
member of a
religious body, you might select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize
the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. If
you do not know of any, ask your priest, minister, or rabbi, for suggestions. Be
quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.
As you go through the day, pause when agitated or doubtful. Be still and ask for
the right thought or action. It will come. Remind yourself you are no longer
running the show. Humbly say to yourself many times each day "Thy will be done.
" You will be in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity,
or foolish decisions. You will become much more efficient. You will not tire
easily, for you will not be burning up energy foolishly as you did when trying
to arrange life to suit yourself.
It works — it really does. Try it.
We alcoholics are undisiplined. So let God discipline you in the simple way we
have just outlined.
But this is not all. There is action and more action. "Faith without works is
dead. " What works? We shall treat them in the next chapter which is entirely
devoted to step twelve.
WORKING WITH OTHERS
Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure your own immunity
from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It words when other
spiritual activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to
other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their
confidence when others fail. Remember they are fatally ill.
The kick you will get is tremendous. To watch people come back to life, to see
them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about
you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We
know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each
other is the bright spot of our lives.
Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. You can
easily find some by asking a few doctors, ministers, priests and hospitals. They
will be only too glad to have your help. Don't start out an an evangelist or
reformer. Unfortunately a lot of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if
you arouse it. Preachers and doctors don't like to be told they don't know their
business. They are usually competent and you can learn much from them if you
wish, but it happens that because of your own drinking experience you can be
uniquely useful to other alcoholics. So cooperate; never criticize. To be
helpful should be your only aim.
When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anonymous, find out all you can
about him. If he does not want to stop drinking, don't waste time trying to
persuade him. You may spoil a later opportunity. This advice is given for his
family also. They must be patient, realizing they are dealing with a sick
If there is any indication that he wants to stop, have a good talk with the
person most interested in him — usually his wife. Get an idea of his behavior,
his problems, his background, the seriousness of his condition, and his
religious leanings. You need this information to put yourself in his place, to
see how you would like him to approach you if the tables were turned.
Usually it is wise to wait till he goes on a binge. The family may object to
this, but unless he is in a dangerous physical condition, it is better to risk
it. Don't deal with him when he is very drunk, unless he is ugly and the family
needs your help. Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a lucid
interval. Then let his family or a friend ask him if he wants to quit for good
and if he would go to any extreme to do so. If he says yes, then his attention
should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. You should be described to
him as one of a fellowship who, as a part of their own recovery, try to help
others, and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.
If he does not want to see you, never force yourself upon him. Neither should
the family hysterically plead with him to do anything, nor should they tell him
much about you. They should wait for the end of his next drinking bout. You
might place this book where he can see it in the interval. Here no specific rule
can be given. The family must decide these things. But urge them not to be
over-anxious, for that might spoil matters.
The family should not try to represent you. When possible, avoid meeting a man
through his family. Approach through a doctor or an institution is a better bet.
If your man needs hospitalization, he should have it, but not forcibly, unless
he is violent. Let the doctor tell him he has something new in the way of a
When your man is better, let the doctor suggest a visit from you. Though you
have talked with the family, leave them out of the first discussion. Under these
conditions your prospect will see he is under no pressure. He will feel he can
deal with you without being nagged by his family. Call on him while he is still
jittery. He will be more receptive when depressed.
See your man alone, if possible. At first engage in general conversation. After
a while, turn the talk to some phase of drinking. Say enough about your drinking
habits, symptoms, and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself. If he
wishes to talk, let him do so. You will thus get a better idea of how you ought
to proceed. If he is not communicative, give him a sketch of your drinking
career up to the time you quit. But say nothing, for the moment, of how that was
accomplished. If he is in a serious mood, dwell on the troubles liquor has
caused you, being careful not to moralize or preach. If his mood is light, tell
him humorous stories of your escapades. Get him to tell some of his.
When he sees you know all about the drinking game, commence to describe yourself
as an alcoholic. Tell him how baffled you were, how you finally learned that you
were sick as well as weak. Give him an account of the struggles you made to
stop. Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. Do
this as we have done in the chapter on alcoholism. If he is alcoholic, he will
understand you at once. He will match your mental inconsistencies with some of
If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic, you may begin to dwell on the
hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from your own experience, how the
queer mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning
of the will power. Don't at this stage refer to this book, unless he has seen it
and wishes to discuss it. And be careful not to brand him an alcoholic. Let him
draw his own conclusion. If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his
drinking, tell him that possibly he can — if he is not too alcoholic. But insist
that if he is severely afflicted, there is little chance he can recover by
Continue to speak of alcoholism as a sickness, a fatal malady. Talk about the
conditions of body and mind which accompany it. Keep his attention focused
mainly on your personal experience. If doctors or psychiatrists have pronounced
you incurable, be sure and let him know about it. Explain that many are doomed
who never realize their predicament. Doctors who know the truth are rightly
loath to tell alcoholic patients the whole story unless it wilt serve some good
purpose, but you may talk to him about the hopelessness of alcoholism, because
you offer a solution. You will soon have your friend admitting he has many, if
not all, of the traits of the alcoholic. If his own doctor is willing to tell
him that he is alcoholic, so much the better. Even though your protege may not
have entirely admitted his condition, he has become very curious to know how you
got well. Let him ask you that question, if he will. If he does not ask, proceed
with the rest of your story. Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the
spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic
that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any
conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he
be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by
When dealing with such a person, you had better use everyday language to
describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice he may
against certain theological terms and conceptions, about which he may already be
confused. Don't raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are.
Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination. He religious education and
training may be far superior to yours. In that case he is going to wonder how
you can add anything to what he already knows. But he will be curious to learn
why his own religious convictions have not worked, and yours have given you
victory. He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient. To
be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish,
constructive action. Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in
religion. Admit that he probably knows more about it than you do, but call to
his attention the fact that however deep his faith and knowledge, there must be
something wrong, or he would not drink. Say that perhaps you can help him see
where he fails to apply to himself the very precepts he knows so well. For our
purpose you represent no particular faith or denomination. You are dealing only
with general principles common to most denominations.
Outline our program of action, telling how you made a self-appraisal, how you
straightened out your past, and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to
him. Make it plain he is under no obligation to you, that you hope only that he
will try to help other alcoholics when he escapes his own difficulties. Show how
important it is that he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own. Make
it clear that he is not under pressure, that he needn't see you again, if he
doesn't want to. You should not be offended if he wants to call it off, for he
has helped you more than you have helped him. If your talk has been sane, quiet
and full of human understanding, you have probably made a friend. Maybe you have
disturbed him about the question of alcoholism. This is all to the good. The
more hopeless he feels, the better. He will be more likely to follow your
Your candidate may give reasons why he need not follow all of your program. He
will rebel at the thought of a drastic housecleaning which requires discussion
with other people. Do not contradict such views. Tell him you once felt as he
does, but you doubt if you would have made much progress had you not taken
action. On your first visit tell him about the fellowship of Alcoholics
Anonymous. If he shows interest, lend him your copy of this book.
Unless your friend wants to talk further about himself, do not wear out your
welcome. Give him a chance to think it over. If you do stay, let him steer the
conversation in any direction he likes. Sometimes a new man is anxious to make a
decision and discuss has affairs at once, and you may be tempted to let him
proceed. This is almost always a mistake. If he has trouble later, he is likely
to say you rushed him. You will be most successful with alcoholics if you do not
exhibit any passion for crusade or reform. Never talk down to an alcoholic from
any moral or spiritual hilltop, simply lay out your kit of spiritual tools for
his inspection. Show him how they worked with you. Offer him friendship and
fellowship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything to help.
If he is not interested in your solution, if he expects you to act only as a
banker for his financial difficulties or a nurse for his sprees, drop him until
he changes his mind. This he may do after he gets hurt again.
If he is sincerely interested and wants to see you again, ask him to be sure to
read this book in the interval. After doing that, he is to decide for himself
whether he wants to go on. He is not to be pushed or prodded by you, his wife,
or his friends. If he is to find God, the desire must come from within.
If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spritual
approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. You have no monopoly on
God; you merely have an approach that worked with you. But point out that we
alcoholics have much in common and that you would like, in any case, to be
friendly. Let it go at that.
Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out
another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough
to accept with eagerness what you offer. It's a waste of time and poor strategy
to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you. If you leave such a
person alone, in all likelihood he will begin to run after you, for he will soon
become convinced that he cannot recover alone. To spend too much time on any one
situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy.
One of our fellowship failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. He
often says that if he had continued to work on them, he might have deprived many
others, who have since recovered, of their chance.
Suppose now you are making your second visit to a man. He has read this volume
and says he is prepared to go through with the twelve steps of The Program of
Recovery. Having had the experience yourself, you can give him much practical
advice. Suggest he make his decision with you and tell you his story, but do not
insist upon it if he prefers to consult someone else.
He may be broke and homeless. If he is, try to help him about getting a job.
Give him a little financial assistance, unless it would deprive your family or
creditors of money they should have. Perhaps you will want to take the man into
your home for a few days. But be sure you use discretion. Be certain he will be
welcomed by your family, and that he is not trying to impose upon you for money,
connections, or shelter. Permit that and you only harm him. You will be making
it possible for him to be insincere. You will be aiding in his destruction,
rather than his recovery.
Never avoid these responsibilities, but be sure you are doing the right thing if
you assume them. Self-sacrifice for others is the foundation stone of your
recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to act the Good
Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights' sleep,
great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may
mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives,
innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums.
Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night. Your wife will
sometimes say she is neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your home, or
burn a mattress. You may have to fight with him if he is violent. Sometimes you
will have to call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction. Another
time you may have to send for the police or an ambulance.
This sort of thing goes on constantly, but we seldom allow an alcoholic to live
in our homes for long at a time. It is not good for him, and it sometimes
creates serious complications in a family.
Though an alcoholic does not respond, there is no reason why you should neglect
his family. You should continue to be friendly to them in every way. The family
should be offered your way of life. Should they accept, and practice spiritual
principles, there is a much better chance the head of the family will recover.
And even though he continues to drink, the family will find life more bearable.
For the type of alcoholic who is able and willing to get well, little charity,
in the ordinary sense of the word, is needed or wanted. The men who cry for
money and shelter before conquering alcohol, are on the wrong track. Yet we do
go to great extremes to provide each other with these very things, when such
action is warranted. This may seem inconsistent, but it is not.
It is not the matter of giving that is in question, but when and how to give.
That makes the difference between failure and success. The minute we put our
work on a social service plane, the alcoholic commences to rely upon our
assistance rather than upon God. He clamors for this or that, claiming he
cannot master alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Nonsense. Some of
us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: job or no job — wife or no
wife — we simply do not stop drinking alcohol so long as we place
dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well
regardless of anyone. No person on this earth can stop his recovery from
alcohol, or prevent his being supplied with whatever is good for him. The only
condition is that he trust in God and clean house.
Now, the domestic problem: There may be divorce, separation, or just strained
relations. When your prospect has made such restitution as he can to his family,
and has thoroughly explained to them the new principles by which he is
living, he should proceed to put those principles into action at home. That is,
if he is lucky enough to have a home. Though his family be at fault in many
respects, he should not be concerned about that. He should concentrate on his
own spiritual demonstration. Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided like
leprosy. In many homes this is a difficult thing to do, but it must be
done if any results are to be expected. If persisted in for a few months, the
effect on a man's family is sure to be great. The most incompatible people
discover they have a basis upon which they can meet. Little by little the family
will see their own defects and admit them. These can then be discussed in an
atmosphere of helpfulness and friendliness.
After they have seen tangible results, the family will perhaps want to join in
the better way of life. These things will come to pass naturally and in good
time, provided, however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be
sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless or what anyone says or does. Of
course, we all fall much below this standard many times. But we must try to
repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree.
If there be divorce or separation, there should be no undue haste for the couple
to get together. The man should be sure of his ground. The wife should fully
understand his new way of life. If their old relationship is to be resumed, it
must be on a better basis, since the old one did not work. This means a
new attitude and spirit all around. Sometimes it is to the best interests of all
concerned that a couple remain apart. Obviously, no rule can be laid down. Let
the alcoholic continue his new way of life day by day. When the time for living
together has come, it will be apparent to both parties.
Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has his family back. This just
isn't so. In some cases the wife will never come back for one reason or another.
Remind your prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is
dependent upon his relationship with God. We have seen men get well whose
families have not returned at all. We have seen others slip when the family came
back too soon.
Both you and the new prospect must day by day walk in the path of spiritual
progress. If you persist, remarkable things will happen to you. When we look
back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God's
hands were better for us than anything we could have planned. Follow the
dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful
world, no matter what your present circumstances!
When working with a man and his family, you must take care not to participate in
their quarrels. You may spoil your chance of being helpful if you do. But you
may urge upon a man's family that he has been a very sick person and should be
treated accordingly. You should warn them against arousing resentment or
jealousy. You should point out that his defects of character are not going to
disappear overnight. Show them that he has entered upon a period of growth. Ask
them to remember, when they are impatient, the blessed fact of his sobriety.
If you have been successful in solving your own domestic problems, tell the
newcomer's family how that was accomplished. In this way you can set them on the
right track without becoming critical of them. The story of how you and your
wife settled your difficulties is worth any amount of preaching or criticism.
Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are
not supposed to do. People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we
must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink; we must avoid
moving pictures which show drinking scenes; we mustn't go into bars; our friends
must hide their bottles if we go to their houses; we mustn't think or be
reminded about alcohol at all. Experience proves this is nonsense.
We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic who cannot meet them, still has
an alcoholic mind: there is something the matter with his spiritual status. His
only chance for sobriety would be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and
even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin everything!
Ask any woman who has sent her husband to distant places on the theory he would
escape the alcohol problem.
Any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from
temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself, he
may succeed for a time, but will wind up with a bigger explosion than ever. Our
wives and we have tried these methods. These foolish attempts to do the
impossible have always failed.
So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a
legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances,
receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has
had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence, but it
You will note that we made an important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself
on each occasion, "Have I any legitimate social, business, or personal reason
for going to this place? Am I going to be helpful to anyone there? Could I be
more useful or helpful by being somewhere else?" If you answer these questions
satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. You may go or stay away, whatever
seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and
that your motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get
out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are
spiritually shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!
You are not to sit with a long face in places where there is drinking, sighing
about the good old days. If it is a happy occasion, try to increase the pleasure
of those there; if a business occasion, go and attend to your business
enthusiastically. If you are with a person who wants to eat in a bar, by all
means go along. Let your friends know they are not to change their habits on
your account. At a proper time and place explain to all your friends why alcohol
disagrees with you. If you do this thoroughly, no decent person will ask you to
drink. While you were drinking, you were withdrawing from life little by little.
Now you are getting back into the life of this world. Don't start to withdraw
from life again just because your friends drink liquor.
Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to
others, so never hesitate to go where there is drinking, if you can be helpful.
You should not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such a
mission. Keep on the firing line of life with these motives, and God will keep
Many of us keep liquor in our homes. We often need it to carry green recruits
through a severe hangover. Some of us still serve it to our friends in
moderation, provided they are people who do not abuse drinking. But some of us
think we should not serve liquor to anyone. We never argue this question. We
feel that each family, in the light of their own circumstances, ought to decide
We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred of drinking as an
institution. Experience shows that such an attitude is not helpful to anyone.
Every new alcoholic looks for this spirit among us and is immensely relieved
when he finds we are not witch-burners. A spirit of intolerance might repel
alcoholics whose lives would have been saved, had it not been for our stupidity.
We would not even do the cause of temperate drinking any good, for not one
drinker in a thousand is willing to be told anything about alcohol by one who
Someday we hope that Alcoholics Anonymous will help the public to a better
realization of the gravity of the liquor problem. We shall be of little use if
our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility. Drinkers will not stand for it.
After all, our troubles were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol.
Besides, we have stopped flqhting anybody or anything. We have to!
With few exceptions, our book thus far has spoken of men. But what we have said
applies quite as much to women. Our activities in behalf of women who drink are
on the increase. There is every evidence that women regain their health as
readily as men if they follow our suggestions.
But for every man who drinks others are involved — the wife who trembles in fear
of the next debauch; the mother and father who see their son wasting away.
Among us are wives, relatives, and friends whose problem has been solved, as
well as some who have not yet found a happy solution. We shall let the wives of
Alcoholics Anonymous address the wives of men who drink too much. What they say
will apply to nearly everyone bound by ties of blood or affection to an
- - - -
As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we want you to sense that we understand you as
perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes we have made and help you to avoid
them. We want to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too difficult
and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.
We have traveled a rocky road; there is no mistake about that. We have had long
rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration, self-pity, misunderstand, and fear.
These are not pleasant companions. We have been driven to maudlin sympathy, to
bitter resentment. We have veered from extreme to extreme, ever hoping that one
day our loved ones would be themselves once more.
Our loyalty, and the desire that our husbands hold up their heads and be like
other men have begotten all sorts of predicaments. We have been unselfish and
self-sacrificing. We have told innumerable lies to protect our pride and our
husbands' reputations. We have prayed, we have begged, we have been patient. We
have struck out viciously. We have run away. We have been hysterical. We have
been terror stricken. We have sought sympathy. We have had retaliatory love
affairs with other men.
Our homes have been battle-grounds many an evening. In the morning we have
kissed and made up. Our friends have counseled chucking the men and we have done
so with finality, only to be back in a little while, hoping, always hoping. Our
men have sworn great solemn oaths they were through drinking forever. We have
believed them when no one else could, or would. Then, in days, weeks, or months,
a fresh outburst.
We seldom had friends at our homes, never knowing how or when the men of the
house would appear. We could make few social engagements. We came to live almost
alone, unwanted by anyone. When we were invited out, our husbands always sneaked
so many drinks that they spoiled the occasion. If, on the other hand, they took
nothing, their self-pity made them killjoys.
There was never financial security. Positions were always in jeopardy or gone.
An armored car could not have brought the pay envelopes home. The checking
account melted like snow in June.
There were other women. How heart breaking was this discovery; how cruel to be
told they understood our men as we did not!
The bill collectors; the sheriffs; the angry taxi drivers; the policemen; the
bums; the pals; and even the ladies he brought home — our husbands thought we
were so inhospitable. "Joykiller, nag, wet blanket" — that's what they said.
Next day they would be themselves again and we would forgive and try to forget.
We have tried to hold the love of our children for their father. We have told
small tots that father was sick, which was much nearer the truth than we
realized. They struck the children, kicked out door panels, smashed treasured
crockery, and ripped the keys out of pianos. In the midst of such pandemonium
they may have rushed out threatening to live with the other woman forever. In
desperation, we have even got tight ourselves — the drunk to end all drunks. The
unexpected result was that our husbands seemed to like it.
Perhaps at this point we got a divorce and took the children home to father and
mother. Then we were severely criticized by our husband's parents for desertion.
Usually we did not leave. We stayed on and on. We finally sought employment
ourselves as destitution faced us and our families.
We began to ask medical advice as the sprees got closer together. The alarming
physical and mental symptoms, the deepening pall of remorse, depression and
inferiority that settled down on our loved ones — these things terrified and
distracted us. As animals on a treadmill, we have patiently and wearily climbed,
falling back in exhaustion after each futile effort to reach solid ground. Most
of us have entered the final stage with its commitment to health resorts,
sanitariums, hospitals, and jails. Sometimes there were screaming delirium and
insanity. Death was often near.
Under these conditions we naturally made mistakes. Some of them rose out of
ignorance of alcoholism. Sometimes we sensed dimly that we were dealing with
sick men. Had we fully understood the nature of the alcoholic illness, we might
have behaved differently.
How could men who loved their wives and children be so unthinking, so callous,
so cruel? There could be no love in such persons, we thought. And just as we
were being convinced of their heartlessness, they would surprise us with fresh
resolves and new attentions. For a while they would be their old sweet selves,
only to dash the new structure of affection to pieces once more. Asked why they
commenced to drink again, they would reply with some silly excuse, or none. It
was so baffling, so heartbreaking. Could we have been so mistaken in the men we
married? When drinking, they were strangers. Sometimes they were so inaccessible
that it seemed as though a great wall had been built around them.
And even if they did not love their families, how could they be so blind about
themselves? What had become of their judgment, their common sense, their will
power? Why could they not see that drink meant ruin to them? Why was it, when we
pointed out these dangers, that they agreed and then got drunk again
These are some of the questions which race through the mind of every girl who
has an alcoholic husband. We hope our book has answered some of them. But now
you will have seen that perhaps your husband has been living in that strange
world of alcoholism where everything is distorted and exaggerated. You can see
that he really does love you with his better self. Of course, there is such a
thing as incompatibility, but in nearly every instance the alcoholic only seems
to be unloving and inconsiderate; it is usually because he is warped and
sickened that he says and does these appalling things. Today most of our men are
better husbands and fathers than ever before
Don't condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what he says or does. He is just
another very sick, unreasonable person. Treat him, when you can, as though he
had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember that he is very ill.
There is an important exception to the foregoing. We realize some men are
thoroughly bad-intentioned, that no amount of patience will make any difference.
An alcoholic of this temperament will be quick to use this chapter as a club
over your head. Don't let him get away with it. If you are positive he is one of
this type you may feel you had better leave. It is not right to let him ruin
your life and the lives of your children, especially when he has before him a
way to stop his drinking and abuse if he really wants to pay the price.
The problem with which you struggle usually falls within one of four categories:
One: Your husband may be only a heavy drinker. His drinking may be constant or
it may be heavy only on certain occasions. He spends too much money for liquor.
It slows him up mentally and physically, but he does not see it. Sometimes he is
a source of embarrassment to you and his friends. He is positive he can handle
his liquor, that it does him no harm, that drinking is necessary in his
business. He would be insulted if called an alcoholic. This world is full of
people like him. Some will moderate or stop altogether, and some will not. Of
those who keep on, a good number will become true alcoholics after a while.
Two: Your husband is showing lack of control. He is unable to stay on the water
wagon, even when he wants to. He often gets entirely out of hand when drinking.
He admits this is true, but is obsessed with the idea that he will do better. He
has begun to try, with or without your cooperation, various means of moderating
or staying dry. He is beginning to lose his friends. His business may suffer
somewhat. He is worried at times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink
like other people. He sometimes drinks in the morning, and through the day also,
to hold his nervousness in check. He is remorseful after serious drinking bouts
and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets over the spree, he begins to
think once more how he can drink moderately next time. This person is in danger.
He has the earmarks of a real alcoholic. Perhaps he can still tend to business
fairly well. He has by no means ruined everything. As we say among ourselves,
"He wants to want to stop. "
Three: This husband has gone much further than husband number two. Though once
like number two, he became worse. His friends have slipped away, his home is a
near-wreck, and he cannot hold a position. Maybe the doctor has been called in,
and the weary round of sanitariums and hospitals has begun. He admits he cannot
drink like other people, but does not see why. He clings to the notion that he
will yet find a way to do so. He may have come to the point where he desperately
wants to stop but cannot. His case presents additional questions which we shall
try to answer for you. You can be quite hopeful of a situation like this.
Four: You may have a husband of whom you completely despair. He has been placed
in one institution after another. He is violent, or definitely insane, when
drunk. Sometimes he drinks on the way home from the hospital. Perhaps he has had
delirium tremens. Doctors shake their heads and advise you to have him
committed. Maybe you have already been obliged to put him away. This picture may
not be as dark as it looks. Many of our husbands were just as far gone. Yet they
Let's now go back to husband number one. Oddly enough, he is often difficult to
deal with. He enjoys drinking. It stirs his imagination. His friends feel closer
over a highball. Perhaps you enjoy drinking with him yourself when he doesn't
go too far. You have passed happy evenings together chatting and drinking before
your fire. Perhaps you both like parties which would be dull without liquor. We
have enjoyed such evenings ourselves; we had a good time. We know all about
liquor as a social lubricant. Some, but not all of us, think it has its
advantages when reasonably used.
Your husband has begun to abuse alcohol. The first principle of success is that
you should never be angry. Even though your husband becomes unbearable, and you
have to leave him temporarily, you should, if you can, go without rancor.
Patience and good temper are vitally necessary.
The next rule is that you should never tell him what to do about his drinking.
If he gets the idea that you are a nag or a killjoy, your chance of
accomplishing anything useful will be zero. He will use that as an excuse to
drink some more. He will tell you he is misunderstood. This may lead to lonely
evenings for you. He may seek someone to console him — not always another man.
Be determined that your husband's drinking is not going to spoil your relation
with your children or your friends. They need your companionship and your help.
It is possible to have a full and useful life, though your husband continues to
drink. We know women who are unafraid, even happy, under these conditions. Do
not set your heart on reforming your husband. You may be unable to do so, no
matter how hard you try.
We know these suggestions are not impossible to follow, but you will save many a
heartbreak if you can succeed in observing them. Your husband will come to
appreciate your reasonableness and patience. This will lay the groundwork for a
frank and friendly talk about his liquor problem. Try to have him bring up the
subject himself. Besure you are not critical during such a discussion. Attempt
instead, to put yourself in his place. Let him see that you want to be helpful
rather than critical.
When a discussion does arise, you might suggest he read this book, or at least
the chapter on alcoholism. Tell him you have been worried, though perhaps
needlessly. You think he ought to know the subject better, as everyone should
have a clear understanding of the risk he takes if he drinks much. Show him you
have confidence in his power to stop or moderate. Say you do not want to be a
wet blanket; that you only want him to take care of his health. Thus you may
succeed in interesting him in alcoholism.
He probably has several alcoholics among his own acquaintances. You might
suggest that you both take an interest in them. Drinkers like to help other
drinkers. Your husband may be willing to talk to one of them, perhaps over a
If this kind of approach does not catch your husband's interest, it may be best
to drop the subject for a time, but after a friendly talk your husband will
usually revive the topic himself. This may take patient waiting, but it will be
worth it. Meanwhile you might try to help the wife of another serious drinker.
If you act upon these principles, your husband may stop or moderate after a
Suppose, however, that your husband fits the description of number two. The same
principles which apply to husband number one should be practiced. But after his
next binge, ask him if he would really like to get over drinking for good. Do
not ask that he do it for you or anyone else. Just would he like to?
The chances are he would. Show him your copy of this book and tell him what you
have found out about alcoholism. Show him that the writers of the book
understand, as only alcoholics can. Tell him some of the interesting stories you
read. If you think he will be shy of our spiritual remedy, ask him to look at
the chapter on alcoholism. Then perhaps he will be interested enough to
If he is enthusiastic, cooperate with him, though you, yourself, may not yet
agree with all we say. If he is lukewarm, or thinks he is not an alcoholic,
leave him alone. Never urge him to follow our program. The seed has been planted
in his mind. He knows that over a hundred men, much like himself, have
recovered. But don't remind him of this after he has been drinking, for he will
be angry. Sooner or later, you are likely to find him reading the book once
more. Wait until repeated stumbling convinces him he must act, for the more you
hurry him, the longer his recovery may be delayed.
If you have a number three husband, you may be in luck. Being certain he wants
to stop, you can go to him with this volume as joyfully as though you had struck
oil. He may not share your enthusiasm, but he is practically sure to read the
book, and he may go for the program at once. If he does not, you will probably
not have long to wait. Again, you must not crowd him. Let him decide for
himself. Cheerfully see him through more sprees. Talk about his condition or
this book only when he raises the issue. In some cases it may be better to let
the family doctor present the book. The doctor can urge action without arousing
hostility. If your husband is otherwise a normal individual, your chances are
good at this stage.
You would suppose that men in the fourth classification would be quite hopeless,
but that is not so. Many of Alcoholics Anonymous were like that. Everybody had
given them up. Defeat seemed certain. Yet often such men have spectacular and
There are exceptions. Some men have been so impaired by alcohol that they cannot
stop. Sometimes there are cases where alcoholism is complicated by other
disorders. A good doctor or psychiatrist can tell you whether these
complications are serious. In any event, see that your husband gets this book.
His reaction may be one of enthusiasm. If he is already committed to an
institution but can convince you and your doctor that he means business, you
should give him a chance to try our method, unless the doctor thinks his mental
condition abnormal or dangerous. We make this recommendation with some
confidence. About a year ago a certain state institution released six chronic
alcoholics. It was fully expected they would all be back in a few weeks. Only
one of them has returned. The others had no relapse at all. The power of God
You may have the reverse situation on your hands. Perhaps you have a husband who
is at large, but who should be committed. Some men cannot, or will not get over
alcoholism. When they become too dangerous, we think the kind thing is to lock
them up. The wives and children of such men suffer horribly, but not less than
the men themselves.
As a rule, an institution is a dismal place, and sometimes it is not conducive
to recovery. It is a pity that chronic alcoholics must often mingle with the
insane. Some day we hope our group will be instrumental in changing this
condition. Many of our husbands spent weary years in institutions. Though more
reluctant than most people to place our men there, we sometimes suggest that it
be done. Of course, a good doctor should always be consulted.
But sometimes you must start life anew. We know women who have done it. If such
women adopt our way of life, their road will be smoother.
If your husband is a drinker, you worry over what other people are thinking. You
hate to meet your friends. You draw more and more into yourself. You think
everyone is talking about conditions at your home. You avoid the subject of
drinking, even with your own parents. You do not know what to tell the children.
When your husband is bad, you become a trembling recluse, wishing the telephone
had never been invented.
We find that most of this embarrassment is unnecessary. While you need not
discuss your husband, you can quietly let your friends know what the trouble is.
Sometimes it is wise to talk with his employer. But you must be on guard not to
embarrass or harm your husband.
When you have carefully explained to such people that he is a sick person,
little more to blame than other men who drink but manage their liquor better,
you will have created a new atmosphere. Barriers which have sprung up between
you and your friends will disappear with the growth of sympathetic
understanding. You will no longer be self-conscious, nor feel that you must
apologize as though your husband were a weak character. He may be anything but
that. Your new courage, good nature, and lack of self-consciousness wilt do
wonders for your social status.
The same principle applies in dealing with the children. Unless they actually
need protection from their father, it is best not to take sides in any argument
he has with them while drinking. Use your energies to promote a better
understanding all around. Then that terrible tension which grips the home of
every problem drinker will be lessened.
Frequently you have felt obliged to tell your husband's employer and his friends
that he was sick, when as a matter of fact he was tight. Avoid answering these
inquiries as much as you can. Whenever possible, let your husband explain. Your
desire to protect him should not cause you to lie to people, when they have a
right to know where he is and what he is doing. Discuss this with him when he is
sober and in good spirits. Ask him to promise that he will not place you in such
a position again. But be careful not to be resentful about the last time he did
There is another paralyzing fear. You are afraid your husband will lose his
position; you are thinking of the disgrace and hard times which will befall you
and the children. This experience may come to you. Or you may already have had
it several times. Should it happen again, regard it in a different light. Maybe
it will prove a blessing! It may convince your husband he wants to stop drinking
forever. And now you know that he can stop if he will! Time after time, this
apparent calamity has been a boon to us, for it opened up a path which led to
the discovery of God.
We have elsewhere remarked how much better life is when lived on a spiritual
plane. If God can solve the age-old riddle of alcoholism, he can solve your
problems too. We wives found that, like everybody else, we were afflicted with
pride, self-pity, vanity, and all the things which go to make up the
self-centered person; and we were not above selfishness or dishonesty. As our
husbands began to apply spiritual principles in their lives, we began to see the
desirability of doing so too.
At first, some of us did not believe that we needed this help. We thought, on
the whole, we were pretty good women, capable of being nicer if our husbands
stopped drinking. But it was a silly idea that we were too good to need God. Now
we try to put spiritual principles to work in every department of our lives.
When we do that, we find it solves our problems too: the ensuing lack of fear,
worry and hurt feelings is a wonderful thing. We urge you to try our program,
for nothing will be so helpful to your husband as the radically changed attitude
toward him which God will show you how to have. Go along with your husband if
you possibly can.
If you and your husband find a solution for the pressing problem of drink, you
are, of course, going to be very happy. But all problems will not be solved at
once. Seed has started to sprout in a new soil, but growth has only begun. In
spite of your new-found happiness, there will be ups and downs. Many of the old
problems will still be with you. This is as it should be.
The faith and sincerity of both you and your husband will be put to the test.
You must regard these work-outs as part of your education, for thus you will be
learning to live as you were intended to live. You will make mistakes, but if
you are in earnest, they will not drag you down. Instead, you will capitalize
them. A better way of life will emerge when they are overcome.
Some of the snags you will encounter are irritation, hurt-feelings, resentments.
Your husband will sometimes be unreasonable, and you will want to criticize.
Starting from a speck on the domestic horizon, great thunderclouds of dispute
may gather. These family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to your
husband. Often you must carry the burden of avoiding them or keeping them under
control. Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. We do
not mean that you have to agree with your husband wherever there is an honest
difference of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resentful or
You and your husband will find that you can dispose of serious problems easier
than you can the trivial ones. Next time you and he have a heated discussion, no
matter what the subject, it should be the privilege of either to smile and say
"This is getting serious. I'm sorry I got disturbed. Let's talk about it later.
" If your husband is trying to live on a spiritual basis, he will also be doing
everything in his power to avoid disagreement or contention.
Your husband knows he owes you more than sobriety. He wants to make good. Yet
you must not expect too much. His ways of thinking and doing are the habits of
years. Patience, tolerance, understanding, and love are your watchwords. Show
him these things in yourself and they will be reflected back to you from him.
Live and let live is the rule. If you both show a willingness to remedy your own
defects, there will be little need to criticize each other.
We women carry with us a picture of the ideal man, the sort of chap we would
like our husbands to be. It is the most natural thing in the world, once his
liquor problem is solved, to feel that he will now measure up to that cherished
vision. The chances are he will not, for like yourself, he is just beginning his
development. Be patient.
Another feeling we are very likely to entertain is one of resentment that love
and loyalty could not cure our husbands of alcoholism. We do not like the
thought that the contents of a book, or the work of another alcoholic, has
accomplished in a few weeks the end for which we struggled for years. At such
moments we forget that alcoholism is an illness over which we could not possibly
have had any power. Your husband will be the first to say it was your devotion
and care which brought him to the point where he could have a spiritual
experience. Without you he would have gone to pieces long ago. When resentful
thoughts come, pause and count your blessings. After all, your family is
reunited, alcohol is no longer a problem, and you and your husband are working
together toward an undreamed-of future.
Still another difficulty is that you may become jealous of the attention he
bestows on other people, especially alcoholics. You have been
starving for his companionship, yet he spends long hours helping other men and
their families. You feel he should now be yours. The fact is that he must work
with other people to maintain his own sobriety. Sometimes he will be so
interested that he becomes really neglectful. Your house is filled with
strangers. You may not like some of
them. He gets stirred up about their troubles, but not at all about yours. It
will do no good if you point that out and urge more attention for yourself. It
is a real mistake if you dampen his enthusiasm for alcoholic work. You should
join in his efforts as much as you possibly can. Direct some of your thought to
the wives of his new alcoholic friends. They need the counsel and love of a
woman who has gone through what you have.
It is probably true that you and your husband have been living too much alone,
for drinking almost isolated many of us. Therefore, you need fresh interests and
a great cause to live for as much as your husband. If you cooperate, rather than
complain, you will find that his excess enthusiasm will tone down. Both of you
will awaken to a new sense of responsibility for others. You, as well as your
husband, must think of what you can put into life, instead of how much you can
take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the
old life to find one much better.
Perhaps your husband will make a fair start on the new basis, but just as things
are going beautifully, he dismays you be coming home drunk. If you are satisfied
he really wants to get over drinking, you need not be alarmed. Though it is
infinitely better he have no relapse at all, as has been true with many of our
men, it is by no means a bad thing in some cases. Your husband will see at once
that he must redouble his spiritual activities if he expects to survive. If he
adopts this view, the slip will help him. You need not remind him of his
spiritual deficiency — he will know of it. Cheer him up and ask him how you can
be still more helpful.
Even your hatred must go. The slightest sign of fear or intolerance will lessen
your husband's chance of recovery. In a weak moment he may take your dislike of
his high-stepping friends as one of those insanely trivial excuses to drink.
Never, never try to arrange his life, so as to shield him from temptation. The
slightest disposition on your part to guide his appointments or his affairs so
he will not be tempted will be noticed. Make him feel absolutely free to come
and go as he likes. This is important. If he gets drunk, don't blame yourself.
God has either removed your husband's liquor problem, or He has not. If not, it
had better be found out right away. Then you and your husband can get right down
to fundamentals. If a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along
with everything else, in God's hands.
We realize we have been giving you much direction and advice. We may have seemed
"preachy". If that is so, we are sorry, for we ourselves, don't care for people
who preach. But what we have related is based upon experience, some of it
painful. We had to learn these things the hard way. That is why we are anxious
that you understand, that you avoid these unnecessary difficulties.
So to you out there — who may soon be with us — we say "Good luck and God bless
THE FAMILY AFTERWARD
Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes a wife may take with the husband
who is recovering. Perhaps they created the impression that he is to be wrapped
in cotton wool and placed on a pedestal. Successful readjustment means the
opposite. All members of the family must meet upon the common ground of
tolerance, understanding, and love. This involves a process of deflation. The
alcoholic, his wife, his children, his "in-laws", each one is likely to have
fixed ideas about the family's attitude towards himself or herself. Each is
interested in having his or her wishes respected. The more one member of a
family demands that the other concede to him, the more resentful they become.
This makes for discord and unhappiness.
Any why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to
arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see
what he can take from the family life, rather than give?
Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained,
abnormal condition. A doctor said the other day, "Years of living with an
alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family
is, to some extent, ill. " Let families realize, as they start their journey,
that all will not be fair weather. Each in his turn will be footsore and will
straggle. There will be alluring shortcuts and by-paths down which they may
wander and lose their way.
Suppose we tell you some of the obstacles a family will meet; suppose we suggest
how they may be avoided — even converted to good use for others. The family of
an alcoholic longs for the return of happiness and security. They remember when
father was romantic, thoughtful and successful. Today's life is measured against
that of other years and, when it falls short, the family may be unhappy.
Family confidence in dad is rising high. The good old days will soon be back,
they think. Sometimes they demand that dad bring them back instantly! God, they
believe, almost owes this recompense on a long overdue account. But the head of
the house has spent years in pulling down the structures of business, romance,
friendship, health — these things are now ruined or damaged. It will take time
to clear away the wreck. Though old buildings will eventually be replaced by
finer ones, the new structures will take years to complete.
Father knows he is to blame; it may take him many seasons of hard work to be
restored financially, but he shouldn't be reproached. Perhaps he will never have
much money again. But the wise family will admire him for what he is trying to
be, rather than for what he is trying to get.
Now and then the family will be plagued by spectres from the past, for the
drinking career of almost every alcoholic has been marked by escapades, funny,
humiliating, shameful, or tragic. The first impulse will be to bury these
skeletons in a dark closet and padlock the door. The family may be obsessed with
the idea that future happiness can be based only upon forgetfulness of the past.
Such a view is quite self-centered and in direct conflict with the new way of
Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect that experience is the thing
of supreme value in life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past
good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert
them into assets. The alcoholic's past thus becomes the principal asset of the
family, and frequently it is the only one!
This painful past may be of infinite value to other families still struggling
with their problem. We think each family which has been relieved owes something
to those which have not, and when the occasion requires, each member of it who
has found God, should be only too willing to bring former mistakes, no matter
how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were
given victory, is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest
possession you have — the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can
avert death and misery for them.
It is possible to dig up past misdeeds so they become a blight, a veritable
plague. For example, we know of situations in which the alcoholic or his wife
have had love affairs. In the first flush of spiritual experience they forgave
each other and drew closer together. The miracle of reconciliation was at hand.
Then, under one provocation or another, the aggrieved one would unearth the old
affair and angrily cast its ashes about. A few of us have had these growing
pains and they hurt a great deal. Husbands and wives have sometimes been obliged
to separate for a time until new perspective, new victory over hurt pride, could
be rewon. In most cases, the alcoholic survived this ordeal without relapse, but
not always. So our rule is that unless some good and useful purpose is to be
served, past occurrences are not discussed.
We families of Alcoholics Anonymous have few secrets. Everyone knows all about
everyone else. This is a condition which, in ordinary life, would produce untold
grief. There would be scandalous gossip, laughter at the expense of other
people, and a tendency to take advantage of intimate information. Among us,
these are rare occurrences.
We do talk about each other a great deal but almost invariably temper such talk
by a spirit of love and tolerance. We discuss another's shortcomings in the hope
that some new idea of helpfulness may come out of the conversation. Thy cynic
might say we are good because we have to be.
Another rule we observe carefully is that we do not relate intimate experiences
of another person unless we are sure he would approve. We find it better, when
possible, to stick to our own stories, A man may criticize or laugh at himself
and it will affect others favorably, but criticism or ridicule of him coming
from another often produces the contrary effect. Members of a family should
watch such matters carefully, for one careless, inconsiderate remark has been
known to raise the very devil. We alcoholics are sensitive people. It takes some
of us a long time to outgrow that serious handicap.
Most alcoholics are enthusiasts. They run to extremes. At the beginning of
recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of two directions. He may either plunge
into a frantic attempt to get on his feet in business, or he may be so
enthralled by his new life that he talks or thinks of little else. In either
case certain family problems will arise. With these we have experience galore.
We pointed out the danger he runs if he rushes headlong at his economic problem.
The family will be affected also, pleasantly at first, as they feel their money
troubles are to be solved, then not so pleasantly as they find
themselves neglected. Dad may be tired at night and
pre-occupied by day. He may take small interest in the children and may show
irritation when reproved for his delinquencies. If not irritable, he may seem
dull and boring, not gay and affectionate, as
the family would like him to be. Mother may complain of inattention. They are
all disappointed, and soon let him feel it. Beginning with such complaints, a
barrier arises. He is straining every nerve to make up for lost time. He is
striving to recover fortune and reputation and thinks he is doing very well.
Mother and children don't think so. Having been wantonly neglected and misused
in the past, they think father owes them more than they are getting. They want
him to make a fuss over them. They expect him to give them the nice times they
used to have before he drank, and to show his contrition for what they suffered.
But dad doesn't give freely of himself. Resentment grows. He becomes still less
communicative. Sometimes he explodes over a trifle. The family is mystified.
They criticize, pointing out how he is falling down on his spiritual program.
This sort of thing must be stopped. Both father and the family are wrong, though
each side may have some justification. It is of little use to argue and only
makes the impasse worse. The family must realize that dad, though marvelously
improved, is still a sick man. They should thank God he is sober and able to be
of this world once more. Let them praise his progress. Let them remember that
his drinking wrought all kinds of damage that may take long to repair. If they
sense these things, they will not take so seriously his periods of crankiness,
depression, or apathy, which will disappear when there is tolerance, love, and
The head of the house ought to remember that he is mainly to blame for what
befell his home. He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime. But he must
see the danger of over-concentration on financial success. Although financial
recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first.
For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never
Since the home has suffered more than anything else, it is well that a man exert
himself there. He is not likely to get far in any direction if he fails to show
unselfishness and love under his own roof. We know there are difficult wives and
families, but the man who is getting over alcoholism must remember they are sick
folk too, and that he did much to make them worse.
As each member of a resentful family begins to see his shortcomings and admits
them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful discussion. These family talks
will be constructive if they can be carried on without heated argument,
self-pity, self-justification, or resentful criticism. Little by little, mother
and children will see they ask too much, and father will see he gives too
little. Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle.
Assume now that father has, at the outset, a stirring spiritual experience.
Over-night, as it were, he is a changed man. He becomes a religious enthusiast.
He is unable to focus on anything else. As soon as his sobriety begins to be
taken as a matter of course, the family may look at their strange new dad with
apprehension, then with irritation. There is talk about spiritual matters
morning, noon and night. He may demand that the family find God for themselves
in a hurry, or exhibit amazing indifference to them and say he is above worldly
considerations. He tells mother, who has been religious all her life, that she
doesn't know what its all about, and that she had better get his brand of
spirituality while there is yet time.
When father takes this tack, the family may react unfavorably. They are jealous
of a God who has stolen dad's affections. While grateful that he drinks no more,
they do not like the idea that God has accomplished the miracle where they
failed. They often forget father was beyond human aid. They do not see why their
love and devotion did not straighten him out. Dad is not so
spiritual after all, they say.
If he means to right his past wrongs, why all this concern for everyone in the
world but his family? What about his talk that God will take care of them? They
suspect father is a bit balmy!
He is not so unbalanced as they might think. Many of us have experienced dad's
elation. We have indulged in spiritual intoxication. Like gaunt prospectors,
belts drawn in over our last ounce of food, our pick struck gold. Joy at our
release from a lifetime of frustration knew no bounds. Father sees he has struck
something better than gold. For a time he may try to hug the new treasure to
himself. He may not see at once that he has barely scratched a limitless lode
which will pay dividends only if he mines it for the rest of his life and
insists on giving away the entire product.
If the family cooperates, dad will soon see that he is suffering from a
distortion of values. He will perceive that his spiritual growth is lopsided,
that for an average man like himself, a spiritual life which does not include
his family obligations may not be so perfect after all. If the family will
appreciate that dad's current behavoir is but a phase of his development, all
will be well. In the midst of an understanding and sympathetic family, these
vagaries of dad's spiritual infancy will quickly disappear.
The opposite may happen should the family condemn and criticize. Dad may feel
that for years his drinking has placed him on the wrong side of every argument,
but that now he has become a superior person, with God on his side. If the
family persists in criticism, this fallacy may take a still greater hold on
father. Instead of treating the family as he should, he may retreat further into
himself and feel he has spiritual justification for so doing.
Though the family does not fully agree with dad's spiritual activities, they
should let him assume leadership. Even if he displays a certain amount of
neglect and irresponsibility towards the family, it is well to let him go as far
as he likes in helping other alcoholics. During those first days of
convalescence, this will do more to insure his sobriety than anything else.
Though some of his manifestations are alarming and disagreeable, dad will be on
a firmer foundation than the man who is placing business or professional success
ahead of spiritual development. He will be less likely to drink again, and
anything is preferable to that.
Those of us who have spent much time in the world of spiritual make-believe have
eventually seen the childishness of it. This dream world has been replaced by a
great sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of
God in our lives. We have come to believe God would like us to keep our heads in
the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth,
nevertheless. That is where our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work
must be done. These are the realities for us. We have found nothing incompatible
between a powerful spiritual experience, and a life of sane and happy
One more suggestion: Whether the family has spiritual convictions or not, they
may do well to examine the principles by which the alcoholic member is trying to
live. They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles, though the head
of the house still fails somewhat in practicing them. Nothing will help the man
who is off on a spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts the self-same
program, making a better practical use of it.
There will be still other profound changes in the household. Liquor
incapacitated father for so many years that mother became head of the house. She
met these responsibilities gallantly. By force of circumstances, she was obliged
to treat father as a sick or wayward child. Even when he wanted to assert
himself, he could not, for his drinking placed him constantly in the wrong.
Mother made all the plans
and gave the directions. When sober, father usually obeyed. Thus mother, through
no fault of her own, became accustomed to wearing the family trousers. Father,
coming suddenly to life again, often begins to assert himself. This means
trouble, unless the family watches for these tendencies in each other and come
to a friendly agreement about them.
Drinking isolates most homes from the outside world, so the family was used to
having father around a great deal. He may have laid aside for years all normal
activities — clubs, civic duties, sports. When he renews interest in such
things, a feeling of jealousy may arise. The family may feel they hold a
mortgage on dad, so big that no equity should be left for outsiders. Instead of
developing new channels of activity for themselves, mother and children may
demand that he stay home and make up the deficiency.
At the very beginning, the couple ought to frankly face the fact that each will
have to yield here and there, if the family is going to play an effective part
in the new life. Father will necessarily spend much time with other alcoholics,
but this activity should be balanced. New acquaintenances who know nothing of
alcoholism might be made and thoughtful consideration given their needs. The
problems of the community might engage attention. Though the family has no
religious connections, they may do well to make contact with, or take membership
in a religious body.
Alcoholics who have derided religious people will sometimes be helped by such
contacts. Being possessed of a spiritual experience, the alcoholic will find he
has much in common with these people, though he may differ with them on many
matters. If he does not argue and forget that men find God in many ways, he will
make new friends, and is sure to find new avenues of usefulness and pleasure. He
and his family can be a bright spot in such congregations. He may bring new hope
and new courage to many a priest, minister, or rabbi, who gives his all to
minister to our troubled world. We intend the foregoing as a helpful suggestion
only. So far as we are concerned, there is nothing obligatory about it. As a
non-denominational group, we cannot make up people's minds for them. Each
individual must consult his own conscience.
We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been
dealing with alcohol in its worst aspect. But we aren't a glum lot. If newcomers
could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely
insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the
nations, nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders. When we see a
man sinking into the mire that is alcoholism, we give him first and and place
everything we have at his disposal. For his sake, we do recount and almost
relive the horrors of our past. But those of us who have tried to shoulder the
entire burden and trouble of others, find we are soon overcome by them.
So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are
sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic
experience out of the past. But why shouldn't we laugh? We are the victors, and
have been given the power to help others.
Everybody knows that those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not
laugh much. So let each family play together or separately, as much as their
circumstances warrant. We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and
released. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears,
though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our
own misery. God didn't do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery,
and when trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to
demonstrate His omnipotence.
Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover over-
night, nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are
convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative.
We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But
we have also seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our
crowd now shows any mark of dissipation.
But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has
abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and
practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to
such a person. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may
enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought
miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their
services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and following his case
A word about sex relations. Alcohol is so sexually stimulating to some men that
they have over-indulged. Couples are occasionally dismayed to find that when
drinking is stopped, the man tends to be impotent. Unless the reason is
understood, there may be an emotional upset. Some of us had this experience,
only to enjoy, in a few months, a finer intimacy than ever. There should be no
hesitancy in consulting a doctor or phychologist if this condition persists. We
do not know of any case where this difficulty lasted long.
The alcoholic may find it hard to re-establish friendly relations with his
children. Their young minds were impressionable while he was drinking. Without
saying so, they may cordially hate him for what he has done to them and to their
mother. The poor children are sometimes dominated by a pathetic hardness and
cynicism. They cannot seem to forgive and forget. This may hang on for months,
long after their mother has accepted dad's new way of living and thinking.
Father had better be sparing of his correction or criticism of them while they
are in this frame of mind. He had better not urge his new way of life on them
too soon. In time they will see that he is a new man and in their own way they
will let him know it. When this happens, they can be invited to join in morning
meditation, then they can take part in the daily discussion without rancor or
bias. From that point on, progress will be rapid. Marvelous results often follow
such a reunion.
Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member must.
The others must be convinced by his changed life beyond a shadow of a doubt. He
must lead the way. Seeing is believing to most families who have lived with a
Here is a case in point: One of our friends is a heavy smoker and coffee
drinker. There was no doubt he over-indulged. Seeing this, and meaning to be
helpful, his wife commenced to admonish him about it. He admitted he was
overdoing these things, but frankly said that he was not ready to stop. His wife
is one of those persons who really feel there is something rather sinful about
these commodities, so she nagged, and her intolerance finally threw him into a
fit of anger. He got drunk.
Of course our friend was wrong — dead wrong. He had to painfully admit that and
mend his spiritual fences. Though he is now a most effective member of
Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes cigarettes and drinks coffee, but neither
his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment. She sees she was wrong to make a
burning issue out of such a matter when his more serious ailments were being
First things first! We have two little mottoes which are apropos. Here they are:
"LIVE AND LET LIVE" and "EASY DOES IT".
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 any
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 known.
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, had 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
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
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 brain?
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 aberations 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
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
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
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, if possible.
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 say.
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 criticism.
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 the situation.
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 to go.
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
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
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 treat-
ment, 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 against him.
Seven: Ask him to place recovery from alcoholism ahead of all else.
Eight: Don't let him overwork.
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
A VISION FOR YOU
For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship, and colorful
imagination. It means release from care, boredom, and worry. It is joyous
intimacy with friends, and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in
those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were gone. They were but
memories. Never could we recapture the great moments of the past. There was an
insistent yearning to enjoy as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that
some new miracle of control would enable us to do it. There was always one more
attempt — and one more failure.
The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life
itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad
realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever
becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find
understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did — then would come
oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen — Terror,
Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who see this page will
Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, "I don't miss it
at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time. " As ex-alcoholics, we
smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to
keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take
half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game
again, for he isn't happy about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without
alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or
without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the
jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.
We have shown you how we got out from under. You say: "Yes, I'm willing. But am
I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some
righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I?
Have you a sufficient substitute?"
Yes, there is a substitute, and it is vastly more than that. It is a Fellowship
in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom, and
worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The
most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find The
Fellowship, and so will you.
"How is that to come about?" you say. "Where am I to find these people?"
You are going to meet these new friends in your own community. Near you
alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If you live in a
large place, there are hundreds. These are to be your companions. High and low,
rich and poor, these are future Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you
will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful
ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to
shoulder your common journey. Then you will know what it means to give of
yourself, that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full
meaning of "Love thy neighbor as thyself. "
It may seem incredible that these men are to become happy, respected, and
useful once more. How can they rise out of such misery, bad repute and
hopelessness? The practical answer is that since these things have happened
among us, they can happen again. Should you wish them above all else, and should
you be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure they will come. The
age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!
Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of
alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon it, following its directions.
Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march on. They will approach
still other sick ones and so the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring
up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.
In the chapter "Working With Others" you gathered an idea of how to approach and
aid others to health. Suppose now that through you several families have adopted
your way of life. You will want to know more of how to proceed from that point.
Perhaps the best way of treating you to a glimpse of your future will be to
describe the growth of the Fellowship among us. Here is a brief account:
Nearly four years ago, one of our number made a journey to a certain western
city. From the business standpoint, his trip came off badly. Had he been
successful in his enterprise, he would have been set on his feet financially,
which, at the time, seemed vitally important. But his venture wound up in a law
suit and bogged down completely. The proceding was shot through with much hard
feeling and controversy.
Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange place, discredited and
almost broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that his
predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much to talk with someone, but whom?
One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be
paid. At one end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches.
Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd
inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some
drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance, and would have
a lonely week-end.
Of course, he couldn't drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of
ginger ale before him? Then after all, had he not been sober six months now?
Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks — no more! Fear gripped him. He was
on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity — that first drink. With a
shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music
and gay chatter still floated to him from the bar.
But what about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die
because they would not know how to get well, ah — yes, those other alcoholics?
There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity
returned, and he thanked God. Selecting a church at random from the directory,
he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.
Little could he foresee what that simple decision was to mean. How could any one
guess that life and happiness for many was to depend on whether one depressed
man entered a phone booth or a bar? His call to the clergyman led him presently
to a certain resident of the town, who, though formerly able and
respected, was then nearing the nadir of alcoholic despair. It was the usual
situation: home in jeopardy, wife ill, children distracted, bills in arrears,
and reputation damaged. He had a desperate desire to stop, but saw no way out;
for he had earnestly tried many avenues of escape. Painfully aware of being
somehow abnormal, the man did not fully realize what it means to be alcoholic.
When our friend told his experience, the man agreed that no amount of will power
he might muster could stop his drinking for long. A spiritual experience, he
conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the price seemed high upon the basis
suggested. He told how he lived in constant worry about creditors and others who
might find out about his alcoholism. He had, of course, the familiar alcoholic
obsession that few knew of his drinking. Why, he argued, should he lose the
remainder of his business, so bringing still more suffering to his family, by
foolishly admitting his plight to his creditors and those from whom he made his
livelihood? He would do anything, he said, but that.
Being intrigued, however, he invited our friend to his home. Some time later,
and just as he thought he was getting control of his liquor situation, he went
on a roaring bender. For him, this was the spree that ended all sprees. He saw
that he would have to face his problems squarely, that God might give him
One morning he took the bull by the horns and set out to tell those he feared
what his trouble had been. He found himself surprisingly well received, and
learned that many knew of his drinking. Stepping into his car, he made the
rounds of people he had hurt. He trembled as he went about, for this might mean
ruin, particularly to a person in his line of business.
At midnight he came home exhausted, but very happy. He has not had a drink
since. As we shall see, he now means a great deal to his community, and the
major liabilities of thirty years of hard drinking have been repaired in less
But life was not easy for the two friends. Plenty of difficulties presented
themselves. Both saw that they must keep spiritually active. One day they called
up the head nurse of a local hospital. They explained their need and inquired if
she had a first class alcoholic prospect.
She replied, "Yes, we've got a corker. He's just beaten up a couple of nurses.
Goes off his head completely when drinking. But he's a grand chap when sober
though he's been in here six times in the last four months. Understand he was
once a well-known lawyer in town, but just now we've got him strapped down
Here was a prospect all right, but, by the description, none too promising. The
use of spiritual principles in such cases was not so well understood as it is
now. But one of the friends said, "Put him in a private room. We'll be down. "
Two days later, a future Fellow of Alcoholics Anonymous stared glassily at the
strangers beside his bed. "Who are you fellows, and why this private room? I was
always in a ward before. "
Said one of the visitors, "We're giving you a treatment for alcoholism. "
Hopelessness was written large on the man's face as he replied: "Oh, but that's
no use. Nothing would fix me. I'm a goner. The last three times, I got drunk on
the way home from here. I'm afraid to go out the door. I can't understand it. "
For an hour, the two friends told him about their drinking experiences. Over and
over, he would say: "That's me. That's me. I drink like that. "
The man in the bed was told of the acute poisoning from which he suffered, how
it deteriorates the body of an alcoholic and warps his mind. There was much talk
about the mental state preceding the first drink.
"Yes, that's me, " said the sick man, "the very image. You fellows know your
stuff all right, but I don't see what good it'll do. You fellows are somebody. I
was once, but I'm a nobody now. From what you tell me, I know more than ever I
can't stop. " At this both the visitors burst into a laugh. Said the future
Fellow Anonymous: "Damn little to laugh about that I can see. "
The two friends spoke of their spiritual experience and told him about the
course of action they carried out.
He interrupted: "I used to be strong for the church, but that won't fix it. I've
prayed to God on hangover mornings and sworn that I'd never touch another drop,
but by nine o'clock I'd be boiled as an owl. "
Next day found the prospect more receptive. He had been thinking it over. "Maybe
you're right, " he said. "God ought to be able to do anything. " Then he added,
"He sure didn't do much for me when I was trying to fight this booze racket
On the third day the lawyer gave his life to the care and direction of his
Creator, and said he was perfectly willing to do anything necessary. His wife
came, scarcely daring to be hopeful, but she thought she saw something different
about her husband already. He had begun to have a spiritual experience.
That afternoon he put on his clothes and walked from the hospital a free man. He
entered a political campaign, making speeches, frequenting men's gathering
places of all sorts, often staying up all night. He lost the race by only a
narrow margin. But he had found God — and in finding God had found himself.
That was in June, 1935. He never drank again. He too, has become a respected and
useful member of his community. He has helped other men recover, and is a power
in the church from which he was long absent.
So, you see, there were three alcoholics in that town, who now felt they had to
give to others what they had found, or be sunk. After several failures to find
others, a fourth turned up. He came through an acquaintance who had heard the
good news. He proved to be a devil-may-care young fellow whose parents could not
make out whether he wanted to stop drinking or not. They were deeply religious
people, much shocked by their son's refusal to have anything to do with the
church. He suffered horribly from his sprees, but it seemed as if nothing could
be done for him. He consented, however, to go to the hospital, where he occupied
the very room recently vacated by the lawyer.
He had three visitors. After a bit, he said: "The way you fellows put this
spiritual stuff makes sense. I'm ready to do business. I guess the old folks
were right after all. " So one more was added to the Fellowship.
All this time our friend of the hotel lobby incident remained in that town. He
was there three months. He now returned home, leaving behind his first
acquaintance, the lawyer, and the devil-may-care chap. These men had found
something brand new in life. Though they knew they must help other alcoholics if
they would remain sober, that motive became secondary. It was transcended by the
happiness they found in giving themselves for others. They shared their homes,
their slender resources, and gladly devoted their spare hours to
fellow-sufferers. They were willing, by day or night, to place a new man in the
hospital and visit him afterward. They grew in numbers. They experienced a few
distressing failures, but in those cases, they made an effort to bring the man's
family into a new way of living, thus relieving much worry and suffering.
A year and sic months later these three had succeeded with seven more. Seeing
much of each other, scarce an evening passed that someone's home did not shelter
a little gathering of men and women, happy in their release, and constantly
how they might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these
casual get-togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a
meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of
life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a
time and place where new people might bring their problems.
Outsiders became interested. One man and his wife placed their large home at the
disposal of this strangely assorted crowd. This couple has since become so
fascinated that they have dedicated their home to the work. Many a distracted
wife has visited this house to find loving and understanding companionship among
women who knew their problem, to hear from the lips of men like their husbands
what had happened to them, to be advised how her own wayward mate might be
hospitalized and approached when next he stumbled.
Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience, has stepped over the
threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came
away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their
misfortune and understood him. Impressed by those who visited him at the
hospital, he capitulated entirely, when, later, in an upper room of this house,
he heard the story of some man whose experience closely tallied with his own.
The expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable something in the eyes
of the men, the stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to
let him know that here was haven at last.
The very practical approach to his problems, the absence of intolerance of any
kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding which
these people had were irresistible. He and his wife would leave elated by the
thought of what they could now do for some stricken acquaintance and his family.
They knew they had a host of new friends; it seemed they had known these
strangers always. They had seen miracles, and one was to come to them. They had
visioned The Great Reality — their loving and All Powerful Creator.
Now, this house will hardly accommodate its weekly visitors, for they number
sixty or eighty as a rule. Alcoholics are being attracted from far and near.
From surrounding towns, families drive long distances to be present. A community
thirty miles away has fifteen Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being a large
place, we think that some day its Fellowship will number many hundreds.
But life among Alcoholics Anonymous is more than attending meetings and visiting
hospitals. Cleaning up old scrapes, helping to settle family differences,
explaining the disinherited son to his irate parents, lending money and securing
jobs for each other, when justified — these are everyday occurrences. No one is
too discredited. nor has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially — if he means
business. Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies — these are
laughed out of countenance. Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and
united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others,
the things which matter so much to some people no longer signify much to them.
How could they?
Under only slightly different conditions, the same thing is taking place in
several eastern cities. In one of these there is a well-known hospital for the
treatment of alcoholic and drug addiction. Four years ago one of our number was
a patient there. Many of us have felt, for the first time, the Presence and
Power of God within its walls. We are greatly indebted to the doctor in
attendance there, for he, although it might prejudice his own work, has told us
his belief in our work.
Every few days this doctor suggests our approach to one of his patients.
Understanding our work, he can do this with an eye to selecting those who are
willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis. Many of us, former patients,
go there to help.
Then, in this eastern city there are informal meetings such as we have described
to you, where you may see thirty or forty, there are the same fast friendships,
there is the same helpfulness to one another as you find among our western
friends. There is a good bit of travel between East and West and we foresee a
great increase in this helpful interchange.
Some day we hope that every alcoholic who journeys will find a Fellowship of
Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. To some extent this is already true.
Some of us are salesmen and go about. Little clusters of twos and threes and
fives of us have sprung up in other communities, through contact with our two
larger centers. Those of us who travel drop in as often as we can. This practice
enables us to lend a hand, at the same time avoiding certain alluring
distractions of the road, about which any traveling man can inform you.
Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your
hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin.
We know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself: "I'm jittery and
alone. I couldn't do that. " But you can. You forget that you have just now
tapped a source of power so much greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such
backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and
We know a former alcoholic who was living alone in a large community. He had
lived there but a few weeks when he found that the place probably contained more
alcoholics per square mile than any city in the country. This was only a few
days ago at this writing. The authorities were much concerned. He got in touch
with a prominent psychiatrist who has undertaken certain responsibilities for
the mental health of the community. The doctor proved to be able and exceedingly
anxious to adopt any workable method of handling the situation. Agreeing with
many competent and informed physicians, he said he could do little or nothing
for the average alcoholic. So, he inquired, what did our friend have on-the
Our friend proceeded to tell him. And with such good effect that the doctor
agreed to a test among his patients and certain other alcoholics from a clinic
which he attends. Arrangements were also made with the chief psychiatrist of a
large public hospital to select still others from the stream of misery which
flows through that institution.
So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore. Some of them may sink and
perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a criterion, more than half of
those approached will become Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. When a few men in
this city have found themselves, and have discovered the joy of helping others
to face life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in that town has
has his opportunity to recover — if he can and will.
Still you may say: "But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who
write this book. " We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must
remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to
create the Fellowship you crave. *
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God
will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask him in your morning
meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers
will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit
something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right,
and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the
Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to him and
and your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you
find, and join us. We shall be with you, in the Fellowship of The Spirit, and
you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you — until then.
* See appendix — The Alcoholic Foundation. It may be we shall be able to carry
on a limited correspondence.
THE ALCOHOLIC FOUNDATION
In our text we have shown the alcoholic how he can recover but we realize that
many will want to write us directly.
To receive these inquiries, to administer royalties from this book and such
other funds as may come to hand, a Trust has been created known as The Alcoholic
Foundation. Three Trustees are members of Alcoholics Anonymous, the other four
are well-known business and professional men who have volunteered their
services. The Trust states these four (who are not of Alcoholics Anonymous) or
their successors, shall always constitute a majority of the Board of Trustees.
We must frankly state however, that under present conditions, we may be unable
to reply to all inquiries, as our members, in their spare time, will attend to
most of the correspondence. Nevertheless we shall strenuously attempt to
communicate with those men and women who are able to report that they are
staying sober and working with other alcoholics. Once we have such an active
nucleus, we can then refer to them those inquiries which originate in their
respective localities. Starting with small but active centers created in this
fashion, we are confident that fellowships will spring up and grow very much as
they have among us. Meanwhile, we hope the Foundation will become more useful to
The Alcoholic Foundation is our only agency of its kind. We have agreed that all
business engagements touching on our alcoholic work shall have the approval of
its trustees. People who state they represent The Alcoholic Foundation should be
asked for credentials and if unsatisfactory, these ought to be checked with the
Foundation at once. We welcome inquiry by scientific, medical and religious
This volume is published by the Works Publishing Company, organized and financed
mostly by small donations of our members. This company donates the customary
royalties from each copy of Alcoholics Anonymous to The Alcoholic Foundation.
To order this book, send your check or money order for $3. 50 to:
The Works Publishing Company,
17 William Street,
Newark, N. J.