Published on

Published in: Health & Medicine
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this


  2. 2. FOREWORDW E, OF Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered froma seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To showother alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is themain purpose of this book. For them, we hope thesepages will prove so convincing that no further authenti-cation will be necessary. We think this account of ourexperiences will help everyone to better understand thealcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic isa very sick person. And besides, we are sure that ourway of living has its advantages for all. It is important that we remain anonymous because weare too few, at present to handle the overwhelming num-ber of personal appeals which may result from this pub-lication. Being mostly business or professional folk, wecould not well carry on our occupations in such an event.We would like it understood that our alcoholic work is anavocation. When writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism,we urge each of our Fellowship to omit his personal name,designating himself instead as “a member of AlcoholicsAnonymous.” Very earnestly we ask the press also, to observe thisrequest, for otherwise we shall be greatly handicapped. We are not an organization in the conventional xiii
  3. 3. FOREWORDsense of the word. There are no fees or dues whatsoever.The only requirement for membership is an honest desireto stop drinking. We are not allied with any particularfaith, sect or denomination, nor do we oppose anyone.We simply wish to be helpful to those who are afflicted. We shall be interested to hear from those who are get-ting results from this book, particularly from those whohave commenced work with other alcoholics. We shouldlike to be helpful to such cases. Inquiry by scientific, medical, and religious societieswill be welcomed. Alcoholics Anonymous.
  4. 4. THE DOCTOR’S OPINIONW E OF Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate ofthe plan of recovery described in this book. Convincingtestimony must surely come from medical men who havehad experience with the sufferings of our members andhave witnessed our return to health. A well-known doc-tor, chief physician at a nationally prominent hospitalspecializing in alcoholic and drug addiction, gave Alco-holics Anonymous this letter: To Whom It May Concern: I have specialized in the treatment of alcoholism for many years. In late 1934 I attended a patient who, though he had been a competent businessman of good earning capac- ity, was an alcoholic of a type I had come to regard as hopeless. In the course of his third treatment he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery. As part of his rehabilitation he commenced to present his con- ceptions to other alcoholics, impressing upon them that they must do likewise with still others. This has become the basis of a rapidly growing fellowship of these men and their families. This man and over one hundred oth- ers appear to have recovered. I personally know scores of cases who were of the type with whom other methods had failed completely. These facts appear to be of extreme medical impor- tance; because of the extraordinary possibilities of rapid xviii
  5. 5. xxiv THE DOCTOR’S OPINION growth inherent in this group they may mark a new epoch in the annals of alcoholism. These men may well have a remedy for thousands of such situations. You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves. Very truly yours, William D. Silkworth, M.D. The physician who, at our request, gave us this letter,has been kind enough to enlarge upon his views in anotherstatement which follows. In this statement he confirmswhat we who have suffered alcoholic torture must be-lieve—that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormalas his mind. It did not satisfy us to be told that we couldnot control our drinking just because we were maladjustedto life, that we were in full flight from reality, or wereoutright mental defectives. These things were true to someextent, in fact, to a considerable extent with some of us.But we are sure that our bodies were sickened as well. Inour belief, any picture of the alcoholic which leaves outthis physical factor is incomplete. The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcoholinterests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundnessmay, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers,we can say that his explanation makes good sense. Itexplains many things for which we cannot otherwise ac-count. Though we work out our solution on the spiritual aswell as an altruistic plane, we favor hospitalizationfor the alcoholic who is very jittery or befogged. Moreoften than not, it is imperative that a man’s brain becleared before he is approached, as he has then a bet-
  6. 6. THE DOCTOR’S OPINION xxvter chance of understanding and accepting what we haveto offer. The doctor writes: The subject presented in this book seems to me to be of paramount importance to those afflicted with alcoholic addiction. I say this after many years’ experience as Medical Di- rector of one of the oldest hospitals in the country treat- ing alcoholic and drug addiction. There was, therefore, a sense of real satisfaction when I was asked to contribute a few words on a subject which is covered in such masterly detail in these pages. We doctors have realized for a long time that some form of moral psychology was of urgent importance to alcoholics, but its application presented difficulties be- yond our conception. What with our ultra-modern stan- dards, our scientific approach to everything, we are per- haps not well equipped to apply the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic knowledge. Many years ago one of the leading contributors to this book came under our care in this hospital and while here he acquired some ideas which he put into practical appli- cation at once. Later, he requested the privilege of being allowed to tell his story to other patients here and with some misgiving, we consented. The cases we have followed through have been most interesting; in fact, many of them are amaz- ing. The unselfishness of these men as we have come to know them, the entire absence of profit motive, and their community spirit, is indeed inspiring to one who has labored long and wearily in this alcoholic field. They believe in themselves, and still more in the Power which pulls chronic alcoholics back from the gates of death. Of course an alcoholic ought to be freed from his physical
  7. 7. xxvi THE DOCTOR’S OPINION craving for liquor, and this often requires a definite hos- pital procedure, before psychological measures can be of maximum benefit. We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a mani- festation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things hu- man, their problems pile up on them and become aston- ishingly difficult to solve. Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. The mes- sage which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than them- selves, if they are to re-create their lives. If any feel that as psychiatrists directing a hospital for alcoholics we appear somewhat sentimental, let them stand with us a while on the firing line, see the tragedies, the despairing wives, the little children; let the solving of these problems become a part of their daily work, and even of their sleeping moments, and the most cynical will not won- der that we have accepted and encouraged this movement. We feel, after many years of experience, that we have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabili- tation of these men than the altruistic movement now growing up among them. Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alco- holic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience
  8. 8. THE DOCTOR’S OPINION xxviithe sense of ease and comfort which comes at once bytaking a few drinks—drinks which they see others takingwith impunity. After they have succumbed to the desireagain, as so many do, and the phenomenon of cravingdevelops, they pass through the well-known stages of aspree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not todrink again. This is repeated over and over, and unlessthis person can experience an entire psychic change thereis very little hope of his recovery. On the other hand—and strange as this may seem tothose who do not understand—once a psychic change hasoccurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, whohad so many problems he despaired of ever solving them,suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire foralcohol, the only effort necessary being that required tofollow a few simple rules. Men have cried out to me in sincere and despairing appeal:“Doctor, I cannot go on like this! I have everything to livefor! I must stop, but I cannot! You must help me!” Faced with this problem, if a doctor is honest withhimself, he must sometimes feel his own inadequacy. Al-though he gives all that is in him, it often is not enough.One feels that something more than human power isneeded to produce the essential psychic change. Thoughthe aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatriceffort is considerable, we physicians must admit we havemade little impression upon the problem as a whole.Many types do not respond to the ordinary psychologi-cal approach. I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism isentirely a problem of mental control. I have had manymen who had, for example, worked a period of months onsome problem or business deal which was to be settled on acertain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day orso prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of cravingat once became paramount to all other interests so that the
  9. 9. xxviii THE DOCTOR’S OPINION important appointment was not met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control. There are many situations which arise out of the phe- nomenon of craving which cause men to make the su- preme sacrifice rather than continue to fight. The classification of alcoholics seems most difficult, and in much detail is outside the scope of this book. There are, of course, the psychopaths who are emotionally un- stable. We are all familiar with this type. They are always “going on the wagon for keeps.” They are over-remorse- ful and make many resolutions, but never a decision. There is the type of man who is unwilling to admit that he cannot take a drink. He plans various ways of drinking. He changes his brand or his environment. There is the type who always believes that after being entirely free from al- cohol for a period of time he can take a drink without danger. There is the manic-depressive type, who is, per- haps, the least understood by his friends, and about whom a whole chapter could be written. Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect alcohol has upon them. They are often able, intelligent, friendly people. All these, and many others, have one symptom in com- mon: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence. This immediately precipitates us into a seething caldron of debate. Much has been written pro and con, but among physicians, the general opinion seems to be that most chronic alcoholics are doomed.
  10. 10. THE DOCTOR’S OPINION xxix What is the solution? Perhaps I can best answer thisby relating one of my experiences. About one year prior to this experience a man wasbrought in to be treated for chronic alcoholism. He hadbut partially recovered from a gastric hemorrhage andseemed to be a case of pathological mental deteriora-tion. He had lost everything worthwhile in life and wasonly living, one might say, to drink. He frankly admit-ted and believed that for him there was no hope. Follow-ing the elimination of alcohol, there was found to be nopermanent brain injury. He accepted the plan outlined inthis book. One year later he called to see me, and Iexperienced a very strange sensation. I knew the man byname, and partly recognized his features, but there allresemblance ended. From a trembling, despairing, ner-vous wreck, had emerged a man brimming over with self-reliance and contentment. I talked with him for sometime, but was not able to bring myself to feel that I hadknown him before. To me he was a stranger, and so he leftme. A long time has passed with no return to alcohol. When I need a mental uplift, I often think of anothercase brought in by a physician prominent in New York.The patient had made his own diagnosis, and deciding hissituation hopeless, had hidden in a deserted barn deter-mined to die. He was rescued by a searching party, and, indesperate condition, brought to me. Following his physi-cal rehabilitation, he had a talk with me in which hefrankly stated he thought the treatment a waste of ef-fort, unless I could assure him, which no one ever had,that in the future he would have the “will power” toresist the impulse to drink. His alcoholic problem was so complex, and his depres-sion so great, that we felt his only hope would be throughwhat we then called “moral psychology,” and we doubtedif even that would have any effect.
  11. 11. xxx THE DOCTOR’S OPINION However, he did become “sold” on the ideas contained in this book. He has not had a drink for a great many years. I see him now and then and he is as fine a speci- men of manhood as one could wish to meet. I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray. William D. Silkworth, M.D.
  12. 12. Chapter 1 BILL’S STORYW AR FEVER ran high in the New England town to which we new, young officers from Plattsburg wereassigned, and we were flattered when the first citizenstook us to their homes, making us feel heroic. Here waslove, applause, war; moments sublime with intervals hi-larious. I was part of life at last, and in the midst of theexcitement I discovered liquor. I forgot the strong warn-ings and the prejudices of my people concerning drink.In time we sailed for “Over There.” I was very lonelyand again turned to alcohol. We landed in England. I visited Winchester Cathedral.Much moved, I wandered outside. My attention wascaught by a doggerel on an old tombstone: “Here lies a Hampshire Grenadier Who caught his death Drinking cold small beer. A good soldier is ne’er forgot Whether he dieth by musket Or by pot.” Ominous warning—which I failed to heed. Twenty-two, and a veteran of foreign wars, I went homeat last. I fancied myself a leader, for had not the men ofmy battery given me a special token of appreciation?My talent for leadership, I imagined, would place me atthe head of vast enterprises which I would manage withthe utmost assurance.
  13. 13. 2 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS I took a night law course, and obtained employment asinvestigator for a surety company. The drive for successwas on. I’d prove to the world I was important. Mywork took me about Wall Street and little by little I be-came interested in the market. Many people lost money—but some became very rich. Why not I? I studied eco-nomics and business as well as law. Potential alcoholicthat I was, I nearly failed my law course. At one of thefinals I was too drunk to think or write. Though mydrinking was not yet continuous, it disturbed my wife.We had long talks when I would still her forebodings bytelling her that men of genius conceived their best projectswhen drunk; that the most majestic constructions of philo-sophic thought were so derived. By the time I had completed the course, I knew the lawwas not for me. The inviting maelstrom of Wall Streethad me in its grip. Business and financial leaders weremy heroes. Out of this alloy of drink and speculation, Icommenced to forge the weapon that one day would turnin its flight like a boomerang and all but cut me to ribbons.Living modestly, my wife and I saved $1,000. It wentinto certain securities, then cheap and rather unpopular. Irightly imagined that they would some day have a greatrise. I failed to persuade my broker friends to send meout looking over factories and managements, but my wifeand I decided to go anyway. I had developed a theorythat most people lost money in stocks through ignoranceof markets. I discovered many more reasons later on. We gave up our positions and off we roared on amotorcycle, the sidecar stuffed with tent, blankets, achange of clothes, and three huge volumes of a finan-
  14. 14. BILL’S STORY 3cial reference service. Our friends thought a lunacy com-mission should be appointed. Perhaps they were right. Ihad had some success at speculation, so we had a littlemoney, but we once worked on a farm for a month toavoid drawing on our small capital. That was the lasthonest manual labor on my part for many a day. Wecovered the whole eastern United States in a year. At theend of it, my reports to Wall Street procured me a posi-tion there and the use of a large expense account. Theexercise of an option brought in more money, leaving uswith a profit of several thousand dollars for that year. For the next few years fortune threw money and applausemy way. I had arrived. My judgment and ideas were fol-lowed by many to the tune of paper millions. The greatboom of the late twenties was seething and swelling. Drinkwas taking an important and exhilarating part in my life.There was loud talk in the jazz places uptown. Everyonespent in thousands and chattered in millions. Scoffers couldscoff and be damned. I made a host of fair-weather friends. My drinking assumed more serious proportions, continu-ing all day and almost every night. The remonstrances ofmy friends terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf.There were many unhappy scenes in our sumptuous apart-ment. There had been no real infidelity, for loyalty to mywife, helped at times by extreme drunkenness, kept me outof those scrapes. In 1929 I contracted golf fever. We went at once tothe country, my wife to applaud while I started out toovertake Walter Hagen.1 Liquor caught up with me muchfaster than I came up behind Walter. I began to bejittery in the morning. Golf permitted drinking
  15. 15. 4 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSevery day and every night. It was fun to carom aroundthe exclusive course which had inspired such awe in meas a lad. I acquired the impeccable coat of tan one seesupon the well-to-do. The local banker watched me whirlfat checks in and out of his till with amused skepticism. Abruptly in October 1929 hell broke loose on the NewYork stock exchange. After one of those days of inferno,I wobbled from a hotel bar to a brokerage office. It waseight o’clock—five hours after the market closed. Theticker still clattered. I was staring at an inch of the tapewhich bore the inscription XYZ-32. It had been 52 thatmorning. I was finished and so were many friends. Thepapers reported men jumping to death from the towersof High Finance. That disgusted me. I would not jump.I went back to the bar. My friends had dropped severalmillion since ten o’clock—so what? Tomorrow was an-other day. As I drank, the old fierce determination to wincame back. Next morning I telephoned a friend in Montreal. Hehad plenty of money left and thought I had better go toCanada. By the following spring we were living in ouraccustomed style. I felt like Napoleon returning fromElba.2,3 No St. Helena for me!4 But drinking caught upwith me again and my generous friend had to let me go.This time we stayed broke. We went to live with my wife’s parents. I found a job;then lost it as the result of a brawl with a taxi driver.Mercifully, no one could guess that I was to have no realemployment for five years, or hardly draw a soberbreath. My wife began to work in a department store,coming home exhausted to find me drunk.
  16. 16. BILL’S STORY 5 I became an unwelcome hanger-on at brokerage places. Liquor ceased to be a luxury; it became a necessity.“Bathtub” gin, two bottles a day, and often three, got tobe routine.5 Sometimes a small deal would net a fewhundred dollars, and I would pay my bills at the bars anddelicatessens. This went on endlessly, and I began towaken very early in the morning shaking violently. Atumbler full of gin followed by half a dozen bottles ofbeer would be required if I were to eat any breakfast.Nevertheless, I still thought I could control the situation,and there were periods of sobriety which renewed mywife’s hope. Gradually things got worse. The house was taken overby the mortgage holder, my mother-in-law died, my wifeand father-in-law became ill. Then I got a promising business opportunity. Stockswere at the low point of 1932, and I had somehow formeda group to buy. I was to share generously in the profits.Then I went on a prodigious bender, and that chancevanished. I woke up. This had to be stopped. I saw I could not takeso much as one drink. I was through forever. Before then, Ihad written lots of sweet promises, but my wife happilyobserved that this time I meant business. And so I did. Shortly afterward I came home drunk. There had been nofight. Where had been my high resolve? I simply didn’tknow. It hadn’t even come to mind. Someone had pusheda drink my way, and I had taken it. Was I crazy? I began towonder, for such an appalling lack of perspective seemednear being just that. Renewing my resolve, I tried again. Some time
  17. 17. 6 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSpassed, and confidence began to be replaced by cock-sureness. I could laugh at the gin mills. Now I had whatit takes! One day I walked into a cafe to telephone. In notime I was beating on the bar asking myself how it hap-pened. As the whisky rose to my head I told myself Iwould manage better next time, but I might as well getgood and drunk then. And I did. The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morningare unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there.My brain raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible senseof impending calamity. I hardly dared cross the street, lest Icollapse and be run down by an early morning truck, for itwas scarcely daylight. An all night place supplied me witha dozen glasses of ale. My writhing nerves were stilled atlast. A morning paper told me the market had gone to hellagain. Well, so had I. The market would recover, but Iwouldn’t. That was a hard thought. Should I kill myself?No—not now. Then a mental fog settled down. Gin wouldfix that. So two bottles, and—oblivion. The mind and body are marvelous mechanisms, formine endured this agony two more years. Sometimes Istole from my wife’s slender purse when the morningterror and madness were on me. Again I swayed diz-zily before an open window, or the medicine cabinetwhere there was poison, cursing myself for a weakling.There were flights from city to country and back, asmy wife and I sought escape. Then came the nightwhen the physical and mental torture was so hellish Ifeared I would burst through my window, sash and all.Somehow I managed to drag my mattress to a lowerfloor, lest I suddenly leap. A doctor came with
  18. 18. BILL’S STORY 7a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin andsedative. This combination soon landed me on the rocks.People feared for my sanity. So did I. I could eat little ornothing when drinking, and I was forty pounds under weight. My brother-in-law is a physician, and through his kind-ness and that of my mother I was placed in a nationally-known hospital for the mental and physical rehabilitationof alcoholics. Under the so-called belladonna treatment mybrain cleared.6 Hydrotherapy and mild exercise helped much.Best of all, I met a kind doctor who explained that thoughcertainly selfish and foolish, I had been seriously ill, bodilyand mentally. It relieved me somewhat to learn that in alcoholics the willis amazingly weakened when it comes to combating liquor,though it often remains strong in other respects. My in-credible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stopwas explained. Understanding myself now, I fared forth inhigh hope. For three for four months the goose hung high. Iwent to town regularly and even made a little money. Surelythis was the answer—self-knowledge. But it was not, for the frightful day came when I drankonce more. The curve of my declining moral and bodilyhealth fell off like a ski-jump. After a time I returned tothe hospital. This was the finish, the curtain, it seemed tome. My weary and despairing wife was informed that itwould all end with heart failure during delirium tremens, orI would develop a wet brain, perhaps within a year. Shewould soon have to give me over to the undertaker or theasylum. They did not need to tell me. I knew, and almostwelcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my
  19. 19. 8 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSpride. I, who had thought so well of myself and myabilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cor-nered at last. Now I was to plunge into the dark, joiningthat endless procession of sots who had gone on before.I thought of my poor wife. There had been much happi-ness after all. What would I not give to make amends.But that was over now. No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I foundin that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretchedaround me in all directions. I had met my match. I hadbeen overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master. Trembling, I stepped from the hospital a broken man.Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidiousinsanity of that first drink, and on Armistice Day 1934,I was off again.7 Everyone became resigned to the cer-tainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, orwould stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it isbefore the dawn! In reality that was the beginning ofmy last debauch. I was soon to be catapulted into whatI like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was toknow happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of lifethat is incredibly more wonderful as time passes. Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking inmy kitchen. With a certain satisfaction I reflected therewas enough gin concealed about the house to carry methrough that night and the next day. My wife was atwork. I wondered whether I dared hide a full bottle ofgin near the head of our bed. I would need it beforedaylight. My musing was interrupted by the telephone. Thecheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might
  20. 20. BILL’S STORY 9come over. He was sober. It was years since I couldremember his coming to New York in that condition. Iwas amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committedfor alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped.Of course he would have dinner, and then I could drinkopenly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thoughtonly of recapturing the spirit of other days. There wasthat time we had chartered an airplane to complete a jag!His coming was an oasis in this dreary desert of futility.The very thing—an oasis! Drinkers are like that. The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned andglowing. There was something about his eyes. He wasinexplicably different. What had happened? I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disap-pointed but curious, I wondered what had got into thefellow. He wasn’t himself. “Come, what’s this all about?” I queried. He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, hesaid, “I’ve got religion.” I was aghast. So that was it—last summer an alcoholiccrackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about reli-gion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy wason fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides,my gin would last longer than his preaching. But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he toldhow two men had appeared in court, persuading the judgeto suspend his commitment. They had told of a simplereligious idea and a practical program of action. That wastwo months ago and the result was self-evident. Itworked! He had come to pass his experience along to me—if
  21. 21. 10 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSI cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Cer-tainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless. He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose beforeme. I could almost hear the sound of the preacher’s voiceas I sat, on still Sundays, way over there on the hillside;there was that proffered temperance pledge I never signed;my grandfather’s good natured contempt of some churchfolk and their doings; his insistence that the spheres reallyhad their music; but his denial of the preacher’s right to tellhim how he must listen; his fearlessness as he spoke ofthese things just before he died; these recollections welledup from the past. They made me swallow hard. That war-time day in old Winchester Cathedral cameback again. I had always believed in a Power greater than myself. Ihad often pondered these things. I was not an atheist.Few people really are, for that means blind faith in thestrange proposition that this universe originated in a ci-pher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual he-roes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolution-ists, suggested vast laws and forces at work. Despitecontrary indications, I had little doubt that a mightypurpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be somuch of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence?I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, whoknew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far asI had gone. With ministers, and the world’s religions, I parted rightthere. When they talked of a God personal to me, whowas love, superhuman strength and direction, I becameirritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory.
  22. 22. BILL’S STORY 11 To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man, nottoo closely followed by those who claimed Him. Hismoral teaching—most excellent. For myself, I hadadopted those parts which seemed convenient and nottoo difficult; the rest I disregarded. The wars which had been fought, the burnings and chi-canery that religious dispute had facilitated, made mesick. I honestly doubted whether, on balance, the reli-gions of mankind had done any good. Judging from whatI had seen in Europe and since, the power of God inhuman affairs was negligible, the Brotherhood of Man agrim jest. If there was a Devil, he seemed the Boss Uni-versal, and he certainly had me. But my friend sat before me, and he made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what hecould not do for himself. His human will had failed.Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was aboutto lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted completedefeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead,suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of lifebetter than the best he had ever known! Had this power originated in him? Obviously it hadnot. There had been no more power in him than therewas in me at the minute; and this was none at all. That floored me. It began to look as though religiouspeople were right after all. Here was something at workin a human heart which had done the impossible. Myideas about miracles were drastically revised right then.Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directlyacross the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings. I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly
  23. 23. 12 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSreorganized. He was on a different footing. His rootsgrasped a new soil. Despite the living example of my friend there remained inme the vestiges of my old prejudice. The word God stillaroused a certain antipathy. When the thought was ex-pressed that there might be a God personal to me thisfeeling was intensified. I didn’t like the idea. I could go forsuch conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mindor Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar ofthe Heavens, however loving His sway might be.8 I havesince talked with scores of men who felt the same way. My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. Hesaid, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellec-tual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shiveredmany years. I stood in the sunlight at last. It was only a matter of being willing to believe in aPower greater than myself. Nothing more was requiredof me to make my beginning. I saw that growth couldstart from that point. Upon a foundation of completewillingness I might build what I saw in my friend. WouldI have it? Of course I would! Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with ushumans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, Ifelt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from myeyes. A new world came into view. The real significance of my experience in the Cathe-dral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had neededand wanted God. There had been a humble willingnessto have Him with me—and He came. But soon thesense of His presence had been blotted out by
  24. 24. BILL’S STORY 13worldly clamors, mostly those within myself. And so ithad been ever since. How blind I had been. At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the lasttime. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs ofdelirium tremens. There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then under-stood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myselfunreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted forthe first time that of myself I was nothing; that without HimI was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing tohave my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch.I have not had a drink since. My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted himwith my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of peopleI had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressedmy entire willingness to approach these individuals, admit-ting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was toright all such matters to the utmost of my ability. I was to test my thinking by the new God-conscious-ness within. Common sense would thus become uncom-mon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, askingonly for direction and strength to meet my problems asHe would have me. Never was I to pray for myself,except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others.Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be ingreat measure. My friend promised when these things were done Iwould enter upon a new relationship with my Creator;that I would have the elements of a way of living whichanswered all my problems. Belief in the power of God,plus enough willingness, honesty and humility
  25. 25. 14 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSto establish and maintain the new order of things, werethe essential requirements. Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meantdestruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all thingsto the Father of Light who presides over us all. These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, butthe moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric.There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peaceand serenity as I had never known. There was utterconfidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean windof a mountain top blew through and through. God comesto most men gradually, but His impact on me was suddenand profound. For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, thedoctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonderas I talked. Finally he shook his head saying, “Something has hap-pened to you I don’t understand. But you had betterhang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were.”The good doctor now sees many men who have suchexperiences. He knows that they are real. While I lay in the hospital the thought came that therewere thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be gladto have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I couldhelp some of them. They in turn might work with others. My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity ofdemonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Par-ticularly was it imperative to work with others as hehad worked with me. Faith without works was dead, hesaid. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For ifan alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his
  26. 26. BILL’S STORY 15spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, hecould not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. Ifhe did not work, he would surely drink again, and if hedrank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead in-deed. With us it is just like that. My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to theidea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems.It was fortunate, for my old business associates remained skep-tical for a year and a half, during which I found little work. I wasnot too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pityand resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back todrink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed,work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many timesI have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a manthere, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It isa design for living that works in rough going. We commenced to make many fast friends and a fel-lowship has grown up among us of which it is a won-derful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we reallyhave, even under pressure and difficulty. I have seenhundreds of families set their feet in the path thatreally goes somewhere; have seen the most impossibledomestic situations righted; feuds and bitterness of allsorts wiped out. I have seen men come out of asylumsand resume a vital place in the lives of their familiesand communities. Business and professional men haveregained their standing. There is scarcely any form oftrouble and misery which has not been overcome amongus. In one western city and its environs there are onethousand of us and our families. We meet frequentlyso that newcomers may find the fellowship
  27. 27. 16 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSthey seek. At these informal gatherings one may oftensee from 50 to 200 persons. We are growing in numbersand power. An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature. Ourstruggles with them are variously strenuous, comic, andtragic. One poor chap committed suicide in my home.He could not, or would not, see our way of life. There is, however a vast amount of fun about it all. Isuppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldli-ness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly ear-nestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day inand through us, or we perish. Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia. Wehave it with us right here and now. Each day my friend’ssimple talk in our kitchen multiplies itself in a wideningcircle of peace on earth and good will to men.Notes1 Walter Hagen: a golf champion from 1914 to 1929.2 Napoleon Bonaparte: The Emperor of France 1804 to 1814.3 Elba: Italian island Napoleon was exiled to and escaped from in 1815.4 St. Helena: British island where Napoleon was imprisoned after his brief reign as Emperor in 1815. He died from cancer there in 1821.5 Bathtub Gin: slang term for homemade liquor.6 Belladonna treatment: administration of the sedative and antis- pasmodic drug Belladonna; formerly used to relieve some of the effects of alcohol withdrawal.7 Armistice Day: now known as Veterans Day.8 Czar: former title of the ruler of Russia.
  28. 28. Chapter 2 THERE IS A SOLUTIONW E, OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know thou- sands of men and women who were once just ashopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered. They havesolved the drink problem. We are average Americans. All sections of this countryand many of its occupations are represented, as well asmany political, economic, social, and religious back-grounds. We are people who normally would not mix.But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness,and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.We are like the passengers of a great liner the momentafter rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyous-ness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage toCaptain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passen-gers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does notsubside as we go our individual ways. The feeling ofhaving shared in a common peril is one element in thepowerful cement which binds us. But that in itself wouldnever have held us together as we are now joined. The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we havediscovered a common solution. We have a way out onwhich we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can joinin brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great newsthis book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.
  29. 29. 18 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS An illness of this sort—and we have come to believe itan illness—involves those about us in a way no otherhuman sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorryfor him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with thealcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of allthe things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose livestouch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierceresentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and em-ployers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wivesand parents—anyone can increase the list. We hope this volume will inform and comfort thosewho are, or who may be affected. There are many. Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with ushave found it sometimes impossible to persuade an alco-holic to discuss his situation without reserve. Strangelyenough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually findus even more unapproachable than do the psychiatristand the doctor. But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution,who is properly armed with facts about himself, can gen-erally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in afew hours. Until such an understanding is reached, littleor nothing can be accomplished. That the man who is making the approach has hadthe same difficulty, that he obviously knows what heis talking about, that his whole deportment shouts atthe new prospect that he is a man with a real answer,that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothingwhatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; thatthere are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people toplease, no lectures to be endured—these are the condi-
  30. 30. THERE IS A SOLUTION 19tions we have found most effective. After such an ap-proach many take up their beds and walk again. None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do wethink its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feelthat elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A muchmore important demonstration of our principles lies beforeus in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. All of usspend much of our spare time in the sort of effort which weare going to describe. A few are fortunate enough to be sosituated that they can give nearly all their time to the work. If we keep on the way we are going there is little doubtthat much good will result, but the surface of the problemwould hardly be scratched. Those of us who live in largecities are overcome by the reflection that close by hundredsare dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recoverif they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How thenshall we present that which has been so freely given us? We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume set-ting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to thetask our combined experience and knowledge. This shouldsuggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drink-ing problem. Of necessity there will have to be discussion of mat-ters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. We areaware that these matters are, from their very nature,controversial. Nothing would please us so much as towrite a book which would contain no basis for conten-tion or argument. We shall do our utmost to achievethat ideal. Most of us sense that real tolerance ofother people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a re-spect for their opinions are attitudes which make us
  31. 31. 20 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSmore useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers,depend upon our constant thought of others and how we mayhelp meet their needs. You may already have asked yourself why it is that all of usbecame so very ill from drinking. Doubtless you are curiousto discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to thecontrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition ofmind and body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get overit, you may already be asking—“What do I have to do?” It is the purpose of this book to answer such questionsspecifically. We shall tell you what we have done. Beforegoing into a detailed discussion, it may be well to summarizesome points as we see them. How many times people have said to us:“I can take it orleave it alone. Why can’t he?” “Why don’t you drink likea gentleman or quit?” “That fellow can’t handle his liquor.”“Why don’t you try beer and wine?” “Lay off the hardstuff.” “His will power must be weak.” “He could stop ifhe wanted to.” “She’s such a sweet girl, I should think he’dstop for her sake.” “The doctor told him that if he everdrank again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again.” Now these are commonplace observations on drinkerswhich we hear all the time. Back of them is a world ofignorance and misunderstanding. We see that these expres-sions refer to people whose reactions are very differentfrom ours. Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquorentirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it orleave it alone. Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He mayhave the habit badly enough to gradually impair
  32. 32. THERE IS A SOLUTION 21him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a fewyears before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason—illhealth, falling in love, change of environment, or the warn-ing of a doctor—becomes operative, this man can also stopor moderate, although he may find it difficult and trouble-some and may even need medical attention. But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off asa moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continoushard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career hebegins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, oncehe starts to drink. Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, espe-cially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible,tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll andMr. Hyde.1 He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is al-ways more or less insanely drunk. His disposition whiledrinking resembles his normal nature but little. He maybe one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drinkfor a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, andeven dangerously anti-social. He has a positive geniusfor getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particu-larly when some important decision must be made orengagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and wellbalanced concerning everything except liquor, but in thatrespect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He oftenpossesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and hasa promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to buildup a bright outlook for his family and himself, and thenpulls the structure down on his head by a senseless seriesof sprees. He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicatedhe ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next
  33. 33. 22 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSmorning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced thenight before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor con-cealed all over his house to be certain no one gets his entiresupply away from him to throw down the wastepipe. Asmatters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can goto work. Then comes the day when he simply cannot makeit and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a doctorwho gives him morphine or some sedative with which totaper off. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitari-ums. This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the truealcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this descrip-tion should identify him roughly. Why does he behave like this? If hundreds of experienceshave shown him that one drink means another debacle withall its attendant suffering and humiliation, why is it he takesthat one drink? Why can’t he stay on the water wagon?What has become of the common sense and will power thathe still sometimes displays with respect to other matters? Perhaps there never will be a full answer to these ques-tions. Opinions vary considerably as to why the alcoholicreacts differently from normal people. We are not sure why,once a certain point is reached, little can be done for him. Wecannot answer the riddle. We know that while the alcoholic keeps away fromdrink, as he may do for months or years, he reactsmuch like other men. We are equally positive that oncehe takes any alcohol whatever into his system, some-thing happens, both in the bodily and mental sense,which makes it virtually impossible for him to
  34. 34. THERE IS A SOLUTION 23stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantlyconfirm this. These observations would be academic and pointless ifour friend never took the first drink, thereby setting theterrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem ofthe alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.If you ask him why he started on that last bender, thechances are he will offer you any one of a hundred alibis.Sometimes these excuses have a certain plausibility, butnone of them really makes sense in the light of the havocan alcoholic’s drinking bout creates. They sound like thephilosophy of the man who, having a headache, beatshimself on the head with a hammer so that he can’t feelthe ache. If you draw this fallacious reasoning to theattention of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or becomeirritated and refuse to talk. Once in a while he may tell the truth. And the truth, strangeto say, is usually that he has no more idea why he took thatfirst drink than you have. Some drinkers have excuses withwhich they are satisfied part of the time. But in their heartsthey really do not know why they do it. Once this maladyhas a real hold, they are a baffled lot. There is the obsessionthat somehow, someday, they will beat the game. But theyoften suspect they are down for the count. How true this is, few realize. In a vague way theirfamilies and friends sense that these drinkers are abnor-mal, but everybody hopefully awaits the day when thesufferer will rouse himself from his lethargy and asserthis power of will. The tragic truth is that if the man be a real alco-holic, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost
  35. 35. 24 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUScontrol. At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic,he passes into a state where the most powerful desire tostop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situationhas already arrived in practically every case long before it issuspected. The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure,have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called willpower becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, atcertain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficientforce the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even aweek or a month ago. We are without defense against thefirst drink. The almost certain consequences that follow taking even aglass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If thesethoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with theold threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves likeother people. There is a complete failure of the kind of de-fense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove. The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual way,“It won’t burn me this time, so here’s how!” Or perhaps hedoesn’t think at all. How often have some of us begun todrink in this nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth,pounded on the bar and said to ourselves, “For God’s sake,how did I ever get started again?” Only to have that thoughtsupplanted by “Well, I’ll stop with the sixth drink.” Or“What’s the use anyhow?” When this sort of thinking is fully established in anindividual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probablyplaced himself beyond human aid, and unless locked up,may die or go permanently insane. These stark and uglyfacts have been confirmed by legions of alco-
  36. 36. THERE IS A SOLUTION 25holics throughout history. But for the grace of God, therewould have been thousands more convincing demonstra-tions. So many want to stop but cannot. There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of short-comings which the process requires for its successful con-summation. But we saw that it really worked in others,and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futilityof life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we wereapproached by those in whom the problem had been solved,there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kitof spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much ofheaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimensionof existence of which we had not even dreamed. The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we havehad deep and effective spiritual experiences* which haverevolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward ourfellows and toward God’s universe. The central fact of ourlives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator hasentered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeedmiraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those thingsfor us which we could never do by ourselves. If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we be-lieve there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We werein a position where life was becoming impossible, andif we had passed into the region from which there is noreturn through human aid, we had but two alternatives:One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out theconsciousness of our intolerable situation as best wecould; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This*See “Spiritual Experience.”
  37. 37. 26 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSwe did because we honestly wanted to, and were willingto make the effort. A certainAmerican business man had ability, good sense,and high character. For years he had floundered from onesanitarium to another. He had consulted the best knownAmerican psychiatrists. Then he had gone to Europe,placing himself in the care of a celebrated physician (thepsychiatrist, Dr. Jung) who prescribed for him. Thoughexperience had made him skeptical, he finished his treat-ment with unusual confidence. His physical and mentalcondition were unusually good. Above all, he believed hehad acquired such a profound knowledge of the innerworkings of his mind and its hidden springs that relapsewas unthinkable. Nevertheless, he was drunk in a shorttime. More baffling still, he could give himself no satis-factory explanation for his fall. So he returned to this doctor, whom he admired, andasked him point-blank why he could not recover. Hewished above all things to regain self-control. He seemedquite rational and well-balanced with respect to otherproblems. Yet he had no control whatever over alcohol.Why was this? He begged the doctor to tell him the whole truth, and hegot it. In the doctor’s judgment he was utterly hopeless;he could never regain his position in society and he wouldhave to place himself under lock and key or hire a body-guard if he expected to live long. That was a greatphysician’s opinion. But this man still lives, and is a free man. He does notneed a bodyguard nor is he confined. He can go any-where on this earth where other free men may go
  38. 38. THERE IS A SOLUTION 27without disaster, provided he remains willing to maintain acertain simple attitude. Some of our alcoholic readers may think they can dowithout spiritual help. Let us tell you the rest of theconversation our friend had with his doctor. The doctor said: “You have the mind of a chronic alco-holic. I have never seen one single case recover, where thatstate of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” Ourfriend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on himwith a clang. He said to the doctor, “Is there no exception?” “Yes,” replied the doctor,“ there is. Exceptions to casessuch as yours have been occurring since early times. Here andthere, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vitalspiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenom-ena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotionaldisplacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and atti-tudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of thesemen are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new setof conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact,I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrange-ment within you. With many individuals the methods whichI employed are successful, but I have never been successfulwith an alcoholic of your description.”* Upon hearing this, our friend was somewhat relieved, forhe reflected that, after all, he was a good church member.This hope, however, was destroyed by the doctor’s tellinghim that while his religious convictions were very good, inhis case they did not spell the necessary vital spiritualexperience.*See “Spiritual Experience.”
  39. 39. 28 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS Here was the terrible dilemma in which our friend foundhimself when he had the extraordinary experience, whichas we have already told you, made him a free man. We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all thedesperation of drowning men. What seemed at first aflimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerfulhand of God. A new life has been given us or, if youprefer, “a design for living” that really works. The distinguished American psychologist, WilliamJames, in his book “Varieties of Religious Experience,”indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discov-ered God. We have no desire to convince anyone thatthere is only one way by which faith can be acquired. Ifwhat we have learned and felt and seen means anything atall, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, orcolor are the children of a living Creator with whom wemay form a relationship upon simple and understandableterms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try.Those having religious affiliations will find here nothingdisturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is nofriction among us over such matters. We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies ourmembers identify themselves with as individuals. Thisshould be an entirely personal affair which each one de-cides for himself in the light of past associations, or hispresent choice. Not all of us join religious bodies, butmost of us favor such memberships. In the following chapter, there appears an explana-tion of alcoholism, as we understand it, then a chapteraddressed to the agnostic. Many who once were inthis class are now among our members. Surprisingly
  40. 40. THERE IS A SOLUTION 29enough, we find such convictions no great obstacle to aspiritual experience. Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing howwe recovered. These are followed by forty-three per-sonal experiences. Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in hisown language and from his own point of view the way heestablished his relationship with God. These give a faircross section of our membership and a clear-cut idea ofwhat has actually happened in their lives. We hope no one will consider these self-revealing ac-counts in bad taste. Our hope is that many alcoholic menand women, desperately in need, will see these pages,and we believe that it is only by fully disclosing our-selves and our problems that they will be persuaded tosay, “Yes, I am one of them too; I must have this thing.” Notes 1 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: literary reference to describe a person with a split personality - one good and the other bad.
  41. 41. Chapter 3 MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISMM OST OF us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodilyand mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it isnot surprising that our drinking careers have been charac-terized by countless vain attempts to prove we coulddrink like other people. The idea that somehow, some-day he will control and enjoy his drinking is the greatobsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence ofthis illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gatesof insanity or death. We learned that we had to fully concede to our inner-most selves that we were alcoholics. This is the firststep in recovery. The delusion that we are like otherpeople, or presently may be, has to be smashed. We alcoholics are men and women who have lost theability to control our drinking. We know that no realalcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at timesthat we were regaining control, but such intervals—usu-ally brief—were inevitably followed by still less control,which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demor-alization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics ofour type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over anyconsiderable period we get worse, never better. We are like men who have lost their legs; they nevergrow new ones. Neither does there appear to be anykind of treatment which will make alcoholics of
  42. 42. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 31our kind like other men. We have tried every imaginableremedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery,followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicianswho are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no suchthing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Sci-ence may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done soyet. Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics arenot going to believe they are in that class. By every formof self-deception and experimentation, they will try toprove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonal-coholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control hisdrinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentle-man, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have triedhard enough and long enough to drink like other people! Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinkingbeer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinkingalone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only athome, never having it in the house, never drinking duringbusiness hours, drinking only at parties, switching fromscotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing toresign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking atrip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemnoath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirationalbooks, going to health farms and sanitariums, acceptingvoluntary commitment to asylums—we could increasethe list ad infinitum. We do not like to pronounce any individual as alco-holic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Stepover to the nearest barroom and try some controlleddrinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it
  43. 43. 32 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSmore than once. It will not take long for you to decide, ifyou are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth abad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of yourcondition. Though there is no way of proving it, we believe thatearly in our drinking careers most of us could have stoppeddrinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics haveenough desire to stop while there is yet time. We haveheard of a few instances where people, who showed defi-nite signs of alcoholism, were able to stop for a longperiod because of an overpowering desire to do so. Hereis one. A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree drinking.He was very nervous in the morning after these boutsand quieted himself with more liquor. He was ambitiousto succeed in business, but saw that he would get no-where if he drank at all. Once he started, he had nocontrol whatever. He made up his mind that until he hadbeen successful in business and had retired, he would nottouch another drop. An exceptional man, he remainedbone dry for twenty-five years and retired at the age offifty-five, after a successful and happy business career.Then he fell victim to a belief which practically everyalcoholic has—that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men. Outcame his carpet slippers and a bottle. In two months hewas in a hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried toregulate his drinking for a while, making several trips tothe hospital meantime. Then, gathering all his forces, heattempted to stop altogether and found he could not.Every means of solving his problem which
  44. 44. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 33money could buy was at his disposal. Every attemptfailed. Though a robust man at retirement, he went topieces quickly and was dead within four years. This case contains a powerful lesson. Most of us havebelieved that if we remained sober for a long stretch, wecould thereafter drink normally. But here is a man who atfifty-five years found he was just where he had left off atthirty. We have seen the truth demonstrated again andagain: “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” Com-mencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in ashort time as bad as ever. If we are planning to stopdrinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor anylurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol. Young people may be encouraged by this man’s experi-ence to think that they can stop, as he did, on their ownwill power. We doubt if many of them can do it, becausenone will really want to stop, and hardly one of them,because of the peculiar mental twist already acquired,will find he can win out. Several of our crowd, men ofthirty or less, had been drinking only a few years, butthey found themselves as helpless as those who had beendrinking twenty years. To be gravely affected, one does not necessarilyhave to drink a long time nor take the quantitiessome of us have. This is particularly true of women.Potential female alcoholics often turn into the realthing and are gone beyond recall in a few years.Certain drinkers, who would be greatly insulted ifcalled alcoholics, are astonished at their inability tostop. We, who are familiar with the symptoms, seelarge numbers of potential alcoholics among young
  45. 45. 34 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSpeople everywhere. But try and get them to see it!* As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking manyyears beyond the point where we could quit on our willpower. If anyone questions whether he has entered thisdangerous area, let him try leaving liquor alone for oneyear. If he is a real alcoholic and very far advanced, thereis scant chance of success. In the early days of our drink-ing we occasionally remained sober for a year or more,becoming serious drinkers again later. Though you maybe able to stop for a considerable period, you may yet bea potential alcoholic. We think few, to whom this bookwill appeal, can stay dry anything like a year. Some willbe drunk the day after making their resolutions; most ofthem within a few weeks. For those who are unable to drink moderately the ques-tion is how to stop altogether. We are assuming, ofcourse, that the reader desires to stop. Whether such aperson can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends uponthe extent to which he has already lost the power tochoose whether he will drink or not. Many of us feltthat we had plenty of character. There was a tremen-dous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible.This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we knowit—this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter howgreat the necessity or the wish. How then shall we help our readers determine, totheir own satisfaction, whether they are one of us?The experiment of quitting for a period of time will behelpful, but we think we can render an even greaterservice to alcoholic sufferers and perhaps to the med-*True when this book was first published. In 1993 a membership survey showed that one-fifth of AAs were 30 and under.
  46. 46. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 35ical fraternity. So we shall describe some of the mentalstates that precede a relapse into drinking, for obvi-ously this is the crux of the problem. What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who re-peats time after time the desperate experiment of thefirst drink? Friends who have reasoned with him after aspree which has brought him to the point of divorce orbankruptcy are mystified when he walks directly into asaloon. Why does he? Of what is he thinking? Our first example is a friend we shall call Jim. Thisman has a charming wife and family. He inherited alucrative automobile agency. He had a commendableWorld War record. He is a good salesman. Everybodylikes him. He is an intelligent man, normal so far as wecan see, except for a nervous disposition. He did nodrinking until he was thirty-five. In a few years hebecame so violent when intoxicated that he had to becommitted. On leaving the asylum he came into contactwith us. We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the an-swer we had found. He made a beginning. His familywas re-assembled, and he began to work as a salesmanfor the business he had lost through drinking. All wentwell for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life.To his consternation, he found himself drunk half a dozentimes in rapid succession. On each of these occasionswe worked with him, reviewing carefully what had hap-pened. He agreed he was a real alcoholic and in a seriouscondition. He knew he faced another trip to the asylumif he kept on. Moreover, he would lose his family forwhom he had a deep affection.
  47. 47. 36 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS Yet he got drunk again. We asked him to tell us exactlyhow it happened. This is his story: “I came to work onTuesday morning. I remember I felt irritated that I had tobe a salesman for a concern I once owned. I had a fewwords with the boss, but nothing serious. Then I decidedto drive into the country and see one of my prospects fora car. On the way I felt hungry so I stopped at a roadsideplace where they have a bar. I had no intention of drink-ing. I just thought I would get a sandwich. I also had thenotion that I might find a customer for a car at this place,which was familiar for I had been going to it for years. Ihad eaten there many times during the months I wassober. I sat down at a table and ordered a sandwich and aglass of milk. Still no thought of drinking. I orderedanother sandwich and decided to have another glass ofmilk. “Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I wereto put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn’t hurtme on a full stomach. I ordered a whiskey and pouredit into the milk. I vaguely sensed I was not being anytoo smart, but felt reassured as I was taking the whis-key on a full stomach. The experiment went so wellthat I ordered another whiskey and poured it into moremilk. That didn’t seem to bother me so I tried an-other.” Thus started one more journey to the asylum forJim. Here was the threat of commitment, the loss offamily and position, to say nothing of that intensemental and physical suffering which drinking alwayscaused him. He had much knowledge about himself asan alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were
  48. 48. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 37easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that hecould take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk! Whatever the precise definition of the word may be, wecall this plain insanity. How can such a lack of propor-tion, of the ability to think straight, be called anythingelse? You may think this an extreme case. To us it is not far-fetched, for this kind of thinking has been characteristicof every single one of us. We have sometimes reflectedmore than Jim did upon the consequences. But there wasalways the curious mental phenomenon that parallel withour sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanelytrivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound rea-soning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea wonout. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestnessand sincerity, how it could have happened. In some circumstances we have gone out deliberately toget drunk, feeling ourselves justified by nervousness, an-ger, worry, depression, jealousy or the like. But even inthis type of beginning we are obliged to admit that ourjustification for a spree was insanely insufficient in thelight of what always happened. We now see that when webegan to drink deliberately, instead of casually, there waslittle serious or effective thought during the period of pre-meditation of what the terrific consequences might be. Our behavior is as absurd and incomprehensible withrespect to the first drink as that of an individual with apassion, say, for jay-walking. He gets a thrill out ofskipping in front of fast-moving vehicles. He enjoyshimself for a few years in spite of friendly warnings.Up to this point you would label him as a foolish
  49. 49. 38 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSchap having queer ideas of fun. Luck then deserts himand he is slightly injured several times in succession. Youwould expect him, if he were normal, to cut it out. Pres-ently he is hit again and this time has a fractured skull.Within a week after leaving the hospital a fast-movingtrolley car breaks his arm. He tells you he has decided tostop jay-walking for good, but in a few weeks he breaksboth legs. On through the years this conduct continues, accompa-nied by his continual promises to be careful or to keepoff the streets altogether. Finally, he can no longer work,his wife gets a divorce and he is held up to ridicule. Hetries every known means to get the jay-walking idea outof his head. He shuts himself up in an asylum, hoping tomend his ways. But the day he comes out he races infront of a fire engine, which breaks his back. Such a manwould be crazy, wouldn’t he? You may think our illustration is too ridiculous. But isit? We, who have been through the wringer, have toadmit if we substituted alcoholism for jay-walking, theillustration would fit us exactly. However intelligent wemay have been in other respects, where alcohol has beeninvolved, we have been strangely insane. It’s strong lan-guage—but isn’t it true? Some of you are thinking: “Yes, what you tell us istrue, but it doesn’t fully apply. We admit we havesome of these symptoms, but we have not gone to theextremes you fellows did, nor are we likely to, for weunderstand ourselves so well after what you have toldus that such things cannot happen again. We have notlost everything in life through drinking and we
  50. 50. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 39certainly do not intend to. Thanks for the informa-tion.” That may be true of certain nonalcoholic people who,though drinking foolishly and heavily at the presenttime, are able to stop or moderate, because their brainsand bodies have not been damaged as ours were. Butthe actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an excep-tion, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on thebasis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish toemphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon ouralcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out ofbitter experience. Let us take another illustration. Fred is partner in a well known accounting firm. Hisincome is good, he has a fine home, is happily marriedand the father of promising children of college age. Hehas so attractive a personality that he makes friendswith everyone. If ever there was a successful businessman, it is Fred. To all appearance he is a stable, wellbalanced individual. Yet, he is alcoholic. We first sawFred about a year ago in a hospital where he had gone torecover from a bad case of jitters. It was his first expe-rience of this kind, and he was much ashamed of it. Farfrom admitting he was an alcoholic, he told himself hecame to the hospital to rest his nerves. The doctorintimated strongly that he might be worse than he real-ized. For a few days he was depressed about his condi-tion. He made up his mind to quit drinking altogether.It never occurred to him that perhaps he could not doso, in spite of his character and standing. Fred wouldnot believe himself an alcoholic, much less accept aspiritual remedy for his problem. We told him what
  51. 51. 40 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSwe knew about alcoholism. He was interested and con-ceded that he had some of the symptoms, but he was along way from admitting that he could do nothing aboutit himself. He was positive that this humiliating experi-ence, plus the knowledge he had acquired, would keephim sober the rest of his life. Self-knowledge would fix it. We heard no more of Fred for a while. One day we weretold that he was back in the hospital. This time he wasquite shaky. He soon indicated he was anxious to see us.The story he told is most instructive, for here was a chapabsolutely convinced he had to stop drinking, who hadno excuse for drinking, who exhibited splendid judgmentand determination in all his other concerns, yet was flaton his back nevertheless. Let him tell you about it: “I was much impressed withwhat you fellows said about alcoholism, and I franklydid not believe it would be possible for me to drink again.I rather appreciated your ideas about the subtle insanitywhich precedes the first drink, but I was confident itcould not happen to me after what I had learned. I rea-soned I was not so far advanced as most of you fellows,that I had been usually successful in licking my otherpersonal problems, and that I would therefore be suc-cessful where you men failed. I felt I had every right to beself-confident, that it would be only a matter of exercis-ing my will power and keeping on guard. “In this frame of mind, I went about my businessand for a time all was well. I had no trouble refusingdrinks, and began to wonder if I had not been makingtoo hard work of a simple matter. One day I went toWashington to present some accounting evidence to
  52. 52. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 41a government bureau. I had been out of town beforeduring this particular dry spell, so there was nothing newabout that. Physically, I felt fine. Neither did I have anypressing problems or worries. My business came offwell, I was pleased and knew my partners would be too.It was the end of a perfect day, not a cloud on the hori-zon. “I went to my hotel and leisurely dressed for dinner. AsI crossed the threshold of the dining room, the thoughtcame to mind that it would be nice to have a couple ofcocktails with dinner. That was all. Nothing more. Iordered a cocktail and my meal. Then I ordered anothercocktail. After dinner I decided to take a walk. When Ireturned to the hotel it struck me a highball would be finebefore going to bed, so I stepped into the bar and had one.I remember having several more that night and plentynext morning. I have a shadowy recollection of being inan airplane bound for New York and of finding a friendlytaxicab driver at the landing field instead of my wife. Thedriver escorted me about for several days. I know littleof where I went or what I said and did. Then came thehospital with unbearable mental and physical suffering. “As soon as I regained my ability to think, I wentcarefully over that evening in Washington. Not onlyhad I been off guard, I had made no fight whateveragainst the first drink. This time I had not thought ofthe consequences at all. I had commenced to drink ascarelessly as though the cocktails were ginger ale. Inow remembered what my alcoholic friends had toldme, how they prophesied that if I had an alcoholicmind, the time and place would come—I would drink
  53. 53. 42 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSagain. They had said that though I did raise a defense, itwould one day give way before some trivial reason forhaving a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, forwhat I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all.I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. Isaw that will power and self-knowledge would not help inthose strange mental blank spots. I had never been able tounderstand people who said that a problem had them hope-lessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow. “Two of the members of AlcoholicsAnonymous cameto see me. They grinned, which I didn’t like so much, andthen asked me if I thought myself alcoholic and if I werereally licked this time. I had to concede both proposi-tions. They piled on me heaps of evidence to the effectthat an alcoholic mentality, such as I had exhibited inWashington, was a hopeless condition. They cited casesout of their own experience by the dozen. This processsnuffed out the last flicker of conviction that I could dothe job myself. “Then they outlined the spiritual answer and programof action which a hundred of them had followed success-fully. Though I had been only a nominal churchman, theirproposals were not, intellectually, hard to swallow. Butthe program of action, though entirely sensible, was prettydrastic. It meant I would have to throw several lifelongconceptions out of the window. That was not easy. Butthe moment I made up my mind to go through with theprocess, I had the curious feeling that my alcoholic con-dition was relieved, as in fact it proved to be. “Quite as important was the discovery that spiritualprinciples would solve all my problems. I have since
  54. 54. MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM 43been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfy-ing and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before.My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but Iwould not exchange its best moments for the worst Ihave now. I would not go back to it even if I could.” Fred’s story speaks for itself. We hope it strikes hometo thousands like him. He had felt only the first nip ofthe wringer. Most alcoholics have to be pretty badlymangled before they really commence to solve their prob-lems. Many doctors and psychiatrists agree with our conclu-sions. One of these men, staff member of a world-re-nowned hospital, recently made this statement to someof us: “What you say about the general hopelessness ofthe average alcoholic’s plight is, in my opinion, correct.As to two of you men, whose stories I have heard, thereis no doubt in my mind that you were 100% hopeless,apart from divine help. Had you offered yourselves aspatients at this hospital, I would not have taken you, if Ihad been able to avoid it. People like you are too heart-breaking. Though not a religious person, I have profoundrespect for the spiritual approach in such cases as yours.For most cases, there is virtually no other solution.” Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effec-tive mental defense against the first drink. Except in afew rare cases, neither he nor any other human being canprovide such a defense. His defense must come from aHigher Power.
  55. 55. Chapter 4 WE AGNOSTICSI N THE PRECEDING chapters you have learned some- thing of alcoholism. We hope we have made clear thedistinction between the alcoholic and the nonalcoholic.If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quitentirely, or if when drinking, you have little control overthe amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If thatbe the case, you may be suffering from an illness whichonly a spiritual experience will conquer. To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such anexperience seems impossible, but to continue as he ismeans disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of thehopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death orto live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alterna-tives to face. But it isn’t so difficult. About half our original fellow-ship were of exactly that type. At first some of us triedto avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not truealcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact thatwe must find a spiritual basis of life—or else. Perhaps itis going to be that way with you. But cheer up, some-thing like half of us thought we were atheists or agnos-tics. Our experience shows that you need not be discon-certed. If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of lifewere sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us
  56. 56. WE AGNOSTICS 45would have recovered long ago. But we found that suchcodes and philosophies did not save us, no matter howmuch we tried. We could wish to be moral, we couldwish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we couldwill these things with all our might, but the needed powerwasn’t there. Our human resources, as marshalled by thewill, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find apower by which we could live, and it had to be a Powergreater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and howwere we to find this Power? Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its mainobject is to enable you to find a Power greater than your-self which will solve your problem. That means we havewritten a book which we believe to be spiritual as well asmoral. And it means, of course, that we are going to talkabout God. Here difficulty arises with agnostics. Manytimes we talk to a new man and watch his hope rise as wediscuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellow-ship. But his face falls when we speak of spiritual mat-ters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatlyevaded or entirely ignored. We know how he feels. We have shared his honestdoubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violentlyanti-religious. To others, the word “God” brought upa particular idea of Him with which someone had triedto impress them during childhood. Perhaps we re-jected this particular conception because it seemed in-adequate. With that rejection we imagined we hadabandoned the God idea entirely. We were bothered
  57. 57. 46 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSwith the thought that faith and dependence upon a Powerbeyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly.We looked upon this world of warring individuals, war-ring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, withdeep skepticism. We looked askance at many individu-als who claimed to be godly. How could a SupremeBeing have anything to do with it all? And who couldcomprehend a Supreme Being anyhow? Yet, in othermoments, we found ourselves thinking, when enchantedby a starlit night, “Who, then, made all this?” Therewas a feeling of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting andsoon lost. Yes, we of agnostic temperament have had these thoughtsand experiences. Let us make haste to reassure you. Wefound that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudiceand express even a willingness to believe in a Powergreater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, eventhough it was impossible for any of us to fully define orcomprehend that Power, which is God. Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need toconsider another’s conception of God. Our own concep-tion, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the ap-proach and to effect a contact with Him. As soon as weadmitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence,a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things,we began to be possessed of a new sense of power anddirection, provided we took other simple steps. We foundthat God does not make too hard terms with those whoseek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, allinclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who ear-nestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.
  58. 58. WE AGNOSTICS 47 When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we meanyour own conception of God. This applies, too, to otherspiritual expressions which you find in this book. Donot let any prejudice you may have against spiritual termsdeter you from honestly asking yourself what they meanto you. At the start, this was all we needed to commencespiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relationwith God as we understood Him. Afterward, we foundourselves accepting many things which then seemed en-tirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished togrow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our ownconception, however limited it was. We needed to ask ourselves but one short question.“Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, thatthere is a Power greater than myself ?” As soon as a mancan say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, weemphatically assure him that he is on his way. It hasbeen repeatedly proven among us that upon this simplecornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structurecan be built.* That was great news to us, for we had assumed we couldnot make use of spiritual principles unless we acceptedmany things on faith which seemed difficult to believe.When people presented us with spiritual approaches, howfrequently did we all say, “I wish I had what that man has.I’m sure it would work if I could only believe as he be-lieves. But I cannot accept as surely true the many articlesof faith which are so plain to him.” So it was comforting tolearn that we could commence at a simpler level. Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith,*Please be sure to read “Spiritual Experience.”
  59. 59. 48 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSwe often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sen-sitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us havebeen so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual thingsmade us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking hadto be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we foundno great difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Facedwith alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open mindedon spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other ques-tions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. Itfinally beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimesthis was a tedious process; we hope no one else will beprejudiced for as long as some of us were. The reader may still ask why he should believe in aPower greater than himself. We think there are goodreasons. Let us have a look at some of them. The practical individual of today is a stickler for factsand results. Nevertheless, the twentieth century readilyaccepts theories of all kinds, provided they are firmlygrounded in fact. We have numerous theories, for ex-ample, about electricity. Everybody believes them with-out a murmur of doubt. Why this ready acceptance?Simply because it is impossible to explain what we see,feel, direct, and use, without a reasonable assumption asa starting point. Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assumptionsfor which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof.And does not science demonstrate that visual proof is theweakest proof? It is being constantly revealed, as mankindstudies the material world, that outward appearances arenot inward reality at all. To illustrate: The prosaic steel girder is a mass of electrons whirl-
  60. 60. WE AGNOSTICS 49ing around each other at incredible speed. These tinybodies are governed by precise laws, and these lawshold true throughout the material world. Science tellsus so. We have no reason to doubt it. When, however,the perfectly logical assumption is suggested that un-derneath the material world and life as we see it, there isan All Powerful, Guiding, Creative Intelligence, rightthere our perverse streak comes to the surface and welaboriously set out to convince ourselves it isn’t so. Weread wordy books and indulge in windy arguments, think-ing we believe this universe needs no God to explain it.Were our contentions true, it would follow that life origi-nated out of nothing, means nothing, and proceeds no-where. Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spear-heads of God’s ever advancing Creation, we agnosticsand atheists chose to believe that our human intelligencewas the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginningand end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn’t it? We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you tolay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. Wehave learned that whatever the human frailties of vari-ous faiths may be, those faiths have given purpose anddirection to millions. People of faith have a logical ideaof what life is all about. Actually, we used to have noreasonable conception whatever. We used to amuse our-selves by cynically dissecting spiritual beliefs and prac-tices when we might have observed that many spiritu-ally-minded persons of all races, colors, and creeds weredemonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and use-fulness which we should have sought ourselves.