| print this
"The European Drinker"
D., Cleveland, Ohio.
(OM, p. 206 in 1st edition, p. 230
in 2nd and 3rd editions.)
"Beer and wine were not the answer."
Joe's date of sobriety was
April 1936. He was 12th stepped by Dr. Bob, and was probably
the first Roman Catholic in A.A.
He was born in Germany and
grew up on "good Rhine wine of song and story." His parents
wanted him to become a priest and he attended a Franciscan
school at Basle, Switzerland. But although he was a good
Catholic, the monastic life did not appeal to him, so he
became a harness-maker and upholsterer.
He drank about a quart of
wine a day, which was common in his part of the world. Everybody
He did his compulsory military
service, and took part in the Boxer Rebellion in China.
There he experimented with more potent beverages. When he
returned to Germany he resumed his wine drinking.
At age twenty-four, he came
to America and settled in Cleveland where he had relatives.
He founded a mattress factory and was doing well with his
general upholstering work, and there was every indication
that he would be financially independent by the time he
was middle aged. By this time he was married and was paying
for a home.
He thought American wine
inferior to German so drank beer instead. When Prohibition
became law he quit drinking altogether, since he couldn't
get what he liked. He hardly tasted anything for two years.
Soon like his friends, he
began to drink home-brew, which was a lot stronger than
he had been used to. More and more he started doing some
of his business in the speakeasy. There he could buy whiskey,
which was easier to transport than beer or wine, and he
developed a taste for hard liquor.
It soon became obvious that
he had a problem with alcohol. He became a periodic drinker,
and was eased out of the business he had founded and was
reduced to doing general upholstery in a small shop at the
back of his house.
His wife complained about
his drinking, so he hid bottles all over the house. At times
he would resolve never to drink again and pour out full
pints and smash the bottles, only to find himself frantically
searching for any he missed so he could have a drink.
He began to absence himself
from the church where he had formerly been a member of the
choir. He never asked the priest to give him the pledge
like many other Catholic alcoholics did. (It was common
at that time for Roman Catholics who had problems with alcohol
to pledge to a priest that they would stop drinking. It
usually didn't work if the man was an alcoholic.)
Then occurred the event
that saved him. Dr. Bob visited him. He did not ask any
questions except whether he was definite about his desire
to quit drinking. There were no more than four or five in
Dr. Bob's group at the time, but they befriended him. He
was advised "You've been trying man's ways and they always
fail. You can't win unless you try God's way."
He had no problem with what
they were teaching him because his church taught the same
thing. He put into practice what he was being taught and
soon Dr. Bob sent him to talk to other alcoholics.
The first few months were
hard: business trials, little worries, and feelings of general
despondency nearly drove him to the bottle, but he made
progress in the spiritual life.
"As I go along I seem
to get strength daily to be able to resist more easily.
And when I get upset, cross-grained and out of tune with
my fellow man I know that I am out of tune with God. Searching
where I have been at fault, it is not hard to discover and
get right again, for I have proven to myself and to many
others who know me that God can keep a man sober if he will
Dorothy S., the wife of
Clarence S. ("The Home Brewmeister"), was eager to help
this group reach other alcoholics. She approached Rev. Dilworth
Lupton, of the First Unitarian Church in Cleveland, concerning
the group, but he was negative about the Oxford Group and
wanted nothing to do with it. After the Cleveland members
broke away from the Oxford Group, she approached him again,
this time with a copy of the book and with the names of
some Roman Catholics who were members. Among the names was
that of Joe D. The fact Joe D. was associated with this
new Cleveland group was sufficient proof to Reverend Lupton
that the alcoholic fellowship had indeed broken with the
Oxford Group, and he offered to help in any way he could.
He preached a sermon called
"Mr. X. and Alcoholics Anonymous," which Dorothy arranged
to have covered by the press. It was later made into one
of the first pamphlets used by Cleveland A.A.