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M., the Bronx, NY.
445 in 2nd edition.)
"These were only beginning when
he hit Bellevue for the thirty-fifth time. He still had
the State hospital ahead of him; and even after A.A.,
a heartbreaking test of his new-found faith."
Joe joined A.A. in April
of 1939, but slipped in November 1939 and returned in February
Joe had been to Bellevue's
alcoholic ward thirty-five times. He thought that should
qualify him for A.A. because "they don't take you in the
Bellevue alcoholic ward for sinus trouble." His first trip
to Bellevue was at the age of seventeen, and he was called
an alcoholic at eighteen or nineteen. He was in jail perhaps
sixty-five or seventy-five times.
He got married in 1926,
thinking he would be able to stop drinking, and fathered
three children. After eleven years his wife decided to leave
with the children, but his sister intervened and suggested
that she pay for him to be treated by a psychiatrist. He
agreed because he had begun hallucinating. But he did not
cooperate with the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist suggested
he go back to Bellevue.
They put him in the mental
hospital, but he found he could get alcohol there too. His
ten-year-old son tried to support the family by shining
shoes. A doctor suggested he sign himself out and try to
support his family. But he couldn't hold a job and he couldn't
He went from one job to
another, until no one would hire him any more. He would
go to his son and tell him his mother had sent him to get
the money, and the son never refused him.
Eventually he was arrested
for a very serious crime that he didn't remember committing,
and could have been sent to Sing Sing for fifteen years.
But he was sentenced to the State hospital again.
It was there, in early 1939,
that a doctor called him into his office to meet Bill W.
and five other A.A.s who were trying to get A.A. into the
hospital. Some time later he went to his first meeting in
South Orange, New Jersey.
For seven months his wife
accompanied him to the meetings. The first time he went
alone, he didn't stay until the end, but instead got drunk.
Three months later he was back in the State Hospital. He
knew that A.A. had not failed him. He had failed A.A. He
had not been honest with himself or with anybody else. So
he saw a priest at the hospital and took a very thorough
For nearly a year he couldn't
get a job so he spent many hours at the A.A. clubhouse on
His wife got pregnant again.
It was a very dangerous pregnancy and when she was delivering
the baby he thought she was dying and went to a bar. In
the bar he decided to try prayer. He walked out of the bar
after having only a ginger ale and went to the clubhouse.
About one in the morning he got a telegram from the hospital.
He had a daughter and she was fine. He thanked God that
he hadn't had a drink.
It took him seventeen months
to get a job. He didn't like the job he got and was going
to give it another week and if no other job came along get
drunk. Before that week was up, two men he had worked for
a long time before showed up at his house and offered him
a job. They had heard he was in A.A. and doing all right.
He said good news travels fast in A.A.
But tragedy lay ahead. The
son who had been shining shoes at the age of ten, on his
sixteenth birthday was in a trolley car accident only two
blocks from home. He regained consciousness once in the
thirteen hours Joe was with him. He seemed to be trying
to tell his father "I'm losing this battle, dad, but don't
let this throw you."
Joe was going to go on a
suicide drunk, and if that didn't work jump out a window.
But before he could do that his phone rang. It was an A.A.
member in Ohio. He had heard the news and called to tell
him not to drink over it. Another called from Connecticut.
Others called, and while he was still answering calls an
A.A. friend walked in and stayed with him that night. The
next morning the undertaker came to take him to the hospital
morgue to identify his son. His A.A. friend went with him,
and the undertaker was also in A.A.
"Well, when that slab was
pulled out for me to identify my son's body, if I didn't
have A.A. on my right and A.A. on my left I wouldn't be
So his length of sobriety
wasn't handed to him on a silver platter. But he was sober
over eleven years when he wrote his story, "thanks to the
good people of A.A., and last but not least by the Grace