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"The Keys of the Kingdom"
K., Chicago, Illinois.
Keys of the Kingdom — Sylvia Kauffmann, Chicago,
(p. 304 in 2nd and 3rd editions, p. 268 in the 4th edition.)
"This worldly lady helped to
develop A.A. in Chicago and thus passed her keys to many."
According to member list
index cards kept by the Chicago group, Sylvia's date of
sobriety was September 13, 1939. Because of slips by Marty
M. ("Women Suffer Too,") Sylvia may have been the first
woman to achieve long term sobriety.
Sylvia was raised in a good
environment with loving and conscientious parents and given
every advantage: the best schools, summer camps, resort
vacations and travel. She had her first drink at sixteen
and loved what it did for her.
She was the product of the
post-war prohibition era of the roaring '20s. She married
at twenty, had two children, and was divorced at twenty-three.
This gave her a good excuse to drink. By twenty-five she
had developed into an alcoholic.
She began making the rounds
of the doctors in the hope that one of them might find a
cure for her accumulating ailments, most of whom prescribed
sedatives and advised rest and moderation.
Between the ages of twenty-five
and thirty she tried everything. She moved to Chicago thinking
a new environment would help. She tried all sorts of things
to control her drinking: the beer diet, the wine diet, timing,
measuring, and spacing of drinks. Nothing worked.
The next three years saw
her in sanitariums, once in a ten-day coma from which she
very nearly died. She wanted to die, but had lost the courage
For about one year prior
to this time there was one doctor who did not give up on
her. He tried everything he could think of, including having
her go to mass every morning at six a.m., and performing
the most menial labor for his charity patients. This doctor
apparently had the intuitive knowledge that spirituality
and helping others might be the answer.
In the 1939 this doctor
heard of the book Alcoholics Anonymous and wrote to New
York for a copy. After reading it he tucked it under his
arm and called on Sylvia. That visit marked the turning
point of her life.
He must have studied the
book carefully because he took its advice. He gave her the
cold, hard facts about her condition, and that she would
either die of acute alcoholism, develop a wet brain, or
have to be put away permanently.
Then he told her of the
handful of people in Akron and New York who seemed to have
worked out a technique for arresting their alcoholism. He
asked her to read the book and to talk with a man who experiencing
success by using this plan. This was Earl T. ("He Sold Himself
Short"), the "Mr. T." to whom she refers on page 309.
Earl suggested she visit
Akron. According to Bill W., she got off to a slow start
there, and may also have been a pill addict. She took a
lot of "little white pills" which she claimed were saccharin,
and no one could understand why she was so rubber-legged.
A nurse was flown in, presumably from Chicago, to take care
Sylvia stayed two weeks
at Clarence (Clarence S., "The Home Brewmeister") and
Dorothy S.'s home in Cleveland. She met Dr. Bob, who brought
other A.A. men to meet her. Dorothy S. said that the men
"were only too willing to talk to her after they saw her."
Sylvia was a glamorous divorcee, extremely good looking,
and rich. But these attractions probably did not help her
with the wives of the alcoholics, who were known on occasion
to run women out.
After meeting Dr. Bob she
wanted to move to Akron, but this caused great consternation,
since her presence threatened to disrupt the whole group.
Someone told her it would mean a great deal more if she
could go back and help in Chicago.
She went back to Chicago
where she eventually got sober. She worked closely with
Earl T., and her personal secretary, Grace C., became the
first secretary at the Intergroup office in Chicago, the
first in the country.
Sylvia updated her story
in the January 1969 issue of the "A.A. Grapevine." She tells
how busy her first ten years in A.A. were, but how all this
tremendous activity, by bringing her into almost constant
contact with other members, provided her with everything
she most desperately needed to save her life. As she looked
back she realized this was the most excitingly beautiful
period of her life.
When she wrote this update,
Sylvia had been living in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband,
Dr. Ed S., and was soon to celebrate their eighteenth wedding
anniversary. "He is an alky, too, and our lives have been
enriched by our mutual faith and perseverance in the A.A.
way of life. Through it we have found a quality of happiness
and serenity that, we believe, could not have been realized
in any other way. Small wonder our gratitude knows no bounds."