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Anonymous World Services, Inc.
was introduced to AA in late winter or early spring 1940
by C. Dudley Saul, M.D. Dr. Saul was our family physician
and when my drinking reached the critical point in late
1938, my wife, Marie, called him in to see what he could
do. It so happened that Dr. Saul had two sons who were alcoholics
and had struggled without much success to straighten them
out. He told me, John youre an alcoholic.
My reply was, Yes? And, he added,
you are going to die or go crazy. Is that
all? I asked. Thats all, he replied,
unless you make up your mind never to take a drink
I was in an emotional state where I was not inclined to
quarrel with his diagnosis or his remedy but what was interesting
to me as I looked back on that experience was that in 17
years of drinking Dr. Saul told me for the first time I
had ever heard what was wrong with me.
Dr. Saul suggested going to a Turkish bath to get the alcohol
out of my system - a mistaken program as we now know but
it seemed to make sense. So I sweated at the bath for a
couple of days and drank at the doctors suggestion
lots of liquids.
Then I did what we tell AA prospects to do: I called my
father, a clergyman who had been sorely grieved by my drinking,
and told him that I was going to quit. He was delighted;
he said nothing like its about time as
might be expected; he came to see me and we had a good talk
and cemented the bonds of love which held us together; I
called my boss and told him what had happened and he, too,
was pleased and told me to take whatever time I needed to
get back in shape.
There was no AA in Philadelphia where my home was at the
time, but Dr. Saul, in effect had his own group. His patients,
and there were others like me, were invited to come by his
office (thus reminding ourselves we were sick), say hello
to him and report on how things were going, and chat with
other patients in his waiting room. Ive often wondered
what Dr. Sauls non-alcoholic patients thought of what
was going on.
And so I stayed dry, helping by the expression of confidence
by the members of my church (of which father was the pastor)
who elected me a Ruling Elder, the highest office a layman
can hold in our Presbyterian system. After that there were
many times I wanted a drink very badly but although I might
have taken one as far as I was concerned or father, or Marie
or Dr. Saul were concerned but I just couldnt let
those people down who had trusted me.
Early in 1940 Jimmy B. came over to Philadelphia from New
York and, in effect, brought AA to the city. He got in touch
with Dr. Saul and with another physician, Dr. Wiese Hammer
and told them about AA. The two doctors were on the staff
of St. Lukes & Childrens Medical Center
and they invited the tiny new AA group to meet at the hospital.
What this meant to AA was tremendous; it gave sponsorship
and emphasized the AA message, that alcoholics are sick
people. And Dr. Saul told me about the new group and advised
me to go.
So I went. The first meeting was chaired by a man who had
been a member of the Oxford Group, with which I had had
unfortunate experiences in school and college. So the next
day I told Dr. Saul I wanted none of it. John,
he said, how many AA meetings have you been to?
I told him, Only the one, of course. Well,
he replied, dont be such a mental snob. You
go back. You need AA and AA needs you. So I did go
back and attend the weekly meetings faithfully.
That was where I met Bill W. He came over to our meetings
from New York rather frequently in those early days and
helped make the Philadelphia group a success.
I continued in the Philadelphia group until early 1942 when
I got a job in Washington and started attending meetings
there. I dont recall ever seeing Bill at any of our
Anonymous World Services, Inc.
The material quoted is from Johnny L. (1903-1983), also
known by his full name, John P. L., who was an alcoholic
Trustee 1957-1961, a contributor to the AA Grapevine,
and a well-known speaker, especially on the Twelve Steps.
He lived the last twenty-plus years of his life in Albuquerque.
Johnny was instrumental in re-founding or rebuilding early
groups in Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley, as well as
elsewhere in PA, in the years from the late 1940s to the
mid-1950s. Please note that the full final text of which
this is part is in the Archives in New York in a letter
to Nell Wing. The abbreviated text here was earlier written
for the Philadelphia Archives.