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W. Speaks of Pearl Harbor
Lecture 29 -As Given at the Yale School of
1945 -By Bill W.
first task is a joyous one; it is to voice the sincere gratitude
that every member of Alcoholics Anonymous present feels
tonight that we can stand in the midst of such an assembly.
I know that in this assembly there are many different points
of view, that we have social workers, ministers, doctors
and others - people we once thought did not understand us,
because we did not understand them. I think right away of
one of our clergyman friends. He helped start our group
in St. Louis, and when Pearl Harbor came he thought to himself,
"Well this will be a hard day for the A.A.'s." He expected
to see us go off like firecrackers. Well, nothing much happened
and the good man was rather joyously disappointed, you might
say. But he was puzzled. And then he noticed with still
more wonder that the A.A.s seemed rather less excited about
Pearl Harbor than the normal people. In fact, quite a number
of the so-called normal people seemed to be getting drunk
and very distressed. So he went up to one of the A.A.'s
and said, "Tell me, how is it that you folks hold up so
well under this stress, I mean this Pearl Harbor?" The A.A.
looked at him, smiled, but quite seriously said, "You know,
each of us has had his own private Pearl Harbor, each of
us has known the utmost of humiliation, of despair, and
of defeat. So why should we, who have known the resurrection,
fear another Pearl Harbor?"
you can see how grateful we are that we have found this
resurrection and that so many people, not alcoholics, with
so many points of view, have joined to make it a reality.
I guess all of you know Marty M. by this time. I shall always
remember her story about her first A.A. meeting. She had
been in a sanatorium under the care of a wonderful doctor,
but how very lonely she felt! Somehow, there was a gap between
that very good man and herself, which could not quite be
bridged. Then she went to her first A.A. meeting, wondering
what she would find; and her words, when she returned to
the sanatorium, in talking to her friend, another alcoholic,
were: "Grenny, we are no longer alone. " So we are a people
who have known loneliness, but now stand here in the midst
of many friends. Now I am sure you can see how very grateful
for all this we must be.
am sure that in this course you have heard that alcoholism
is a malady; that something is dead wrong with us physically;
that our reaction to alcohol has changed; that something
has been very wrong with us emotionally; and that our alcoholic
habit has become an obsession, an obsession which can no
longer reckon even with death itself. Once firmly set, one
is not able to turn it aside. In other words, a sort of
allergy of the body, which guarantees that we shall die
if we drink, an obsession of the mind which guarantees that
we shall go on drinking. Such has been the alcoholics dilemma
time out of mind, and it is altogether probable that even
those alcoholics who did not wish to go on drinking, not
more than 5 out of 100 have ever been able to stop, before
statement always takes me back to a summer night at a drying
out place in New York where I lay upstairs at the end of
a long trail. My wife was downstairs talking with the doctor,
asking him, "Bill wants so badly to stop this thing, doctor,
why can't he? He was always considered a person of enormous
persistence, even obstinacy, in those things that he wished
to achieve. Why can't his will power work now? It does work
even yet in other areas of life, but why not in this?" And
then the doctor went on to tell her something of my childhood,
showing that I had grown up a rather awkward kid, how that
had thrown upon me a kind of inferiority and had inspired
in me a fierce desire to show other people that I could
be like them; how I had become a person who abnormally craved
approval, applause. He showed her the seed, planted so early,
that had created me an inferiority-driven neurotic. On the
surface, to be sure, very self confident, with a certain
amount of worldly success in Wall Street. But along with
it this habit of getting release from myself through alcohol.
know, as strange as it may seem to some of the clergy here
who are not alcoholic, the drinking of alcohol is a sort
of spiritual release. Is it not true that the great fault
of all individuals is abnormal self-concern? And how well
alcohol seems temporarily to expel those feelings of inferiority
in us, to transport us temporarily to a better world. Yes,
I was one of those people to whom drink became a necessity
and then an addiction. So it was 10 years ago this summer
that the good doctor told my wife I could not go on much
longer; that my habit of adjusting my neurosis with alcohol
had now become an obsession; how that obsession of my mind
condemned me to go on drinking, and how my physical sensitivity
guaranteed that I would go crazy or die, perhaps within
a year. Yes, that was my dilemma. It has been the dilemma
of millions of us, and still is.
of you wonder, "Well, he had been instructed by a good physician,
he had been told about his maladjustment, he understood
himself, he new that his increasing physical sensitivity
meant that he would go out into the dark and join the endless
procession. Why couldn't he stop? Why wouldn't fear hold
such a man in check?"
I left that place, fear did keep me in check for 2 or 3
months. Then came a day when I drank again. And then came
a time when an old friend, a former alcoholic, called me
on the phone and said that he was coming over. It was perhaps
right there on that very day that the Alcoholics Anonymous
commenced to take shape. I remember his coming into my kitchen,
where I was half drunk. I was afraid that perhaps he had
come to reform me. You know, curiously enough, we alcoholics
are very sensitive on this subject of reform. I could not
quite make out my friend. I could see something different
about him but I could put my finger on it. So finally I
said, "Ebby, what's got into you?" And he said, "Well, I've
got religion." That shocked me terribly, for I was one of
those people with a dandy modern education which had taught
me that self-sufficiency would be enough to carry me through
life, and here was a man talking a point of view which collided
did not go on colliding with me. He knew, as a former agnostic,
what my prejudices were, so he said to me, blandly enough,
"Well, Bill, I don't know that I'd call it religion exactly,
but call it what you may, it works." I said, "What is it?
What do you mean? Tell me more about this thing?" He said,
"Some people came and got hold of me. They said, "Ebby,
you've tried medicine, you've tried religion, you've tried
change of environment, I guess you've tried love, and none
of these things has been able to cure you of your liquor.
Now, here is an idea for you." And then he went on to tell
me how they explained, they said, "First of all, Ebby, why
don't you make a thorough appraisal of yourself? Stop finding
fault with other people. Make a thoroughgoing moral appraisal
of yourself. When have you been selfish, dishonest? And,
especially, where have you been intolerant? Perhaps those
are the things that underlie this alcoholism. And after
you have made such an appraisal of yourself, why don't you
sit down and talk it out with someone in full and quit this
accursed business of living alone? Put an end to this Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation into which you have fallen.
And then, why don't you continue this policy of abating
the disturbance in yourself? Why don't you take stock of
all the people among your acquaintances that you have hurt
- all of the people who annoy you, who disturb you? Why
don't you go out to them and make amends; set things right
and talk things out, and get down these strains that exist
between you and them? Then, Ebby, we have still another
proposal. Why don't you try the kind of giving that demands
no reward? We don't mean the mere giving of money, though
you once had plenty of that. No, we mean the giving of yourself
to someone who is in need. Why don't you try that? Seek
out someone in need and forget your own troubles by becoming
interested in his." Ebby said, "Where does religion come
in?" And his friends went on to say, "Ebby, it is our experience
that no one can carry out such a program with enough thoroughness
and enough continuity on pure self-sufficiency. One must
have help. Now we are willing to help you, as individuals,
but we think you ought to call upon a power greater than
yourself, for your dilemma is well nigh insurmountable.
So, call on God as you understand God. Try prayer." Well,
in effect, that was the explanation my friend made to me.
Those of you who know a little of the A.A. are already able
to see a little of the basic idea.
see, here was my friend talking to me, one alcoholic talking
to another. I could no longer say, "He doesn't understand
me." Sure he understood me. We had done a lot of drinking
together, and gone the route of humiliation, despair and
defeat. Yes, he could understand. But now he had something.
He did not shock me by calling it the resurrection, but
that's what it was. He had something I did not have, and
those were the terms upon which it could be obtained.
with oneself and other people, the kind of giving that demands
no return, and prayer. Those were the essentials. My friend
then got up and went away, but he had been very careful
not to force any of his views upon me. In no sense could
I have the feeling that he was moralizing with me or preaching,
because I knew it was not long ago that he was no better
than I. He merely said that he was leaving these ideas with
me, hoping that they would help.
so, I was irritated, because he had struck a blow at my
pet philosophy of self-sufficiency, and was talking about
dependence upon some power greater than myself. "Ah yes,"
I thought, as I went on drinking, "yes it's this preacher
stuff. Yes, I remember, up in the old home town where my
grandfather raised me, how the deacon, who was so good,
treated Ed M., the local drunk - as dirt under his feet;
and more than that, the old son of a gun short weighted
my good old grandfather in his grocery store. If that's
religion, I don't want any of it." Such were my prejudices.
But the whole point of this was that my friend had got onto
my level. He had penetrated my prejudices, although he had
not swept them all away.
drank on but I kept turning this thing over in my mind,
and finally asked myself, "Well how much better off am I
than a cancer patient." But a small percentage of those
people recover, and the same is true with alcoholics, for
by this time I knew quite a good deal about alcoholism.
I knew that my chances were very, very slim. I knew that,
in spite of all the vigilance in the world, this obsession
would pursue me, even if I dried up temporarily. Yes, how
much better off was I than a cancer patient? Then I began
to say to myself, "Well who are beggars to be choosers?
Why should a man be talking about self-sufficiency when
an obsession has condemned him to have none of it? Then
I became utterly willing to do anything, to try to accept
any point of view, to make any sacrifice, yes, even to try
to love my enemies, if I could get rid of this obsession.
First, I went up to a hospital to ask the doctor to clear
me up so I could think things through clearly. And again,
came my friend, the second day that I was there. Again I
was afraid, knowing that he had religion that he was going
to reform me. I cannot express the unreasonable prejudice
that the alcoholics have against reform. That is one reason
that it has been so hard to reach them. We should not be
that way but we are. And here was my friend, trying to do
his best for me, but the first thought that flashed across
my mind was, "I guess this is the day that he is going to
save me. Look out! He'll bring in that high powered sweetness
and light, he'll be talking about a lot of this prayer business."
But Ebby was a good general, and it's a good thing for me
he did not collide with those prejudices of mine. He just
paid me a friendly visit, and he came up there quite early
in the morning. I kept waiting and waiting for him to start
his reform talk, but no, he didn't. So finally I had to
ask for some of it myself. I said, "Ebby, tell me once more
about how you dried up." And he reviewed it again for me.
with oneself, of a kind I had never had before. Complete
honesty with someone else. Straightening out all my twisted
relationships as best I could. Giving of myself to help
someone else in need. And prayer.
he had gone away, I fell into a very deep depression, the
blackest that I had ever known. And in that desperation,
I cried out, "If there is a God, will He show Himself?"
Then came a sudden experience in which it seemed the room
lit up. It felt as though I stood on the top of a mountain,
that a great clean wind blew, that I was free. The sublime
paradox of strength coming out of weakness.
I called in the doctor and tried to tell him, as best I
could, what had happened. And he said, "Yes, I have read
of such experiences but I have never seen one." I said,
"Well doctor, examine me, have I gone crazy?" And he did
examine me and said, "No boy, you're not crazy. Whatever
it is, you'd better hold onto it. It's so much better than
what had you just a few hours ago." Well, along with thousands
of other alcoholics, I have been holding on to it ever since.
that was only the beginning. And at the time, I actually
thought that it was the end, you might say, of all my troubles.
I began there, out of this sudden illumination, not only
to get benefits, but to draw some serious liabilities. One
of those that came immediately was one that you might call
Divine Appointment. I actually thought, I had the conceit
really to believe, that God had selected me, by this sudden
flash of Presence, to dry up all the drunks in the world.
I really believed it. I also got another liability out of
the experience, and that was that it had to happen in some
particular way just like mine or else it would be of no
use. In other words, I conceived myself as going out, getting
hold of these drunks, and producing in them just the same
kind of experience that I had had. Down in New York, where
they knew me pretty well in the A.A., they facetiously call
these sudden experiences that we sometimes have a "W.W.
hot flash." I really thought that I had been endowed with
the power to go out and produce a "hot flash" just like
mine in every drunk.
I started off; I was inspired; I knew just how to do it,
as I thought then. Well, I worked like thunder for 6 months
and not one alcoholic got dried up. What were the natural
reactions then? I suppose some of you here, who have worked
with alcoholics, have a pretty good idea. The first reaction
was one of great self-pity; the other was a kind of martyrdom.
I began to say, "Well, I suppose that this is the kind of
stuff that martyrs are made of but I will keep on at all
costs." I kept on, and I kept on, until I finally got so
full of self-pity and intolerance (our two greatest enemies
in the A.A.) that I nearly got drunk myself. So I began
to reconsider. I began to say, "Yes, I found my relief in
this particular way, and glorious it was and is, for it
is still the central experience of my whole life. But who
am I to suppose that every other human being ought to think,
act and react just as I do? Maybe were all very much alike
in a great many respects but, as individuals, we're different
that juncture I was in Akron on a trip, and I got a very
severe business setback. I was walking along in the corridor
of the hotel, wondering how God could be so mean. After
all the good I had done Him - why, I had worked here with
drunks for six months and nothing had happened - and now
here was a situation that was going to set me up in business
and I had been thrown out of it by dishonest people. Then
I began to think, "That spiritual experience - was it real?"
I began to have doubts. Then I suddenly realized that I
might get drunk. Buy I also realized that those other times
when I had had self-pity, those other times when I had had
resentment and intolerance, those other times when there
was that feeling of insecurity, that worry as to where the
next meal would come from; yes, to talk with another alcoholic
even though I failed with him, was better than to do nothing.
But notice how my motivation was shifting all this time.
No longer was I preaching from any moral hilltop or from
the vantage point of a wonderful spiritual experience. No,
this time I was looking for another alcoholic, because I
felt that I needed him twice as much as he needed me. And
that's when I came across Dr. "Bob" S. out in Akron. That
was just nine years ago this summer.
Bob S. recovered. Then we two frantically set to work on
alcoholics in Akron. Well, again came this tendency to preach,
again this feeling that it has to be done in some particular
way, again discouragement, so our progress was very slow.
But little by little we were forced to analyze our experiences
and say, "This approach didn't work very well with that
fellow. Why not? Let's try to put ourselves in his shoes
and stop this preaching. See how we might be approached
if we were he." That began to lead us to the idea that A.A.
should be no set of fixed ideas, but should be a growing
thing, growing out of experience. After a while, we began
to reflect: " This wonderful blessing that has come to us,
from what does it get its origin?" It was a spiritual awakening
growing out of painful adversity. So then we began to look
the harder for our mistakes, to correct them, to capitalize
upon our errors. And little by little we began to grow so
that there were 5 of us at the end of that first year; at
the end of the second year, 15; at the end of the third
year, 40; at the end of the forth year, 100.
those first 4 years most of us had another bad form of intolerance.
As we commenced to have a little success, I am afraid our
pride got the better of us and it was our tendency to forget
about our friends. We were very likely to say, "Well, those
doctors didn't do anything for us, and as for these sky
pilots, well, they just don't know the score." And we became
snobbish and patronizing.
we read a book by Dr. Carrel. From that book came an argument,
which is now a part of our system. (How much we may agree
with the book in general, I don't know, but in this respect
the A.A.'s think he had something.) Dr. Carrel wrote, in
effect; the world is full of analysts. We have tons of ore
in the mines and we have all kinds of building materials
above ground. Here is a man specializing in this, there
is a man specializing in that, and another one in something
else. The modern world is full of wonderful analysts and
diggers, but there are very few who deliberately synthesize,
who bring together different materials, who assemble new
things. We are much too shy on synthetic thinking - the
kind of thinking that's willing to reach out now here and
now there to see if something new cannot be evolved.
reading that book some of us realized that was just what
we had been groping toward. We had been trying to build
out of our own experiences. At this point we thought, "Let's
reach into other people's experiences. Let's go back to
our friends the doctors, let's go back to our friends the
preachers, the social workers, all those who have been concerned
with us, and again review what they have got above ground
and bring that into the synthesis. And let us, where we
can, bring them in where they will fit." So our process
of trial and error began and, at the end of 4 years, the
material was cast in the form of a book known as Alcoholics
Anonymous. And then our friends of the press came in and
they began to say nice things about us. That was not too
hard for them to do because by that time we had gotten hold
of the idea of not fighting anything or anyone. We began
to say, "Our only motive as an organization is to help the
alcoholic. And to help him we've got to reach him. Therefore,
we can't collide with his prejudices. So we ain't going
to get mixed up with controversial questions, no matter
what we, as individuals, think of them. We can't get concerned
with prohibition, or whether to drink or not to drink. We
can't get concerned with doctrine and dogma in a religious
sense. We can't get into politics, because that will arouse
prejudice which might keep away alcoholics who will go off
and die when they might have recovered."
began, then, to have a good press, because after all we
were just a lot of very sick people trying to help those
who wanted to be helped. And I am very happy to say that
in all the years since, not a syllable of ridicule, or criticism,
has ever been printed about us. For this we are very grateful.
experience led us to examine some of the obscure phrases
that we sometimes see in the Bible. It could not have been
presented at first, but sooner or later in his second, third,
or fourth year, the A.A. will be found reading his Bible
quite as often - or more -as he will a standard psychological
work. And you know, there we found a phrase, which began
to stick in the minds of some of us. It was this:
not evil." Well, after all, what is one going to think?
In this modern world, where everybody is fighting, here
came someone saying, "Resist not evil." What did that mean?
Did it mean anything? Was there anything in that phrase
for the A.A.'s?
we began to have some cases on which we could try out that
principle. I remember one case out of which some will get
a kick, and I imagine some others here may be a little shocked,
but I think there is a lesson in it, at least there was
for us, a lesson in tolerance. One time, after A.A. had
been going for 3 or 4 years, an alcoholic was brought into
our house over in Brooklyn where we were holding a meeting.
He is the type that some of us now call the blockbuster
variety. He often tells the story himself. His name is Jimmy.
Well, Jimmy came in and he was a man who had some very,
very fixed points of view. As a class, we alcoholics are
the worst possible people in this respect. I had many, many
fixed points of view myself, but Jimmy eclipsed us all.
Jimmy came into our little group - I guess there were then
30 or 40 of us meeting - and said, "I think you've got a
pretty good idea here. This idea of straightening things
out with other people is fine. Going over your own defects
is all right. Working with other drunks, that's swell. But
I don't like this God business." He got very emphatic about
it and we thought that he would quiet down or else he would
get drunk. He did neither. Time went on and Jimmy did not
quiet down; he began to tell the other people in the group,
"You don't need this God business. Look, I'm staying sober."
Finally, he got up in the meeting at our house, the first
time he was invited to speak - he had then been around for
a couple of months - and he went through his usual song
and dance of the desirability of being honest, straightening
things out with other people, etc. Then he said, "Damn this
God business." At that, people began to wince. I was deeply
shocked, and we had a hurried meeting of the "elders" over
in the corner. We said, "This fellow has got to be suppressed.
We can't have anyone ridiculing the very idea by which we
got hold of Jimmy and said, "Listen, you've got to stop
this anti-God talk if you're going to be around this section."
Jimmy was cocky and he said, "Is that so? Isn't it a fact
that you folks have been trying to write a book called Alcoholics
Anonymous, and haven't you got a typewritten introduction
in that book, lying over there on that shelf, and didn't
we read it here about a month ago and agree to it?" And
Jimmy went over and took down the introduction to Alcoholics
Anonymous and read out of it: "The only requirement for
membership in Alcoholics Anonymous is an honest desire to
get over drinking." Jimmy said, "Do you mean it or don't
you?" He rather had us there. He said, "I've been honest.
Didn't I get my wife back? Ain't I paying my bills? And
I'm helping other drunks every day." There was nothing we
could say. Then we began secretly to hope. Our intolerance
caused us to hope that he would get drunk. Well, he confounded
us; he did not get drunk, and louder and louder did he get
with his anti-God talk. Then we used to console ourselves
and say, "Well, after all, this is a very good practice
in tolerance for us, trying to accommodate ourselves to
Jimmy." But we never did really get accommodated.
day Jimmy got a job that took him out on the road, out from
under the old A.A. tent, you might say. And somewhere out
on the road his purely psychological system of staying dry
broke wide open, and sure enough he got drunk. In those
days, when an alcoholic got drunk, all the brethren would
come running, because we were still very afraid for ourselves
and no one knew who might be next. So there was great concern
about the brother who got drunk. But in Jimmy's case there
was no concern at all. He lay in a little hotel over in
Providence and he began to call up long distance. He wanted
money, he wanted this, he wanted that. After a while, Jimmy
hitchhiked back to New York. He put up at the house of a
friend of mine, where I was staying, and I came in late
that night. The next morning, Jimmy came walking downstairs
where my friend and I were consuming our morning gallon
of coffee. Jimmy looked at us and said, "Oh, have you people
had any meditation or prayer this morning?" We thought he
was being very sarcastic. But no, he meant it. We could
not get very much out of Jimmy about his experience, but
it appeared that over in that little second-rate hotel he
had nearly died from the worst seizure he had ever had,
and something in him had given way. I think it is just what
gave way in me. It was his prideful obstinacy. He had thought
to himself, "Maybe these fellows have got something with
their God-business." His hand reached out, in the darkness,
and touched something on his bureau. It was a Gideon Bible.
Jimmy picked it up and he read from it. I do not know just
what he read, and I have always had a queer reluctance to
ask him. But Jimmy has not had a drink to this day, and
that was about 5 years ago.
there were other fruits of what little tolerance and understanding
we did have. Not long ago I was in Philadelphia where we
have a large and strong group. I was asked to speak, and
the man who asked me was Jimmy, who was chairman of the
meeting. About 400 people were there. I told this story
about him and added: "Supposing that we had cast Jimmy out
in the dark, supposing that our intolerance of his point
of view had turned him away. Not only would Jimmy be dead,
but how many of us would be together here tonight so happily
secure?" So we in A.A. find that we have to carry tolerance
of other people's viewpoints to very great lengths. As someone
well put it, "Honesty gets us sober but tolerance keeps
would like to tell, in conclusion, one story about a man
in a little southern community. You know, we used to think
that perhaps A.A. was just for the big places; that in a
small town the social ostracism of the alcoholic would be
so great that they would be reluctant to get together as
a group; that there would be so much unkind gossip that
we sensitive folk just could not be brought together.
day our central office in New York received a little letter,
and it came from a narcotic addict who was just leaving
the Government hospital down in Lexington. Speaking of intolerance,
it is a strange fact that we alcoholics are very, very intolerant
of people who take "dope," and it is just as strange that
they are very intolerant of us. I remember meeting one,
one day, in the corridor of a hospital. I thought he was
an alcoholic, so I stopped the man and asked him for a match.
He drew himself up with great hauteur and said, "Get away
from me you damned alcoholic." At any rate, here was a letter
from a narcotic addict who explained that once upon a time
he had been an alcoholic, but for 12 years had been a drug
addict. He had got hold of the book Alcoholics Anonymous
and thought the spirit of that book had got hold of him,
and he wanted to go back to his own little southern town,
which was, Shelby, North Carolina, and start an A.A. group.
We were very skeptical of the offer. The very idea of a
narcotic addict starting an A.A. group, even if he had once
been an alcoholic! And here he was going to try to start
it in a little southern town in the midst of all this local
pride and gossip.
began to get letters from him and apparently he was doing
all right. He was a medical doctor, by the way, and he told
us modestly, as time went on, about getting a small crowd
of alcoholics together and having his trials and tribulations.
Mind you, we had never seen him all this time; he had just
been writing. He said that his practice had come back somewhat.
And so 3 years passed. We had a little pin on a map showing
that there was an Alcoholics Anonymous group at Shelby,
North Carolina. It happened that I was taking a trip south
to visit one of our southern groups. By this time the movement
had grown and I had gotten to be kind of a big shot, so
I thought, and I wondered, "Should I stop off at Shelby?
You know, after all, that's kind of a small group." It is
a great thing that I did stop off at Shelby, as you will
soon see. Down the station came a man, followed by two others.
The two in back of him were alcoholics, all right, but one
looked a little bit different. I saw, as he drew near, that
his lips were badly mangled, and I realized that this was
the drug addict, Dr. M. In the agony of his hangovers he
had chewed his lips to pieces. Yes, it was our man, and
he proved to be a wonderful person. He was really modest,
and that is something you seldom see in an ex-alcoholic.
He introduced me to the others, and we got into his car
and went over to the town of Shelby. I soon found myself
sitting at a table in one of those delightful southern ancestral
homes. Here were the man's mother - and his wife. They had
been married about 2 years and there was a new baby. The
practice had begun to come back. Still, there was very little
shoptalk at that meal; and there is no such thing as an
A.A. meal without shoptalk. I said, "Indeed, this fellow
is a very modest man, I never saw an alcoholic like him."
He spoke very little of his accomplishments for the group.
And then came the meeting that night. Here, next to the
barber shop in the hotel, on the most prominent corner in
Shelby, was the A.A. meeting room, with "A.A." looming big
up over the door. I thought, "Well, this chap must be some
went inside and there were 40 alcoholics and their wives
and friends. We had our meeting; I talked too much as I
always do, and the meeting was over. I began to reflect
that this was the largest Alcoholics Anonymous in all America
in proportion to the size of the town. What a wonderful
accomplishment! The next morning, my telephone rang in the
hotel. A man was downstairs and he said, "I'd like to come
up. There are some things you ought to know about Dr. M.
who got the A.A. group together in this town."
came this individual, and said, "You know, I too, was once
an alcoholic but for 22 years I've been on dope. I used
to meet our friend Dr. M. over in Lexington, and when he
got out of there and came back here, I heard he'd beaten
the dope game. So when I left, I started for Shelby, but
on my way I got back on morphine again. He took me into
his home and took me off it. Yes, I used to be a respectable
citizen of this state, I helped organize a lot of banks
here, but I've heard from my family only second-hand for
many years. It's my guess you don't know what southern pride
is, and you haven't any idea what this man faced when he
came back to this town to face the music. People wouldn't
speak to him for months. They'd say, "Why this fellow, the
son of our leading doctor, goes away, studies medicine,
comes back, and he's a drunk, and after a while, he's on
the dope. The townspeople wouldn't have much to do with
him when he first came, and I'm ashamed to say that the
local drunks wouldn't either, because they said, we am'
t going to be sobered up by a dope addict. But you see,
Dr. M. himself had once been an alcoholic, so that he could
get that indispensable bond of identification across. Little
by little, alcoholics began to rally around him."
visitor continued, "Well, that was the beginning. Intolerance,
misunderstanding, gossip, scandal, failure, defeat, all
those things faced our friend when he came into this town.
And that was 3 years ago. Well, Bill, you've seen his mother,
you've seen his wife, you've seen his baby, you've seen
the group. But he hasn't told you that he now has the largest
medical practice in this whole town, if not in the county.
And he hasn't told you hat he has been made head of our
local hospital. And I know you don't know this - every year
in this town the citizens have a great meeting at which
they cast a ballot, and last spring, at the annual casting
of the ballot, the people of this town almost unanimously
declared by their ballot that Dr. M. had been the towns
most useful citizen during the 12 months gone by." So I
thought to myself, "So you were the big shot who planned
to go straight past Shelby." I looked at my visitor and
said, "Indeed, What hath God wrought!"