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Before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee
C., a well-known early AA member in California, testified
before the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Subcommittee in Los
Angeles on Saturday, September 27, 1969. This is his testimony
which I have copied from the official hearing records:
Senators Hughes, (presiding), Dominick, and Saxbe [members
the Subcommittee]. Also present: Senators Cranston and Murphy
[both Senators from California].
* * * * * * *
Hughes. For the next witness, I want no television, no pictures
taken of the witness at all, because it's the witness's
desire there be none. Once before a witness's anonymity
was broken before this subcommittee, so I'll ask all members
of the press, radio, and television please to respect the
identity of this man and no photographs. He can state his
own preferences about what he says.
OF CHUCK C., RECOVERED ALCOHOLIC, MEMBER OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS.
Chuck C. Thank you, Senator Hughes. It's a privilege for
me to come with you this morning. I feel rather like a fifth
wheel, because the things have been pretty well covered
already: But I appear in a little different capacity than
any of the others this morning, because I am Chuck C. and
I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, applied to my own life,
I haven't had a drink or a sedating or tranquilizing pill
since January of 1946, for which I am very grateful.
we in Alcoholics Anonymous think that alcoholism is a disease.
You have heard it spoken of this morning several times as
such. I think informed medical opinion throughout the country
recognizes it as a disease. It is defined as a disease of
twofold nature, an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession
of the mind.
most of us, or many of us, think that there is a third factor.
We think it's a living problem. We do not deny the allergy
of the body or the obsession of the mind. I had them both.
I tried for the last ten years of a 25-year drinking career
to prove that I didn't have an allergy of the body or obsession
of the mind. However, I knew nothing about them, because
I knew nothing about the disease of alcoholism. I tried
to beat this thing myself for the last 10 years of a 25-year
drinking career; and I proved to myself conclusively that
I do have both the allergy and the obsession.
with 24 years of sobriety, 25 years of drinking, and the
time before I drank to look at, I believe that our problem
is primarily a living problem, and that alcohol is pretty
much a symbol of it or a symptom of it.
instance; I never had a drink until I was out of athletics.
I was an athlete in my youth. I was always in training and
I never smoked and never drank until I was out of school
and out of athletics. When I took my first drink it was
not a problem. It was an answer -- providing that the problem
was already with me. If I hadn't already had the problem
I wouldn't have needed an answer. I used alcohol as an answer
for 15 years. But being the wrong answer, it finally turned
on me and beat me to death making it necessary for me to
find the right answer and, of course, it came through my
association with drunks in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
we feel that the medical approach and psychological approach,
and the religious approach are all good. We feel that all
approaches to this disease should be brought to bear upon
it, but most of us are convinced that if we're going to
get rid of the bottle we have to replace it with something
better, with a state of being that makes drinking unnecessary.
instance, why am I not drunk this morning? I'm an alcoholic.
I'm an alcoholic of the tongue chewing, babbling, idiot
variety: so why am I not drunk this morning? Because I have
the thing I was looking for in the bottle. And what is the
thing? It is a state of being that makes drinking absolutely
unnecessary. There is nothing that a drink or a sedating
or tranquilizing pill or needle can do for me but tear me
down; therefore, there's no necessity for it at all. It
can't do anything for me. I have the answer that I was looking
we have been in existence as Alcoholic Anonymous for 34
years. We have a membership of perhaps some 500,000 but
we see that's just a slight percentage, it may be 2 percent,
of the problem drinkers. And that's all we've been able
to accomplish in 34 years. But we're not selling it short.
We love it, but much more has to be done.
think that before long it might be the legal opinion that
they can't throw us in jail any more just for being a drunk,
that we have to be taken care of as sick people. And it
looks as though there will have to be detoxification enters
and halfway houses throughout the country.
it's going to take a lot of money. It's going to take a
lot of know-how. We are very pleased about the fact that
there is a separate committee now that is very much interested
in this problem and that it is manned by knowledgeable people.
We think that perhaps through the medium of these meetings
throughout the country more interest will be brought to
bear on the Senate as a whole and that as a result you will
get appropriations which will make it possible for you to
do some things -- such as setting up these detoxification
centers and halfway houses.
this event what would be the position of Alcoholics Anonymous?
we neither endorse or oppose any causes. We cooperate but
we do not affiliate. We are on tap in most of these things,
but never on top. So I think our position would be this:
That when the detoxification has been accomplished, that
we would, as individual members of Alcoholic Anonymous,
then be available to share our experience, strength and
hope with those who are coming through the halfway houses.
And it is from this angle that I think that it would be
of the greatest benefit to your program. We cannot take
an active part as a society, but we can take an active part
Hughes: Sir, would you mind me interrupting you for a moment
as you go along? I'd like to ask a question for the record.
I have received a lot of mail from people who know nothing
about Alcoholics Anonymous wondering why we don't appropriate
money to Alcoholics Anonymous to handle the job since they
obviously do pretty well. Would you like to reply to that?
Chuck C. We also have the tradition that we are self supporting.
We don't take any moneys from any outside sources whatsoever.
We support ourselves through our own contributions. We have
no paid teachers or speakers. We do this work on a voluntary
basis. And I'd like to throw this in for the record, also,
that I suspect that in the last 23 years half of my waking
time has been spent working with alcoholics throughout this
country and Canada and in many of the other countries. And
I find it a very fascinating and rewarding experience -
I think that's what you wanted.
very interesting fact has been brought out already: When
I came to the program the average age probably would have
been 45. I don't think it would have been less than that.
It might have been nearer 50. But over the years the age
has come down, down, down, until today the face of Alcoholics
Anonymous has changed considerably. They are coming to us
instance, we have a man in our own group in Laguna Beach
who had his first birthday in Alcoholics Anonymous before
his eighteenth birthday. We find this is true pretty much
throughout the country. Brought about through better educational
programs such as the Committee on Alcoholism for instance,
and things of that kind. People are coming to us much much
younger than in my day and that is a very good sign.
of the things that I would like very much to speak on for
a minute (and this certainly is my own opinion), we've heard
a little about the seriousness of the problem. And, of course,
the problem is serious. I suspect it's the most serious
problem that we face in our country today. And I know that
if we put pills with it it would be by far and away the
most serious problem that affects our society today.
it is my opinion that the individual alcoholic cannot be
dealt with seriously. Let me give you an example. I was
sitting in Edmonton, Canada, at a banquet and I had six
judges around me, and they were saying to me, "We only
have so many dollars and so many days and that's the only
thing we can put out. We know that isn't the answer, but
how can we help you; what can we do to help you?" And
I said, "Well, don't sell yourselves short with so
many dollars and so many days, because you and the highway
patrolmen probably are responsible for my life, because
you've taken me off the street at times when I was a great
danger to anybody who was there, including myself. So don't
sell yourselves short with so many dollars and so many days.
perhaps the one thing that you could cut out could be the
lecture that you give. When you sentence us, don't give
us that lecture, because we can't take it. We've given the
same lecture to ourselves many many times, so instead of
giving us a lecture, as we go by you poke us in the ribs
with your elbow and say, "Look, dad, when you are sick
enough of being sick, and tired enough of being tired, I
know a place you can go for an answer." And laugh right
in our teeth; because we can understand that, but we can't
take the preachment or the lectures.
indeed, in A.A. we have a lot of fun. I find it the most
fascinating thing that has ever crossed my path. I love
it. I happen to have hated alcoholics worse than anybody
in the world. As a matter of fact, when I ran out of time
I didn't care for the human race. I thought it was a cosmic
mistake. I didn't even like the good people and the drunks
I hated. Because I was a drunk and hated myself. I hated
all drunks. In the last 24 years, however, I've come to
the place where I think I love all of God's children, and
of all of them I love the drunks the most. So my dedication,
my love, and my life, are in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous,
working with drunks.
again, we are most happy that you, all of you, are headed
in the direction in which you're headed. And we want to
help as much as it is humanly possible for us to help, both
in seeing to it that you get an appropriation - maybe by
doing a little work on the rest of the Senate by letters,
and so forth - and also by being on tap when you need to
call on us later on.
that would be all I have to say.
Hughes. Thank you very much, Chuck. I'd like to point out
that the camera in the back of the room was not taking pictures.
like to ask you, just for the record, to explain that fact
when you say you want to be of help. I happen to have been
visiting a lot of halfway houses around the country and
in all of them I found Alcoholics Anonymous is a stable
working factor within the halfway house. You point out,
of course, that you accept no money and all of this is on
a voluntary basis. I take it then, that should appropriations
someday be made, whether it's on a sharing basis with States
or communities and the Federal Government, that all these
members of A.A. will be around and will be working with
the people who come into these facilities. Is that right?
Chuck C. That would be a fair statement, I'm quite certain
Individual members of the society can and do work as counselors
and are paid for it in industry and other places. But, in
the main, I think that most of the effective work in all
the hospitals, in all the penitentiaries, and in many of
the halfway houses that we have throughout the country today,
is and will be on a voluntary basis by individual members
of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Hughes. Could you, perhaps, elaborate just a little bit
on the changes you have seen in this 24 years in hospital
treatment of patients and doctor's treatment of patients?
Have you seen any changes?
Chuck C. There's been great change, of course. In my last
10 years of drinking, I went to all the recognized sources
for help. I went to the clergy, to men of medicine and to
a few people who knew more psychiatry than there is. And
my answer from all of them was willpower, backbone and stand-up-and-be-a
never heard of the disease of alcoholism until I came to
my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Today this is common
knowledge now amongst all informed, all who want to be informed
about this subject.
is only recently that we have been able to get alcoholics
into most hospitals. There are beds for us in most of them
now and this was not the case for a long, long time. Everything
has changed for the better. It's not fast enough, but it
has changed for the better over the years.
due, I think, not only to what we have done in Alcoholics
Anonymous, but to the great educational programs of such
organizations as the National Committee on Alcoholism.
Hughes. I'd like to ask you a question and answer it any
way you see fit. Why the word, "anonymous" Why
do alcoholics want to remain anonymous?
Chuck C. There are many reasons for it. But the two great
reasons - the fundamental reasons, I believe, are these:
There is a little verse in the Good Book that says, "Let
not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth,"
and this is probably the first time in our lives that we
have ever been willing to do things like getting up in the
middle of the night and going clear across town, at our
own expense, to a dark room with an alcoholic who is really
suffering. It's the first time in our lives we've been willing
to do these things free - maybe even hoping thatnobody will
ever find out about it.
the second reason is that. As long as we are anonymous people
can come to us without feeling that they're going to have
their problems become general knowledge. And people will
come to us with problems when they won't go to anybody else,
because, they don't want it known that they have this problem.
Hughes. Why don't they?
Chuck C. It's a holdover from the days when the only descriptive
adjectives used for people like me were bums, spineless
people, dregs of society, a cancer on the social body, and
all that sort of thing.
Hughes. The great stigma.
Chuck C. Yes, it was a great stigma, but this is changing
much for the better.
Hughes. Senator Dominick?
Dominick. I just first want to say it's highly refreshing,
Chuck, to find a group of people who are not asking for
appropriations from the Federal Government. [Audience laughter.]
I congratulate you and your group, of which I have a fair
knowledge because of my association with people afflicted
with the problem.
want to get back to this treatment center and halfway house.
I'm sure that there must be some method of detoxification,
but I also - only based on my own experience, and you have
got a lot more than I have - have grave doubts whether detoxification,
in fact, does the job. A lot of people go and get dried
out. This is a kind of social phenomena, particularly in
the East. You go and get dried out and then go out and start
all over again.
will be raised in the subcommittee and later on the Senate
floor as we move forward. Senators will ask: "What
good does it do? Isn't there an organization which is doing
a lot better than this voluntarily? Is a treatment center,
in fact, going to be more than just a way station for drying
out to give them strength to start in all over again? And
will a halfway house follow enough of a detoxification process
to be able to bring people back into the mainstream, particularly
those who don't particularly want to, and how large a proportion
of the ones that we have that are afflicted with this disease
really want to recover; really want to admit to themselves
that they're an alcoholic and that they can't take that
don't have any facts and figures. I know we're going to
develop some as we go along in these hearings, but I'd just
like to get your comments on this, which I think is a very
grave communication problem that we've got.
Chuck C. This is the reason I spoke of the detoxification
centers and halfway houses.
Dominick. I notice that you couple them together all the
Chuck C. I think that the detoxification center is where
the professional people can get us defogged so that we may
hear what's said to us. And then the great rehabilitation
instance, in Alcoholic Anonymous, we have nothing in our
program that tells a person how to get sober, how to get
physically sober. There's nothing in the book that tells
you how to do that.
we, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous, help each other
get sober. It's a great part of our work and we wouldn't
change it. We help each other get sober only that we might
then take care of our problem - which is alcoholism; but
before we can talk about the problem itself, we've got to
get people so they can hear. And so they're detoxified,
or gotten sober and then we talk with them. In our work
we talk with them mainly in their homes or in ours. But,
again, the job is too great for that.
we are going to have the problem dumped in our laps whether
we like it or not, because one of these days we're not going
to have any place to put drunks if we do not have detoxification
centers and halfway houses; because we're not going to take
them to jail. (If you go back prior to 24 years ago you
can find me all over the blotter of this town. I was no
respecter of jails. I went to all of them.) So we are going
to have to have places where we get sober and then we are
going to have to have therapy that comes not only from members
of Alcoholic Anonymous but from professional people like
this thing is seemingly proven in our work. Any alcoholic
who sits through an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, leaves
knowing the answer is there - whether or not he admits that
he has a problem.
he might say to himself. "Well, I'm not one of these
people. I haven't gone to this extent. Therefor, I'm not
an alcoholic." But he knows, before he leaves that
meeting, that the answer's in the room for an alcoholic
and maybe many years later when he runs out of time he remembers
and comes back, and he isn't lost.
I believe that no one, no alcoholic, regardless of whether
he has admitted it or not, who is exposed to this therapy
about which we are talking, leaves with any questions in
his mind. I think he knows immediately that the answer is
in the room.
that help you any?
Dominick. Yes, I think it does with respect to the Alcoholics
Anonymous. My problem is trying to get the people that I
have known to go to you.
Chuck C. Yes --
Dominick. You know, they just say, "No. No, I don't
want to do that. I want to drink."
Chuck C. But we have it. We have it in the setup that we
are talking about. They are going to be sent to these detoxification
centers. But they're going to be sent there by the court
or by the police instead of being sent to jail. They will
have to go through that. But to a large extent they will
have to go to the halfway houses once they are set up.
Dominick. That program has worked; that's what I want to
Chuck C. Yes.
Dominick. Where they say you go there or you go to jail?
Chuck C. Very definitely. I happen to be very familiar with
Judge Harrison's work up in Des Moines. But I believe Judge
Taft in Santa Monica was one of the first to use this approach
many, many years ago.
I've talked at meetings where there were over a hundred
men and women who had been sober a year or more who had
initially been sentenced to the program by Judge Taft and
Dominick. Let's use another word. Let's say recommended.
Chuck C. Recommended. Okay. (audience laughter).
Hughes. Don't stop. I just wanted to make a comment. Senator
Dominick, my limited experience with this has been that
some of the time the private institutions for detoxification
are rather protected and they are not really exposed when
they are dried out.
we see right now in Washington, D.C., for example, the detoxification
center which was originally set up for 5 days of detoxification
and then building into the therapy. Now they're down to
24 hours because of the crush of patients.
court is sending the patients there. They have no bed space.
Their unit of 800 beds over at Lorton is completely filled
with the so-called recovery part. The physical part of the
detoxification stage has been taken care of, unless there
is serious complications. You're right, it's got so easy
that in many instances the guy who runs through the mill
to be detoxified feels great again and he's ready to go.
So often there is no followup. It can serve as a revolving
door drying out process.
Dominick. That's all I have.
Hughes. Senator Saxbe?
Saxbe. Well, I want to compliment you for not only coming,
but also for the great work you are doing. I'm familiar
with it. I've dealt with Alcoholics Anonymous in working
with friends and acquaintances. I've always been amazed
at the dedication and willingness of members to turn out
at 3, 4 o'clock in the morning to drive somebody a hundred
miles and to stay with them at great personal sacrifice
perhaps to their own jobs and business; and seemingly to
stick with them, even when their own families have abandoned
them. This dedication has paid off.
I've known some cases where it hasn't worked, but in many
cases it's been a successful salvage job. I think if just
somehow we can get this same kind of dedication into a public
facility, it would certainly simplify the work of the political
subdivision in meeting this problem.
you very much.
Hughes. Chuck, I want to thank you very much for coming
forward and sharing with us your thoughts and ideas on what
we might do, and your hopes, also. I especially thank you
for your support as we get to a point of trying legislation.
Chuck C. Thank you.
have sent the following information on Chuck C.:
was born in 1902, and got sober in A.A. in January 1946.
He wrote a book called "A New Pair Of Glasses"
which is a transcript of a retreat he gave for alcoholics
in 1975. The Preface is written by Clancy I. of California.
It can be purchased through New-Look Publishing Co., 1960
Fairchild, Irvine, CA 92715.
son [Richard] became a famous actor.
died in 1984.
Re-printed with permission by Nancy
O., moderator of The
AA History Lovers e-group.