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E. A.A. # 28
“The Booze Fighter”
this article in pdf with photo
evening friends, I’m Gene, I’m powerless over
alcohol, an alcoholic. I’m very glad to be here and
I appreciate your asking me to come down. I’ve been
interested in quite a few of the attendees of this Group,
and I used to see them over at the homes where they hold
old-timers have been here a while, but it’s certainly
wonderful to see the new people coming in and getting to
understand what the program is; and working it. Recently
at the Hawthorne Speakers Meeting, the leader called on
those who had 30 days or less, to stand up. Twenty-seven
arose, twenty-seven new people in AA for the first month.
brought back memories of me, when I reached AA in July 4th
weekend of 1939. I was the 28th AA member, according to
Bill Wilson, in AA.
the Big Book, it says the first “hundred” had
recovered, but the book also told you later, that was erroneous.
The reason they did that is , they were anticipating they
would reach one hundred members . . . . well, don’t
laugh, that stuff was written to sell, and Bill had no idea
it would become what it did.
and a fellow named Hank Parkhurst wrote it, it belonged
to them, until we got the national Alcoholic Foundation;
the Foundation demanded the book and Bill and Hank let them
I reached AA, there were only 3 people in New York including
Bill Wilson, that had better than two years’ sobriety.
Bill had four, Parkhurst had three, and Fitzie Mayo had
two. There were less than ten of us around New York. So
our meetings for nearly a year, weren’t meetings.
It was just gatherings, we’d get together, Bill would
lead, and we’d talk back and forth to Bill.
tell you how they got away from the Oxford Group, if you
don’t mind. See, for the first four years, it was
religion, strictly. These boys took me in, and they talked
about (an occasion) when they had made a call on a certain
fellow, and then one of them had to leave. The other one
asked, “Would you pray for this Brother?”, just
like Methodists, Baptists, or anyone else steeped in religion
it happened a few of them were attending the Oxford Group
in New York, including Bill, because they weren’t
affiliated with a church. But some of the other boys were
going to Protestant Churches, the Catholic Church, and others,
two or three of them.
went to the Oxford Group with those boys; wouldn’t
be over two or three of us at a time. The ladies, wives,
would go in and sit down; out the men would come, smoke
cigarettes, talk about baseball, everything. But they weren’t
stressing their experience of drinking.
weren’t getting religion there, it was spiritual.
They were studying the Lord’s Prayer, and “Sermon
on the Mount” by Emmett Fox. We used “Sermon
on the Mount” for a couple of years after we got our
Big Book. That’s where they got the idea for the formation
of our Program.
the reason they didn’t bring Jesus Christ into the
Program is, they wanted it to be spiritual. Practically
all religions practice the principles that we are practicing
in AA. But we don’t say “Christ” in it.
They wanted everyone who came in here, not be offended from
a religious standpoint. Now if a person of the Jewish faith
would come in, and hear Jesus Christ discussed, he wouldn’t
feel comfortable, don’t you see? And they got that
idea out of “Sermon on the Mount”.
I want to get back to now, is myself. I did not learn in
AA, or since I got to AA, that I should give up the use
of alcohol. I didn’t learn it. It was my drinking
record and experience in the using of alcohol.
was ready to give up the use of it because I couldn’t
handle it, knew I couldn’t, and I was missing the
better things in life, when I was 22 years old. I’d
already gone through that “Gene, you oughta quit,
you’re making a mess out of yourself, you can’t
handle it”, from my brother or someone close to myself.
And then they began to say, “Gene, you should quit,
you’re getting a reputation, getting an image here”,
I was a black sheep against the family, all that stuff.
People wouldn’t leave me alone.
I began then to quit, because that woke me up. By George,
I am missing some things. My friends and contemporaries,
people I went through school with, was raised with, one
of them introduced me to AA later. He and I were the drunks
of the city. They’d be playing poker with the crowd,
the next thing you know I’d hear they had another
game, but they wouldn’t invite me. That’s all
they would do. They drank, too, but chances are I was so
drunk they couldn’t have the game.
things like parties; I was being left out. I’m missing
some of the better things. That hurts. I was getting the
image that I’ll never do well, a boy you can’t
depend on, and those things hurt me. I didn’t feel
I deserved that. But I did have sense enough to know that
because of my drinking, I was missing things.
the time I was 22, I wanted to quit drinking, not for that
weekend, or that night, but forever. I’d had enough
and saw that I was going to have to, to get along. I had
no one to talk to , like you do. Now, people come to AA,
we share our experiences.
of time I’d contemplate asking the people I worked
for, “Would you pay me on Monday, rather than on Saturday
noon?” I didn’t want to go through all that
trouble. Then they’d say, “Well, why don’t
you just quit drinking? You don’t need to wait ‘till
understood us. So I tried. And then the old Volstead Act,
many of the older people will remember, the Nation was going
dry. I was 24 years of age and I was one of the happiest
young men in America. A problem of mine was gonna be solved.
After July the Fourth, there will be no booze.
believed it; I drank right up to it. My friend bought booze,
he got a supply for use after Prohibition. I didn’t
want any. I will never forget coming down the steps of the
hotel there in Owensboro, Kentucky. My friend was in the
lobby and said, “Gene, how ‘bout one?”
I said sure, I thought it was from his reserve liquor. Instead
of that, he walked across the floor of the hotel, right
into the bar, which was open as usual.
heart sank, I’m not kidding you a bit. For the first
time, I lost confidence in my Government.
I knew that there was nothing in front of me now but to
continue the drunken, hard life I was living. I had a lot
of pride, unwarranted, but because of my conduct, the way
I was acting, I didn’t deserve it. So I had to drink
on until I reached the age of 44, in 1939.
used to quit drinking, I’d want to quit, this is the
last time. A fellow would offer me a drink and I’d
tell him, “No, I’m on the wagon.” They
would ask me, “How long have you been on the wagon?”
My stock reply was, “If I can make this until day
after tomorrow, it’ll be three days.”
never once got by the next drink. And I’ve never in
my life taken a drink of liquor I didn’t want, drunk
or sober. But I turned drinks down long before I ever heard
of AA. I’d happen to run into a friend, “Gene,
how ‘bout one, I’ll split it with you?”
I hadn’t had anything to drink, I’d say, “No,
you take it.” Why? Because there wasn’t any
liquor to back that up.
why I believe we are born an alcoholic. I believe we are
physically different from the others. Because of this physical
allergy. I believe that, and that helps keep me sober.
first memory I had of alcohol, I was too young to know what
it was. I was about 7 or 8 years old, going to school in
Shawnee, Oklahoma, grade school. It used to be the custom
for parents to invite other children to come home with their
children, to play after school. I was invited to go over
with a little boy and his brother and sister. And of course
mothers always had some food for the young ones. Well, I
went in and I had something, I didn’t know what it
was, but brother, I liked it. Came out of a big fifth. But
I was too young to know what it was. Now I had to be a con
artist. I did every damn thing I could, hoping these kids
would invite me to go back and play with them.
a little later, I was around 10 or 12 years old, a little
friend of mine’s family had a party the night before,
had the old punch bowl of egg nog. Well, the family were
all sleeping, we kids were up early, and we got in this
punch bowl. Brother, that’s the same stuff I had before.
That kick and that glow, you know? Boy I liked it, and I
remember how I used to, every New Years or any time of the
year they were going to have that punch bowl, I’d
highball it down there, hoping I might get in on that.
those things make me believe and know, and believe in myself,
that you are born with it. I’ve known people that
had hay fever from a certain pollen. The stuff would get
into their bodies, they would breathe it in, might be pollen
from a plant or a flower, and until they came in contact
with it, they had no trouble. But once they do, their eyes
begin watering, their faces swell. And they have no choice
except to suffer until they find what the cause is, and
then leave it alone. Well, that’s physical.
don’t believe anyone becomes an alcoholic from the
excessive use of alcohol. And I don’t believe anyone
becomes a diabetic from eating a hell of a lot of sugar
and candy. You have to develop it, if you know what I mean.
These are just my opinions.
brother used to tell me, “Gene, why don’t you
determine your capacity, and just drink to it, and then
leave it alone?” I said, “Nat, I always get
drunk before I reach my capacity.” And that’s
was nothing but walking misery during those years. I got
to be unemployable. Then I reached AA through this friend
of mine. We went through school together, we had known each
other since we were nine years of age. Well now, anything
was going on, Paul and I was usually the drunks, I thought
I had missed Paul. I was in Hoboken, New Jersey and Paul
was in New York, and we had been drinking together two or
of a sudden, I wondered what happened to him. I was dead
drunk and I called him up. He talked, and next thing you
know, his wife is on the phone, Gussie. And Gussie wanted
to know where I was. I said, “I’m at the Plant
in Hoboken.” She asked if Paul could meet me and if
I could come out and spend the weekend.
said, “But Gussie, I’m drunk.” She said,
“That’s all right.” I never heard that
before in my life, it was all right to be drunk. Usually
when Paul was in the doghouse with her, from drinking, she
was blaming me, “Paul, if you’d just stay away
from that Edmiston boy, you’d be all right.”
And now she says it’s all right for me to be drunk.
sister used to blame my association with Paul for my downfall.
I resented that because I felt I had sense enough to know
what I wanted to do, not just to do something because of
Paul. So I finally asked, “Gussie, are Paul’s
daughters at home?” Paul had two daughters in High
School, they knew I was Paul’s life-long friend, and
I didn’t want them to see me in the condition I was
in. I preferred to be there when I was sober.
wasn’t too long after that I got a phone call at the
plant where I was working. They were giving me enough to
live on, they gave me a broom and cut me loose in the plant.
I wasn’t doing anything, just standing around. The
fellow who hired me was another friend of mine. If he had
gotten rid of me, I don’t know what I would have done.
I was unemployable, I had lost all, I couldn’t stay
I was 44 years old and reached AA, I didn’t have next
week’s room rent. That was about $3.00 per week, this
was in the ‘30’s during the Depression. One
day they called me to the phone, and there was Gussie. She
and Paul invited me out for July the 4th weekend, 1939.
I accepted, this must have been early in the week.
soon as I put the phone down, I did as I’d usually
do anytime I’d accepted something I knew I couldn’t
fulfill, I’d fight with myself. And I had a problem.
I had to be sober this next weekend. I was to meet Paul
in New York at the RKO Building, we were going out to the
that Friday morning, I got up, I didn’t drink anything,
stayed there all day, didn’t take a drink, walked
the street, afraid I was going to lay awake all night. I
had to have a drink to sleep on. Then a little bit after
that, I was toying with the idea, but I had to stay off
of it, keep sober tomorrow. Then I thought, uh-oh, the bars
are going to close. So now I had two
that’s fighting it; I wanted that drink, yet I wanted
to be sober. Finally I gave in and went across the street
to have a drink or two, to sleep on. That was around midnight,
and the bars in Hoboken closed at two. By the time the bar
closed, I was as usual helping the bartender put up the
chairs, drunk as I’d ever been.
next morning I wake up, my eyeballs on my cheeks, and I
had this appointment to get over there by 10:30 or 11:00.
On my mantelpiece were some cans of beer. I don’t
usually drink beer, but had some just in case I needed a
night cap. There had been six or seven, but there weren’t
but two of them left. So of course I went, but I kept drinking.
I had lived in New York, and in New York in those subways,
you could quickly get off, get a drink, get back and catch
the next train. By the time I arrived in New York I was
I got there, there was my friend Paul; he had two guys with
him. Seedy-looking, britches worn out and all, and they
were talking, smiling, going to the ball game, yet I’m
drunk. “…Easy does it, first things first”,
a lot of stuff they were saying. I wondered, “What
the hell goes here?”
I managed to get to the ball park and Paul finally said,
“Gene, how about not drinking until we get home, and
I’ll go out and get a bottle?” I took him up
on that. I didn’t drink and after the game, we got
on the Lackawanna train and off we set.
Gussie met us at the end of the line. She drove us I don’t
know where, but I knew I was out in the country. I was talking
to Paul a while and Gussie came in and she told me, “Gene,
you know Paul hasn’t had a drink in over a year?”
I said, “Gussie, that’s wonderful! And Gussie,
I want you to know this; you need never fear when Paul is
with me, I’ll not encourage him to take a drink.”
And I meant that. I had no idea.
next morning, Paul took me across the way to a little park
and told me what had happened. He said he was meeting with
some fellows over there, they were not drinking, and he
had over a year.
said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” and he
said he was afraid I’d misunderstand. He said, “you
can go over there, maybe there’s something for you,
maybe not.” But he also asked, “Do you want
to quit drinking? . . . why do you want to quit drinking?”
I told him I really wanted to, that I’d been wanting
to for years, he said I might come over and we’ll
see how it worked, and if I wanted it I could come back.
So I went over there
and I met these fellows.
didn’t tell me a darn thing that I had to do. They
told me what they had to do. They told me that they had
to change their entire way of living. After explaining the
disease; physical allergy coupled with the obsession of
the mind. And then they told me they had to give up the
old ideas. And they told me how they were able to do it,
explained the inventory to me. They told me what they were
doing, they left me with a choice. Maybe if I do what they
do, I could have what they have. No one told me a thing.
And that’s the way they left me.
guy that most encouraged me to stop drinking, that I might
be able to do it, this fellow didn’t have a drink
for a week. I came back, “Well how am I going to sleep?”
He said, “I have been awake all night long, all week
long. I haven’t had a drink. You got to be willing
to hurt, to get it. You danced, now you’re paying
the fiddler. One drink is not going to help you.”
I was afraid of the shakes, I said, “A drink is the
only thing that will stop it.”, and they
said, “If you want what we have, you’ve got
to be willing to hurt, and a drink is liable to reduce the
thanks to them, they didn’t tell me what I had to
do. I stayed with them, kept calling them back, they simply
shared their experience. They told me their situation and
what they were doing, and I knew they were sober. I believed
in them and they believed in me. I found
understanding, something I never had before, because I understood
them and I felt they understood me.
nobody I ever met, who comes here, sincerely means it, and
wants it, and just did his part, who failed in AA. Keep
an open mind, know yourself, and take that inventory. Eliminate
your bad habits, defects of character. If you’ll do
that, you won’t have to take another drink in all
your life, and you are going to experience a life you never
dreamed you could have enjoyed.
from the Anniversary ‘Old-Timers’ Meeting South
Bay Survivors Group Redondo Beach, Calif. Approx. 1977)