rosy-cheeked children stand at the top of a long hill
as the glow of the winter sunset lights up the snow
covered country-side. "It's time to go home" says my
sister. She is the eldest. After one more exhilarating
trip on the sled, we plod homeward through the deep
snow. The light from an oil lamp shines from an upstairs
window of our home. We stamp the snow from our boots
and rush in to the warmth of the coal stove which is
supposed to heat upstairs as well. "Hello dearies,"
calls Mother from above, "get your wet things off."
I ask, having gotten a whiff of sausage cooking through
the kitchen door and thinking of supper.
"He went down to
the swamp," replies Mother. "He should be home soon."
Father is an Episcopal minister and his work takes him
over long drives on bad roads. His parishioners are
limited in number, but his friends are many, for to
him race, creed, or social position make no difference.
It is not long before he drives up in the old buggy.
Both he and old Maud are glad to get home. The drive
was long and cold but he was thankful for the hot bricks
which some thoughtful person had given him for his feet.
Soon supper is on the table. Father says grace,
delays my attack on the buckwheat cakes and sausage.
What an appetite!
A big setter lies
asleep near the stove. He begins to make queer sounds
and his feet twitch. What is he after in his dreams?
More cakes and sausage. At last I am filled. Father
goes to his study to write some letters. Mother plays
the piano and we sing. Father finishes his letters and
we all join in several exciting games of parchesi. Then
Father is persuaded to read aloud some more of "The
Rose and the Ring."
I climb to my room in the attic. It is cold so there
is no delay. I crawl under a pile of blankets and blow
out the candle. The wind is rising and howls around
the house. But I am safe and warm. I fall into a dreamless
am in church. Father is delivering his sermon. A wasp
is crawling up the back of the lady in front of me.
I wonder if it will reach her neck. Shucks! It has flown
away. Ho, hum, maybe the watermelons are ripe in Mr.
Jones patch. That's an idea! Benny will know, but Mr.
Jones will not know what happened to some of them, if
they are. At last! The message has been delivered.
"Let your light
so shine before men that they may see your good works-."
I hunt for my nickel to drop in the plate so that mine
will be seen.
Father comes forward
in the chancel of the church. "The peace of God which
passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds-."
Hurray! Just a hymn and then church will be over until
am in another fellow's room at college. "Freshman,"
said he to me, "do you ever take a drink?" I hesitated.
Father had never directly spoken to me about drinking
and he never drank any, so far as I knew. Mother hated
liquor and feared a drunken man. Her brother had been
a drinker and had died in a state hospital for the insane.
But his life was unmentionable, so far as I was concerned.
I had never had a drink but I had seen enough merriment
in the boys who were drinking to be interested. I would
never be like the village drunkard at home. How a lot
of people despised him! Just a weakling!
"Well," said the
older boy, "Do you?"
"Once in a while,"
I lied. I could not let him think I was a sissy.
He poured out two
drinks. "Here's looking at you," said he. I gulped it
down and choked. I didn't like it, but I would not say
so. No, never! A mellow glow stole over me. Say! This
wasn't so bad after all. In fact, it was darn good.
Sure I'd have another. The glow increased. Other boys
came in. My tongue loosened. Everyone laughed loudly.
I was witty. I had no inferiorities. Why, I wasn't even
ashamed of my skinny legs! This was the real thing!
A haze filled the
room. The electric light began to move. Then two bulbs
appeared. The faces of the other boys grew dim. How
sick I felt. I staggered to the bathroom-. Shouldn't
have drunk so much or so fast. But I knew how to handle
it now. I'd drink like a gentleman after this.
And so I met John
Barleycorn. The grand fellow
at my call made me "a hale fellow, well met," who gave
me such a fine voice, as we sang "Hail, hail, the gang's
all here," and "Sweet Adeline," who gave me freedom from
fear and feelings of inferiority. Good old John! He was
my pal, all right.
exams of my senior year and I may somehow graduate. I
would never have tried, but Mother counts on it so. A
case of measles saved me from being kicked out during
my Sophomore year. Bells, bells, bells! Class, library,
laboratory! Am I tired!
But the end is in
sight. My last exam and an easy one. I gaze at the board
with its questions. Can't remember the answer to the first.
I'll try the second. No soap there. Say this is getting
serious! I don't seem to remember anything. I concentrate
on one of the questions. I don't seem to be able to keep
my mind on what I am doing. I get uneasy. If I don't get
started soon, I won't have time to finish. No use. I can't
Oh! An idea! I leave
the room, which the honor system allows. I go to my room.
I pour out half a tumbler of grain alcohol and fill it
with ginger ale. Oh, boy! Now back to the exam. My pen
moves rapidly. I know enough of the answers to get by.
Good old John Barleycorn! He can certainly be depended
on. What a wonderful power he has over the mind! He has
given me my diploma!
How I hate that word. Three attempts to enlist in the
service, and three failures because of being skinny. True,
I have recently recovered from
and have an alibi, but my friends are in the war, or going,
and I am not. To hell with it all! I visit a friend who
is awaiting orders. The atmosphere of "eat, drink, and
be merry" prevails and I absorb it. I drink a lot every
night. I can hold a lot now, more than the others.
I am examined for
the draft and pass the physical exam. What a dirty deal!
Drafted! The shame of it. I am to go to camp on November
13th. The Armistice is signed on the 11th and the draft
is called off. Never in the service! The war leaves me
with a pair of blankets, a toilet kit, a sweater knit
by my sister, and a still greater inferiority.
is ten o'clock of a Saturday night. I am working hard
on the books of a subsidiary company of a large corporation.
I have had experience in selling, collecting, and accounting,
and am on my way up the ladder.
Then the crack-up.
Cotton struck the skids and collections went cold. A twenty
three million dollar surplus wiped out. Offices closed
up and workers discharged. I, and the books of my division
have been transferred to the head office. I have no assistance
and am working nights, Saturdays and Sundays. My salary
has been cut. My wife and new baby are fortunately staying
with relatives, What a life! I feel exhausted. The doctor
has told me that if I don't give up inside work, I'll
have tuberculosis. But what am I to do? I have a family
to support and have no time to be looking for another
well. I reach for the bottle which I just got from George,
the elevator boy.
am a traveling salesman. The day is over and business
has been not so good. I'll go to bed. I wish I were home
with the family and not in this dingy hotel.
here! Good old Charlie! It's great to see him. How's the
boy? A drink? You bet your life! We buy a gallon of "corn"
because it is so cheap. Yet I am fairly steady when I
go to bed.
Morning comes. I feel
horribly. A little drink will put me on my feet. But it
takes others to keep me there.
I see some prospects.
I am too miserable to care if they give me an order or
not. My breath would knock out a mule, I learn from a
friend. Back at the hotel and more to drink. I come to
early in the morning. My mind is fairly clear, but inwardly
I am undergoing torture. My nerves are screaming in agony.
I go to the drug store and it is not open. I wait. Minutes
are interminable. Will the store never open? At last!
I hurry in. The druggist fixes me up a bromide. I go back
to the hotel and lie down. I wait. I am going crazy. The
bromides have no effect. I get a doctor. He gives me a
hypodermic. Blessed peace!
And I blame this experience
on the quality of the liquor.
am a real estate salesman. "What is the price of that
house," I ask the head of the firm I work for. He names
me a price. Then he says, "That is what the builders
asking, but we will add on $500.00 and split it, if you
can close the deal." The prospect signs the contract for
the full amount. My boss buys the property and sells to
the prospect. I get my commission and $250.00 extra and
everything is Jake. But is it? Something is sour. So let's
have a drink!
I become a teacher
in a boy's school. I am happy in my work. I like the boys
and we have lots of fun, in class and out.
An unhappy mother
comes to me about her boy, for she knows I am fond of
him. They expected him to get high marks and he has not
the ability to do it. So he altered his report card through
fear of his father. And his dishonesty has been discovered.
Why are there so many foolish parents, and why is there
so much unhappiness in these homes?
The doctors bills
are heavy and the bank account is low. My wife's parents
come to our assistance. I am filled with hurt pride and
self-pity. I seem to get no sympathy for my illness and
have no appreciation of the love behind the gift.
I call the boot-legger
and fill up my charred keg. But I do not wait for the
charred keg to work. I get drunk. My wife is extremely
unhappy. Her father comes to sit with me. He never says
an unkind word. He is a real friend but I do not appreciate
are staying with my wife's father. Her mother is in critical
condition at a hospital. The wind is moaning in the pine
trees. I cannot sleep. I must get myself
I sneak down stairs and get a bottle of whiskey from the
cellaret. I pour drinks down my throat. My father-in-law
appears. "Have a drink?" I ask. He makes no reply, and
hardly seems to see me. His wife dies that night.
has been dying of cancer for a long time. She is near
the end and now in a hospital. I have been drinking a
lot, but never get drunk. Mother must never know. I see
her about to go.
I return to the hotel
where I am staying and get gin from the bell-boy. I drink
and go to bed; I take a few the next morning and go see
my mother once more. I cannot stand it. I go back to the
hotel and get more gin. I drink steadily. I come to at
three in the morning. The indescribable torture has me
again. I turn on the light. I must get out of the room
or I shall jump out of the window. I walk miles. No use.
I go to the hospital, where I have made friends with the
night superintendent. She puts me to bed and gives me
a hypodermic. Oh, wonderful peace!
and Father die the same year. What is life all about anyway?
The world is crazy. Read the newspapers. Everything is
a racket. Education is a racket. Medicine is a racket.
Religion is a racket. How could there be a loving God
who would allow so much suffering and sorrow? Bah! Don't
talk to me about religion. For what were my children ever
born? I wish I were dead!
am at the hospital to see my wife. We have another child.
But she is not glad to see me. I have been drinking while
the baby was arriving. Her father stays with her.
parents estates are settled at last. I have some money.
I'll try farming. It will be a good life. I'll farm on
a large scale and make a good thing of it. But the deluge
descends. Lack of judgment, bad management, a hurricane,
and the depression create debts in ever-increasing number.
But the stills are' operating throughout the country-side.
is a cold, bleak day in November. I have fought hard to
stop drinking. Each battle has ended in defeat. I tell
my wife I cannot stop drinking. She begs me to go to a
hospital for alcoholics which has been recommended. I
say I will go. She makes the arrangements, but I will
not go. I'll do it all myself. This time I'm off of it
for good. I'll just take a few beers now and then.
is the last day of the following October, a dark, rainy
morning. I come to in a pile of hay in a barn. I look
for liquor and can't find any. I wander to a stable and
drink five bottles of beer. I must get some liquor. Suddenly
I feel hopeless, unable to go on. I go home. My wife is
in the living room. She had looked for me last evening
after I left the car and wandered off into the night.
She had looked for me this morning. She
reached the end of her rope. There is no use trying any
more, for there is nothing to try. "Don't say anything,"
I say to her. "I am going to do something."
am in the hospital for alcoholics. I am an alcoholic.
The insane asylum lies ahead. Could I have myself locked
up at home? One more foolish idea. I might go out West
on a ranch where I couldn't get anything to drink. I might
do that. Another foolish idea. I wish I were dead, as
I have often wished before. I am too yellow to kill myself.
But maybe-. The thought stays in my mind.
alcoholics play bridge in a smoke-filled room. Anything
to get my mind from myself. The game is over and the other
three leave. I start to clean up the debris. One man comes
back, closing the door behind him.
He looks at me. "You
think you are hopeless, don't you?" he asks.
"I know it," I reply.
"Well, you're not,"
says the man. "There are men on the streets of New York
today who were worse than you, and they don't drink anymore."
"What are you doing
here then?" I ask.
"I went out of here
nine days ago saying that I was going to be honest, and
I wasn't," he answers.
A fanatic, I thought
to myself, but I was polite. "What is it?" I enquire.
Then he asks me if
I believe in a power greater than myself, whether I call
that power God, Allah, Con-
Prime Cause, Divine Mind, or any other name. I told him
that I believe in electricity and other forces of nature,
but as for a God, if there is one, He has never done anything
for me. Then he asks me if I am willing to right all the
wrongs I have ever done to anyone, no matter how wrong
I thought they were. Am I willing to be honest with myself
about myself and tell someone about myself, and am I willing
to think of other people. and of their needs instead of
myself; to get rid of the drink problem?
"I'll do anything,"
"Then all of your
troubles are over" says the man and leaves the room. The
man is in bad mental shape certainly. I pick up a book
and try to read, but cannot concentrate. I get in bed
and turn out the light. But I cannot sleep. Suddenly a
thought comes. Can all the worthwhile people I have known
be wrong about God? Then I find myself thinking about
myself, and a few things that I had wanted to forget.
I begin to see I am not the person I had thought myself,
that I had judged myself by comparing myself to others,
and always to my own advantage. It is a shock.
Then comes a thought
that is like A Voice. "Who are you to say there is no
God?" It rings in my head, I can't get rid of it.
I get out of bed and
go to the man's room. He is reading. "I must ask you a
question," I say to the man. "How does prayer fit into
"Well," he answers,
"you've probably tried praying like I have. When you've
been in a jam you've said, 'God, please do this or that'
and if it turned out your
that was the last of it and if it didn't you've said 'There
isn't any God' or 'He doesn't do anything for me'. Is
"Yes" I reply.
"That isn't the way"
he continued. "The thing I do is to say 'God here I am
and here are all my troubles. I've made a mess of things
and can't do anything about it. You take me, and all my
troubles, and do anything you want with me.' Does that
answer your question?"
"Yes, it does" I answer.
I return to bed. It doesn't make sense. Suddenly I feel
a wave of utter hopelessness sweep over me. I am in the
bottom of hell. And there a tremendous hope is born. It
might be true.
I tumble out of bed
onto my knees. I know not what I say. But slowly a great
peace comes to me. I feel lifted up. I believe in God.
I crawl back into bed and sleep like a child.
Some men and women
come to visit my friend of the night before. He invites
me to meet them. They are a joyous crowd. I have never
seen people that joyous before. We talk. I tell them of
the Peace, and that I believe in God. I think of my wife.
I must write her. One girl suggests that I phone her.
What a wonderful idea.
My wife hears my voice
and knows I have found the answer to life. She comes to
New York. I get out of the hospital and we visit some
of these new-found friends. What a glorious time we have!
am home again. I have lost the fellowship. Those that
understand me are far away. The same old prob-
and worries surround me. Members of my family annoy me.
Nothing seems to be working out right. I am blue and unhappy.
Maybe a drink-I put on my hat and dash off in the car.
Get into the lives
of other people, is one thing the fellows in New York
had said. I go to see a man I had been asked to visit
and tell him my story. I feel much better! I have forgotten
about a drink.
am on a train, headed for a city. I have left my wife
at home, sick, and I have been unkind to her in leaving.
I am very unhappy. Maybe a few drinks when I get to the
city will help. A great fear seizes me. I talk to the
stranger in the seat with me. The fear and the insane
idea is taken away.
are not going so well at home. I am learning that I cannot
have my own way as I used to. I blame my wife and children.
Anger possesses me, anger such as I have never felt before.
I will not stand for it. I pack my bag and leave. I stay
with understanding friends.
I see where I have
been wrong in some respects. I do not feel angry any more.
I return home and say I am sorry for my wrong. I am quiet
again. But I have not seen yet that I should do some constructive
acts of love without expecting any return. I shall learn
this after some more explosions.
am blue again. I want to sell the place and move away.
I want to get where I can find some alcoholics to
and where I can have some fellowship. A man calls me on
the phone. Will I take a young fellow who has been drinking
for two weeks to live with me? Soon I have others who
are alcoholics and some who have other problems.
I begin to play God.
I feel that I can fix them all. I do not fix anyone, but
I am getting part of a tremendous education and I have
made some new friends.
is right. Finances are in bad shape. I must find a way
to make some money. The family seems to think of nothing
but spending. People annoy me. I try to read. I try to
pray. Gloom surrounds me. Why has God left me? I mope
around the house. I will not go out and I will not enter
into anything. What is the matter? I cannot understand.
I will not be that way.
I'll get drunk! It
is a cold-blooded idea. It is premeditated. I fix up a
little apartment over the garage with books and drinking
water. I am going to town to get some liquor and food.
I shall not drink until I get back to the apartment. Then
I shall lock myself in and read. And as I read, I shall
take little drinks at long intervals. I shall get myself
"mellow" and stay that way.
I get in the car and
drive off. Halfway down the driveway a thought strikes
me. I'll be honest anyway. I'll tell my wife what I am
going to do. I back up to the door and go into the house.
I call my wife into a room where we can talk privately.
I tell her quietly what I intend to do. She says nothing.
She does not get excited. She maintains a perfect calm.
When I am through
speaking, the whole idea has be-
absurd. Not a trace of fear is in me. I laugh at the insanity
of it. We talk of other things. Strength has come from
I cannot see the cause
of this temptation now. But I am to learn later that it
began with the desire for my own material success becoming
greater than the interest in the welfare of my fellow
man. I learn more of that foundation stone of character,
which is honesty. I learn that when we act upon the highest
conception of honesty which is given us, our sense of
honesty becomes more acute.
I learn that honesty
is truth, and the truth shall make us free!
drunkenness, and worldliness satisfy a man for a time,
but their power is a decreasing one. God produces harmony
in those who receive His Spirit and follow Its dictates.
Today as I become
more harmonized within, I become more in tune with all
of God's wonderful creation. The singing of the birds,
the sighing of the wind, the patter of raindrops, the
roll of thunder, the laughter of happy children, add to
the symphony with which I am in tune. The heaving ocean,
the driving rain, autumn leaves, the stars of heaven,
the perfume of flowers, music, a smile, and a host of
other things tell me of the glory of God.
There are periods
of darkness, but the stars are shining, no matter how
black the night. There are disturbances, but I have learned
that if I seek patience and open-mindedness, understanding
will come. And with
direction by the Spirit of God. The dawn comes and with
it more understanding, the peace that passes understanding,
and the joy of living that is not disturbed by the wildness
of circumstances or people around me. Fears, resentments,
pride, worldly desires, worry, and self-pity no longer
possess me. Ever-increasing are the number of true friends,
ever-growing is the capacity for love, ever-widening is
the horizon of understanding. And above all else comes
a greater thankfulness to, and a greater love for Our
Father in heaven.