Wife and I
from a farm boyhood with the common education of the little
red schoolhouse, I had worked during the war and afterwards
for seven years at high wages in a booming industrial
town, had saved considerable money and finally married
an able, well- educated woman who had an unusual gift
of common sense and for more than the average business
vision, a true helpmate in every way.
In our early twenties,
we were both ambitious and had boundless faith in our
ability to succeed. We talked over the future all the
time, exchanged ideas and really planned our way of life.
Just working in a factory, even at highly-paid piece work,
and saving out of my wages, did not seem to us to be the
best way to go. We talked things over and decided to strike
out for ourselves. Our first venture, a neighborhood grocery
store, prospered. Another neighborhood store, in an ideal
location at a nearby summer resort, looked good to us.
We bought it and started in to make it go. Then came a
business slump affecting the whole country. With fewer
customers I had lots of time on my hands and was getting
to like high-powered home brew and the potent liquors
of prohibition days entirely too well. That didn't help
the business. We finally shut up shop.
Jobs were scarce,
but by persistence I again found a factory job. In a few
months the factory closed down.
had again accumulated a small stake and since the job
situation n showed no improvement, we thought we would
try business again.
This time we opened
a restaurant in a semi-rural section and for a time all
went well. My wife opened up in the morning, did all the
baking and cooking and waited on trade. I relieved her
later in the day and stayed open late to catch every possible
bit of business. Our place became a regular hang-out for
groups of latecomers who showed up with a bottle now and
I told myself that
I was the one man who could handle my liquor because I
was always on my feet at closing time. I talked knowingly
about spacing my drinks, about taking only a measured
shot, and about the folly of gulping big drinks. Yes sir,
I was never going to be one of those "rummies" who let
liquor get the best of them. Young and strong, I could
throw off the effects of the previous night's drinking
and stand the nausea the following morning, even abstaining
from taking a drink until the afternoon. But before long
the idea of suffering for a few hours didn't seem so good.
The morning drink
became the first act of the daily routine. I had now become
a "regular." I had my regular remedy-a stiff shot to start
the day and no waiting till a specified time. I used to
wait for the need, soon I was craving the stuff so much
that I didn't wait for that. My wife could see that it
was gripping me. She warned me, gently at first, with
quiet seriousness. Was I going to pave the way to losing
this business just when it needed to be nursed along?
We began to run behind.
Wife and I
wife, anxious for the goal we had set out to reach, and
seeing the result if I didn't brace up, talked straight
from the shoulder. We had words. I left in a passion.
Our separation lasted
a week, I did a lot of thinking, and went back to my wife.
Quieter, somewhat remorseful, we talked things over. Our
situation was worse than I had anticipated. We got a buyer
for the place and sold out. We still had some money left.
I had always been
a natural mechanic, handy with tools. We moved back into
town with a slim bankroll and, still determined never
to be a factory hand again, I looked around and finding
a workshop location with a house adjacent I started a
sheet-metal shop. I had chosen a very difficult time to
start up. My business practically vanished on account
of the depression.
There were no jobs
of any kind. We fell far behind on our rent and other
obligations. Our cupboard was often bare. With every penny
needed for food and shelter, and wearing old clothes with
nothing new except what our two youngsters needed, I didn't
touch a drop for two years. I went after business. I slugged
doorbells all over the town asking for jobs. My wife rang
bells with me, taking one side of the street while I worked
the other. We left nothing undone to keep going, but we
were still far behind, so far that at the low point we
could see eviction and our belongings in the street.
I braced myself to
talk to our landlord who was connected with a large real
estate firm managing many properties. We were behind six
months in our rent and they saw that the only way to get
their back rent was
give me a couple of small jobs. My wife learned to use
the tools to shape and fashion material when I was doing
the installation work. The real estate firm like my work
and began to give me more jobs. In those grim days, with
babies to feed, I couldn't spend what little money came
in for drink. I stayed sober. My wife and I even started
back to church, began paying our dues.
They were thin years,
those depression years. For three years in succession,
Christmas in our little family was just the 25th of December.
Our customers saw us as two earnest young people trying
to get along and as times improved a little we began to
get better jobs. Now we could hire some competent workmen
and bought a car and a few small trucks. We prospered
and moved into a better-equipped house.
My pockets, which
hadn't jingled for years, now held folding money. The
first greenbacks grew into a roll with a rubber band around
it. I became well-known to real estate firms, business
men, and politicians. I was well-liked, popular with everyone.
Following a prosperous season came a quiet period. With
time on our hands I had a drinking spell. It lasted for
a month, but with the aid of my wife, I checked myself
in time. "Remember how we lost the store! Remember our
restaurant!" my wife said. Yes, I could remember. Those
times were too recent and their memory too bitter. I solemnly
swore off and once more climbed aboard the wagon, this
time for nine long months.
Business kept up.
It became evident that by careful handling we might eventually
have something pretty
Wife and I
a sufficient income to provide a good living for us all
and ensure a good education for our children.
My business is seasonal.
Fall and early winter are rush times. The first few months
of the year are quiet. But though business slackened,
I got around making contracts, lining up future work in
my way. Not yet sensing any great danger, in spite of
past experiences, I seldom refused the invitations of
business friends to have a drink. In a short time I was
drinking every day and eventually much more than I had
ever done before for I always had a roll in my pocket.
At first I was even
more jolly than usual when I came home in the evening
to my wife and family. But the joking good fellow who
was the husband and father they had known, gave place
to a man who slammed the door when he came in. My wife,
genuinely alarmed now as week after week went past without
any sign that I was going to quit, tried to reason with
me, but the old arguments didn't work this time.
Summer came on with
its demand for roof repairs and spouting installations.
My wife often started the men to work in the morning,
did shop jobs, kept the books, and in addition, ran the
house and looked after the family.
For eight months my
daily routine was steady drinking. Even after slumping
in bed late at night in a semi-stupor, I would get up
at all hours and drive to some all- night spot where I
could get what I wanted. I was going to have a good time
in spite of hell and high water.
I became increasingly
surly when at home. I was the
I was master in my own house, wasn't I? I became morose,
with few lucid moments between drinks. I would listen
to no arguments and certainly attempts to reason with
me were futile. Unknown to me, my wife influenced some
of my friends and business associates to drop in casually.
They were mostly non-drinkers and generally ended up mildly
"A fine lot of Job's
comforters," I would say. I felt that everybody was being
of little help and told myself I wasn't getting the breaks,
that everybody was making a mountain out of a molehill
and so, to hell with everything! I still had money and
with money I could always buy bottled happiness. And still
my wife kept trying. She got our pastor to talk to me.
It was no good.
Drinking and staying
drunk without cessation, even my splendid constitution
began to give way. My wife called doctors who gave me
temporary relief. Then my wife left me after a bitter
quarrel, taking the children with her. My pride was hurt
and I began to regard myself as an injured husband and
an unappreciated father who, deep in his heart, just doted
on his children. I went to see her and demanded to see
them. I up and told her that I didn't care whether she
came back or not, that I wanted the children. My wife,
wise woman, thought she still had a chance to have me,
save our home for the children. She threw aside her sense
of injury, spoke right up to me and said she was coming
back, that forbidding her the house wouldn't work, that
she had helped me get what I had and was going to cross
its threshold and resume its management. She did just
Wife and I
she opened the door she was appalled at the sight of it,
curtains down, dishes and utensils unwashed, dirty glasses
and empty bottles everywhere.
Every alcoholic reaches
the end of the tether some day. For me there came a day
when, physically and mentally, I was unable to make my
way to a saloon for a drink. I went to bed. I told my
wife for the first time that I wanted to quit drinking,
but couldn't. I asked her to do something for me; I had
never done this before. I realized that I needed help.
Somehow in talking with a lady doctor, my wife had heard
of another doctor who in some mysterious way had stopped
drinking after thirty years and had been successful in
helping a few other alcoholics to become sober men. As
a last resort, my wife appealed to this doctor, who insisted
on a certain situation before he could help; his experience
had taught him that unless that situation existed nothing
could be done for the alcoholic.
"Does your husband
want to stop drinking, or is he merely temporarily uncomfortable?
Has he come to the end of the road?" he asked my wife.
She told him that
for the first time I had expressed a desire to quit that
I had asked her in desperation to try to do something-anything,
to help me stop. He said he would see me the following
With every part of
my being craving a drink, I could hardly sit still when
I got up to await the visit from the man she had talked
to on the phone, but something kept me in the house. I
wanted to hear what this fellow had to offer and since
he was a medical man I had some preconceived notions ready
for him when he came. I was
jittery when my wife opened the door to admit a tall,
somewhat brusque professional man who, from his speech,
was obviously an Easterner. I don't know what I had expected,
but his salutation, designed to shake me up, I can now
see, had almost the same effect as the hosing with cold
water in a turkish bath.
"I hear you're another
'rummy," hew said as he smiled and sat down beside me.
I let him talk. Gradually he drew me out until what I
did tell him gave him a picture of my experience. And
then he put it to me plainly. "If you are perfectly sure
that you want to quit drinking for good, if you are serious
about it, if you don't merely wish to get well so that
you can take up drinking again at some future date, you
can be relieved," he said.
I told him that I
had never wanted anything as much in my life as to be
able to quit using liquor, and I meant every word of it.
"The first thing to
do with your husband," he said, turning to my wife, "is
to get him to a hospital and have him 'defogged.' I'll
make the necessary arrangements."
He didn't go into
any further explanation, not even to my wife. That evening
I was in a hospital bed. The next day the doctor called.
He told me that several former alcoholics were now dry
as a result of following a certain prescribed course of
action and that some of them would be in to see me. My
wife came to see me faithfully. She, too, had been learning,
perhaps more quickly than I was doing, through talking
with the doctor who by this time was getting down to brass
tacks with me. My friend was the human agency employed
Wife and I
an all-wise Father to bring me into a pathway of life.
It is an easy matter
to repeat and orally affirm a faith. Here were these men
who visited me and they, like myself, had tried everything
else and although it was plain to be seen none of them
were perfect, they were living proof that the sincere
attempt to follow the cardinal teaching of Jesus Christ
was keeping them sober. If it could do that for others,
I was resolved to try it, believing it could do something
for me also.
I went home after
four days, my mind clear, feeling much better physically
and, what was more important, with something better than
just will power to aid me. I got to know others of these
alcoholics whose human center was my doctor. They came
to our home. I met their wives and families. They invited
my wife and myself to their homes. I learned that it would
be well to begin the day with morning devotion which is
the custom in our house now.
It was almost a year
when I began to get a little careless. One day I hoisted
a few drinks, arriving home far from sober. My wife and
I talked it over, both knowing it had happened because
I had stopped following the plan. I acknowledge my fault
to God and asked His help to keep to the course I had
Our home is a happy
one. My children no longer hide when they see me coming.
My business has improved. And-this is important-I try
to do what I can for my fellow alcoholics. In our town
there are some 70 of us, ready and willing to spend our
time to show the way to sobriety and sanity to men who
are like what we used to be.
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