I WAS born in a
small New England village of about seven thousand souls.
The general moral standard was, as I recall it, far
above the average. No beer or liquor was sold in the
neighborhood, except at the State liquor agency where
perhaps one might procure a pint if he could convince
the agent that he really needed it. Without this proof
the expectant purchaser would be forced to depart empty
handed with none of what I later came to believe was
the great panacea for all human ills. Men who had liquor
shipped in from Boston or New York by express were looked
upon with great distrust and disfavor by most of the
good townspeople. The town was well supplied with churches
and schools in which I pursued my early educational
My father was a
professional man of recognized ability and both my father
and mother were most
active in church affairs. Both father and mother were
considerably above the average in intelligence.
me I was the only child, which perhaps engendered the
selfishness which played such an important part in bringing
on my alcoholism.
From childhood through
high school I was more or less forced to go to church,
Sunday School and evening service, Monday night Christian
Endeavor and sometimes to Wednesday evening prayer meeting.
This had the effect of making me resolve that when I
was free from parental domination, I would never again
darken the doors of a church. This resolution I kept
steadfastly for the next forty years, except when circumstances
made it seem unwise to absent myself.
After high school
came four years in one of the best colleges in the country
where drinking seemed to be a major extra-curricular
activity. Almost everyone seemed to do it. I did it
more and more, and had lots of fun without much grief,
either physical or financial. I seemed to be able to
snap back the next morning better than most of my fellow
drinkers, who were cursed (or perhaps blessed) with
a great deal of morning-after nausea. Never once in
my life have I had a headache, which fact leads me to
believe that I was an alcoholic almost from the start.
My whole life seemed to be centered around doing what
I wanted to do, without regard for the rights, wishes,
or privileges of anyone else; a state of mind which
became more and more predominant as the years passed.
I was graduated with "summa cum laude" in the eyes of
the drinking fraternity, but not in the eyes of the
The next three years
I spent in Boston, Chicago, and Montreal in the employ
of a large manufacturing con-
DOCTOR BOB'S NIGHTMARE
selling railway supplies, gas engines of all sorts,
and many other items of heavy hardware. During these
years, I drank as much as my purse permitted, still
without paying too great a penalty, although I was beginning
to have morning jitters at times. I lost only a half
day's work during these three years.
My next move was
to take up the study of medicine, entering one of the
largest universities in the country. There I took up
the business of drinking with much greater earnestness
than I had previously shown. On account of my enormous
capacity for beer, I was elected to membership in one
of the drinking societies, and soon became one of the
leading spirits. Many mornings I have gone to classes,
and even though fully prepared, would turn and walk
back to the fraternity house because of my jitters,
not daring to enter the classroom for fear of making
a scene should I be called on for recitation.
This went from bad
to worse until Sophomore spring when, after a prolonged
period of drinking, I made up my mind that I could not
complete my course, so I packed my grip and went South
and spent a month on a large farm owned by a friend
of mine. When I got the fog out of my brain, I decided
that quitting school was very foolish and that I had
better return and continue my work. When I reached school,
I discovered the faculty had other ideas on the subject.
After much argument they allowed me to return and take
my exams, all of which I passed creditably. But they
were much disgusted and told me they would attempt to
struggle along without my presence. After many painful
discussions, they finally gave me my credits and I
migrated to another of the leading universities of the
country and entered as a Junior that Fall.
There my drinking
became so much worse that the boys in the fraternity
house where I lived felt forced to send for my father,
who made a long journey in the vain endeavor to get
me straightened around. This had little effect however
for I kept on drinking and used a great deal more hard
liquor than in former years.
Coming up to final
exams I went on a particularly strenuous spree. When
I went in to write the examinations, my hand trembled
so I could not hold a pencil. I passed in at least three
absolutely blank books. I was, of course, soon on the
carpet and the upshot was that I had to go back for
two more quarters and remain absolutely dry, if I wished
to graduate. This I did, and proved myself satisfactory
to the faculty, both in deportment and scholastically.
I conducted myself
so creditably that I was able to secure a much coveted
internship in a western city, where I spent two years.
During these two years I was kept so busy that I hardly
left the hospital at all. Consequently, I could not
get into any trouble.
When those two years
were up, I opened an office downtown. Then I had some
money, all the time in the world, and considerable stomach
trouble. I soon discovered that a couple of drinks would
alleviate my gastric distress, at least for a few hours
at a time, so it was not at all difficult for me to
return to my former excessive indulgence.
By this time I was
beginning to pay very dearly physically and, in hope
of relief, voluntarily incarcerated myself at least
a dozen times in one of the
local sanitariums. I was between Scylla and Charybdis
now, because if I did not drink my stomach tortured
me, and if I did, my nerves did the same thing. After
three years of this, I wound up in the local hospital
where they attempted to help me, but I would get my
friends to smuggle me a quart, or I would steal the
alcohol about the building, so that I got rapidly worse.
Finally my father
had to send a doctor out from my home town who managed
to get me back there some way and I was in bed about
two months before I could venture out of the house.
I stayed about town a couple of months more and returned
to resume my practice. I think I must have been thoroughly
scared by what had happened, or by the doctor, or probably
both, so that I did not touch a drink again until the
country went dry.
With the passing
of the Eighteenth Amendment I felt quite safe. I knew
everyone would buy a few bottles, or cases, of liquor
as their exchequers permitted, and it would soon be
gone. Therefore it would make no great difference, even
if I should do some drinking. At that time I was not
aware of the almost unlimited supply the government
made it possible for us doctors to obtain, neither had
I any knowledge of the bootlegger who soon appeared
on the horizon. I drank with moderation at first, but
it took me only a relatively short time to drift back
into the old habits which had wound up so disastrously
During the next
few years, I developed two distinct phobias. One was
the fear of not sleeping, and the other was the fear
of running out of liquor. Not being
a man of means, I knew that if I did not stay sober
enough to earn money, I would run out of liquor. Most
of the time, therefore, I did not take the morning drink
which I craved so badly, but instead would fill up on
large doses of sedatives to quiet the jitters, which
distressed me terribly. Occasionally, I would yield
to the the morning craving, but if I did, it would be
only a few hours before I would be quite unfit for work.
This would lessen my chances of smuggling some home
that evening, which in turn would mean a night of futile
tossing around in bed followed by a morning of unbearable
jitters. During the subsequent fifteen years I had sense
enough never to go to the hospital if I had been drinking,
and very seldom did I receive patients. I would sometimes
hide out in one of the clubs of which I was a member,
and had the habit at times of registering at a hotel
under a fictitious name. But my friends usually found
me and I would go home if they promised that I should
not be scolded.
If my wife were
planning to go out in the afternoon, I would get a large
supply of liquor and smuggle it home and hide it in
the coal bin, the clothes chute, over door jambs, over
beams in the cellar and in cracks in the cellar tile.
I also made use of old trunks and chests, the old can
container, and even the ash container. The water tank
on the toilet I never used, because that looked too
easy. I found out later that my wife inspected it frequently.
I used to put eight or twelve ounce bottles of alcohol
in a fur lined glove and toss it onto the back airing
porch when winter days got dark enough. My bootlegger
had hidden alcohol at the back steps where I could get
it at my convenience. Sometimes I would bring it in
pockets, but they were inspected, and that became too
risky. I used also to put it up in four ounce bottles
and stick several in my stocking tops. This worked nicely
until my wife and I went to see Wallace Beery in "Tugboat
Annie," after which the pant-leg and stocking racket
I will not take
space to relate all my hospital or sanitarium experiences.
During all this
time we became more or less ostracized by our friends.
We could not be invited out because I would surely get
tight and my wife dared not invite people in for the
same reason. My phobia for sleeplessness demanded that
I get drunk every night, but in order to get more liquor
for the next night, I had to stay sober during the day,
at least up to four o' clock. This routine went on with
few interruptions for seventeen years. It was really
a horrible nightmare, this earning money, getting liquor,
smuggling it home, getting drunk, morning jitters, taking
large doses of sedatives to make it possible for me
to earn more money, and so on ad nauseam. I used to
promise my wife, my friends, and my children that I
would drink no more—promises which seldom kept me sober
even through the day, though I was very sincere when
I made them.
For the benefit
of those experimentally inclined, I should mention the
so-called beer experiment. When beer first came back,
I thought that I was safe. I could drink all I wanted
of that. It was harmless; nobody ever got drunk on beer.
So I filled the cellar full, with the permission of
my good wife. It was not long before I was drinking
at least a case and a half a day. I put on thirty pounds
weight in about two
months, looked like a pig, and was uncomfortable from
shortness of breath. It then occurred to me that after
one was all smelled up with beer nobody could tell what
had been drunk, so I began to fortify my beer with straight
alcohol. Of course, the result was very bad, and that
ended the beer experiment.
About the time of
the beer experiment I was thrown in with a crowd of
people who attracted me because of their seeming poise,
health, and happiness. They spoke with great freedom
from embarrassment, which I could never do, and they
seemed very much at ease on all occasions and appeared
very healthy. More than these attributes, they seemed
to be happy. I was self conscious and ill at ease most
of the time, my health was at the breaking point, and
I was thoroughly miserable. I sensed they had something
I did not have, from which I might readily profit. I
learned that it was something of a spiritual nature,
which did not appeal to me very much, but I thought
it could do no harm. I gave the matter much time and
study for the next two and a half years, but still got
tight every night nevertheless. I read everything I
could find, and talked to everyone who I thought knew
anything about it.
My wife became deeply
interested and it was her interest that sustained mine,
though I at no time sensed that it might be an answer
to my liquor problem. How my wife kept her faith and
courage during all those years, I'll never know, but
she did. If she had not, I know I would have been dead
a long time ago. For some reason, we alcoholics seem
to have the gift of picking out the world's finest women.
should be subjected to the tortures we inflicted upon
them, I cannot explain.
About this time
a lady called up my wife one Saturday afternoon, saying
she wanted me to come over that evening to meet a friend
of hers who might help me. It was the day before Mother's
Day and I had come home plastered, carrying a big potted
plant which I set down on the table and forthwith went
upstairs and passed out. The next day she called again.
Wishing to be polite, though I felt very badly, I said,
"Let's make the call," and extracted from my wife a
promise that we would not stay over fifteen minutes.
We entered her house
at exactly five o' clock and it was eleven fifteen when
we left. I had a couple of shorter talks with this man
afterward, and stopped drinking abruptly. This dry spell
lasted for about three weeks; Then I went to Atlantic
City to attend several days' meeting of a National Society
of which I was a member. I drank all the Scotch they
had on the train and bought several quarts on my way
to the hotel. This was on Sunday. I got tight that night,
stayed sober Monday till after the dinner and then proceeded
to get tight again. I drank all I dared in the bar,
and then went to my room to finish the job. Tuesday
I started in the morning, getting well organized by
noon. I did not want to disgrace myself, so I then checked
out. I bought some more liquor on the way to the depot.
I had to wait some time for the train. I remember nothing
from then on until I woke up at a friend's house, in
a town near home. These good people notified my wife,
who sent my newly-made friend over to get me. He came
and got me home and to bed, gave
me a few drinks that night, and one bottle of beer the
That was June 10,
1935, and that was my last drink. As I write nearly
six years have passed.
The question which
might naturally come into your mind would be: "what
did the man do or say that was different from what others
had done or said?" It must be remembered that I had
read a great deal and talked to everyone who knew, or
thought they knew anything about the subject of alcoholism.
But this was a man who had experienced many years of
frightful drinking, who had had most all the drunkard's
experiences known to man, but who had been cured by
the very means I had been trying to employ, that is
to say, the spiritual approach. He gave me information
about the subject of alcoholism which was undoubtedly
helpful. Of far more importance was the fact that
he was the first living human with whom I bad ever talked,
who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism
from actual experience. In other words, be talked my
language. He knew all the answers, and certainly
not because he had picked them up in his reading.
It is a most wonderful
blessing to be relieved of the terrible curse with which
I was afflicted. My health is good and I have regained
my self-respect and the respect of my colleagues. My
home life is ideal and my business is as good as can
be expected in these uncertain times.
I spend a great
deal of time passing on what I learned to others who
want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons: