with Me, At Me
THE age of eighteen I finished high school and during
my last year there my studies were dropping away to be
replaced by dancing, going out nights, and thinking of
a good time as most of the boys of my age did. I secured
a job with a well known telegraph company which lasted
about a year, due to the fact I thought I was too clever
for a $7.00 a week job which did not supply me with enough
money for my pleasures, such as taking girls out, etc.
I was not at all satisfied with my small wages.
Now, I was a very
good violinist at the time and was offered jobs with some
well known orchestras, but my parents objected to my being
a professional musician although my last year in high
school was mostly spent playing for dances and giving
exhibition dances at most of the fraternity affairs. Now
naturally I was far from satisfied with my seven dollars
a week wages, so when I came across a boy neighbor of
mine on the subway one night (by the way I read in the
newspaper that this same boy died four days ago) he told
me he was a host in a celebrated Restaurant and Cabaret,
and that his salary ran $14.00 per week and he made $50.00
a week in tips. Well, think of being paid for dancing
with the carefree ladies of the afternoon and receiving
all that sum, and me working for only $7.00 per. The follow-
With Me, At Me
day I went straight uptown to Broadway and never did go
back to my old job.
This was the beginning
of a long stretch of high-flying as I thought, only to
find out when I was forty-one years old to be very low-flying.
I worked in this restaurant until I was twenty-one, then
we went into the world war. I joined the navy. My enlistment
pleased the owner of my cabaret so much that he offered
me a good job at the end of my federal service.
The day I walked in
to his establishment with my release from active duty,
he said, "You are my assistant manager from now on." Well,
this pleased me as you can imagine and my hat from then
on would not fit.
Now, all this time
my taste for liquor was constantly growing although it
was no habit and I had no craving. In other words, if
I had a date and wanted a drink with the girl friend I
would, otherwise I would not think of it at all.
In six months time
I found I was too good for this job and a competitive
restauranteer, or a chain of the best well-known night
clubs offered me a better position which I accepted. This
night life was starting to tell and show its marks and
together with the slump in that sort of business at the
time, I decided to apply for a job with a well known ballet
master who drilled many choruses for Broadway shows.
I was this man's assistant
and I really had to work very hard for the little money
I received, sometimes twelve hours or more a day, but
I got the experience and honor which was just what I was
looking for. This was one time when my work interfered
with my drinking. This
came to an end one evening when I was drinking quite heavily.
A certain prominent actress inquired of Professor X, my
boss, if I would be interested to sign an eighty week
contract for a vaudeville tour. It seems she could use
me as a partner in her act. Now, a very nice woman, Miss
J. who was office clerk and pianist for the boss, overheard
the conversation and told both Mr. X and Miss Z that I
would not be interested.
On hearing this I
went out and drank enough to cause plenty of trouble,
slapping Miss J. and doing an all round drunk act in the
This was the end of
my high-flying among the white lights. I was only twenty-four
years old and I came home to settle down; in fact I had
to. I was broke both financially and in spirit.
Being a radio operator
in the navy, I became interested in amateur radio. I got
a federal license and made a transmitting radio set and
would often sit up half the night trying to reach out
all over the country. Broadcasting radio was just in its
infancy then, so I began to make small receiving sets
for my friends and neighbors. Finally I worked up quite
a business and opened a store, then two stores, with eleven
people working for me.
Now here is where
Old Barleycorn showed his hidden strength. I found that
in order to have a paying business I had to make friends,
not the kind I was used to, but ordinary, sane, hard working
people. In order to do this I should not drink, but I
found that I could not stop.
I will never forget
the first time I realized this. Every Saturday, my wife
and I would go to some tavern. I
With Me, At Me
take a bottle of wine, gin, or the like, and we would
spend an evening dancing, drinking, etc. (This was fourteen
I was practically
a pioneer in the radio business and that must account
for people putting up with me as they did. However, within
three years time I had lost both stores, I won't say entirely
due to my drinking, but at least if I had been physically
and mentally fit, I could have survived and kept a small
Now from this time
up to about a year ago, I drifted from one job to another.
I peddled brushes, did odd jobs such as painting, and
finally got established with a well known piano company
as assistant service manager.
Then came the big
crash of 1929 and this particular company abolished their
radio department. For two years I worked for one of my
old competitors who owned a radio store. He put up with
my drinking until I was in such a physical breakdown that
I had to quit.
All this time my troubles
at home were getting worse. My whole family blamed my
failure on the alcoholic question and so the usual arguments
would start the instant I came in the house. This naturally
made me go out and drink some more. If I had no money,
I would borrow, beg, or even steal enough for a bottle.
My wife fortunately
went to business which was our only salvation. Our little
boy was six years old at the time and due to the fact
we needed someone to care for him during the day we moved
in with my family. Now the trouble did start, because
I not only had my wife to face every evening, but three
of the elders of the family.
My wife did everything
for me she possibly could.
she got in touch with a well known psychiatrist and I
went faithfully to him for a few months. This particular
doctor was such a nervous individual, I thought he had
the St. Vitus' dance and I really thought he needed some
kind of treatment more than I did. He advised hospitalization
from three months to a year.
Well, this was all
out of order as far as I was concerned. In the first place
I had an idea that my wife wanted to put me away in a
state institution where maybe I would be stuck for the
rest of my life. In the second place, I wanted to go,
if anywhere, t o a private institution and that was far
beyond our financial means. In the third place, I knew
that that would be no cure, because I reasoned that it
would be like taking candy out of a young child's reach.
The instant I would come out a free man I would go right
back to old Alky again. In this one thing I found out
later I was perfectly right.
What I thought and
wanted at the time was "not to want to want
to take a drink." This phrase is a very important link
in my story. I knew this could only be done by myself,
but how could I accomplish it? Well, this was the main
The point was always
that when I did drink, I wanted all the time not to, and
that alone wasn't enough. At the time I felt like a drink,
I did not want to take it at all, but I had to, it seemed.
So if you can grasp what I mean, I wished I would not
want that drink. Am I nuts, or do you get me?
To get back to the
doctor. If anything, these visits made me worse, and worst
of all, everyone told me I wanted to drink and that was
all there was to that. After
With Me, At Me
to as many as six or eight other doctors, some of my own
friends advised my wife to make her plans for the future
as I was a hopeless case, had no backbone, no will power,
and would end up in the gutter.
Well, here I was,
a man with much ability, a violinist, a radio engineer,
a ballet master, and at this point took up hair dressing,
so that added one more to the list. Can you beat it? I
knew there must be some way out of all this mess. Everyone
told me t o stop my drinking, but none could tell me how,
until I met a friend and believe me he turned out to be
a true friend, something I never had until this past year.
One morning, after
one of my escapades, my wife informed me I was to go with
her to a public hospital or she would pack up and leave
with our boy. My father, being a physician for forty years,
put me in a private New York hospital. I was there ten
days an d was put in physical shape, and above everything
else put on the right path to recovery and happiness.
My friend first asked
me if I really wanted to stop drinking, and if I did,
would I do anything no matter what it was in order to?
I knew there was only one thing left to do if I wished
to live and not enter an insane asylum where I knew I
would eventually wind up.
Making up my mind
that I would, he said, "Fine." And went on to explain
the simple steps to take. After spending an hour or two
with me that day he returned two days later and went into
the subject more thoroughly. He explained he had been
in the same hospital with the same malady and after taking
his discharge, had not taken a drink in three years and
also there were about sixty others that had this same
experience. All these fellows got together on Sunday evenings
and brought their wives and everybody spent a very pleasant
Well, after I met
all these people, I was more than surprised to find a
very interesting, sociable, and friendly crowd. They seemed
to take more interest in me than all of my old fraternity
brothers or Broadway pals had ever done.
There were no dues
or expenses whatsoever. I went along for about fourteen
weeks, partly keeping these ideas, and so one afternoon
I thought it would do no harm to take a couple of drinks
and no more. Saying to myself, "I have this thing in hand
now, I ca n be a moderate drinker." Here I made a fatal
mistake. After all my past experience, again I thought
I could handle the situation only to find out one week
later it was the same old thing. I repeated the same thing
over again and another week again.
Finally I was back
at the hospital, although I went under protest. My wife
had expected to take two weeks vacation in the country
with me, but instead had to use this money for the hospital
expenses. During my one week stay, I held this as a grudge
against her. The result was I got drunk three days after
I was discharged from the hospital. And she left me for
two weeks. During this period of time I drank heavily,
being upset not only over her absence, but perfectly at
sea as to how I could ever get back on my feet and make
a new start again.
With Me, At me
was no mistake about it there was something that I failed
to do in those simple steps. So I carefully went over
each day as best I could since my first drink after the
fourteen weeks of sobriety, and found I had slipped away
from quite a few of some of the most important things
which I should do in order to keep sober.
Certainly I was down
now-ashamed to face my new friends-my own family giving
me up as lost and everyone saying, "The system didn't
work, did it?"
This last remark was
more than too much for me. Why should this fellowship
of hard working fellows be jeopardized by me? It worked
for them. As a matter of fact, not one who has kept faithfully
to it has ever slipped.
One morning, after
a sleepless night worrying over what I could do to straighten
myself out, I went to my room alone-took my Bible in hand
and asked Him, the One Power, that I might open to a good
place to read-and I read. "For I delight in the law of
God after the inward man. But I see a different law in
my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing
me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my
members. Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me
out of the body of this death?"
That was enough for
me-I started to understand. Here were the words of Paul
a great teacher. What then if I had slipped? Now, I could
From that day years
ago, I gave, still give and always will give time everyday
to read the word of God and let Him do all the caring.
Who am I to try to run myself or anyone else?
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