We Are Thousands
this book appeared in April 1939 there were approximately
100 A.A. members. Two thirds of them were at Akron,
Ohio, or nearby communities in the northern part of
that state. Most of the remainder were in or near New
York City and a few others were scattered along the
Atlantic Seaboard. The work had then been in existence
over four years. It had been satisfactorily demonstrated
that at least two out of three alcoholics who wished
to get well could apparently do so, notwithstanding
the fact that their chance of recovery upon any other
medical or spiritual basis had been almost nil-a small
percentage at best.
Publication of the
book, which set down our experience and methods at length,
opened a new and unexplored phase which meant an attempt
to carry the work to other localities, widespread publicity,
and the exposure of our methods to the test of approval
or disapproval by religion, medicine, and the general
public-an uncharted field indeed. Would theologians
complain of our lack of orthodoxy? Would physicians
frown upon the idea of banding together great numbers
of alcoholics for mutual aid through a spiritual common
denominator? Would reviewers and columnists ridicule
the spiritual content of the work, thus prejudicing
the men and women we were trying to help? Would alco-
men and women and their families be convinced by the book
and the attendant publicity that here at last was a solution?
Such were the uncertainties of April 1939.
Remarkable as it may
seem none of these anticipated difficulties has materialized.
Clergymen of all faiths, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish,
have united in generous approval of our activities. The
Christian Science Monitor gave this book a favorable editorial
review. Physicians who have observed us at close range
are almost unanimous in their opinion that our methods
are sound and the results most promising.
Best of all is the
fact that alcoholics and their familes seize upon this
book, perceive its practical application to their problems,
and often take action by writing to The Alcoholic Foundation
Office (Box 459, Grand Central Annex, New York 17) inquiring
how they may get in touch with the nearest A.A. center,
or asking directions for starting groups in their own
communities. Innumerable inquiries have been answered
by personal letter, relating those anxious to get well
to the nearest A.A. membership. In notable instances The
Alcoholic Foundation * has fostered the creation of new
centers about enthusiastic alcoholics who have derived
their inspiration from the book alone. In some cases the
book has acted as a specific for alcoholism , for we are
in touch with men who have worked out their own recovery
by simply following out the suggestions of the book.
a correspondence with new people, our central office keeps
in touch with men who have
* See appendix
I-We invite correspondence.
we Are Thousands
in established centers, who travel to other communities,
or who find employment in new places. Such individuals
turn up sooner or later where new groups are in process
of formation contributing to their success and relating
them to the older memberships.
When it is considered
that we have increased one hundred fold in the last five
years and when it is remembered that we are growing by
a sort of geometrical progression, each alcoholic as a
part of his own treatment working with others, one begins
to ask h ow far A.A. may go. Though we alcoholics are
plagued with over active imaginations, we shall surely
have thousands of new members every year.
Then, too, it should
be remembered that for each alcoholic three or four other
persons are vitally affected spiritually as well as economically.
Even now it is evident that these collateral benefits
of our work are large.
Cleveland, Ohio, is
an interesting example. In the Fall of 1939 approximately
25 Cleveland alcoholics were attending meetings with the
already large group at Akron, Ohio. The Cleveland Plain
Dealer ran a series of articles on A.A. featuring them
upon its editorial page. A rapid and successful growth
ensued. This community has many active groups totaling
hundreds of alcoholic men and women. This activity includes
perhaps thousands of additional individuals-families,
employers, and friends, who say they have been vitally
touched and benefited. Suppose several thousand alcoholics,
most of them able and energetic men and women coming from
all walks of life, eventually recover. Surely the effect
upon this city would be potent.
is another aspect of our activity which has often been
overlooked. Though no accurate census has been taken,
it is probable that 90% of active A.A. members are now
employed. Most of them reestablished themselves economically
with no other help than we give each other. We believe
we have demonstrated that when an individual commences
to think straight and elects a sound spiritual basis for
his life, he will presently find a way to maintain himself.
This spiritual principle, which looks to many people like
threadbare rationalization, seems to be practically proven
by our employment record. The simple arithmetic of the
situation tells the story.
One might elaborate
for pages upon what has taken place in the past few years.
Stories of spectacular recoveries, of intense spiritual
experiences, of happy social contacts, of regained health,
of hundreds who have returned to their churches, of families
reunited, of seemingly impossible differences composed,
of renewed business success; such narratives might be
set down by scores. Nor should we fail to mention other
hundreds who have quietly stopped drinking and resumed
normal life. We could also tell of heartbreaking failures,
of seeing those for whom we have formed great attachments
continue to disintegrate before our eyes. Such is the
warp and woof of A.A. everywhere.