For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality,
companionship, and colorful imagination. It means
release from care, boredom, and worry. It is joyous
intimacy with friends, and a feeling that life
is good. But not so with us in those last days
of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were gone.
They were but memories. Never could we recapture
the great moments of the past. There was an insistent
yearning to enjoy as we once did and a heartbreaking
obsession that some new miracle of control would
enable us to do it. There was always one more
attempt - and one more failure.
The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew
from society, from life itself. As we became subjects
of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad
realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled
down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some
of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find
understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily
we did - then would come oblivion and the awful
awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen -
Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy
drinkers who see this page will understand!
Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the
moment says, "I don't miss it at all. Feel better.
Work better. Having a better time." As ex-alcoholics,
we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is
like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his
spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give
anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away
with them. He will presently try the old game
again, for he isn't happy about his sobriety.
He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day
he will be unable to imagine life either with
alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness
such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off
place. He will wish for the end.
We have shown you how we got out from under. You
say: "Yes, I'm willing. But am I to be consigned
to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and
glum, like some righteous people I see? I know
I must get along without liquor, but how can I?
Have you a sufficient substitute?"
Yes, there is a substitute, and it is vastly more
than that. It is a Fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous.
There you will find release from care, boredom,
and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life
will mean something at last. The most satisfactory
years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find
The Fellowship, and so will you.
"How is that to come about?" you say. "Where am
I to find these people?"
You are going to meet these new friends in your
own community. Near you alcoholics are dying helplessly
like people in a sinking ship. If you live in
a large place, there are hundreds. These are to
be your companions. High and low, rich and poor,
these are future Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Among them you will make lifelong friends. You
will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties,
for you will escape disaster together and you
will commence shoulder to shoulder your common
journey. Then you will know what it means to give
of yourself, that others may survive and rediscover
life. You will learn the full meaning of "Love
thy neighbor as thyself."
It may seem incredible that these men are to become
happy, respected, and useful once more. How can
they rise out of such misery, bad repute and hopelessness?
The practical answer is that since these things
have happened among us, they can happen again.
Should you wish them above all else, and should
you be willing to make use of our experience,
we are sure they will come. The age of miracles
is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!
Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched
on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers
will seize upon it, following its directions.
Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and
march on. They will approach still other sick
ones and so the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous
may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens
for those who must find a way out.
In the chapter "Working With Others" you gathered
an idea of how to approach and aid others to health.
Suppose now that through you several families
have adopted your way of life. You will want to
know more of how to proceed from that point. Perhaps
the best way of treating you to a glimpse of your
future will be to describe the growth of the Fellowship
among us. Here is a brief account:
Nearly four years ago, one of our number made
a journey to a certain western city. From the
business standpoint, his trip came off badly.
Had he been successful in his enterprise, he would
have been set on his feet financially, which,
at the time, seemed vitally important. But his
venture wound up in a law suit and bogged down
completely. The proceding~ was shot through with
much hard feeling and controversy.
Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange
place, discredited and almost broke. Still physically
weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that
his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much
to talk with someone, but whom?
One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering
how his bill was to be paid. At one end of the
room stood a glass covered directory of local
churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an
attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside.
In there he would find companionship and release.
Unless he took some drinks, he might not have
the courage to scrape an acquaintance, and would
have a lonely week-end.
Of course, he couldn't drink, but why not sit
hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before
him? Then after all, had he not been sober six
months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three
drinks - no more! Fear gripped him. He was on
thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity
- that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away
and walked down the lobby to the church directory.
Music and gay chatter still floated to him from
But what about his responsibilities - his family
and the men who would die because they would not
know how to get well, ah - yes, those other alcoholics?
There must be many such in this town. He would
phone a clergyman. His sanity returned, and he
thanked God. Selecting a church at random from
the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted
Little could he foresee what that simple decision
was to mean. How could anyone guess that life
and happiness for many was to depend on whether
one depressed man entered a phone booth or a bar?
His call to the clergyman led him presently to
a certain resident of the town, who, though formerly
able and respected, was then nearing the nadir
of alcoholic despair. It was the usual situation:
home in jeopardy, wife ill, children distracted,
bills in arrears, and reputation damaged. He had
a desperate desire to stop, but saw no way out;
for he had earnestly tried many avenues of escape.
Painfully aware of being somehow abnormal, the
man did not fully realize what it means to be
When our friend told his experience, the man agreed
that no amount of will power he might muster could
stop his drinking for long. A spiritual experience,
he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the
price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He
told how he lived in constant worry about creditors
and others who might find out about his alcoholism.
He had, of course, the familiar alcoholic obsession
that few knew of his drinking. Why, he argued,
should he lose the remainder of his business,
so bringing still more suffering to his family,
by foolishly admitting his plight to his creditors
and those from whom he made his livelihood? He
would do anything, he said, but that.
Being intrigued, however, he invited our friend
to his home. Some time later, and just as he thought
he was getting control of his liquor situation,
he went on a roaring bender. For him, this was
the spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he
would have to face his problems squarely, that
God might give him mastery.
One morning he took the bull by the horns and
set out to tell those he feared what his trouble
had been. He found himself surprisingly well received,
and learned that many knew of his drinking. Stepping
into his car, he made the rounds of people he
had hurt. He trembled as he went about, for this
might mean ruin, particularly to a person in his
line of business.
At midnight he came home exhausted, but very happy.
He has not had a drink since. As we shall see,
he now means a great deal to his community, and
the major liabilities of thirty years of hard
drinking have been repaired in less than four.
But life was not easy for the two friends. Plenty
of difficulties presented themselves. Both saw
that they must keep spiritually active. One day
they called up the head nurse of a local hospital.
They explained their need and inquired if she
had a first class alcoholic prospect.
She replied, "Yes, we've got a corker. He's just
beaten up a couple of nurses. Goes off his head
completely when drinking. But he's a grand chap
when sober though he's been in here six times
in the last four months. Understand he was once
a well-known lawyer in town, but just now we've
got him strapped down tight."
Here was a prospect all right, but, by the description,
none too promising. The use of spiritual principles
in such cases was not so well understood as it
is now. But one of the friends said, "Put him
in a private room. We'll be down."
Two days later, a future Fellow of Alcoholics
Anonymous stared glassily at the strangers beside
his bed. "Who are you fellows, and why this private
room? I was always in a ward before."
Said one of the visitors, "We're giving you a
treatment for alcoholism."
Hopelessness was written large on the man's face
as he replied: "Oh, but that's no use. Nothing
would fix me. I'm a goner. The last three times,
I got drunk on the way home from here. I'm afraid
to go out the door. I can't understand it."
For an hour, the two friends told him about their
drinking experiences. Over and over, he would
say: "That's me. That's me. I drink like that."
The man in the bed was told of the acute poisoning
from which he suffered, how it deteriorates the
body of an alcoholic and warps his mind. There
was much talk about the mental state preceding
the first drink.
"Yes, that's me," said the sick man, "the very
image. You fellows know your stuff all right,
but I don't see what good it'll do. You fellows
are somebody. I was once, but I'm a nobody now.
From what you tell me, I know more than ever I
can't stop." At this both the visitors burst into
a laugh. Said the future Fellow Anonymous: "Damn
little to laugh about that I can see."
The two friends spoke of their spiritual experience
and told him about the course of action they carried
He interrupted: "I used to be strong for the church,
but that won't fix it. I've prayed to God on hangover
mornings and sworn that I'd never touch another
drop, but by nine oclock I'd be boiled as an owl."
Next day found the prospect more receptive. He
had been thinking it over. "Maybe you're right,"
he said. "God ought to be able to do anything."
Then he added, "He sure didn't do much for me
when I was trying to fight this booze racket alone."
On the third day the lawyer gave his life to the
care and direction of his Creator, and said he
was perfectly willing to do anything necessary.
His wife came, scarcely daring to be hopeful,
but she thought she saw something different about
her husband already. He had begun to have a spiritual
That afternoon he put on his clothes and walked
from the hospital a free man. He entered a political
campaign, making speeches, frequenting men's gathering
places of all sorts, often staying up all night.
He lost the race by only a narrow margin. But
he had found God - and in finding God had found
That was in June, 1935. He never drank again.
He too, has become a respected and useful member
of his community. He has helped other men recover,
and is a power in the church from which he was
So, you see, there were three alcoholics in that
town, who now felt they had to give to others
what they had found, or be sunk. After several
failures to find others, a fourth turned up. He
came through an acquaintance who had heard the
good news. He proved to be a devil-may-care young
fellow whose parents could not make out whether
he wanted to stop drinking or not. They were deeply
religious people, much shocked by their son's
refusal to have anything to do with the church.
He suffered horribly from his sprees, but it seemed
as if nothing could be done for him. He consented,
however, to go to the hospital, where he occupied
the very room recently vacated by the lawyer.
He had three visitors. After a bit, he said: "The
way you fellows put this spiritual stuff makes
sense. I'm ready to do business. I guess the old
folks were right after all." So one more was added
to the Fellowship.
All this time our friend of the hotel lobby incident
remained in that town. He was there three months.
He now returned home, leaving behind his first
acquaintance, the lawyer, and the devil-may-care
chap. These men had found something brand new
in life. Though they knew they must help other
alcoholics if they would remain sober, that motive
became secondary. It was transcended by the happiness
they found in giving themselves for others. They
shared their homes, their slender resources, and
gladly devoted their spare hours to fellow-sufferers.
They were willing, by day or night, to place a
new man in the hospital and visit him afterward.
They grew in numbers. They experienced a few distressing
failures, but in those cases, they made an effort
to bring the man's family into a new way of living,
thus relieving much worry and suffering.
A year and sic~ months later these three had succeeded
with seven more. Seeing much of each other, scarce
an evening passed that someone's home did not
shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy
in their release, and constantly thinking how
they might present their discovery to some newcomer.
In addition to these casual get-togethers, it
became customary to set apart one night a week
for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone
interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from
fellowship and sociability, the prime object was
to provide a time and place where new people might
bring their problems.
Outsiders became interested. One man and his wife
placed their large home at the disposal of this
strangely assorted crowd. This couple has since
become so fascinated that they have dedicated
their home to the work. Many a distracted wife
has visited this house to find loving and understanding
companionship among women who knew their problem,
to hear from the lips of men like their husbands
what had happened to them, to be advised how her
own wayward mate might be hospitalized and approached
when next he stumbled.
Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience,
has stepped over the threshold of that home into
freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came
away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay
crowd inside, who laughed at their misfortune
and understood him. Impressed by those who visited
him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely,
when, later, in an upper room of this house, he
heard the story of some man whose experience closely
tallied with his own. The expression on the faces
of the women, that indefinable something in the
eyes of the men, the stimulating and electric
atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him
know that here was haven at last.
The very practical approach to his problems, the
absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality,
the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding
which these people had were irresistable. He and
his wife would leave elated by the thought of
what they could now do for some stricken acquaintance
and his family. They knew they had a host of new
friends; it seemed they had known these strangers
always. They had seen miracles, and one was to
come to them. They had visioned The Great Reality
- their loving and All Powerful Creator.
Now, this house will hardly accommodate its weekly
visitors, for they number sixty or eighty as a
rule. Alcoholics are being attracted from far
and near. From surrounding towns, families drive
long distances to be present. A community thirty
miles away has fifteen Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Being a large place, we think that some day its
Fellowship will number many hundreds.
But life among Alcoholics Anonymous is more than
attending meetings and visiting hospitals. Cleaning
up old scrapes, helping to settle family differences,
explaining the disinherited son to his irate parents,
lending money and securing jobs for each other,
when justified - these are everyday occurrences.
No one is too discredited, nor has sunk too low
to be welcomed cordially - if he means business.
Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies
- these are laughed out of countenance. Being
wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and
united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned
to the welfare of others, the things which matter
so much to some people no longer signify much
to them. How could they?
Under only slightly different conditions, the
same thing is taking place in several eastern
cities. In one of these there is a well-known
hospital for the treatment of alcoholic and drug
addiction. Four years ago one of our number was
a patient there. Many of us have felt, for the
first time, the Presence and Power of God within
its walls. We are greatly indebted to the doctor
in attendance there, for he, although it might
prejudice his own work, has told us his belief
in our work.
Every few days this doctor suggests our approach
to one of his patients. Understanding our work,
he can do this with an eye to selecting those
who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual
basis. Many of us, former patients, go there to
help. Then, in this eastern city, there are informal
meetings such as we have described to you, where
you may see thirty or forty, there are the same
fast friendships, there is the same helpfulness
to one another as you find among our western friends.
There is a good bit of travel between East and
West and we foresee a great increase in this helpful
Some day we hope that every alcoholic who journeys
will find a Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous
at his destination. To some extent this is already
true. Some of us are salesmen and go about. Little
clusters of twos and threes and fives of us have
sprung up in other communities, through contact
with our two larger centers. Those of us who travel
drop in as often as we can. This practice enables
us to lend a hand, at the same time avoiding certain
alluring distractions of the road, about which
any traveling man can inform you.
Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but
one man with this book in your hand. We believe
and hope it contains all you will need to begin.
We know what you are thinking. You are saying
to yourself: "I'm jittery and alone. I couldn't
do that." But you can. You forget that you have
just now tapped a source of power so much greater
than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing,
what we have accomplished is only a matter of
willingness, patience and labor.
We know a former alcoholic who was living alone
in a large community. He had lived there but a
few weeks when he found that the place probably
contained more alcoholics per square mile than
any city in the country. This was only a few days
ago at this writing. The authorities were much
concerned. He got in touch with a prominent psychiatrist
who has undertaken certain responsibilities for
the mental health of the community. The doctor
proved to be able and exceedingly anxious to adopt
any workable method of handling the situation.
Agreeing with many competent and informed physicians,he
said he could do little or nothing for the average
alcoholic. So, he inquired, what did our friend
have on-the ball?
Our friend proceeded to tell him. And with such
good effect that the doctor agreed to a test among
his patients and certain other alcoholics from
a clinic which he attends. Arrangements were also
made with the chief psychiatrist of a large public
hospital to select still others from the stream
of misery which flows through that institution.
So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore.
Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up,
but if our experience is a criterion, more than
half of those approached will become Fellows of
Alcoholics Anonymous. When a few men in this city
have found themselves, and have discovered the
joy of helping others to face life again, there
will be no stopping until everyone in that town
has has~ his opportunity to recover - if he can
Still you may say: "But I will not have the benefit
of contact with you who write this book." We cannot
be sure. God will determine that, so you must
remember that your real reliance is always upon
Him. He will show you how to create the Fellowship
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize
we know only a little. God will constantly disclose
more to you and to us. Ask him in your morning
meditation what you can do each day for the man
who is still sick. The answers will come, if your
own house is in order. But obviously you cannot
transmit something you haven't got. See to it
that your relationship with Him is right, and
great events will come to pass for you and countless
others. This is the Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God.
Admit your faults to him and and~ your fellows.
Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely
of what you find, and join us. We shall be with
you, in the Fellowship of The Spirit, and you
will surely meet some of us as you trudge the
Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you - until then.
* See appendix
- The Alcoholic Foundation. It may be we shall
be able to carry on a limited correspondence.