THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL, May 12, 1971
FROM A.A. – A LESSON
by Jesse Helms
It is no problem to avoid becoming an alcoholic if one never takes a drink – not a profound observation, to be sure, but probably the most difficult lesson for both alcoholics and teetotalers to accept. But there is a deeper meaning to the message on alcoholism and it is one that the country badly needs to understand.
Strangely, it is not easily defined or explained. Maybe the word is understanding, but that is not quite it. Compassion fits, but that is not all of it either. Determination and honesty cannot be omitted.
If the truth were known, and could be properly measured, it may be that this nation’s greatest single peril lies in its obsession with alcohol. Traffic fatalities, for instance, are known to be a preponderant result of excessive consumption of alcohol.
Human failures are being increasingly traced to the bottle. Families are destroyed, businesses are ruined, ideals are crushed, institutions crumble. Yet society continues to play games with itself. Alcohol is Glorified as a symbol of sophistication. And when a fellow gets hooked, he is almost always dismissed as the town drunk.
A couple of weeks back, a man who long ago began to understand the problem died after nearly four decades of trying to solve it. Until his death at age 75, scarcely anyone knew of the incredible contribution he had made to his fellow man. As a result of his efforts, 475,000 alcoholics stopped drinking absolutely. His name was William Griffith Wilson. He was himself a former drunk. He was the founder of the organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Bill Wilson did not preach to drunks. He knew, from agonizing personal experience, that it doesn’t work. Instead, he inspired in alcoholics an understanding that, with God’s help, they could help themselves – and each other. Today, there are more than 15,000 chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous around the world, each consisting of men and women quietly dedicated to helping themselves and others.
Not From Shame
Membership in the organization is anonymous, not for reasons of shame but because Bill Wilson believed that those willing to help others anonymously can be counted upon to be sincere. He never allowed his name to be disclosed publicly as leader of Alcoholics Anonymous. No other leader or member of the organization does. What is done is done quietly and anonymously. And therefore sincerely. The results prove the late Mr. Wilson’s point: 60 per cent of the alcoholics who join the organization stay on the wagon.
The country in its obsession with alcohol, needs to examine the philosophy of William Griffith Wilson. Teetotalers need to understand alcoholics. Alcoholics need to understand themselves. All of us, as Bill Wilson often emphasized, need a spiritual awakening.
The country hasn’t been much in the mood for such lately, which is one key to our national despair. Drunks and teetotalers alike pretend to be seeking an escape from their troubles when, too often, it is a matter of dodging responsibilities.
Bill Wilson, who died a few days ago, left a legacy few men can equal, the legacy of more than 475,000 men and women saved from disaster. His formula is incredibly simple, a spiritual awakening mixed with personal responsibility, a simple matter of men discovering they need help from beyond themselves and then being willing to pass along what they have discovered to others.