Adequate Hospitalization: One Great Need
by Bill W.
Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., May 1947
Many sanitariums and private hospitals are necessarily too high priced for the average alcoholic, Public hospitals being too few, asylums and religious institutions too seldom available, the average group has been hard put to find spots where prospective members can be hospitalized a few days at modest expense.
This urgency has tempted some A.A. groups to set up drying out places of their own, hiring A.A. managers, nurses, and securing the services of a visiting physician. Where this has been done under the direct auspices of an A.A. group it has almost always backfired. It has put the group into business, a kind of business about which few A.A.’s know anything at all. Too many clashing personalities, too many cooks spoiling the broth, usually bring about the abandonment of such attempts. We have been obliged to see that an A.A. group is primarily a spiritual entity; that, as a group the less business it has to transact, the better. While on this theme it ought to be noted that practically all group schemes to finance or guarantee hospital bills for fellow members have failed also. Not only do many such loans go unpaid, there is always the controversial question in the group as to which prospects deserve them in the first place.
In still other instances A.A. groups, driven by their acute need for medical aid, have started public money-raising campaigns to set up A.A. hospitals in their communities. These efforts almost invariably come to naught. Not only do these groups intend to go into the hospital business, they intend to finance their ventures by soliciting the public in the name of Alcoholics Anonymous. Instantly all sorts of doubts are generated; the projects bog down. Conservative A.A.’s realize that business ventures or solicitations carrying the A.A. endorsement are truly dangerous to us all. Were this practice to become general the lid would be off. Promoters, A.A. and otherwise, would have a field day.
This search for reasonably priced and understanding medical treatment has brought into being still another class of facilities. These are rest farms and drying out places operated by individual A.A.’s under suitable medical supervision. These setups have proved far more satisfactory than group-directed projects. As might be expected their success is in exact proportion to the managerial ability and good faith of the A.A. in charge. If he is able and conscientious, a very good result is possible; if neither, the place folds up. Not being a group project and not bearing the A.A. name, these ventures can be taken or left alone. The operation of such establishments is always beset with peculiar difficulties. his difficult for the A.A. manager to charge high enough rates to make the venture include a fair living for himself. If he does, people are apt to say that he is professionalizing, or “making money out of A.A.” Nonsense though this may often be, it is a severe handicap nevertheless.
Yet, in spite of the headaches encountered, a good number of these farms and sobering-up spots are in active operation and can seemingly continue just as long as they are tactfully managed, do not carry the A.A. name, and do not publicly solicit funds as A.A. enterprises. When a place has an A.A. in charge we sometimes do take thoughtless advantage of the fact. We dump alcoholics into it just to get them off our hands; we promise to pay bills and do not. Any A.A. who can successfully manage one of these “drunk emporiums” ought to be congratulated. It is a hard and often thankless job though it may bring him deep spiritual satisfaction. Perhaps this is the reason so many A.A.’s wish to try it!