Biography: “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict”
Paul O., MD, Laguna Niguel, California.
(p. 439 in 3rd edition, p 407 in the 4th editiion. In the 3rd edition it was entitled “.Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict.” )
They Stopped in Time
“The physician wasn’t hooked, he thought – he just prescribed drugs medically indicated for his many ailments. Acceptance was his key to liberation.”
Paul’s story is one of the most frequently quoted in the 3rd edition because it talks so much about acceptance (pages 449-450).
His original date of sobriety was December 1966, but he slipped until July 1967. He didn’t think he was an alcoholic, he just had problems. “If you had my problems you’d drink too.” His major problem was his wife. “If you had my wife you’d drink, too.” He and his wife, Max, had been married twenty-eight years when he entered A.A. He said she was a natural Al-Anon long before they heard of either A.A. or Al-Anon.
His story in the Big Book, and tapes of his talks, show that Paul had a great sense of humor, and was a very humble man.
Paul had begun to drink when in pharmacy school to help him sleep. He went through pharmacy school, graduate school, medical school, internship, residency and specialty training and, finally went into practice. All the time his drinking kept increasing. Soon he began taking drugs to pep him up and tranquilizers to level off.
On occasion he tried to stop completely, but had convulsions from withdrawal. When he went to Mayo Clinic he was put in the locked ward. Another hospitalization was in the psychiatric ward of a hospital, on which he was on the staff. But there he was introduced to A.A.
It took him awhile to get off the alcohol and pills, but when he wrote his story he said: “Today, I find I can’t work my A.A. program while taking pills, nor may I even have them around for dire emergencies only. I can’t say ‘Thy will be done,’ and take a pill. I can’t say, ‘I’m powerless over alcohol, but solid alcohol is okay.’ I can’t say ‘God could restore me to sanity but until He does, I’ll control myself – with pills.'”
He started Pills Anonymous and Chemical Dependency Anonymous, but did not attend them because he got all he needed from A.A. He did not introduce himself as an alcoholic and addict, and was irritated by people who want to broaden A.A. to include other addictions.
He wrote an article for the Grapevine on why doctors shouldn’t prescribe pills for alcoholics, and because he had a dual problem was asked to write his story for the Big Book. It was originally published in the A.A. Grapevine with the title “Bronzed Moccasins” and an illustration of a pair of bronze moccasins. It was eventually renamed and included in the Big Book. His book, “There’s More to Quitting Drinking than Quitting Drinking,” was published in 1995 by Sabrina Publishing, Laguna Niguel, CA.
Paul complained in an interview with A.A. Grapevine that the story might have “overshot the mark.” One of the most uncomfortable things for him was people run up to him at a meeting and tell him how glad they are the story is in the book. “They say they were fighting with their home group because their home group won’t let them talk about drugs. So they show their group the story and they say, ‘By God, now you’ll have to let me talk about drugs.’ And I really hate to see the story as a divisive thing. I don’t think we came to A.A. to fight each other.”
But he denied that there is anything in the story he would want to change. The story “makes clear the truth that an alcoholic can also be an addict, and indeed that an alcoholic has a constitutional right to have as many problems as he wants! But that doesn’t mean that every A.A. meeting has to be open to a discussion of drugs if it doesn’t want to. Every meeting has the right to say it doesn’t want drugs discussed. People who want to discuss drugs have other places where they can go to talk about that.”
How did he work his program? “Pretty much every morning, before I get out of bed, I say the Serenity Prayer, the Third Step Prayer, and the Seventh Step Prayer. Then Max and I repeat those prayers along with other prayers and meditations at breakfast.”
He had a special meeting format for early morning meetings. He called them Attitude Adjustment Meetings. They consisted largely of readings from the Big Book, prayers from the Big Book and 12 & 12, and a short session of positive pitches. The meetings were at 6:30 am or 7:00 am each day.
Paul died on May 19, 2000. Max, died on July 1, 2001.
Some of the information about Dr. Paul is taken from his book “There’s More to Quitting Drinking than Quitting Drinking,” and from his tapes.