He Sold Himself Short — Earl Treat, Chicago, Illinois.
(p. 287 in 2nd and 3rd editions and p. 258 in 4th edition.)
Pioneers of A.A.
“But he found that there was a Higher Power which had more faith in him than he had in himself. Thus, A.A. was born in Chicago.”
Earl’s date of sobriety was originally April 1937. He had a brief slip in July of 1937.
He grew up in a small town near Akron, Ohio. Due to his interest in athletics and his parents’ influence, he didn’t drink or smoke till after high school. All this changed when he went to college, but still he confined his drinking to weekends, and he seemed to drink normally in college and for several years thereafter.
After he left school he lived with his parents and worked in Akron. When he drank he hid it from his parents. This continued until he was twenty-seven. He then started traveling on his job throughout the United States and Canada. This gave him freedom and with an unlimited expense account he was soon drinking every night, not only with customers, but alone.
In 1930 he moved to Chicago. With the Depression limiting his opportunity for employment, and with a lot of time on his hands, he began drinking in the morning. By 1932 he was going on two or three day benders.
His wife became fed up and called his father to take him back to Akron. For the next five years he bounced back and forth between Chicago and Akron to sober up.
In January of 1937, back in Akron with his father to be sobered up, his father told him about the group in Akron, who had the same problem but had found a way to stay sober. Earl knew two of them, one of them Howard, an ex-doctor, whom he had once seen mooching a dime for a drink. He didn’t think he was that bad and would have none of it. He told his father he could lick it on his own. He said he would drink nothing for a month and after that only beer.
Several months later his father was back in Chicago to pick him up again, but this time his attitude had changed, and he was willing to talk to the men in Akron. When they got to Akron they routed Howard out of bed. He spent two hours talking to Earl that night.
He was indoctrinated by eight or nine men, after which he was allowed to attend his first meeting, which was led by Bill D. (“A.A. Number Three”). There were eight or nine alcoholics at the meeting and seven or eight wives. There was no Big Book yet and no literature except various religious pamphlets. The meeting lasted an hour and closed with the Lord’s Prayer. Then they had coffee and doughnuts and more discussion until the small hours of the morning.
He stayed in Akron two or three weeks and spent a lot of time with Dr. Bob who took him through the steps in one afternoon. Dr. Bob helped with the moral inventory by pointing out some of his bad personality traits or character defects. Earl wished every alcoholic could have the benefit of this type of sponsorship today.
He returned to Chicago in 1937 to start A.A. there. He got angry and got drunk when his wife criticized his coffee drinking and smoking. (Earl is the heavy smoker and coffee drinker mentioned on page 135 in “The Family Afterwards.”, 3rd edition) When he slipped he realized that the alcoholic has to continue to take his own inventory every day if he expects to get well and stay well.
Soon Dan Craske, M.D. began referring prospects to him, and another doctor in Evanston referred a woman. This was Sylvia K. (“The Keys to the Kingdom”). Earl suggested she go to Akron. There they dried her out and explained the program to her, after which it was suggested that she return to Chicago to work with Earl.
It was Earl who urged Bill W. to codify the A.A. experience, resulting in Bill writing “Twelve Points to Assure Our Future,” first published in the April 1946 A.A. Grapevine. These are now known as the long form of the traditions. Earl later urged him to shorten them to the Twelve Traditions as we know them today.