Helen B., New York.
(p. 485 in the 2nd edition, p. 464 in the 3rd edition.)
They Lost Nearly All
“This career girl preferred solitary drinking, the blackout kind, often hoping she’d stay that way for keeps. But Providence had other ideas.”
Helen entered A.A. in New York in November of 1944, but had a slip in 1945.
She started drinking socially and at parties and proms when she was about twenty years old. It made her feel quite grownup and mature, and another added attraction was that as far as her family was concerned it was forbidden.
Eventually she became dependent on it and became a daily drinker. Then she had a week-long-bender of solitary drinking, locked up a hotel room because her family opposed her coming marriage. During that week the hotel doctor gave her sleeping pills and she took the whole bottle. Only the actions of an alert hotel maid saved her.
The next five years were filled with fear, failure and frustration. Her doctor had suggested to her husband that he send her to A.A. but little was known about it then. The doctor said it was a bunch of drunks who helped one another. Her husband thought the last thing she needed was to be around a bunch of drunks. She lost a child, her marriage ended and she was living with her parents. She was in and out of sanitariums.
One day her psychiatrist left Helen’s case history on her desk when she was called away from the room. Helen read it and was delighted to see that “Periodic Drinker,” had been crossed out and the words “Chronic Alcoholic,” substituted. She thought this mean she was getting better.
Finally, in November of 1944, she went to A.A. “A.A. took this wreck of a woman and brought her back to life.”
Her sponsor was “a charming, delightful, lovely person,” and Helen put her on a pedestal. She centered her life on this woman. Her sponsor recognized that she was depending on her and not on the A.A. program, and began to pull away. When she broke a luncheon date with Helen, she got drunk to punish her. That was February of 1945, and Helen was sent back to the sanitarium in which she had been so often.
While hospitalized, Helen realized that she had not been basing her sobriety on the book, or the group, or the Higher Power, but on an individual. She started really working the program and never drank again.
In December of 1949, Helen became a senior staff member at the New York office, where she recommended Nell Wing to work as Bill’s secretary. She had previously worked for the Boston Central Service Office of A.A.
She proved of tremendous help to Bill W., especially in promoting the Traditions and the Conference idea to the Fellowship, and in organizing the General Service Conference. She served as secretary of the first two Conferences. Helen also worked closely with Bill on the booklet called “The Third Legacy.” Bill said of her in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, “Helen B. of the office staff had a real flair for statesmanship in the best sense of the word, and she understood practical politics too. Her assistance throughout proved invaluable.”
In March 1955, she resigned to be married, and moved to Texas.
Information about Helen is from “Grateful to Have Been There,” by Nell Wing, Parkside Publishing Corporation, and an unpublished history of A.A.’s first fifty years by Bob P.