Norman H., Darien, Connecticut.
(OM, p. 351 in 1st edition.)
Norman’s date of sobriety is uncertain. One source says it was February 1938, another says June 1938.
He had been hospitalized four times. The first three times he left the hospital determined never to drink again. Now, on his fourth visit, he told the kindly doctor (perhaps Dr. Silkworth) that he was a thoroughly hopeless case and would probably continue to return as long as he could beg, borrow, or steal the money to get in.
On the second day in the hospital the doctor told him that he knew of a way he could stop drinking forever. On the third day a man came to talk with him. He talked about alcoholism and a spiritual way of life.
Norman was deeply impressed by his seriousness, but nothing that he said made sense to him. He spoke about God, and Norman did not believe in a God. It was not for him. War, illness, cruelty, stupidity, poverty and greed were not and could not be the product of any purposeful creation.
The next day another man visited him. He, too, was an alcoholic who no longer drank. This second man had not had a drink in over three years. This was probably Fitz M. (“Our Southern Friend”) or Hank P. (“The Unbeliever”).
He told him of other men who had found sobriety through the recognition of some power beyond themselves, and invited him to a meeting on the following Tuesday at Bill W.’s home in Brooklyn.
He told his wife about this group, and she thought he was mentally unbalanced. But she had met this kindly doctor and, since he recommended it, she was willing for him to try it.
The following Tuesday, hardly daring to hope and fearful of the worst, he and his wife attended their first meeting. He had never been so inspired.
That was, for him, the beginning of a new life. Almost imperceptibly he began to change. In the process of this change, he recognized two immensely significant steps for him. He admitted to himself for the first time that all my previous thinking might be wrong, and he consciously wished to believe.
In his story, Norman ends by addressing himself directly to atheists or agnostics, who might read the book. He assured them that their questions had been in his mind also. He could see no satisfactory solution to any of them. But he kept hard to the only thing that seemed to hold out any hope, and gradually his difficulties were lessened. He said he had not given up his intellect for the sake of his soul, nor had he destroyed his integrity to preserve his health and sanity. “All I had feared to lose I have gained and all I feared to gain I have lost.”
As a result of this experience he was convinced that to seek is to find, to ask is to be given. The day never passed that he did not silently cry out in thankfulness, not merely for his release from alcohol, but even more for a change that had given his life new meaning, dignity, and beauty.