Lets Ask Bill W.
Question & Answer # 37
What is AA’s relationship with the community?
Now that our methods and results are better known we are receiving splendid cooperation everywhere from clergymen, doctors, employers, editors – in fact, from whole communities. While there is still a well-understood reluctance on the part of city and private hospitals to admit alcoholic patients, we are pleased to report a great improvement in this direction. But we are still very far, in most places, from having anything like adequate hospital accommodations.
Over and above this traditional activity, we may give some counsel to those who work upon various aspects of the total problem. It may be possible that our experience fits us for a special task. Writing of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick once said: “Gothic Cathedral windows are not the sole thing which can be seen from within. Alcoholism is another. All outside views are clouded and unsure.” Thus, with our inside view – one best seen by those drinkers who have suffered from alcoholism – we would help those working on alcohol problems who have not had our first hand experience.
While we members of Alcoholics Anonymous are not scientists, our special insight may help science; while we are of all religions and sometimes none, we can assist clergymen; although not educators, we shall, perhaps, aid in clearing away unsure views; not penologists, we do help in prison work; not a business or organization, we nevertheless advise employers; not sociologists, we constantly serve families, friends and communities; not prosecutors or judges, we try to promote understanding and justice; emphatically not doctors, we do minister to the sick. Taking no side on controversial questions, we may sometimes mediate fruitless antagonism, which have so often blocked effective cooperation among those who would solve the riddle of the alcoholic.
These are the activities and aspirations of thousands of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous. While our organization as a whole has but one aim – to help the alcoholic who wishes to recover – there are a few of us, indeed, who as individuals do not wish to meet some of the broader responsibilities for which we may be especially fitted. (Quart. J. Stud. Alc., Vol.6, Sept., 1945). .
Many an alcoholic is now sent to A.A. by his own psychiatrist. Relieved of his drinking, he returns to the doctor a far easier subject. Practically every alcoholic’s wife has become, to a degree, his possessive mother. Most alcoholic women, if they still have a husband, live with a baffled father. This sometimes spells trouble aplenty. We AA’s certainly ought to know! So, gentlemen, here is a big problem right up your alley.
We of A.A. try to be aware that we may never touch but a segment of the total alcohol problem. We try to remember that our growing success may prove to be a heady wine; will you men and women of medicine be our partners; physicians wielding well your invisible scalpels; workers all, in our common cause? We like to think Alcoholics Anonymous a middle ground between medicine and religion, the missing catalyst of a new synthesis. This to the end that millions who still suffer may presently issue from their darkness into the light of day! (Amer. J. Psychiat., Vol. 106, 1949) .
Alcoholics Anonymous once stood in no-mans land between medicine and religion. Religionists thought we were unorthodox; medicine thought we were totally unscientific. The last decade brought a great change in this respect. Clerics of every denomination declare that, while A.A. contains no shred of dogma, it has an impeccable spiritual basis, quite acceptable to men of all creeds, even the agnostic himself. You gentlemen of medicine also observe that AA is psychiatrically sound so far as it goes and that A.A. refers all bodily ills of its membership to your profession. Therefore, it is now clear that Alcoholics Anonymous is a synthetic construct which draws upon three sources, namely, medical science, religion and its own particular experience. Withdraw one of these supports and its platform of stability falls to earth as a farmer’s three-legged milk stool with one leg chopped off. That you have invited me, an A.A. member, to sit in your councils today is a happy token of that fact, for which our society is deeply grateful.
What, then, has Alcoholics Anonymous contributed as third partner of the recovery synthesis which promises so much to sufferers everywhere? Does Alcoholics Anonymous contain any new principles? Strictly speaking it does not. A.A. merely relates the alcoholic to the tested truths in a brand new way. He is now able to accept them where he couldn’t before. Now he has a concrete program of action and the understanding support of a successful society of his fellows in which he carries that out. In all probability, these are the long-missing links in the recovery chain. (N.Y. State J. Med., Vol. 50, July 1950)