STORY OF A “WAY OUT” FOR HOPELESS DRINKERS
How an Idea Originated by Ex-Alcoholics Has Helped 2000 to Recover
This is a series of six articles about a group of ex-drinkers who have succeeded in a new method of going on the wagon and staying there. One of their first principles is to pass their experience along, to help others similarly afflicted. The Press will be glad to receive comments. —The Editor
By a Member of Alcoholics Anonymous
People who get around much need no telling that the problem of those who drink too much for the good of themselves, their work and their families is already serious and becoming worse.
And those who know most about it, either because they themselves are drinkers of this type or because they are close to one who is, realize it in all its lacerating, hopeless details.
It is an age-old problem. Prohibition undoubtedly intensified it. The depression has multiplied its victims.
Today many people are taking the attitude of the English officer in India, who hated his assignment. When reproved for excessive drinking, he lifted his glass and said, “This is the swiftest road out of India.”
Now it is true that this part of Texas has escaped the worst part of the depression; but not all of it. And trouble is always easy to find, so that many, like the Englishman, have been indulging in excessive elbow-bending to get away from their worries, their disappointments and their fears in the unstable, war-crazy unsure world of today.
Free to begin drinking, some of them find they are not free to stop.
This series of articles is about them, for them, and for those who are willing to help them.
It is the story of how hundreds of ex-alcoholics, by a method which they themselves devised and perfected, have found the way out of the squirrel cage.
Most of them, after all that medical and psychiatric science, and even formal religion, could do, had been pronounced hopeless.
But if you think they are out to take the glass from the hand of drinkers to whom the diagnosis “alcoholic” does not apply, you are wholly mistaken. As one of them put it, “If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right about face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried long enough and hard enough to drink like other people.”
Thus the problem, as Alcoholics Anonymous sees it, is limited strictly to those who have become, or are on the road to becoming, drinkers headed straight for destruction, unless help beyond the usual is brought within their reach.
If this series sometimes turns autobiographical, it will be because it is difficult for a man who has been delivered of a ghastly fate to write with the soberness and restraint required by a strictly objective account.
Tried Many Cures
Jails, hospitals, attempts at suicide, psychopathic wards, sanitariums, all sorts of “spiritual” and “faith” cures, even hypnotism—these have all been mine without deliverance; some by choice, some because society’s hand was raised against me.
Society did not know I was sick. I had made my bed and society insisted that I lie in it. But alcoholics are definitely sick, as this series will try to show.
Nor did tears, pleadings or threats alter my course for long; and in spite of my own utmost determination, I could never find the answer.
I have personally met at least one hundred “cured” alcoholics—”fellow rummies” as they jokingly call each other.
Their stories parallel my own. Most of them are even worse. One man had been in a sanitarium more than one hundred times.
Another came to see me while I was “taking a rest” in a sanitarium—being defogged so I could use again what brains I had. A livid scar around his neck stood out like the welt raised by a whip. His wrists bore similar witness to the realization of the utter helplessness that had driven him to try suicide as his “swiftest road” out of the India of his perplexities.
I have been in the homes of some ex-alcoholics, Skeptical by nature, an investigator by training, I took no one’s unsupported word. But I saw for myself, not only the new bearing of confidence, even of joy, that exuded from the ex-drinker, but also the ordered life of his family and the new hope and happiness in their faces. I heard it in the tone of their voices.
Literally, these things are hard to believe unless you have had both the experience of being damned and then the surprise of being rescued out of “the jaws of hell,” as the old-fashioned revivalists used to put it.
Some of the experiences of these “cured” alcoholics will enliven the serious business of these articles, which is to explain how the alcoholic gets that way; why he or she is different from other drinkers who are able to “hold their liquor” all their lives; how the fellowship called Alcoholics Anonymous came into being and spread from one man, who in desperation evolved the idea, to include now nearly five hundred men and women, with centers being established in one section of the country after another; in as much detail as space will permit, just what the technique is, how it works, how the alcoholic may avail himself of it; and how anyone interested may help.
Repeating what the advance notice of the series said: “No medicine. No treatments. No cost. No mystery. No terrible battle of the will. Ministers have preached about it. Physicians and psychiatrists have praised it.”
No one has an axe to grind. Members of the fellowship give of their time—often their money—to help some victim. Why? The series will also explain that.
An Inevitable End
One can get an eye-witness picture of what happens when several score ex-alcoholics get together in a meeting. No more startling, unbelievable contrast could be imagined than a comparison with what they would have looked like had they assembled when each was at the end of his rope.
Physicians, perhaps more than any other group, know the alcoholic and his hitherto almost inevitable end. Here are the words of two of them:
“I personally know 30 of these cases who were the type with whom other methods had failed completely.
“Because of the possibilities of rapid growth inherent in this group, they may mark a new epoch in the annals of alcoholism. These men may well have a remedy for thousands of such situations.
“You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves.
“The subject seems to me to be of paramount importance to those afflicted with alcoholic addiction. I say this after many years experience as medical director of one of the oldest hospitals in the country treating alcoholic and drug addiction.”
The second says:
“Will the movement spread? Will these recoveries be permanent? No one can say. Yet we at this hospital, from our observation of many cases, are willing to record our present opinion as a strong ‘yes’ to both questions.”
The head of a hospital and sanitarium in a nearby Texas city, who has many alcoholics come to him, now requires all of them to read about the methods of “Alcoholics Anonymous.”
There must be fire where there is smoke.
I, for one, know this to be true.