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Pioneer member of Akron's Group No. 1, the first
A.A. group in the world. He kept the faith; therefore,
he and countless others found a new life.
| ||ONE OF FIVE children, I was born on a Kentucky|
farm in Carlyle County. My parents were well-
to-do people and their marriage was a happy one. My
wife, a Kentucky girl, came with me to Akron where I
completed my course in law at the Akron Law School.
My case is rather unusual in one respect. There
were no childhood episodes of unhappiness to account
for my alcoholism. I had, seemingly, just a natural
affinity for grog. My marriage was happy and, as I
have said, I never had any of the reasons, conscious
or unconscious, which are often given for drinking.
Yet, as my record shows, I did become an extremely
Before my drinking had cut me down completely, I
achieved a considerable measure of success, having
been a City Councilman for five years and a financial
director of Kenmore, a suburb later taken into the city
itself. But, of course, this all went up the spout with
my increased drinking. So, at the time Dr. Bob and
Bill came along I had about run out my strength.
The first time that I became intoxicated I was eight
years old. This was no fault of my father or mother,
| ||ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE 183|
as they were both very much opposed to drinking. A
couple of hired hands were cleaning out the barn on
the farm and I would ride to and fro on the sled, and
while they were loading I would drink hard cider out
of a barrel in the barn. On the return trip, after two
or three loads, I passed out and had to be carried to
the house. I remember that my father kept whiskey
around the house for medical purposes and entertain-
ment, and I would drink from this when no one was
about and then water it to keep my parents from
knowing I was drinking.
This continued until I enrolled in our state univer-
sity and, at the end of the four years, I realized that I
was a drunk. Morning after morning I would awake
sick and with terrible jitters, but there was always a
flask of liquor sitting on the table beside my bed. I
would reach over and get this and take a shot and in
a few moments get up and take another, shave and eat
my breakfast, slip a half pint of liquor in my hip
pocket, and go on to school. Between classes I would
run down to the wash room, take enough to steady my
nerves and then go on to the next class. This was in
I left the university in the latter part of my senior
year and enlisted in the army. At the time, I called it
patriotism. Later, I realized that I was running from
alcohol. It did help to a certain extent, since I got in
places where I could not obtain anything to drink, and
so broke the habitual drinking.
Then Prohibition came into effect, and the facts that
the stuff obtainable was so horrible and sometimes
deadly, and that I had married and had a job which I
had to look after, helped me for a period of some three
| ||184 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS|
or four years, although I would get drunk every time I
could get hold of enough to drink to get started. My
wife and I belonged to some bridge clubs and they
began to make wine and serve it. However, after two
or three trials, I found this was not satisfactory be-
cause they did not serve enough to satisfy me. So I
would refuse to drink. This problem was soon solved,
however, as I began to take my bottle along with me
and hide it in the bathroom or in the shrubbery out-
As time went on my drinking became progressively
worse. Away from my office two or three weeks at a
time; horrible days and nights when I would lie on the
floor of my home, lying awake and reaching over to
get the bottle, taking a drink and going back into
During the first six months of 1935, I was hospital-
ized eight times for intoxication and shackled to the
bed two or three days before I even knew where I was.
On June 26, 1935, I came to in the hospital and to
say I was discouraged is to put it mildly. Each of the
seven times that I had left this hospital in the last six
months, I had come out fully determined in my own
mind that I would not get drunk again--for at least six
or eight months. It hadn't worked out that way and
I didn't know what the matter was and did not know
what to do.
I was moved into another room that morning and
there was my wife. I thought to myself, "Well, she is
going to tell me this is the end," and I certainly
couldn't blame her and did not intend to try to justify
myself. She told me that she had been talking to a
couple of fellows about drinking. I resented this very
| ||ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE 185|
much, until she informed me that they were a couple
of drunks just as I was. That wasn't so bad, to tell it
to another drunk.
She said "You are going to quit." That was worth a
lot even though I did not believe it. Then she told me
that these two drunks she had been talking to had a
plan whereby they thought they could quit drinking,
and part of that plan was that they tell it to another
drunk. This was going to help them to stay sober. All
the other people that had talked to me wanted to help
me, and my pride prevented me from listening to
them, and caused only resentment on my part, but I
felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to
a couple of fellows for a short time, if that would cure
them. She also told me that I could not pay them even
if I wanted to and had the money, which I did not.
They came in a began to give me instruction in
the program which later became known as Alcoholics
Anonymous. There was not much of it at that time.
I looked up and there were two great big fellows
over six foot tall, very likable looking. (I knew after-
wards that the two who came in were Bill W. and
Doctor Bob.) Before very long we began to relate
some incidents of our drinking, and, naturally, pretty
soon, I realized both of them knew what they were
talking about because you can see things and smell
things when you're drunk, that you can't other times,
and, if I had thought they didn't know what they were
talking about, I wouldn't have been willing to talk to
them at all.
After a while, Bill said, "Well, now, you've been
talking a good long time, let me talk a minute or two."
So, after hearing some more of my story, he turned
| ||186 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS|
around and said to Doc--I don't think he knew I heard
him, but I did--he said, "Well, I believe he's worth
saving and working on." They said to me, "Do you
want to quit drinking? It's none of our business about
your drinking. We're not up here trying to take any
of your rights or privileges away from you, but we
have a program whereby we think we can stay sober.
Part of that program is that we take it to someone else,
that needs it and wants it. Now, if you don't want it,
we'll not take up your time, and we'll be going and
looking for someone else."
The next thing they wanted to know was if I
thought I could quit of my own accord, without any
help, if I could just walk out of the hospital and never
take another drink. If I could that was wonderful,
that was just fine, and they would very much appre-
ciate a person who had that kind of power, but they
were looking for a man that knew he had a problem,
and knew that he couldn't handle it himself and
needed outside help. The next question, they wanted
to know was if I believed in a Higher Power. I had no
trouble there because I had never actually ceased to
believe in God, and had tried lots of times to get help
but hadn't succeeded. The next thing they wanted to
know was would I be willing to go to this Higher
Power and ask for help, calmly and without any res-
They left this with me to think over, and I lay there
on that hospital bed and went back over and reviewed
my life. I thought of what liquor had done to me, the
opportunities that I had discarded, the abilities that
had been given me and how I had wasted them, and
I finally came to the conclusion, that if I didn't want
| ||ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE 187|
to quit, I certainly ought to want to, and that I was
willing to do anything in the world to stop drinking.
I was willing to admit to myself that I had hit bot-
tom, that I had gotten hold of something that I didn't
know how to handle by myself. So, after reviewing
these things and realizing what liquor had cost me, I
went to this Higher Power which, to me, was God,
without any reservation, and admitted that I was com-
pletely powerless over alcohol, and that I was willing
to do anything in the world to get rid of the problem.
In fact, I admitted that from now on I was willing to
let God take over, instead of me. Each day I would
try to find out what His will was, and try to follow
that, rather than trying to get Him to always agree
that the things I thought of myself were the things
best for me. So, when they came back, I told them.
One of the fellows, I think it was Doc, said, "Well,
you want to quit?" I said, "Yes, Doc, I would like to
quit, at least for five, six, or eight months, until I get
things straightened up, and begin to get the respect of
my wife and some other people back, and get my
finances fixed up and so on." And they both laughed
very heartily, and said, "That's better than you've been
doing, isn't it?" Which of course was true. They said,
"We've got some bad news for you. It was bad news
for us, and it will probably be bad news for you.
Whether you quit six days, months, or years, if you go
out and take a drink or two you'll end up in this hos-
pital tied down, just like you have been in these past
six months. You are an alcoholic." As far as I know
that was the first time I had ever paid any attention
to that word. I figured I was just a drunk. And they
said, "No, you have a disease, and it doesn't make any
| ||188 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS|
difference how long you do without it, after a drink or
two you'll end up just like you are now." That cer-
tainly was real disheartening news, at the time.
The next question they asked was, "You can quit
twenty-four hours, can't you?" I said, "Sure, yes any-
body can do that, for twenty-four hours." They said,
"That's what we're talking about. Just twenty-four
hours at a time." That sure did take a load off of my
mind. Every time I'd start thinking about drinking, I
would think of the long, dry years ahead without hav-
ing a drink; but this idea of twenty-four hours, that it
was up to me from then on, was a lot of help.
(At this point, the Editors intrude just long enough to
supplement Bill D.'s account, that of the man on the bed,
with that of Bill W., the man who sat by the side of the
bed.) Says Bill W.:
Nineteen years ago last summer, Dr. Bob and I saw him
(Bill D.) for the first time. Bill lay on his hospital bed and
looked at us in wonder.
Two days before this, Dr. Bob had said to me, "If you
and I are going to stay sober, we had better get busy."
Straightway, Bob called Akron's City Hospital and asked
for the nurse on the receiving ward. He explained that he
and a man from New York had a cure for alcoholism. Did
she have an alcoholic customer on whom it could be tried?
Knowing Bob of old, she jokingly replied, "Well, Doctor,
I suppose you've already tried it yourself?"
Yes, she did have a customer--a dandy. He just arrived
in D.T.'s. Had blacked the eyes of two nurses, and now
they had him strapped down tight. Would this one do?
After prescribing medicines, Dr. Bob ordered, "Put him in
a private room. We'll be down as soon as he clears up."
Bill didn't seem too impressed. Looking sadder than
ever, he wearily ventured, "Well this is wonderful for you
fellows, but it can't be for me. My case is so terrible that
I'm scared to go out of this hospital at all. You don't have
| ||ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE 189|
to sell me religion, either. I was at one time a deacon in
the church and I still believe in God. But I guess He
doesn't believe much in me."
Then Dr. Bob said, "Well, Bill maybe you'll feel better
tomorrow. Wouldn't you like to see us again?"
"Sure I would," replied Bill, "Maybe it won't do any
good, but I'd like to see you both, anyhow. You certainly
know what you are talking about."
Looking in later we found Bill with his wife, Henrietta.
Eagerly he pointed to us saying, "These are the fellows I
told you about; they are the ones who understand."
Bill then related how he had lain awake nearly all night.
Down in the pit of his depression, new hope had somehow
been born. The thought flashed through his mind, "If
they can do it, I can do it!" Over and over he said this to
himself. Finally, out of his hope, there burst conviction.
Now he was sure. Then came a great joy. At length peace
stole over him and he slept.
Before our visit was over, Bill suddenly turned to his
wife and said, "Go fetch my clothes, dear. We're going to
get up and get out of here." Bill D. walked out of that
hospital a free man never to drink again.
A.A.'s Number One Group dates from that very day.
(Bill D. now continues his story.)
It was in the next two or three days after I had first
met Doc and Bill, that I finally came to a decision to
turn my will over to God and to go along with this
program the best that I could. Their talk and action
had instilled me with a certain amount of confidence,
although I was not too absolutely certain. I wasn't
afraid that the program wouldn't work, but I still was
doubtful whether I would be able to hang on to the
program, but I did come to the conclusion that I was
willing to put everything I had into it, with God's
power, and that I wanted to do just that. As soon as
I had done that I did feel a great release. I knew that
| ||190 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS|
I had a helper that I could rely upon, who wouldn't
fail me. If I could stick to Him and listen, I would
make it. Then I remember when the boys came back,
that I told them, "I have gone to this Higher Power
and I have told Him that I am willing to put His world
first, above everything. I have already done it, and I
am willing to do it again here in the presence of you or
I am willing to say it any place, anywhere in the world
from now on and not be ashamed of it." And this, as
I said, certainly gave me a lot of confidence, seemed to
take a lot of the burden off me.
I remember telling them too that it was going to be
awfully tough, because I did some other things,
smoked cigarettes and played penny ante poker, some-
times bet on the horse races and they said, "Don't you
think you're having more trouble with this drinking
than with anything else at the present time? Don't
you believe you are going to have all you can do to
get rid of that?" I said, "Yes," reluctantly, "I probably
will." They said, "Let's forget about those other
things, that is, trying to eliminate them all at once, and
concentrate on the drink." Of course, we had talked
over quite a number of the failings that I had and
made a sort of an inventory, which wasn't too difficult,
because I had an awful lot of things wrong that were
very apparent to me, because I knew all about them.
Then they said, "There is one other thing. You should
go out and take this program to somebody else that
needs it and wants it."
Of course, by this time, my business was practically
non-existent. I didn't have any. Naturally, for quite
a time, I wasn't too well physically, either. It took me
a year, or a year and a half to get to feeling physically
| ||ANONYMOUS NUMBER THREE 191|
well, and it was rather tough, but I soon found folks
whose friendship I had once had, and I found, after I
had been sober for quite some little time, that these
people began to act like they had in previous years,
before I had gotten so bad, so that I didn't pay too aw-
ful much attention to financial gains. I spent most of
my time trying to get back these friendships, and to
make some recompense towards my wife, whom I had
hurt a lot.
It would be hard to estimate how much A.A. has
done for me. I really wanted the program and I
wanted to go along with it. I noticed that the others
seemed to have such a release, a happiness, a some-
thing that I thought a person ought to have. I was
trying to find the answer. I knew there was even
more, something that I hadn't got, and I remember one
day, a week or two after I had come out of the hospi-
tal, Bill was over to my house talking to my wife and
me. We were eating lunch, and I was listening and
trying to find out why they had this release that they
seemed to have. Bill looked across at my wife, and
said to her, "Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonder-
ful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just
want to keep talking about it and telling people."
I thought, "I think I have the answer." Bill was
very, very grateful that he had been released from this
terrible thing and he had given God the credit for
having done it, and he's so grateful about it he wants
to tell other people about it. That sentence, "The Lord
has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible
disease, that I just want to keep telling people about
it," has been a sort of a golden text for the A.A. pro-
gram and for me.
| ||192 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS|
Of course, as time went on, and I began to get my
health back and began to be so I didn't have to hide
from people all the time, it's just been wonderful. I
still go to meetings, because I like to go. I meet the
people that I like to talk to. Another reason that I go
is that I'm still grateful for the good years that I've
had. I'm so grateful for both the program and the peo-
ple in it that I still want to go, and then probably the
most wonderful thing that I learned from the program
--I've seen this in the `A.A. Grapevine' a lot of times,
and I've had people say it to me personally, and I've
heard people get up in meetings and make the same
statement: The statement is, "I came into A.A. solely
for the purpose of sobriety, but it has been through
A.A. that I have found God."
I feel that is about the most wonderful thing that a
person can do.
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