Chapter 11

                      A VISION FOR YOU

  FOR MOST normal folks, drinking means convivi-
ality, companionship and colorful imagination.
It means release from care, boredom and worry.  It is
joyous intimacy with friends and a feeling that life is
good.  But not so with us in those last days of heavy
drinking.  The old pleasures were gone.  They were
but memories.  Never could we recapture the great
moments of the past.  There was an insistent yearning
to enjoy life as we once did and a heartbreaking obses-
sion that some new miracle of control would enable
us to do it.  There was always one more attempt--and
one more failure.
  The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew
from society, from life itself.  As we became subjects
of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm,
the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down.  It
thickened, ever becoming blacker.  Some of us sought
out sordid places hoping to find understanding com-
panionship and approval.  Momentarily we did--then
would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face
the hideous Four Horsemen--Terror, Bewilderment,
Frustration, Despair.  Unhappy drinkers who read this
page will understand!
  Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the
moment says, "I don't miss it at all.  Feel better.  Work
better.  Having a better time."  As ex-problem drink-

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ers, we smile at such a sally.  We know our friend is
like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits.
He fools himself.  Inwardly he would give anything to
take half a dozen drinks and get away with them.  He
will presently try the old game again, for he isn't
happy about his sobriety.  He cannot picture life with-
out alcohol.  Some day he will be unable to imagine
life either with alcohol or without it.  Then he will
know loneliness such as few do.  He will be at the
jumping-off place.  He will wish for the end.
  We have shown how we got out from under.  You
say, "Yes, I'm willing.  But am I to be consigned to a
life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like
some righteous people I see?  I know I must get along
without liquor, but how can I?  Have you a sufficient
substitute?"
  Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than
that.  It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous.
There you will find release from care, boredom and
worry.  Your imagination will be fired.  Life will mean
something at last.  The most satisfactory years of your
existence lie ahead.  Thus we find the fellowship, and
so will you.
  "How is that to come about?" you ask.  "Where am
I to find these people?"
  You are going to meet these new friends in your own
community.  Near you, alcoholics are dying helplessly
like people in a sinking ship.  If you live in a large
place, there are hundreds.  High and low, rich and
poor, these are future fellows of Alcoholics Anony-
mous.  Among them you will make lifelong friends.
You will be bound to them with new and wonderful
ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will

 
                      A VISION FOR YOU                   153
commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey.
Then you will know what it means to give of yourself
that others may survive and rediscover life.  You will
learn the full meaning of "Love thy neighbor as thy-
self."
  It may seem incredible that these men are to be-
come happy, respected, and useful once more.  How
can they rise out of such misery, bad repute and hope-
lessness?  The practical answer is that since these
things have happened among us, they can happen
with you.  Should you wish them above all else, and
be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure
they will come.  The age of miracles is still with us.
Our own recovery proves that!
  Our hope is that when this chip of a book is
launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated
drinkers will seize upon it, to follow its suggestions.
Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march
on.  They will approach still other sick ones and
fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up
in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must
find a way out.
  In the chapter "Working With Others" you gathered
an idea of how we approach and aid others to health.
Suppose now that through you several families have
adopted this way of life.  You will want to know more
of how to proceed from that point.  Perhaps the best
way of treating you to a glimpse of your future will be
to describe the growth of the fellowship among us.
Here is a brief account:
  Years ago, in 1935, one of our number made a
journey to a certain western city.  From a business
standpoint, his trip came off badly.  Had he been suc-

 
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cessful in his enterprise, he would have been set on
his feet financially which, at the time, seemed vitally
important.  But his venture wound up in a law suit and
bogged down completely.  The proceeding was shot
through with much hard feeling and controversy.
  Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange
place, discredited and almost broke.  Still physically
weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that his
predicament was dangerous.  He wanted so much to
talk with someone, but whom?
  One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby won-
dering how his bill was to be paid.  At one end of the
room stood a glass covered directory of local churches.
Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar.
He could see the gay crowd inside.  In there he would
find companionship and release.  Unless he took some
drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an
acquaintance and would have a lonely week-end.
  Of course he couldn't drink, but why not sit hope-
fully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him?
After all, had he not been sober six months now?  Per-
haps he could handle, say, three drinks--no more!  Fear
gripped him.  He was on thin ice.  Again it was the
old, insidious insanity--that first drink.  With a shiver,
he turned away and walked down the lobby to the
church directory.  Music and gay chatter still floated
to him from the bar.
  But what about his responsibilities--his family and
the men who would die because they would not know
how to get well, ah--yes, those other alcoholics?
There must be many such in this town.  He would
phone a clergyman.  His sanity returned and he thanked
 

 
                      A VISION FOR YOU                   155
God.  Selecting a church at random from the directory,
he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.
  His call to the clergyman led him presently to a
certain resident of the town, who, though formerly
able and respected, was then nearing the nadir of
alcoholic despair.  It was the usual situation:  home in
jeopardy, wife ill, children distracted, bills in arrears
and standing damaged.  He had a desperate desire to
stop, but saw no way out, for he had earnestly tried
many avenues of escape.  Painfully aware of being
somehow abnormal, the man did not fully realize
what it meant to be alcoholic.
  When our friend related his experience, the man
agreed that no amount of will power he might muster
could stop his drinking for long.  A spiritual experi-
ence, he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the
price seemed high upon the basis suggested.  He told
how he lived in constant worry about those who might
find out about his alcoholism.  He had, of course, the
familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his drink-
ing.  Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder
of his business, only to bring still more suffering to
his family by foolishly admitting his plight to people
from whom he made his livelihood?  He would do
anything, he said, but that.
  Being intrigued, however, he invited our friend to
his home.  Some time later, and just as he thought he
was getting control of his liquor situation, he went on
a roaring bender.  For him, this was the spree that
ended all sprees.  He saw that he would have to face
 

 
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his problems squarely that God might give him
mastery.
  One morning he took the bull by the horns and set
out to tell those he feared what his trouble had been.
He found himself surprisingly well received, and
learned that many knew of his drinking.  Stepping
into his car, he made the rounds of people he had
hurt.  He trembled as he went about, for this might
mean ruin, particularly to a person in his line of busi-
ness.
  At midnight he came home exhausted, but very
happy.  He has not had a drink since.  As we shall see,
he now means a great deal to his community, and the
major liabilities of thirty years of hard drinking have
been repaired in four.
  But life was not easy for the two friends.  Plenty of
difficulties presented themselves.  Both saw that they
must keep spiritually active.  One day they called up
the head nurse of a local hospital.  They explained
their need and inquired if she had a first class alcoholic
prospect.
  She replied, "Yes, we've got a corker.  He's just
beaten up a couple of nurses.  Goes off his head com-
pletely when he's drinking.  But he's a grand chap
when he's sober, though he's been in here eight times
in the last six months.  Understand he was once a
well-known lawyer in town, but just now we've got
him strapped down tight."
  Here was a prospect all right but, by the description,
none too promising.  The use of spiritual principles in
 

 
                      A VISION FOR YOU                   157
such cases was not so well understood as it is now.
But one of the friends said, "Put him in a private room.
We'll be down."
  Two days later, a future fellow of Alcoholics
Anonymous stared glassily at the strangers beside his
bed.  "Who are you fellows, and why this private
room?  I was always in a ward before."
  Said one of the visitors, "We're giving you a treat-
ment for alcoholism."
  Hopelessness was written large on the man's face as
he replied, "Oh, but that's no use.  Nothing would fix
me.  I'm a goner.  The last three times, I got drunk on
the way home from here.  I'm afraid to go out the
door.  I can't understand it."
  For an hour, the two friends told him about their
drinking experiences.  Over and over, he would say:
"That's me.  That's me.  I drink like that."
  The man in the bed was told of the acute poisoning
from which he suffered, how it deteriorates the body
of an alcoholic and warps his mind.  There was much
talk about the mental state preceding the first drink.
  "Yes, that's me," said the sick man, "the very image.
You fellows know your stuff all right, but I don't see
what good it'll do.  You fellows are somebody.  I was
once, but I'm a nobody now.  From what you tell me,
I know more than ever I can't stop."  At this both the
visitors burst into a laugh.  Said the future Fellow
Anonymous:  "Damn little to laugh about that I can
see."
  The two friends spoke of their spiritual experience
and told him about the course of action they carried
out.
  He interrupted:  "I used to be strong for the church,

 
158                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
but that won't fix it.  I've prayed to God on hangover
mornings and sworn that I'd never touch another drop
but by nine o'clock I'd be boiled as an owl."
  Next day found the prospect more receptive.  He
had been thinking it over.  "Maybe you're right," he
said.  "God ought to be able to do anything."  Then
he added, "He sure didn't do much for me when I was
trying to fight this booze racket alone."
  On the third day the lawyer gave his life to the care
and direction of his Creator, and said he was perfectly
willing to do anything necessary.  His wife came,
scarcely daring to be hopeful, though she thought she
saw something different about her husband already.
He had begun to have a spiritual experience.
  That afternoon he put on his clothes and walked
from the hospital a free man.  He entered a political
campaign, making speeches, frequenting men's gath-
ering places of all sorts, often staying up all night.  He
lost the race by only a narrow margin.  But he had
found God--and in finding God had found himself.
  That was in June, 1935.  He never drank again.  He
too, has become a respected and useful member of his
community.  He has helped other men recover, and is
a power in the church from which he was long absent.
  So, you see, there were three alcoholics in that town,
who now felt they had to give to others what they had
found, or be sunk.  After several failures to find others,
a fourth turned up.  He came through an acquaintance
who had heard the good news.  He proved to be a
devil-may-care young fellow whose parents could not
make out whether he wanted to stop drinking or not.
They were deeply religious people, much shocked by
their son's refusal to have anything to do with the

 
                      A VISION FOR YOU                   159
church.  He suffered horribly from his sprees, but it
seemed as if nothing could be done for him.  He con-
sented, however, to go to the hospital, where he oc-
cupied the very room recently vacated by the lawyer.
  He had three visitors.  After a bit, he said, "The way
you fellows put this spiritual stuff makes sense.  I'm
ready to do business.  I guess the old folks were right
after all."  So one more was added to the Fellowship.
  All this time our friend of the hotel lobby incident
remained in that town.  He was there three months.
He now returned home, leaving behind his first ac-
quaintance, the lawyer and the devil-may-care chap.
These men had found something brand new in life.
Though they knew they must help other alcoholics if
they would remain sober, that motive became second-
ary.  It was transcended by the happiness they found
in giving themselves for others.  They shared their
homes, their slender resources, and gladly devoted
their spare hours to fellow-sufferers.  They were will-
ing, by day or night, to place a new man in the hos-
pital and visit him afterward.  They grew in numbers.
They experienced a few distressing failures, but in
those cases they made an effort to bring the man's
family into a spiritual way of living, thus relieving
much worry and suffering.
  A year and six months later these three had suc-
ceeded with seven more.  Seeing much of each other,
scarce an evening passes that someone's home did not
shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy in
their release, and constantly thinking how they might
present their discovery to some newcomer.  In addi-
tion to these casual get-togethers, it became customary
to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be at-

 
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tended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual
way of life.  Aside from fellowship and sociability,
the prime object was to provide a time and place
where new people might bring their problems.
  Outsiders became interested.  One man and his wife
placed their large home at the disposal of this
strangely assorted crowd.  This couple has since be-
come so fascinated that they have dedicated their
home to the work.  Many a distracted wife has visited
this house to find loving and understanding compan-
ionship among women who knew her problem, to
hear from the lips of their husbands what had hap-
pened to them, to be advised how her own wayward
mate might be hospitalized and approached when
next he stumbled.
  Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experi-
ence, has stepped over the threshold of that home into
freedom.  Many an alcoholic who entered there came
away with an answer.  He succumbed to that gay
crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes
and understood his.  Impressed by those who visited
him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later,
in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of
some man whose experience closely tallied with his
own.  The expression on the faces of the women, that
indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the
stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place,
conspired to let him know that here was haven at last.
  The very practical approach to his problems, the
absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality,
the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding
which these people had were irresistible.  He and his
 

 
                      A VISION FOR YOU                   161
wife would leave elated by the thought of what they
could now do for some stricken acquaintance and his
family.  They knew they had a host of new friends; it
seemed they had known these strangers always.  They
had seen miracles, and one was to come to them.  They
had visioned the Great Reality--their loving and All
Powerful Creator.
  Now, this house will hardly accommodate its weekly
visitors, for they number sixty or eighty as a rule.  Al-
coholics are being attracted from far and near.  From
surrounding towns, families drive long distances to be
present.  A community thirty miles away has fifteen
fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Being a large
place, we think that some day its Fellowship will
number many hundreds.
  But life among Alcoholics Anonymous is more than
attending gatherings and visiting hospitals.  Cleaning
up old scrapes, helping to settle family differences,
explaining the disinherited son to his irate parents,
lending money and securing jobs for each other, when
justified--these are everyday occurrences.  No one is
too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed
cordially--if he means business.  Social distinctions,
petty rivalries and jealousies--these are laughed out of
countenance.  Being wrecked in the same vessel, being
restored and united under one God, with hearts and
minds attuned to the welfare of others, the things
which matter so much to some people no longer
signify much to them.  How could they?
  Under only slightly different conditions, the same
thing is taking place in many eastern cities.  In one of

 
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these there is a well-known hospital for the treatment
of alcoholic and drug addiction.  Six years ago one of
our number was a patient there.  Many of us have felt,
for the first time, the Presence and Power of God
within its walls.  We are greatly indebted to the
doctor in attendance there, for he, although it might
prejudice his own work, has told us of his belief in ours.
  Every few days this doctor suggests our approach
to one of his patients.  Understanding our work, he
can do this with an eye to selecting those who are
willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis.  Many
of us, former patients, go there to help.  Then, in this
eastern city, there are informal meetings such as we
have described to you, where you may now see scores
of members.  There are the same fast friendships,
there is the same helpfulness to one another as you
find among our western friends.  There is a good bit
of travel between East and West and we foresee a
great increase in this helpful interchange.
  Some day we hope that every alcoholic who
journeys will find a Fellowship of Alcoholics Anony-
mous at his destination.  To some extent this is already
true.  Some of us are salesmen and go about.  Little
clusters of twos and threes and fives of us have sprung
up in other communities, through contact with our
two larger centers.  Those of us who travel drop in as
often as we can.  This practice enables us to lend a
hand, at the same time avoiding certain alluring dis-
tractions of the road, about which any traveling man
can inform you.
  Thus we grow.  And so can you, though you be but
 
                      A VISION FOR YOU                   163
one man with this book in your hand.  We believe and
hope it contains all you will need to begin.
  We know what you are thinking.  You are saying to
yourself:  "I'm jittery and alone.  I couldn't do that."
But you can.  You forget that you have just now tapped
a source of power much greater than yourself.  To
duplicate, with such backing, what we have accom-
plished is only a matter of willingness, patience and
labor.
  We know of an A.A. member who was living in a
large community.  He had lived there but a few weeks
when he found that the place probably contained
more alcoholics per square mile than any city in the
country.  This was only a few days ago at this writing.
(1939)  The authorities were much concerned.  He got
in touch with a prominent psychiatrist who had under-
taken certain responsibilities for the mental health of
the community.  The doctor proved to be able and
exceedingly anxious to adopt any workable method
of handling the situation.  So he inquired, what did
our friend have on the ball?
  Our friend proceeded to tell him.  And with such
good effect that the doctor agreed to a test among his
patients and certain other alcoholics from a clinic
which he attends.  Arrangements were also made with
the chief psychiatrist of a large public hospital to
select still others from the stream of misery which
flows through that institution.
  So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore.
Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up, but
if our experience is a criterion, more than half of those
approached will become fellows of Alcoholics Anony-
mous.  When a few men in this city have found them-

 
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selves, and have discovered the joy of helping others
to face life again, there will be no stopping until
everyone in that town has had his opportunity to re-
cover--if he can and will.
  Still you may say:  "But I will not have the benefit
of contact with you who write this book."  We cannot
be sure.  God will determine that, so you must remem-
ber that your real reliance is always upon Him.  He
will show you how to create the fellowship you
crave.
  Our book is meant to be suggestive only.  We realize
we know only a little.  God will constantly disclose
more to you and to us.  Ask Him in your morning medi-
tation what you can do each day for the man who is
still sick.  The answers will come, if your own house
is in order.  But obviously you cannot transmit some-
thing you haven't got.  See to it that your relationship
with Him is right, and great events will come to pass
for you and countless others.  This is the Great Fact
for us.
  Abandon yourself to God as you understand God.
Admit you faults to Him and to your fellows.  Clear
away the wreckage of your past.  Give freely of what
you find and join us.  We shall be with you in the
Fellowship of the spirit, and you will surely meet
some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
  May God bless you and keep you--until then.