Chapter 8

                         TO WIVES
  WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, our book thus far has
spoken of men.  But what we have said applies
quite as much to women.  Our activities in behalf of
women who drink are on the increase.  There is every
evidence that women regain their health as readily as
men if they try our suggestions.
  But for every man who drinks others are involved--
the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the
mother and father who see their son wasting away.
  Among us are wives, relatives and friends whose
problem has been solved, as well as some who have
not yet found a happy solution.  We want the wives of
Alcoholics Anonymous to address the wives of men
who drink too much.  What they say will apply to
nearly everyone bound by ties of blood or affection
to an alcoholic.
  As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we would like
you to feel that we understand as perhaps few can.
We want to analyze mistakes we have made.  We want
to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too
difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.
  We have traveled a rocky road, there is no mistake
about that.  We have had long rendezvous with hurt
pride, frustration, self-pity, misunderstanding and fear.
These are not pleasant companions.  We have been

Written in 1939, when there were few women in A.A.,
this chapter assumes that the alcoholic in the home is
likely to be the husband.  But many of the suggestions
given here may be adapted to help the person who lives
with a woman alcoholic--whether she is still drinking or
is recovering in A.A.
                          TO WIVES                       105
driven to maudlin sympathy, to bitter resentment.
Some of us veered from extreme to extreme, ever
hoping that one day our loved ones would be them-
selves once more.
  Our loyalty and the desire that our husbands hold
up their heads and be like other men have begotten
all sorts of predicaments.  We have been unselfish and
self-sacrificing.  We have told innumerable lies to
protect our pride and our husbands' reputations.  We
have prayed, we have begged, we have been patient.
We have struck out viciously.  We have run away.  We
have been hysterical.  We have been terror stricken.
We have sought sympathy.  We have had retaliatory
love affairs with other men.
  Our homes have been battle-grounds many an
evening.  In the morning we have kissed and made up.
Our friends have counseled chucking the men and we
have done so with finality, only to be back in a little
while hoping, always hoping.  Our men have sworn
great solemn oaths that they were through drinking
forever.  We have believed them when no one else
could or would.  Then, in days, weeks, or months, a
fresh outburst.
  We seldom had friends at our homes, never know-
ing how or when the men of the house would appear.
We could make few social engagements.  We came to
live almost alone.  When we were invited out, our
husbands sneaked so many drinks that they spoiled
the occasion.  If, on the other hand, they took nothing,
their self-pity made them killjoys.
  There was never financial security.  Positions were
always in jeopardy or gone.  An armored car could

106                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
not have brought the pay envelopes home.  The
checking account melted like snow in June.
  Sometimes there were other women.  How heart-
breaking was this discovery; how cruel to be told they
understood our men as we did not!
  The bill collectors, the sheriffs, the angry taxi
driver, the policemen, the bums, the pals, and even
the ladies they sometimes brought home--our hus-
bands thought we were so inhospitable.  "Joykiller,
nag, wet blanket"--that's what they said.  Next day
they would be themselves again and we would forgive
and try to forget.
  We have tried to hold the love of our children for
their father.  We have told small tots that father was
sick, which was much nearer the truth than we
realized.  They struck the children, kicked out door
panels, smashed treasured crockery, and ripped the
keys out of pianos.  In the midst of such pandemonium
they may have rushed out threatening to live with the
other woman forever.  In desperation, we have even
got tight ourselves--the drunk to end all drunks.  The
unexpected result was that our husbands seemed to
like it.
  Perhaps at this point we got a divorce and took the
children home to father and mother.  Then we were
severely criticized by our husband's parents for deser-
tion.  Usually we did not leave.  We stayed on and on.
We finally sought employment ourselves as destitution
faced us and our families.
  We began to ask medical advice as the sprees got
closer together.  The alarming physical and mental
symptoms, the deepening pall of remorse, depression
and inferiority that settled down on our loved ones--

                          TO WIVES                       107
these things terrified and distracted us.  As animals on
a treadmill, we have patiently and wearily climbed,
falling back in exhaustion after each futile effort to
reach solid ground.  Most of us have entered the final
stage with its commitment to health resorts, sanitari-
ums, hospitals, and jails.  Sometimes there were
screaming delirium and insanity.  Death was often
  Under these conditions we naturally made mistakes.
Some of them rose out of ignorance of alcoholism.
Sometimes we sensed dimly that we were dealing with
sick men.  Had we fully understood the nature of the
alcoholic illness, we might have behaved differently.
  How could men who loved their wives and children
be so unthinking, so callous, so cruel?  There could be
no love in such persons, we thought.  And just as we
were being convinced of their heartlessness, they
would surprise us with fresh resolves and new atten-
tions.  For a while they would be their old sweet
selves, only to dash the new structure of affection to
pieces once more.  Asked why they commenced to
drink again, they would reply with some silly excuse,
or none.  If was so baffling, so heartbreaking.  Could
we have been so mistaken in the men we married?
When drinking, they were strangers.  Sometimes they
were so inaccessible that it seemed as though a great
wall had been built around them.
  And even if they did not love their families, how
could they be so blind about themselves?  What had
become of their judgement, their common sense, their
will power?  Why could they not see that drink meant
ruin to them?  Why was it, when these dangers were

108                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
pointed out that they agreed, and then got drunk
again immediately?
  These are some of the questions which race through
the mind of every woman who has an alcoholic hus-
band.  We hope this book has answered some of them.
Perhaps your husband has been living in that strange
world of alcoholism where everything is distorted and
exaggerated.  You can see that he really does love
you with his better self.  Of course, there is such a
thing as incompatibility, but in nearly every instance
the alcoholic only seems to be unloving and incon-
siderate; it is usually because he is warped and sick-
ened that he says and does these appalling things.
Today most of our men are better husbands and
fathers than ever before.
  Try not to condemn your alcoholic husband no
matter what he says or does.  He is just another very
sick, unreasonable person.  Treat him, when you can,
as though he had pneumonia.  When he angers you,
remember that he is very ill.
  There is an important exception to the foregoing.
We realize some men are thoroughly bad-intentioned,
that no amount of patience will make any difference.
An alcoholic of this temperament may be quick to use
this chapter as a club over your head.  Don't let him
get away with it.  If you are positive he is one of this
type you may feel you had better leave.  Is it right to
let him ruin your life and the lives of your children?
Especially when he had before him a way to stop his
drinking and abuse if he really wants to pay the price.
  The problem with which you struggle usually falls
within one of four categories:
  One:  Your husband may be only a heavy drinker.

                          TO WIVES                       109
His drinking may be constant or it may be heavy only
on certain occasions.  Perhaps he spends too much
money for liquor.  It may be slowing him up mentally
and physically, but he does not see it.  Sometimes he
is a source of embarrassment to you and his friends.
He is positive he can handle his liquor, that it does
him no harm, that drinking is necessary in his business.
He would probably be insulted if he were called an
alcoholic.  This world is full of people like him.  Some
will moderate or stop altogether, and some will not.
Of those who keep on, a good number will become
true alcoholics after a while.
  Two:  Your husband is showing lack of control, for
he is unable to stay on the water wagon even when he
wants to.  He often gets entirely out of hand when
drinking.  He admits this is true, but is positive that he
will do better.  He has begun to try, with or without
your cooperation, various means of moderating or
staying dry.  Maybe he is beginning to lose his friends.
His business may suffer somewhat.  He is worried at
times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink
like other people.  He sometimes drinks in the morn-
ing and through the day also, to hold his nervousness
in check.  He is remorseful after serious drinking
bouts and tells you he wants to stop.  But when he
gets over the spree, he begins to think once more how
he can drink moderately next time.  We think this
person is in danger.  These are the earmarks of a real
alcoholic.  Perhaps he can still tend to business fairly
well.  He has by no means ruined everything.  As we
say among ourselves, "He wants to want to stop."
  Three:  This husband has gone much further than
husband number two.  Though once like number two

110                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
he became worse.  His friends have slipped away, his
home is a near-wreck and he cannot hold a position.
Maybe the doctor has been called in, and the weary
round of sanitariums and hospitals has begun.  He ad-
mits he cannot drink like other people, but does not
see why.  He clings to the notion that he will yet find
a way to do so.  He may have come to the point where
he desperately wants to stop but cannot.  His case pre-
sents additional questions which we shall try to answer
for you.  You can be quite hopeful of a situation like
  Four:  You may have a husband of whom you com-
pletely despair.  He has been placed in one institution
after another.  He is violent, or appears definitely in-
sane when drunk.  Sometimes he drinks on the way
home from the hospital.  Perhaps he has had delirium
tremens.  Doctors may shake their heads and advise
you to have him committed.  Maybe you have already
been obliged to put him away.  This picture may not
be as dark as it looks.  Many of our husbands were
just as far gone.  Yet they got well.
  Let's now go back to husband number one.  Oddly
enough, he is often difficult to deal with.  He enjoys
drinking.  It stirs his imagination.  His friends feel
closer over a highball.  Perhaps you enjoy drinking
with him yourself when he doesn't go too far.  You
have passed happy evenings together chatting and
drinking before your fire.  Perhaps you both like
parties which would be dull without liquor.  We have
enjoyed such evenings ourselves; we had a good time.
We know all about liquor as a social lubricant.  Some,
but not all of us, think it has its advantages when
reasonably used.

                          TO WIVES                       111
  The first principle of success is that you should
never be angry.  Even though your husband becomes
unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily,
you should, if you can, go without rancor.  Patience
and good temper are most necessary.
  Our next thought is that you should never tell him
what he must do about his drinking.  If he gets the
idea that you are a nag or a killjoy, your chance of
accomplishing anything useful may be zero.  He will
use that as an excuse to drink more.  He will tell you
he is misunderstood.  This may lead to lonely evenings
for you.  He may seek someone else to console him--
not always another man.
  Be determined that your husband's drinking is not
going to spoil your relations with your children or your
friends.  They need your companionship and your
help.  It is possible to have a full and useful life,
though your husband continues to drink.  We know
women who are unafraid, even happy under these
conditions.  Do not set your heart on reforming your
husband.  You may be unable to do so, no matter how
hard you try.
  We know these suggestions are sometimes difficult
to follow, but you will save many a heartbreak if you
can succeed in observing them.  Your husband may
come to appreciate your reasonableness and patience.
This may lay the groundwork for a friendly talk
about his alcoholic problem.  Try to have him bring
up the subject himself.  Be sure you are not critical
during such a discussion.  Attempt instead, to put
yourself in his place.  Let him see that you want to be
helpful rather than critical.
  When a discussion does arise, you might suggest he

112                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
read this book or at least the chapter on alcoholism.
Tell him you have been worried, though perhaps need-
lessly.  You think he ought to know the subject better,
as everyone should have a clear understanding of the
risk he takes if he drinks too much.  Show him you
have confidence in his power to stop or moderate.
Say you do not want to be a wet blanket; that you only
want him to take care of his health.  Thus you may
succeed in interesting him in alcoholism.
  He probably has several alcoholics among his own
acquaintances.  You might suggest that you both take
an interest in them.  Drinkers like to help other drink-
ers.  Your husband may be willing to talk to one of
  If this kind of approach does not catch your hus-
band's interest, it may be best to drop the subject, but
after a friendly talk your husband will usually revive
the topic himself.  This may take patient waiting, but
it will be worth it.  Meanwhile you might try to help
the wife of another serious drinker.  If you act upon
these principles, your husband may stop or moderate.
  Suppose, however, that your husband fits the de-
scription of number two.  The same principles which
apply to husband number one should be practiced.
But after his next binge, ask him if he would really
like to get over drinking for good.  Do not ask that he
do it for you or anyone else.  Just would he like to?
  The chances are he would.  Show him your copy of
this book and tell him what you have found out about
alcoholism.  Show him that as alcoholics, the writers
of the book understand.  Tell him some of the interest-
ing stories you have read.  If you think he will be shy
of a spiritual remedy, ask him to look at the chapter on

                          TO WIVES                       113
alcoholism.  Then perhaps he will be interested enough
to continue.
  If he is enthusiastic your cooperation will mean a
great deal.  If he is lukewarm or thinks he is not an
alcoholic, we suggest you leave him alone.  Avoid urg-
ing him to follow our program.  The seed has been
planted in his mind.  He knows that thousands of
men, much like himself, have recovered.  But don't re-
mind him of this after he has been drinking, for he
may be angry.  Sooner or later, you are likely to find
him reading the book once more.  Wait until repeated
stumbling convinces him he must act, for the more
you hurry him the longer his recovery may be delayed.
If you have a number three husband, you may be in
luck.  Being certain he wants to stop, you can go to
him with this volume as joyfully as though you had
struck oil.  He may not share your enthusiasm, but he
is practically sure to read the book and he may go for
the program at once.  If he does not, you will probably
not have long to wait.  Again, you should not crowd
him.  Let him decide for himself.  Cheerfully see him
through more sprees.  Talk about his condition or this
book only when he raises the issue.  In some cases it
may be better to let someone outside the family pre-
sent the book.  They can urge action without arousing
hostility.  If your husband is otherwise a normal in-
dividual, your chances are good at this stage.
  You would suppose that men in the fourth classifi-
cation would be quite hopeless, but that is not so.
Many of Alcoholics Anonymous were like that.  Every-
body had given them up.  Defeat seemed certain.  Yet
often such men had spectacular and powerful recov-

114                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
  There are exceptions.  Some men have been so im-
paired by alcohol that they cannot stop.  Sometimes
there are cases where alcoholism is complicated by
other disorders.  A good doctor or psychiatrist can tell
you whether these complications are serious.  In any
event, try to have your husband read this book.  His
reaction may be one of enthusiasm.  If he is already
committed to an institution, but can convince you and
your doctor that he means business, give him a chance
to try our method, unless the doctor thinks his mental
condition too abnormal or dangerous.  We make this
recommendation with some confidence.  For years we
have been working with alcoholics committed to in-
stitutions.  Since this book was first published, A.A.
has released thousands of alcoholics from asylums and
hospitals of every kind.  The majority have never re-
turned.  The power of God goes deep!
  You may have the reverse situation on your hands.
Perhaps you have a husband who is at large, but who
should be committed.  Some men cannot or will not
get over alcoholism.  When they become too danger-
ous, we think the kind thing is to lock them up, but of
course a good doctor should always be consulted.  The
wives and children of such men suffer horribly, but
not more than the men themselves.
  But sometimes you must start life anew.  We know
women who have done it.  If such women adopt a
spiritual way of life their road will be smoother.
  If your husband is a drinker, you probably worry
over what other people are thinking and you hate to
meet your friends.  You draw more and more into
yourself and you think everyone is talking about con-
ditions at your home.  You avoid the subject of drink-

                          TO WIVES                       115
ing, even with your own parents.  You do not know
what to tell the children.  When your husband is bad,
you become a trembling recluse, wishing the tele-
phone had never been invented.
  We find that most of this embarrassment is unneces-
sary.  While you need not discuss your husband at
length, you can quietly let your friends know the na-
ture of his illness.  But you must be on guard not to
embarrass or harm your husband.
  When you have carefully explained to such people
that he is a sick person, you will have created a new
atmosphere.  Barriers which have sprung up between
you and your friends will disappear with the growth
of sympathetic understanding.  You will no longer be
self-conscious or feel that you must apologize as
though your husband were a weak character.  He may
be anything but that.  Your new courage, good nature
and lack of self-consciousness will do wonders for you
The same principle applies in dealing with the chil-
dren.  Unless they actually need protection from their
father, it is best not to take sides in any argument he
has with them while drinking.  Use your energies to
promote a better understanding all around.  Then that
terrible tension which grips the home of every prob-
lem drinker will be lessened.
  Frequently, you have felt obliged to tell your hus-
band's employer and his friends that he was sick, when
as a matter of fact he was tight.  Avoid answering these
inquiries as much as you can.  Whenever possible, let
your husband explain.  Your desire to protect him
should not cause you to lie to people when they have
a right to know where he is and what he is doing.  Dis-

116                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
cuss this with him when he is sober and in good spirits.
Ask him what you should do if he places you in such
a position again.  But be careful not to be resentful
about the last time he did so.
  There is another paralyzing fear.  You may be afraid
your husband will lose his position; you are thinking
of the disgrace and hard times which will befall you
and the children.  This experience may come to you.
Or you may already have had it several times.  Should
it happen again, regard it in a different light.  Maybe
it will prove a blessing!  It may convince your husband
he wants to stop drinking forever.  And now you know
that he can stop if he will!  Time after time, this ap-
parent calamity has been a boon to us, for it opened
up a path which led to the discovery of God.
  We have elsewhere remarked how much better life
is when lived on a spiritual plane.  If God can solve the
age-old riddle of alcoholism, He can solve your prob-
lems too.  We wives found that, like everybody else,
we were afflicted with pride, self-pity, vanity and all
the things which go to make up the self-centered per-
son; and we were not above selfishness or dishonesty.
As our husbands began to apply spiritual principals in
their lives, we began to see the desirability of doing so
  At first, some of us did not believe we needed this
help.  We thought, on the whole, we were pretty good
women, capable of being nicer if our husbands stopped
drinking.  But it was a silly idea that we were too good
to need God.  Now we try to put spiritual principles
to work in every department of our lives.  When we
do that, we find it solves our problems too; the ensuing
lack of fear, worry and hurt feelings is a wonderful

                          TO WIVES                       117
thing.  We urge you to try our program, for nothing
will be so helpful to your husband as the radically
changed attitude toward him which God will show
you how to have.  Go along with your husband if you
possibly can.
  If you and your husband find a solution for the
pressing problem of drink you are, of course, going to
be very happy.  But all problems will not be solved at
once.  Seed had started to sprout in a new soil, but
growth has only begun.  In spite of your new-found
happiness, there will be ups and downs.  Many of the
old problems will still be with you.  This is as it should
  The faith and sincerity of both you and your hus-
band will be put to the test.  These work-outs should
be regarded as part of your education, for thus you
will be learning to live.  You will make mistakes, but
if you are in earnest they will not drag you down.  In-
stead, you will capitalize them.  A better way of life
will emerge when they are overcome.
  Some of the snags you will encounter are irritation,
hurt feelings and resentment.  Your husband will
sometimes be unreasonable and you will want to criti-
cize.  Starting from a speck on the domestic horizon,
great thunderclouds of dispute may gather.  These
family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to
your husband.  Often you must carry the burden of
avoiding them or keeping them under control.  Never
forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alco-
holic.  We do not mean that you have to agree with
your husband whenever there is an honest difference
of opinion.  Just be careful not to disagree in a resent-
ful or critical spirit.

118                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
  You and your husband will find that you can dispose
of serious problems easier than you can the trivial
ones.  Next time you and he have a heated discussion,
no matter what the subject, it should be the privilege
of either to smile and say, "This is getting serious.  I'm
sorry I got disturbed.  Let's talk about it later."  If
your husband is trying to live on a spiritual basis, he
will also be doing everything in his power to avoid
disagreement or contention.
  Your husband knows he owes you more than sobri-
ety.  He wants to make good.  Yet you must not expect
too much.  His ways of thinking and doing are the
habits of years.  Patience, tolerance, understanding
and love are the watchwords.  Show him these things
in yourself and they will be reflected back to you from
him.  Live and let live is the rule.  If you both show a
willingness to remedy your own defects, there will be
little need to criticize each other.
  We women carry with us a picture of the ideal man,
the sort of chap we would like our husbands to be.  It
is the most natural thing in the world, once his liquor
problem is solved, to feel that he will now measure up
to that cherished vision.  The chances are he will not
for, like yourself, he is just beginning his development.
Be patient.
  Another feeling we are very likely to entertain is one
of resentment that love and loyalty could not cure our
husbands of alcoholism.  We do not like the thought
that the contents of a book or the work of another
alcoholic has accomplished in a few weeks that for
which we struggle for years.  At such moments we
forget that alcoholism is an illness over which we could
not possibly have had any power.  Your husband will

                          TO WIVES                       119
be the first to say it was your devotion and care which
brought him to the point where he could have a spirit-
ual experience.  Without you he would have gone to
pieces long ago.  When resentful thoughts come, try to
pause and count your blessings.  After all, your family
is reunited, alcohol is no longer a problem and you and
your husband are working together toward an un-
dreamed-of future.
  Still another difficulty is that you may become
jealous of the attention he bestows on other people,
especially alcoholics.  You have been starving for his
companionship, yet he spends long hours helping other
men and their families.  You feel he should now be
yours.  The fact is that he should work with other peo-
ple to maintain his own sobriety.  Sometimes he will
be so interested that he becomes really neglectful.
Your house is filled with strangers.  You may not like
some of them.  He gets stirred up about their troubles,
but not at all about yours.  It will do little good if you
point that out and urge more attention for yourself.
We find it a real mistake to dampen his enthusiasm for
alcoholic work.  You should join in his efforts as much
as you possibly can.  We suggest that you direct some
of your thought to the wives of his new alcoholic
friends.  They need the counsel and love of a woman
who has gone through what you have.
  It is probably true that you and your husband have
been living too much alone, for drinking many times
isolates the wife of an alcoholic.  Therefore, you prob-
ably need fresh interests and a great cause to live for
as much as your husband.  If you cooperate, rather
than complain, you will find that his excess enthusiasm
will tone down.  Both of you will awaken to a new

120                 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
sense of responsibility for others.  You, as well as your
husband, ought to think of what you can put into life
instead of how much you can take out.  Inevitably
your lives will be fuller for doing so.  You will lose the
old life to find one much better.
  Perhaps your husband will make a fair start on the
new basis, but just as things are going beautifully he
dismays you by coming home drunk.  If you are satis-
fied he really wants to get over drinking, you need not
be alarmed.  Though it is infinitely better that he have
no relapse at all, as has been true with many of our
men, it is by no means a bad thing in some cases.  Your
husband will see at once that he must redouble his
spiritual activities if he expects to survive.  You need
not remind him of his spiritual deficiency--he will
know of it.  Cheer him up and ask him how you can
be still more helpful.
  The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen
your husband's chance of recovery.  In a weak mo-
ment he may take your dislike of his high-stepping
friends as one of those insanely trivial excuses to drink.
  We never, never try to arrange a man's life so as to
shield him from temptation.  The slightest disposition
on your part to guide his appointments or his affairs so
he will not be tempted will be noticed.  Make him feel
absolutely free to come and go as he likes.  This is
important.  If he gets drunk, don't blame yourself.
God has either removed your husband's liquor prob-
lem or He has not.  If not, it had better be found out
right away.  Then you and your husband can get right
down to fundamentals.  If a repetition is to be pre-
vented, place the problem, along with everything else,
in God's hands.

                          TO WIVES                       121
  We realize that we have been giving you much
direction and advice.  We may have seemed to lecture.
If that is so we are sorry, for we ourselves don't always
care for people who lecture us.  But what we have re-
lated is based upon experience, some of it painful.  We
had to learn these things the hard way.  That is why
we are anxious that you understand, and that you
avoid these unnecessary difficulties.
  So to you out there--who may soon be with us--we
say "Good luck and God bless you!"