In the preceding chapters you have learned something of alcoholism. we hope we have made clear the distinction
between the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic. If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when
drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be
suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.
To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means
disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a
spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.
But it isn't so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the
issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a
spiritual basis of life or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us thought
we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.
If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have
recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We
could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our
might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they
Lack of power, that was our dilemma. we had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater
than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?
Well, that's exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which
will solve your problem. That means we have written a book which we believe to be spiritual as well as moral. And it
means, of course, that we are going to talk about God. Here difficulty arises with agnostics. Many times we talk to a new
man and watch his hope rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship. But his face falls when we
speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he
had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.
We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious.
To others, the word "God" brought up a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried to impress them during
childhood. Perhaps we rejected this particular conception because it seemed inadequate. With that rejection we
imagined we had abandoned the God idea entirely. We were bothered with the thought that faith and dependence upon
a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly. We looked upon this world of warring individuals,
warring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism. We looked askance at many individuals
who claimed to be godly. How could a Supreme Being have anything to do with it all? And who could comprehend a
Supreme Being anyhow? Yet, in other moments, we found ourselves thinking, when enchanted by a starlit night, "Who,
then, make all this?" There was a feeling of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon lost.
Yes, we of agnostic temperament have had these thoughts and experiences. Let us make haste to reassure you. We
found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater
than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend
that Power, which is God.
Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another's conception of God. Our own conception,
however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him. As soon as we admitted the
possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be
possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not
make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive
or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.
When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual
expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from
honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to
effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things
which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we
used our own conception, however limited it was.
We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. --"Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a
Power greater than myself?" As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically
assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a
wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.*
That was great news to us, for we had assumed we could not make use of spiritual principles unless we accepted many
things on faith which seemed difficult to believe. When people presented us with spiritual approaches, how frequently
did we all say, "I wish I had what that man has. I'm sure it would work if I could only believe as he believes. But I cannot
accept as surely true the many articles of faith which are so plain to him." So it was comforting to learn that we could
commence at a simpler level.
Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith, we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness,
and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things make us
bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we found no great
difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual
matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a
state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious process; we hope no one else will prejudiced for as long as
some of us were.
The reader may still ask why he should believe in a Power greater than himself. We think there are good reasons. Let
us have a look at some of them.
The practical individual of today is a stickler for facts and results. Nevertheless, the twentieth century readily accepts
theories of all kinds, provided they are firmly grounded in fact. We have numerous theories, for example, about
electricity. Everybody believes them without a murmur of doubt. Why this ready acceptance? Simply because it is
impossible to explain what we see, feel, direct, and use, without a reasonable assumption as a starting point.
Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assumptions for which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof.
And does not science demonstrate that visual proof is the weakest proof? It is being constantly revealed, as mankind
studies the material world, that outward appearances are not inward reality at all. To illustrate:
The prosaic steel girder is a mass of electrons whirling around each other at incredible speed. These tiny bodies are
governed by precise laws, and these laws hold true throughout the material world, Science tells us so. We have no
reason to doubt it. When, however, the pe continuing all day and almost every night. The remonstrances of my friends
terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf. There were many unhappy scenes in our sumptuous apartment. There
had been no real infidelity, for loyalty to my wife, helped at times by extreme drunkenness, kept me out of those scrapes.
In 1929 I contracted golf fever. We went at once to the country, my wife to applaud while I started out to overtake Walter
Hagen. Liquor caught up with me much faster than I came up behind Walter. I began to be jittery in the morning. Golf
permitted drinking every day and every night. It was fun to carom around the exclusive course which had inspired such
awe in me as a lad. I acquired the impeccable coat of tan one sees upon the well-to- do. The local banker watched me
whirl fat checks in and out of his till with amused skepticism.
Abruptly in October 1929 hell broke loose on the New York stock exchange. After one of those days of inferno, I
wobbled from a hotel bar to a brokerage office. It was eight o'clock five hours after the market closed. The ticker still
clattered. I was staring at an inch of the tape which bore the inscription XYZ-32. It had been 52 that morning. I was
finished and so were many friends. The papers reported men jumping to death from the towers of High Finance. That
disgusted me. I would not jump. I went back to the bar. My friends had dropped several million since ten o'clock so what?
Tomorrow was another day. As I drank, the old fierce determination to win came back.
Next morning I telephoned a friend in Montreál. He had plenty of money left and thought I had better go to Canada. By
the following spring we were living in our accustomed style. I felt like Napoleon returning from Elba. No St. Helena for
me! But drinking caught up with me again and my generous friend had to let me go. This time we stayed broke.
We went to live with my wife's parents. I found a job; then lost it as the result of a brawl with a taxi driver. Mercifully, no
one could guess that I was to have no real employment for five years, or hardly draw a sober breath. My wife began to
work in a department store, coming home exhausted to find me drunk. I became an unwelcome hanger-on at brokerage
Liquor ceased to be a luxury; it became a necessity. "Bathtub" gin, two bottles a day, and often three, got to be routine.
Sometimes a small deal would net a few hundred dollars, and I would pay my bills at the bars and delicatessens. This
went on endlessly, and I began to waken very early in the morning shaking violently. A tumbler full of gin followed by half
a dozen bottles of beer would be required if I were to eat any breakfast. Nevertheless, I still thought I could control the
situation, and there were periods of sobriety which renewed my wife's hope.
Gradually things got worse. The house was taken over by the mortgage holder, my mother-in-law died, my wife and
father-in-law became ill.
Then I got a promising business opportunity. Stocks were at the low point of 1932, and I had somehow formed a group
to buy. I was to share generously in the profits. Then I went on a prodigious bender, and that chance vanished.
I woke up. This had to be stopped. I saw I could not take so much as one drink. I was through forever. Before then, I had
written lots of sweet promises, but my wife happily observed that this time I meant business. And so I did.
Shortly afterward I came home drunk. There had been no fight. Where had been my high resolve? I simply didn't know.
It hadn't even come to mind. Someone had pushed a drink my way, and I had taken it. Was I crazy? I began to wonder,
for such an appalling lack of perspective seemed near being just that.
Renewing my resolve, I tried again. Some time passed, and confidence began to be replaced by cocksureness. I could
laugh at the gin mills. Now I had what it takes! One day I walked into a cafe to telephone. In no time I was beating on the
bar asking myself how it happened. As the whisky rose to my head I told myself I would manage better next time, but I
might as well get good and drunk then. And I did.
The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morning are unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there.
My brain raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible sense of impending calamity. I hardly dared cross the street, lest I
collapse and be run down by an early morning truck, for it was scarcely daylight. An all night place supplied me with a
dozen glasses of ale. My writhing nerves were stilled at last. A morning paper told me the market had gone to hell again.
Well, so had I. The market would recover, but I wouldn't. That was a hard thought. Should I kill myself? No not now. Then
a mental fog settled down. Gin would fix that. So two bottles, and oblivion.
The mind and body are marvelous mechanisms, for mine endured this agony two more years. Sometimes I stole from my
wife's slender purse when the morning terror and madness were on me. Again I swayed dizzily before an open window,
or the medicine cabinet where there was poison, cursing myself for a weakling. There were flights from city to country
and back, as my wife and I sought escape. Then came the night when the physical and mental torture was so hellish I
feared I would burst through my window, sash and all. Somehow I managed to drag my mattress to a lower floor, lest I
suddenly leap. A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This
combination soon landed me on the rocks. People feared for my sanity. So did I. I could eat little or nothing when
drinking, and I was forty pounds under weight.
My brother-in-law is a physician, and through his kindness and that of my mother I was placed in a nationally-known
hospital for the mental and physical rehabilitation of alcoholics. Under the so-called belladonna treatment my brain
cleared. Hydrotherapy and mild exercise helped much. Best of all, I met a kind doctor who explained that though
certainly selfish and foolish, I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally.
It relieved me somewhat to learn that in alcoholics the will is amazingly weakened when it comes to combating liquor,
though if often remains strong in other respects. My incredible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stop was
explained. Understanding myself now, I fared forth in high hope. For three or four months the goose hung high. I went to
town regularly and even made a little money. Surely this was the answer self- knowledge.
But it was not, for the frightful day came when I drank once more. The curve of my declining moral and bodily health fell
off like a ski-jump. After a time I returned to the hospital. This was the finish, the curtain, it seemed to me. My weary and
despairing wife was informed that it would all end with heart failure during delirium tremens, or I would develop a wet
brain, perhaps within a year. We would soon have to give me over to the undertaker of the asylum.
They did not need to tell me. I knew, and almost welcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had
thought so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cornered at last. Now I was to
plunge into the dark, joining that endless procession of sots who had gone on before. I thought of my poor wife. There
had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make amends. But that was over now.
No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me
in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.
Trembling, I stepped from the hospital a broken man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of
that first drink, and on Armistice Day 1934, I was off again. Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I would have
to be shut up somewhere, or would stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it is before the dawn! In reality that was
the beginning of my last debauch. I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I
was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.
Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking in my kitchen. With a certain satisfaction I reflected there was
enough gin concealed about the house to carry me through that night and the next day. My wife was at work. I wondered
whether I dared hide a full bottle of gin near the head of our bed. I would need it before daylight.
My musing was interrupted by the telephone. The cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He
was sober.It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that
he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner, and
then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. There
was that time we had chartered an airplane to complete a jag! His coming was an oasis in this dreary desert of futility.
The very thing an oasis! Drinkers are like that.
The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was
inexplicably different. What had happened?
I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He
"Come, what's all this about? I queried.
He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, "I've got religion."
I was aghast. So that was it last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had
that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last
longer than his preaching.
But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to
suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two
months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked!
He had come to pass his experience along to me if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was
interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.
He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose before me. I could almost hear the sound of the preacher's voice as I sat,
on still Sundays, way over there on the hillside; there was that proffered temperance pledge I never signed; my
grandfather's good natured contempt of some church fold and their doings; his insistence that the spheres really had
their music; but his denial of the preacher's right to tell him how he must listen; his fearlessness as he spoke of these
things just before he died; these recollections welled up from the past. They made me swallow hard.
That war-time day in old Winchester Cathedral came back again.
I had always believed in a Power greater that myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few
people really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher and
aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolutionist, suggested vast
laws and forces at work. Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a might purpose and rhythm underlay all.
How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the
Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone.
With ministers, and the world's religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love,
superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory. To Christ I
conceded the certainty of a great man, not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching most
excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and not too difficult; the rest I disregarded.
The wars which had been fought, the burnings and chicanery that religious dispute had facilitated, made me sick. I
honestly doubted whether, on balance, the religions of mankind had done any good. Judging from what I had seen in
Europe and since, the power of God in human affairs was negligible, the Brotherhood of Man a grim jest. If there was a
Devil, he seemed the Boss Universal, and he certainly had me.
But my friend sat before me, and he made the pointblank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do
for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like
myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the
scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known!
Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at
that minute; and this was none at all.
That floored me. It began to look as though religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human
heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty
past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings.
I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganize