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Old 06-13-2009, 07:17 AM   #61
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Quiet Desperation
June 13, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ __
October 1993
Vol. 50 No. 5

She walks through the store, a picture of middle-age, middle-class, middle-management. Her shoes are well-polished; her blue wool skirt comes just to her knees; a well-fitting jacket drops below her hips to disguise a figure that's becoming a bit too matronly. Her makeup is slightly faded, her white silk blouse a little wilted. Our lady has had a hard day.

With basket in arm she chooses a head of lettuce, a bunch of grapes. A few aisles later she adds a loaf of bread. Absently she drops in the evening news. Suddenly her gait changes from lady-strolling-in-the-park to woman-late-for-a-meeting. She halts in the liquor section. Now a thin film of perspiration is apparent on her upper lip. She glances up and down the aisle. Is anyone she knows there?

A shaky hand grasps the bottle, deposits it in the basket, casually covers it with the newspaper. She strides to the checkout counter. The cashier is young, too young by state law to ring up alcohol. Our lady is enraged. When the manager comes, our lady snaps that if the store paid a living wage they could hire some competent help--help that could ring up a simple bottle of rum.

In the parking lot she slams into her car, screeches into reverse. Steady now, she thinks. You can't afford an accident. Carefully she maneuvers her car through the lot and along the few short blocks to her home.

At home, her shaking hands unlock the door, close it behind her, lock it. She takes down a glass, spills some rum into it. She gulps down the liquid fire. Her body shudders at each swallow. She hates the taste, but needs the drink. When the glass is empty, she sets it down for a moment and feels the warm glow flow through her, seeping down to her toes.

Now, with steadier hands she refills the glass with rum and orange juice, half-and-half, and swallows it down. Rum tastes better this way, she thinks. Why do I drink it straight? Absently she builds a third drink, adds an ice cube. It's time to feed the cat. . . . Time was when she fed the cat first. Now the cat must wait.

She goes to the living room carrying her drink. Feet up, she opens the paper and begins to read the news. She's distracted by the blue veins flowing so close to the surface of her wrists. It would be so easy, she muses. Just a few cuts with a razor blade. But she knows she's a coward--there would be too much pain, too much blood.

A thought occurs to her. In the bathroom she finds the sleeping pills prescribed by a sympathetic doctor. She hadn't really lied to him; she hasn't been able to sleep--not without five or six drinks. She carries the pill bottle back to her chair, finishes her drink, builds another.

She uncaps the vial and pours the pills into her hand. She counts them, one at a time. Twenty-nine pieces of eternity she holds in her hand. She returns them to their bottle.

Two lines in the evening paper catch her eye. "Do you have the desire to stop drinking?" it asks. "Call Alcoholics Anonymous 24-hour hotline." A local number follows. The pill bottle sits next to the telephone. Which to choose? Her hand grasps the telephone, dials the number. Listening to it ring she takes another swallow of her drink. "I need help," she mumbles into the receiver. "I'm an alcoholic," she confesses. She drains the rest of her glass.

If AA doesn't work, she thinks, the pills will still be waiting. She puts the bottle behind her empty glass and waits for the answer.

Margie-Kay S.
Illinois
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Old 06-14-2009, 08:00 AM   #62
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I Don't Go to Meetings Anymore
June 14, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ _______
July 1960
Vol. 17 No. 2

FIRST off, I'm a female alcoholic, and I owe a year and a half of happy sobriety to the desperate telephone call made to the AA telephone number. I still think that AA is a wonderful organization, although I no longer attend meetings.

Making the decision to call for help was the first step up out of the suicidal slime, and if there had been no AA to call I might never have made it. I'd already tried psychiatry with no success. Tranquilizers didn't seem the answer. Trying to stop drinking, with all one's friends and relatives still imbibing freely, though not as persistently, seemed impossible. Apparently, however, AA succeeds through group therapy--unfortunately the same group that I am now going to criticize very cruelly.

Most of my criticism has no doubt been voiced countless times, and probably there is no real solution. The trouble is mainly the people belonging to local AA groups--and who can do anything about people? My only aim in writing is to convey the thought that many hopeful alcoholics may be discouraged and drop out of AA--back into their private hells--when the first happy relief of not drinking passes and they take a cold sober look at their comrades. I was disillusioned and just stopped going to the meetings. I had received the message, however. Just the thought of that horrible other me kills any desire for drink. I pray God it will always be so.

The two charming ladies who called on me that portentous May afternoon (after I dialed the number I'd been debating for so long) were the best of friends--I supposed. This pretense was maintained for at least a week, when I found to my surprise that they hated each other's guts.

Then a concerted effort was made by one group to unseat one of my sponsors from her chairmanship. Failing this, the conspirators started a new meeting on the same night of the week, which caused considerable controversy in all other groups: "That's pretty good--fellows who haven't been dry six months starting new meetings." If I seemed confused by all this bickering within the supposed serenity, someone said, "You should have been here back in such-and-such a year--this is nothing."

Or someone would phone and say "So-and-So says you're not going to enough meetings!" I have three preteen kids who need their new improved mother at home in the evening. "So-and-So said this and that, and I'm so mad I could go get drunk." Children breaking their toys? "Well, everyone got through the holidays okay except for you-know-who, but then she welcomes any excuse." Is each holiday a fresh emergency to check the casualties? Almost every meeting produced some idiotic debate such as "Is it permissible to drink sweet cider?" Once a bunch of drunks came to the door of a meeting creating a disturbance. Everyone laughed. True, probably you can't help them in that condition--but laugh? Us?

I met women who were neglecting their children by attending meetings nightly--in town, out of town, anniversary, Al-Anon, speaking engagements, etc. Isn't that a substitution for the liquor that separated them from their obligations before? Another thing: I attended AA get-togethers off and on for nearly a year and saw only one colored person. Is there segregation in AA or don't Negroes have any drinking problems?

In another vein, why is there so little actual anonymity? Someone might get up to speak, giving only his first name, but everyone appeared to know not only his last name, but how many times he'd been married and how much he still owed on his car.

And how some of them love to get up and talk. Disappointed thespians all, and how tiresome it gets! And how hideous when it's you standing up there, trying to avoid dredging up the waste products of your past and wishing you'd stayed home. I liked the round-table discussions best where coffee was served as the talk went on, but I suppose they can't do that all the time.

I know I met some fine, sincere people in AA, some I would have liked to know better. Perhaps I let the petty personalities blind me to the organization as a whole. I'd love to help someone else who needs it as I did, but would hesitate to introduce the quaking, fearful, but still hopeful creature to that assembly that met almost directly over the beer joint, whose lively jukebox was clearly audible throughout the uninspiring speeches and the after-coffee-and-doughnut gossip. To quote my former pals, "It almost made you want to get drunk."

This won't do any good, but it's something I've wanted to say for a long time and I feel better.

Anon.
New York
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Old 07-01-2009, 11:24 AM   #63
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The Power Is
July 01, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ ______
January 1967
Vol. 23 No. 8

MOST of us are able to go through life without ever giving more than a casual thought to the force of gravitation. We realize that when we tip over a ladder, gravitation is what makes us fall. We have heard that Sir Isaac Newton discovered how it works by watching an apple drop out of a tree. But it doesn't seem to us a question of any great practical interest, unless we happen to be in the business of launching rockets to the moon.

But the fact is that gravitation is probably the most important single characteristic of the physical universe that makes it possible for us to exist at all. Without gravitation, there would be no sun, and therefore no light and no warmth to generate life. Without gravitation, the Earth on which we live would not exist. And if it did exist, it would have no water and no air, because gravitation is what holds the sea in place, and causes water to flow down into it from the hills, and keeps the atmosphere above it so that we can breathe, and makes the rain fall to renew the springs and rivers that refresh the sea.

Without gravitation, there would be no day, no night, no seasons, and no ground to walk on so that we could enjoy them. There would be nothing anywhere in the universe except a formless collection of elemental particles, moving aimlessly in space or simply hanging there, motionless and inert. The universe would be the way it was in the beginning, according to the Book of Genesis, when "the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep."

Now, the strange thing about gravitation is that we cannot see it, we cannot hear it, or taste it, or touch it, or experience it with any of our senses. The only way we know that gravitation exists at all is by its effects on matter, including ourselves. We know that the power which we call gravitation must exist, because otherwise we could not be sitting here with our feet on a solid floor. We feel the weight of our bodies under us, but only because gravitation holds us fixed in our chairs, drawing us downward, toward the center of the Earth.

The one thing we know for sure about the way gravitation works is that it behaves like a form of radiant energy, such as light. That is, its power diminishes with distance at a constant rate, which is in proportion to the square of the distance. But there is no point in the universe where its influence ceases. If there were only two small particles of matter in the whole universe, separated by billions of light years, they would be drawn toward one another at a constantly increasing rate of acceleration, until eventually they would come together.

You can pass another object in front of a light, as the moon passes in front of the sun in an eclipse, and the light is cut off. But nothing interrupts the effect of gravitation. In an eclipse, the sun still attracts the Earth as if the moon were not there. No matter where you are in the universe, you are subject at all times to the attraction of the Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and every other material body, according to its size and its distance.

Another peculiar thing about gravitation is that it seems to act instantaneously, regardless of the distance. It takes light 8 1/3 minutes to travel from the sun to the Earth; but so far as we can tell, it takes no time at all for the sun and the Earth to exert their mutual attraction upon each other. The nature of gravitation is such that it does not have to be generated and has no apparent source. Every particle of matter in the universe is linked to every other particle of the same mass by the same attraction, and has been--so far as we know--since the universe began, and will be--so far as we know--until the end of time.

The point that I am trying to make is that we really don't know anything specific about gravitation, except that it exists, that it binds everything material in the universe together, and that it is physically responsible for all of the order, the infinite variety, and the endless activity that we see within ourselves and everywhere around us. It is an all-embracing cosmic principle, above and beyond any other physical force in the universe. Yet how it works, or why, is a fact that we can only accept--we cannot explain it. A number of excellent physicists have been trying to figure out the basic mechanics of gravitation for quite a long time, and so far they haven't succeeded. On the other hand, I have never heard of a scientist, a philosopher, a theologian, or even a beatnik who doubted that gravitation exists. I have never heard of a person who felt oppressed by it, or rebelled against it, or made light of it as an idle superstition. We have no qualms about believing that gravitation is a power greater than ourselves; we do not hesitate to trust our lives to it, imperfect as our understanding of it is. We accept the power of gravitation as a universal law of nature; we obey it because we have no choice, and we use it to augment our own influence over the elemental forces and the cosmic distances in space.

Gravitation is not the only mysterious power in the universe. Another is the unique moral force which guides human beings in their search for understanding of the world and their place in it.' In one form or another, this particular power has been recognized almost since the beginning of mankind. We know that we have it in ourselves, whether we use it or not. We know that it has brought us from a humble place among the creatures of the Earth to a position in which we can alter and control the shape of the world.

We associate this power with God, because we know that it comes from a source outside ourselves--that we did not create it anymore than we create life when we pass on our form and our vitality to another generation--that we do not even direct it as we direct so many other natural forces, but that it directs us. It is a power which we cannot see or hear or taste or touch with any of our senses. We only perceive it from its effects, as we perceive the power of gravitation in the orderly arrangement of the stars and planets, and their predictable motions. The difference is that the force of gravitation acts only on our bodies whereas this other power acts mainly on our minds and our emotions.

There is another difference. We cannot ignore or resist the force of gravitation. But with this moral power, we have been granted the freedom to deny it; if we choose to we can refuse to admit that it exists; we can even turn against it and spend our lives in the futile effort to convince ourselves and others that this power has no influence over us.

This is the all-pervading force which the Second Step refers to, when it says we "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

I have heard a great many arguments about the accuracy or the meaning of the word "sanity" in this connection. The founders of AA chose this term because they felt that the sickness which they had experienced while they were drinking had indeed been a kind of insanity, and no other word seemed to them to express the sort of mental and emotional relief that came to them when the compulsion to drink was removed.

But the choice of a word to describe the feeling of sobriety is not the important element in Step Two. The important part is the recognition that there is a Power greater than ourselves that influences our lives. In fact, it seems to me almost a mark of mental obstinacy--of something like insanity, if you will--when a person is unable to concede that there can be any power in the universe greater than himself, or greater than the mechanical forces which he uses. Marvelous as our intellectual gifts are, there are many processes in nature which we cannot control by our will alone, including processes within ourselves.

So it is the first sign of returning sanity--of mental clarity and health--simply to admit that there may be such a Power which we can call upon for help as we would call upon the power of gravitation for help in traveling to the moon.

What the name of the Power is doesn't matter so much. Like "sanity," the name is only a word which we use to identify the fact. It happens that the name which most people use to identify this Power is God. My own feeling has always been that it is simpler to call the Power God than it is to invent some complicated term to describe an agency which we cannot fully understand anyhow. Others may understand this Power better by some other name.

Of course we cannot fully understand God, anymore than we can fully understand gravitation or any other power or process which is "greater than ourselves and of which we are only a limited part. People who have been in combat know that they never understand exactly what is happening around them or how the battle is going. They only understand what they have to do, and whether they are able to do it or not.

So the Third Step, when it says we "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him," does not mean that we have to know exactly what God is and how to describe His power in scientific terms, before we can place our lives in His care. We only have to understand that there is a Power greater than ourselves, known as God, and that this Power can help us to accomplish things which we have been unable to accomplish on our own.

The way we know that is by the evidence of what a reliance on this Power has done for others, who had the same problem that we have. We recognize the Power by its effects, as we do in the case of gravitation. That is all the understanding we need in order to make the decision.

In fact, that is all the understanding we may ever have of God--but it is enough.

God does not ask us to understand Him fully, as we understand an intimate friend, or a husband, or a son, or a father. He only asks that we recognize and trust the purpose which He has for us. And He has already given us the power to recognize His power and purpose, if we will make the decision to follow it.

Why is it that everybody seems to take the power of gravitation for granted, but so many people--and especially alcoholics--seem to feel that it is an intolerable imposition on them to ask that they take the Power of God for granted in the same way?

In other words, why do we find it so easy to believe in gravitation--which we cannot see--and often find it so hard to believe in God, whom we cannot see either?

Because it would seem to me that the effect of God's power is at least as evident as the effect of gravitation.

G. P. W.
Texas
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Old 07-08-2009, 11:34 AM   #64
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July 08, 2009 Story of the Day
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June 1946
Vol. 3 No. 1

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

The list that some of us had to make in applying this Step would compare in length to current real estate lists of house and apartment applicants. The length of the list of people we had harmed grew with the degree of our honesty and the accuracy of our memory.

Perhaps some people do come into A.A. with a fortunate record of having harmed only a few. We doubt, however, that anyone need turn in a blank piece of paper--not if he thinks long enough and honestly enough. What, for instance, of the business associates who took on some of our work during our absence from the office or on those days of the shakes and low efficiency? What of the friends whose time we wasted with such very boring blabber? And, too, there are those intangible but damaging effects of the example we set for others; the good we might have done but didn't; the contributions we could have made to helping some one else in some way, or just making a moment or two more pleasant--but didn't; the success of someone else we might have boosted along, but didn't.

Anyone except a saint will find that he has harmed someone, somewhere, and that he has harmed society and his fellow men by failing to do the things for which he had the time, the talent and the opportunity, but not the sense of responsibility.

Even the rare, quiet and so-called well-behaved alcoholic can make a list. And the ordinary variety of drunks, which the great majority of us are, can usually make a list from here to Timbucktoo, beginning with the wife, the youngsters, the relatives and the boss, and extending on through the people we borrowed from and didn't pay back, the people we lied to--and so on and on and on.

The challenge of making amends is indeed a formidable matter to contemplate. In some instances, even to make amends to some one person, such as a particularly hated enemy, seems more than anyone can undertake.

But this process of self-inventory and self-cauterizing also offers one of the most restorative experiences to be found through A.A. The experience begins to unfold, too, while making the list of people we have harmed and becoming "willing to make amends to them all."

Let us note that wording--"became willing to make amends. . . ." We may not be able to make amends to everyone we have harmed. Circumstances may prevent us from making amends to all, and there may be reasons why we should not undertake to make amends to some--as suggested in the 9th Step. But there is nothing at all to prevent us or to restrain us from becoming willing to make amends.

The point here is that in order to become willing to make amends we have to admit to ourselves without reservations and without quibbling or reciting reasons why we did it, that we did commit the harm. We have to attain the attitude in which we say to ourselves that whether or not the other person was wrong or right, we were wrong. Maybe the person we harmed was a louse. That doesn't make our brand of lousiness any better. It's no excuse. The louse we harmed must go on the list along with the good people we've harmed.

Reaching the degree of self-analysis and honesty which carries us to a willingness to make amends to all helps to set the stage for the beginning of real progress in A.A., or real progress in any way of life. This is part of the conditioning process for attaining honesty and humility and helpfulness; part of the process of fitting ourselves again into society; a very vital step in the rehabilitation of the alcoholic.

We know that when drinking we are selfish, self-centered, egotistical and self-dramatists. We are filled with self-pity over the great wrongs everyone has done us, how we are misunderstood, how thoughtless others are towards us.

The 8th Step is an excellent purgative for the kind of thinking, as well as acting, that we've been doing. Drink long and deeply of this Step, because while it may taste very bad going down, the effects are miraculous.
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Old 07-20-2009, 01:49 PM   #65
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We Come of Age
July 20, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ __
September 1950
Vol. 7 No. 4

ON AAs 15th Anniversary everybody knew that we had grown up. There couldn't be any doubt about it. Members, families and friends--seven thousand of them--spent three inspiring, almost awesome days with our good hosts at Cleveland.

The theme song of our Conference was gratitude; its keynote was the sure realization that we are now welded as one, the world over. As never before, we dedicated ourselves to the single purpose of carrying good news of AA to those millions who still don't know. And, as we affirmed the Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, we asked that we might remain in perfect unity under the Grace of God for so long as he may need us.

Just what did we do? Well, we had meetings, lots of them. The medical meeting, for instance. Our first and great friend Dr. Silkworth couldn't get there. But his associate at Knickerbocker Hospital, New York, Dr. Meyer Texon, most ably filled the gap, telling how best the general hospital could relate itself to us. He clinched his points by a careful description how, during the past four years at Knickerbocker, 5000 drunks had been sponsored, processed and turned loose in AA; and this to the great satisfaction of everybody concerned, including the hospital, whose Board was delighted with the results and specially liked the fact that its modest charges were invariably paid, money on the line. Who had ever heard of 5000 drunks who really paid their bills? Then Dr. Texon brought us up to the minute on the malady of alcoholism as they see it at Knickerbocker; he said it was a definite personality disorder hooked to a physical craving. That certainly made sense to most of us. Dr. Texon threw a heavy scare into prospective "slip-pees." It was that little matter of one's liver. This patient organ, he said, would surely develop hobnails or maybe galloping cirrhosis, if more guzzling went on. He had a brand new one too, about salt water, claiming that every alcoholic on the loose had a big salt deficiency. Hence the craving for more drinks. Fill the victim with salt water, he said, and you'd quiet him right down. Of course we thought, "Why not put all drunks on salt water instead of gin? Then the world alcohol problem might be solved overnight." But that was our idea, not Dr. Texon's. To him, many thanks!

About the industrial meeting: Jake H., U.S. Steel, and Dave M., duPont, both AAs, led it. Mr. Louis Seltzer, Editor of the Cleveland Press, rounded out the session and brought down the house. Jake, as an officer of Steel, told what the company really thought about AA--and it was all good. Jake noted AAs' huge collective earning power--somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 billions of dollars annually. Instead of being a nerve-wracking drag on society's collective pocket book, we were now, for the most part, top grade employables who could contribute a yearly average of $4,000 apiece to our country's well being. Dave M., personnel man at duPont, who has a special eye to the company's alcohol problem, related what the "new look" on serious drinking had meant to duPont and its workers of all grades. According to Dave, his company believes mightily in AA. By all odds the most stirring testimony at the industrial seminar was given by Editor Louis Seltzer.Mr.Seltzer spoke to us from the viewpoint of an employer, citizen and veteran newspaper man. It was about the most moving expression of utter confidence in Alcoholics Anonymous we had ever heard. It was almost too good; its implications brought us a little dismay. How could we fallible AAs ever measure up to Mr. Seltzer's high hope for our future? We began to wonder if the AA reputation wasn't getting far better than its actual character.

Next came that wonderful session on prisons. Our great friend, Warden Duffy, told the startling story of our original group at San Quentin. His account of AA's five-year history there had a moving prelude. We heard a recording, soon for radio release, that thrillingly dramatized an actual incident of AA life within the walls. An alcoholic prisoner reacts bitterly to his confinement and develops amazing ingenuity in finding and drinking alcohol. Soon he becomes too ingenious. In the prison paint shop he discovers a promising fluid which he shares with his fellow alcoholics. It was deadly poison. Harrowing hours followed, during which several of them died. The whole prison was tense as the fatalities continued to mount. Nothing but quick blood transfusions could save those still living. The San Quentin AA Group volunteered instantly and spent the rest of that long night giving of themselves as they had never given before. AA hadn't been any too popular, but now prison morale hit an all time high and stayed there. Many of the survivors joined up. The first Prison Group had made its mark; AA had come to San Quentin to stay.

Warden Duffy then spoke. Apparently we folks on the outside know nothing of prison sales resistance. The skepticism of San Quentin prisoners and keepers alike had been tremendous. They thought AA must be a racket. Or maybe a crackpot religion. Then, objected the prison Board, why tempt Providence by freely mixing prisoners with outsiders, alcoholic women especially? Bedlam would be unloosed. But our friend the Warden, somehow deeply convinced, insisted on AA. To this day, he said, not a single prison rule has ever been broken at an AA meeting though hundreds of gatherings have been attended by hundreds of prisoners with almost no watching at all. Hardly needed is that solitary, sympathetic guard who sits in the back row.

The Warden added that most prison authorities throughout the United States and Canada today share his views of Alcoholics Anonymous. Hitherto 80% of paroled alcoholic prisoners had to be scooped up and taken back to jail. Many institutions now report that this percentage has dropped to one-half, even one-third of what it used to be. Warden Duffy had traveled 2000 miles to be with us at Cleveland. We soon saw why. He came because he is a great human being. Once again, we AAs sat and wondered how far our reputation had got ahead of our character.

Naturally we men folk couldn't go to the meeting of the alcoholic ladies. But we make no doubt they devised ways to combat the crushing stigma that still rests on those poor gals who hit the bottle. Perhaps, too, our ladies had debated how to keep the occasional big bad wolf at a respectful distance. But no, the AA sister transcribing this piece crisply assures me noth-of the sort was discussed. A wonderfully constructive meeting, she says it was. And about 500 girls attended. Just think of it, AA was four years old before we could sober up even one. Life for the alcoholic woman is no sinecure.

Nor were other special sufferers overlooked, such as paid inter-group secretaries, plain everyday secretaries, our newspaper editors and the wives and husbands of alcoholics, sometimes known as our "forgotten people." I'm sure the secretaries concluded that though sometimes unappreciated, they still loved every moment of their work. What the editors decided, I haven't learned. Judging from their telling efforts over the years, it is altogether probable they came up with many an ingenious idea.

Everybody agreed that the wives (and husbands) meeting was an eye-opener. Some recalled how Anne S. in the Akron early days, had been boon companion and adviser to distraught wives. She clearly saw alcoholism as a family problem. Meanwhile we AAs went all out on the work of sobering up incoming alkies by the thousands. Our good wives seemed entirely lost in that prodigious shuffle. Lots of the newer localities held closed meetings only, it looked like AA was going exclusive. But of late this trend has whipped about. More and more our partners have been taking the Twelve Steps into their own lives. As proof, witness the 12th Step work they are doing with the wives and husbands of newcomers, and note well those wives' meetings now springing up everywhere. At their Cleveland gathering they invited us alcoholics to listen. Many an AA skeptic left that session convinced that our "forgotten ones" really had something. As one alkie put it--"The deep understanding and spirituality I felt in that wives' meeting was something out of this world."

Far from it, the Cleveland Conference wasn't all meetings. Take that banquet, for example. Or should I say banquets? The original blueprint called for enough diners to fill the Rainbow Room of Hotel Carter. But the diners did much better. The banqueteers quickly overflowed the Ballroom. Finally the Carter Coffee Shop and Petit Cafe had to be cleared for the surging celebrants. Two orchestras were drafted and our fine entertainers found they had to play their acts twice, both upstairs and down. Though nobody turned up tight, you should have heard those AAs sing. Slap-happy, they were, and why not? Yet a serious undertone crept in as we toasted the absent ones. We were first reminded of the absent by that AA from the Marshall Islands who, though all alone out there, still claimed his group had three members, to wit: "God, the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' and me." The first leg of his 7000 mile journey to Cleveland had finished at Hawaii whence with great care and refrigeration he had brought in a cluster of floral tributes, those leis for which the Islands are famous. One of these was sent by the AA lepers at Molokai--those isolated AAs who will always be of us, yet never with us.

We swallowed hard, too, when we thought of Dr. Bob, alone at home, gravely ill. One toast of the evening was to another AA who, more than anything, wanted to be at Cleveland when we came of age. Unhappily he never got to the Tradition meeting, he had been carried off by a heart attack the night before the Tradition meeting and the birthday banquet took place. But at length gaiety took over; we danced till midnight. We knew the absent ones would want it that way.

Several thousand of us crowded into the Cleveland Music Hall for the Tradition meeting, which was thought by most AAs to be the high point of our Conference. Six old-time stalwarts, coming from places far flung as Boston and San Diego, beautifully reviewed the years of AA experience which had led to the writing of our Tradition. Then I was asked to sum up, which I did, saying:

"That, touching all matters affecting AA unity, our common welfare should come first; that AA has no human authority--only God as he may speak in our Group Conscience; that our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern; that any alcoholic may become an AA member if he says so--we exclude no one; that every AA Group may manage its own affairs as it likes, provided surrounding groups are not harmed thereby; that we AAs have but a single aim, the carrying of our message to the alcoholic who still suffers; that in consequence we cannot finance, endorse or otherwise lend the name 'Alcoholics Anonymous' to any other enterprise, however worthy; that AA, as such, ought to remain poor, lest problems of property, management and money divert us from our sole aim; that we ought to be self-supporting, gladly paying our small expenses ourselves; that AA should remain forever non-professional, ordinary 12th Step work never to be paid for; that, as a Fellowship, we should never be organized but may nevertheless create responsible Service Boards or Committees to insure us better propagation and sponsorship and that these agencies may engage full-time workers for special tasks; that our public relations ought to proceed upon the principle of attraction rather than promotion, it being better to let our friends recommend us; that personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and pictures ought to be strictly maintained as our best protection against the temptations of power or personal ambition; and finally, that anonymity before the general public is the spiritual key to all our traditions, ever reminding us we are always to place principles before personalities, that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all."

So summing up, I then inquired if those present had any objections to the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous as they stood. Hearing none, I offered the AA Traditions for adoption. Impressively unanimous, the crowd stood up. So ended that fine hour in which we of Alcoholics Anonymous took our Destiny by the hand.

On Sunday morning we listened to a panel of four AAs who portrayed the spiritual side of Alcoholics Anonymous--as they understood it. What with church-goers and late-rising banqueteers, the Conference Committee had never guessed this would be a heavy duty session. But church-goers had already returned from their devotions and hardly a soul stayed abed. Hotel Cleveland's ballroom was filled an hour before hand. Hundreds who couldn't get near the meeting packed its corridors and main lobby. People who have fear that AA is losing interest in things of the spirit should have been there.

A hush fell upon the crowd as we paused for a moment of silence. Then came the speakers, earnest and carefully prepared, all of them. I cannot recall an AA gathering where the attention was more complete, or the devotion deeper. Yet some thought that those truly excellent speakers, had, in their enthusiasm, unintentionally created a bit of a problem. It was felt the meeting had gone overfar in the direction of religious comparison, philosophy and interpretation, when by firm long-standing tradition we AAs had always left such questions strictly to the chosen faith of each individual. One member rose with a word of caution. As I heard him, I thought, "What a fortunate occurrence. How well we shall always remember that AA is never to be thought of as a religion. How firmly we shall insist that AA membership cannot depend upon any particular belief whatever; that our Twelve Steps contain no article of religious faith except faith in God--as each of us understands him. How carefully we shall thenceforth avoid any situation which could possibly lead us to debate matters of personal religious belief." It was, we felt, a great Sunday morning.

That afternoon we filed into the Cleveland Auditorium. The big event was the appearance of Dr. Bob. Earlier we thought he'd never make it, his illness had continued so severe. Seeing him once again was an experience we seven thousand shall always treasure. He spoke in a strong, sure voice for ten minutes, and he left us a great heritage, a heritage by which we AAs can surely grow. It was the legacy of one who had been sober since June 10, 1935, who saw our first Group to success, and one who, in the 15 years since, had given both medical help and vital AA to 4000 of our afflicted ones at good St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous. Simplicity, devotion, steadfastness and loyalty; these, we remembered, were the hallmarks of that character which Dr. Bob had well implanted in so many of us. I, too, could gratefully recall that in all the years of our association there had never been an angry word between us. Such were our thoughts as we looked at Dr. Bob.

Then for an hour I tried to sum up. Yet how could one add much to what we had all seen, heard and felt in those three wonderful days? With relief and certainty we had seen that AA could never become exhibitionistic or big business; that its early humility and simplicity is very much with us, that we are still mindful our beloved Fellowship is God's success, not ours.

As evidence I shared a vision of AA as Lois and I saw it unfold on a distant beachhead in far Norway. The vision began with one AA who listened to a voice in his conscience, and then sold all he had.

George, a Norwegian-American, came to us at Greenwich, Connecticut, five years ago. His parents back home hadn't heard from him in twenty. He began to send letters telling them of his new freedom. Back came very disquieting news. The family reported his only brother in desperate condition, about to lose all through alcohol. What could be done? The AA from Greenwich had a long talk with his wife. Together they took a decision to sell their little restaurant, all they had. They would go to Norway to help the brother. A few weeks later an airliner landed them at Oslo. They hastened from field to town and thence 25 miles down the fjord where the ailing brother lived. He was in a bad state all right. Unfortunately, though, everybody saw it but him. He'd have no AA, no American nonsense. He an alcoholic? Why certainly not! Of course the man from Greenwich had heard such objections before. But now this familiar argument was hard to take. Maybe he had sold all he had for no profit to anybody. George persisted every bit he dared, but finally surmised it was no use. Determined to start an AA Group in Norway anyhow, he began a round of Oslo's clergy and physicians. Nothing happened, not one of them offered him a single prospect. Greatly cast down, he and his wife thought it high time they got back to Connecticut.

But Providence took a hand. The rebellious Norwegian obligingly tore off on one of his fantastic periodics. In the final anguish of his hangover he cried out to the man from Greenwich, "Tell me again of the 'Anonymous Alcoholics.' What, oh my brother, shall I do?" With perfect simplicity George retold the AA story. When he had done, he wrote out in his all but forgotten Norwegian, a longhand translation of a little pamphlet published by the White Plains, N.Y. Group. It contained, of course, our Twelve Steps of recovery. The family from Connecticut then flew away home. The Norwegian brother, himself a typesetter, commenced to place tiny ads in the Oslo newspapers. He explained he was a recovered alcoholic who wished to help others. At last a prospect appeared. When the newcomer was told the story and shown the White Plains pamphlet, he, too, sobered instantly. The founders to-be then placed more ads. . . .

Three years after, Lois and I alighted upon that same airfield. We then learned that Norway has hundreds of AAs. And good ones. The men of Oslo had already carried the life giving news to other Norwegian cities and these beacons burned brightly. It had all been just as simple, but just as mysterious as that.

In the final moments of our historic Conference it seemed fitting to read from chapter eleven of Alcoholics Anonymous. These were the words we took home with us:

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and 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.

Bill W.
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Old 08-21-2009, 10:59 AM   #66
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Miracle on 39th Street
August 21, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ ____
November 1963
Vol. 20 No. 6

I WALKED into the New York AA office on East 39th Street for the hundredth time (or was it the two hundredth?) some months ago, feeling no different than I had on eight hundred other such occasions (or was it a thousand?) since my first meeting.

That first meeting was in 1947. I was in my twenties. I had just come off a disastrous drinking bout and was trying to pick up the pieces. I quickly decided that AA wouldn't work for me; I was too young. All those around me had long histories of broken homes, jails and hospitals, so all I heard--because it was all I listened for--were stories of things I hadn't done and places I hadn't been. Looking back, I now know that even then there were Young People's Groups with people who were staying sober because they would listen to a grizzled veteran and identify with the many similarities, rather than look for the out, the loophole that could fortify further drinking.

For fifteen years, I came to meetings frequently and drank regularly. I made the jails and hospitals. DTs and convulsions ceased to be strangers, and I became familiar with Domestic Relations Courts, blood banks, skid rows, cheap wine, panhandling, and all the rest of it. I was praying for a miracle that would keep me sober, but I was convinced that I was doomed to live forever on AA's fringes and die beyond its pale.

After a while, I was no longer "too young," and I was certainly no longer inexperienced in the effects of drinking, so I had to look elsewhere for differences. I decided I was "too intelligent," or, more often, that I had some personality quirk that made my case unique and unresponsive to ordinary methods. The Twelve Steps might work for the rest, but the Big Book said, "There are those who suffer from grave emotional disorders. They are not at fault. They seem to have been born that way." No lines of Shakespeare's ever seemed as beautiful! Poor unfortunate soul that I was, doomed to drink forever and, through no fault of my own, denied the Fellowship of AA, I milked Chapter Five dry of every excuse, real or imagined, to deny myself sobriety.

I believe now that I wanted sobriety, but I was afraid of it. Sobriety meant riding through "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" with the help of fellow AAs. It meant calling people when I was in trouble and talking about the things that bothered me rather than, through fear, keeping them in and exploding in a disastrous drunk that always, always made everything worse. Sobriety meant not sounding off at closed meetings with the ready quip that brought peals of laughter from everyone except the poor unfortunate at whom it was directed. Sobriety meant the effort to place "principles above personalities" and concerning myself with my sobriety, not someone else's defects. It meant using "gimmicks" such as telephone therapy, the Serenity Prayer and candy bars, when the urge to drink came and no meetings were available.

Above all else, sobriety meant--and means--becoming a member of AA itself rather than its still-drinking auxiliary, and accepting the fact that my problems are no different from those of other alcoholics, and are greatly eased by giving more than lip service to the Twelve Steps and the Twenty-four-Hour Plan.

Now, for the first time in fifteen years, I believe that I can have sustained sobriety, a day at a time, and that I am like other men and not a pariah. As I write this, I have been sober only eight months, a small figure chronologically, but twice as long as any other time in the last fifteen years.

I can't tell you what made the difference that day on 39th Street. It was not a blinding flash that made everything clear. I do believe, though, that a miracle had been going on for fifteen years, keeping me walking through the door to try again and again and again, when I really believed it to be hopeless.

Bill M.
New York City
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Old 09-15-2009, 06:58 AM   #67
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A Thing Called Hope
September 15, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ ______
July 1985
Vol. 42 No. 2

I AM AN INCARCERATED alcoholic. I am only thirty-one years of age, but have been drinking for nineteen of them. I also began to use drugs shortly after my first drink; however, my preference was always alcohol. Even when I was using another drug, there was always alcohol involved. This part of my story is no different from hundreds of others that I'm sure you have heard. I went through many short-lived jobs, and was kicked out of the worst of flophouses because of my drinking behavior. At one point I chose not to continue to pay the rent on my furnished room (paid by welfare check) because I could keep that much more money to drink with. This was insanity, as it was the dead of winter, and not having friends or any relatives, I made my home(s) between the benches at the Astor Place and Broad Street subway stations in New York City. Whenever a cop would wake me at one and send me on my way, I would head to my other home.

For approximately the last ten years of my drinking, everyone around me saw my trouble--the social workers at welfare, the judges (I've been arrested seventy-two times), the probation officers. They referred me to various treatment programs, which in turn all used AA as a supportive tool in their treatment. However, "I was not an alcoholic" and resented the very fact that they could even think I was. Needless to say, without that first step I never sobered up. I bring this up so that you realize that I had been led to the water, but would not drink of it.

Each time I wound up in jail, it was usually for about ninety days. I would get out and head straight to the liquor store--my freedom was always short-lived. I cannot remember ever getting out and not thinking that I would come back again. It was only a question of how long this time.

In the last five years I had come to believe that my life was cursed. I tried to kill myself six times (I couldn't even do that right).

When I got to this prison, I began going to the AA meetings so that I could impress the parole board and win an early release. Well, that didn't work. When I made my appearance before them they "hit" me. They extended my sentence; the state was going to get every day from me that they could legally claim under this sentence.

Then something strange happened; now that AA had no chance of winning me an early release date, I kept on attending. Somewhere, somehow, something was said in one of those meetings that gave me something I had never had before. Today I can name that something; it is called hope! I heard people come in from outside and speak; people who had been as bad off as I was, and others who had not gotten that bad yet. Some had even been in prison before, but they all spoke of being happy today. I could tell that they weren't lying because you could see the happiness all over their faces. I decided that I wanted what they had, and became more involved. I began to read the Big Book, the "Twelve and Twelve," As Bill Sees It, and Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. And today I anxiously await each month's Grapevine--I have even managed to get about two hundred back issues that have become my favorite reading. Quite often when I am reading them my eyes fill up with tears, for I feel that newfound hope deep inside. Today, I have a responsible job here in the prison, as a peer counselor in the prerelease center. I have gotten an outside sponsor who comes in once a week to visit me, and he has been helping me to work the Steps. Through putting those Steps into my life, I have become an honest person whom people are not afraid to trust or depend on. I have even been elected chairman of our small meeting in here.

As of this writing, I have sixty-six days left until my sentence is complete and I will be released. Today, I do not even think how long it will be before I come back next time. Never before have I gotten out without that thought.

If the program can give me a sense of hope, an actual sense of serenity, even in a place like this, then I want more of it when I get out. I have already chosen my first AA meeting not too far from this prison. I know that now I must do as so many others before me have so unselfishly done, and give away what was given so freely to me.

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all those wonderful AAs who took the time out to come into this prison, which houses those declared unfit to be a part of society by the courts, so that we could receive the message that they had to share with us.

W. H.
New York
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Old 09-28-2009, 08:34 AM   #68
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Someone Did It for Me
September 28, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ ____
May 1984
Vol. 40 No. 12

HOW OFTEN do we hear this at AA meetings? "Someone did it for me." Not often enough, I am sure. In my hometown, we have only two meetings a week. When I am working with newcomers, that isn't enough. So I have to take newcomers to other towns, and I still hear "Someone did it for me" too seldom. Maybe the reason is that too few members can--or care to--remember that someone did it for them.

I didn't pay much attention to the bald, blind man who sat in my first meetings. I only remember that he often said to me, "Keep coming back." Thank God, I did pay attention to that. Soon, there was another newcomer, and this time I listened to what the blind man was saying.

Someone else always went to the blind man's home and brought him to the meetings. One night, my phone rang. It was the blind man wanting me to give him a ride to the meeting. I felt good doing something for someone else, and that was the start of my helping others. Every time a new person comes to the meetings, the blind man tells how he was once the only member in this town, and AAs from thirty miles away would drive over and get him, take him to meetings, and then take him back home. Sometimes, it would be cold, wet, bad weather, and he would be in a warm bed while someone still had thirty miles to drive.

He always choked just a little when he said, "Someone did it for me." Chills still run up and down me as I remember him saying those words.

At my first AA birthday, that old man took time out in his life to share with me something I'll never forget. He told me that the only way I could keep my sobriety was to give it away. Caring like that can come only from a person who has been to the gates of hell, found a Higher Power, turned around, and taken the time to help a drunk like me. He did it for me, so I can do it for others.

Sometimes, I am tired and don't feel like going to a meeting. Then, I think of the blind man. I think of the next new member to come. I just might be the living example that new person is looking for. So I get up feeling tired, and go to the meeting. I come home feeling relaxed. Why? Because I gave of my time to help someone else, and I couldn't have done that by staying at home.

Who knows? I may be the only member of the group to show up. If I stay home, who is going to open up? Who will make the coffee and get things ready so the meeting can start on time? If I stay at home, who will help the newcomer? So I get up and go, not so much to help myself as to help the new person. With this attitude, I have been able to stay sober one day at a time, through a loving God and the help of my group.

Someday, the blind man will not be with us anymore. Someone else will have to take his place in the chain of AA members who care enough to always remember that "someone did it for me."

Anonymous
Tennessee
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Old 10-21-2009, 10:33 AM   #69
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Traditional AA in the Traditional Way
October 21, 2009 Story of the Day
__________________________________________________ _
February 1975
Vol. 31 No. 9

THE FIRST two AA members I met had both been around the Fellowship for about nine years. One had had nine years of continuous sobriety and a manageable life-style for all that time. The other had never achieved a single year's sobriety, and his life-style had been unmanageable, by his own definition, throughout those nine years.

The one I chose as my sponsor was the one who had achieved the better results. He had three AA books: Alcoholics Anonymous, the "Twelve and Twelve," and Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. The other had these books plus the biggest library on the subject of alcoholism that I have ever seen anywhere in my past eleven years as a member in good standing of the AA Fellowship.

In these years of my sobriety, I have not found it necessary to own books on alcoholism other than the three on the AA program. Yet I have recovered from all of the illnesses that were alcohol-induced and have had a manageable life throughout the rest of my professional career and since my retirement three years ago. In addition to my regular duties in my own profession as a systems manager, I served as deputy director of the U.S. Postal Service Corporation's Program for Alcoholics' Recovery in the Federal Service, which has developed into one of the largest and most successful programs of its kind anywhere in the world. During all of these years, I attended AA meetings only in the traditional places (rather than in the hospital type of environment), as did practically all of the postal employees processed through the PAR system.

Recently, I was asked to attend meetings of an AA group organized by an AA member who was serving as a counselor in the alcoholism ward of a general hospital. I was glad to go there, instead of to the regular AA meeting that I was accustomed to attending on that night of the week, because I thought I might be able to make a contribution by sharing my hopes, strength, and experience with the still-suffering alcoholic. In doing so, I shared my faith in the AA program of recovery and the AA Traditions, as set forth in the three books I have mentioned and in the light of my own experience.

As time went by, it became apparent that this approach to sobriety was resented by the fellow AA who served as counselor. Not wanting to disturb the unity of the group, I came to believe that it would be best for everyone concerned if I withdrew from the group and returned to my AA meetings held in more traditional surroundings. I have done so. I don't know whether this action has been beneficial to anyone else concerned, but I do know that it has been beneficial to me and my peace of mind. It has reinforced my faith in the AA way of life, to which I owe my recovery and my very sanity and life.

Anonymous
Wisconsin
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:45 AM   #70
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Letter From an Uncle
December 28, 2009 Story of the Day
_________________________________________________
March 1955
Vol. 11 No. 10

THIS is the first letter that I have ever written to any publication as writing is out of my line, but I have felt obligated to pass on to you my own experience with the hope that something here may "click" with some other AA who can't get his feet back on the solid foundation of our program after a relapse. (Let's stick with the phraseology since we call alcoholism an illness.)

My inability, or reluctance--and possibly a large dose of both--to grasp a satisfactory spiritual concept kept me in hot water mentally, and on periodic binges physically, for four years after I hollered "calf rope" in October back in the year 1945.

My last relapse occurred about live years ago after twenty-two months of absolute dryness. I have a nephew who is a minister and because of me he had taken an unusual interest in AA, since our feeling towards each other were much closer than the average uncle-nephew relationship. At about the tail end of my drinking on this relapse I wrote him a letter. What I said in the letter I do not remember, but why I wrote it is still very clear: I wanted sympathy. His reply came by return mail and the following extracts from his letter have made a tremendous difference in my life:

"Your letter came this morning. I was sorry to hear about your slip, but--and I don't think it is ignorance on my part--I'm not particularly upset about it. I'm not upset because I believe AA is rooted in you too deeply for you to ever get away from it. If I didn't think that I would be upset.

"You did not ask for advice and I am not giving any, but I would like to say a couple of things that came to me as I read your letter. One is that it may be a darn good thing that you slipped. Old Church Fathers used to have a saying that is so old that it is seldom used any more and it goes something like this: 'Sometimes God lets us fall into a lesser evil to keep us from a greater one.' I don't know what was involved in your negative frame of mind but that was worse than the slip, chances are. During that time that you were dry to all intents you were succeeding and yet may have been in much great peril than during the slip--I'm talking about the time you were dry while still in that frame of mind.

"What is the 'destructive thought?' You didn't call it by name to me. Have you called it by name yourself? Have you pinned the s.o.b. down so you could see it and walk around it and look it over?

"There's something else. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol. All right, according to that you were through several years ago. You yourself, so far as what you could do, were through. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves. . . .So, something else comes into the picture. I'm through; I have no power--but there is a Power. There's a new element in the picture. And evidently that second thought is as true as the first because you have been dry a long time. . .dry a long, long time for a guy who said I have no power! All right, now there has been a slip (and just between you and me I hope it was a stem-winder) and you're burned up with yourself for being just a plain damn fool and even more burned up because you realize self-condemnation is not good. Well now look, for a fellow who couldn't do anything in the first place because he didn't have the power and yet has been sober a long time because there is a Power--then just to want to go back to the admission that it was a mistake, a human error, isn't going back far enough. Doesn't it call for going all the way back? I not only was, I AM powerless. But there is a Power. He came through once; He'll come through again. Maybe my calling it a mistake is a sign of my wanting to get back into the driver's seat and saying that I will take over the driver's seat again. Maybe. So it's all the way back to the beginning. I am powerless. . .there is a Power.

". . .That part about 'trying to AA too many people.' AA isn't any good to anybody unless a man yields himself to it lock, stock and barrel. Why is there a fallacy in the old saying, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive?' This is hitting below the belt and I know it but I don't mean it that way. Is it because your pride has been hurt in not being able to give as you would like to? If that is so, then I could only say what is in my heart and I feel is in the heart of others too: I would rather a man would give me his love and trust than any other gifts in the world. Don't sell the heart short in a material world. Whether we like it or not people are still people and so little, and weak, and lonely, and afraid."

This letter started me thinking and brought me to the realization that a simple personal relationship with God--as I understand Him--was my answer. No frills, no dogma, no magic wands--just God and me.

To have a relapse and expect to pick up our AA life at the point where we took the first drink won't get it. Almost without exception the relapse begins from twenty-four hours to six months before we take the physical drink.

To get on the beam we must go back in our thinking and actions a little beyond where the relapse really started. I believe that is the only way. I think this accounts for the fact that the longer an AA has been dry before the relapse the more difficult it is to become well again.

Since this letter came to me five years ago I have not had a drink. So long as I keep these thoughts in my mind I don't think I will.

A.C.B.
Arkansas
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