Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. Anonymous

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Название Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age
Автор произведения Anonymous
Жанр Здоровье
Издательство Здоровье
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isbn 9781940889948

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world. By the day of his departure from us, November 16, 1950, he had spiritually and medically helped countless fellow sufferers.

      Dr. Bob’s was the humility that declines all honors, the integrity that brooks no compromise; his was a devotion to man and God which in bright example will shine always.

      The World Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous presents this testament of gratitude to the heirs of Dr. Bob and Anne S.

      Thinking of the early years in Akron reminded us also of the pioneering days in the East; of the struggle to start A.A.’s Group Number Two at New York in the fall of 1935. Earlier in the year, before meeting Dr. Bob, I had worked with many alcoholics, but there had been no success in New York until my return home in September. I told the Convention how the idea began to catch on: of the first meetings in the parlor at 182 Clinton Street, Brooklyn; of the forays to New York’s Calvary Mission and Towns Hospital in the feverish search for more prospects; of the sprinkling of those who sobered up and of the many who dismally flopped. My wife Lois recalled how for three years our Clinton Street home had been filled from cellar to garret with alcoholics of every description and how to our dismay they skidded back into drink, seeming failures all. (Some of them did sober up later on, perhaps in spite of us!)

      Out in Akron, in the houses of Dr. Bob and Wally, the home-sobering treatment fared better. In fact, Wally and his wife probably made an all-time high record for home treatment and rehabilitation of A.A.’s newcomers. Their percentage of success was great and their example was widely followed for a time in the homes of other Akron-ites. As Lois once said, it was a wonderful laboratory in which we experimented and learned—the hard way.

      I reminded Jerseyites at the Convention of early meetings in Upper Montclair and South Orange and in Monsey, New York, when Lois and I moved over there about the time the A.A. book came off the press in the spring of 1939, after the foreclosure of the Brooklyn home of her parents where we had been living. The weather was warm, and we lived in a summer camp on a quiet lake in western New Jersey, the gracious loan of a good A.A. friend and his mother. Another friend let us use his car. I recalled how the summer had been spent trying to repair the bankrupt affairs of the A.A. book, which money-wise had failed so dismally after its publication. We had a hard time keeping the sheriff out of our little cubicle of an office at 17 William Street, Newark, where most of the volume had been written.

      We attended New Jersey’s first A.A. meeting, held in the summer of 1939, at the Upper Montclair house of Henry P., my partner in the now shaky book enterprise. There we met Bob and Mag V., our great friends-to-be. When at Thanksgiving snow fell on our summer camp, they invited us to spend the winter with them at their house in Monsey, New York.

      That winter with Mag and Bob was both rough and exciting. Nobody had any money. Their house was a one-time mansion gone ramshackle. The furnace and the water pump quit by turns. An earlier member of Mag’s family had built an addition of two huge rooms, one downstairs and one upstairs, which boasted no heat at all. The upper room was so cold they called it “Siberia.” We fixed this with a second-hand coal stove which cost $3.75. It continually threatened to fall apart, and why we never burned the house down I’ll never understand. But it was a very happy time; besides sharing all they had with us, Bob and Mag were expansively cheerful.

      The big excitement came with the start of the first mental hospital group. Bob had been talking to Dr. Russell E. Blaisdell, head of New York’s Rockland State Hospital, a mental institution, which stood nearby. Dr. Blaisdell had accepted the A.A. idea on sight for his alcoholic inmates. He gave us the run of their ward and soon let us start a meeting within the walls. The results were so good that a few months later he actually let busloads of committed alcoholics go to the A.A. meetings which by then had been established in South Orange, New Jersey, and in New York City. For an asylum superintendent this was certainly going way out on the limb. But the alcoholics did not let him down. At the same time the A.A. meeting was established on a regular basis in Rockland itself. The grimmest imaginable cases began to get well and stay that way when released. Thus began A.A.’s first working relation with a mental hospital, since duplicated more than 200 times. Dr. Blaisdell had written a bright page in the annals of alcoholism.

      In this connection it should be noted that three or four alcoholics previously had been released into A.A. from Jersey’s Greystone and Overbrook asylums, where friendly physicians had recommended us. But Dr. Blaisdell’s Rockland State Hospital was the first to enter into full scale co-operation with A.A.

      Lois and I finally recrossed the Hudson River to stay in New York City. Small A.A. gatherings were being held at that time in newcomer Bert’s tailor shop. Later this meeting moved to a small room in Steinway Hall and thence into permanent quarters when A.A.’s first clubhouse, “The Old Twenty-Fourth,” was opened. Lois and I went there to live.

      As we looked back over those early scenes in New York, we saw often in the midst of them the benign little doctor who loved drunks, William Duncan Silkworth, then Physician-in-Chief of the Charles B. Towns Hospital in New York, a man who was very much a founder of A.A. From him we learned the nature of our illness. He supplied us with the tools with which to puncture the toughest alcoholic ego, those shattering phrases by which he described our illness: the obsession of the mind that compels us to drink and the allergy of the body that condemns us to go mad or die. These were indispensable passwords. Dr. Silkworth taught us how to till the black soil of hopelessness out of which every single spiritual awakening in our fellowship has since flowered. In December, 1934, this man of science had humbly sat by my bed following my own sudden and overwhelming spiritual experience, reassuring me. “No, Bill,” he had said, “you are not hallucinating. Whatever you have got, you had better hang on to; it is so much better than what you had only an hour ago.” These were great words for the A.A. to come. Who else could have said them?

      When I wanted to go to work with alcoholics, Dr. Silkworth led me to them right there in his hospital, and at great risk to his professional reputation.

      After six months of failure on my part to dry up any drunks, he again reminded me of Professor William James’ observation that truly transforming spiritual experiences are nearly always founded on calamity and collapse. “Stop preaching at them,” Dr. Silkworth had said, “and give them the hard medical facts first. This may soften them up at depth so that they will be willing to do anything to get well. Then they may accept those spiritual ideas of yours, and even a higher Power.”

      Four years later, Dr. Silkworth had helped to convert Mr. Charles B. Towns, the hospital’s owner, into a great A.A. enthusiast and had encouraged him to loan $2,500 to start preparation of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, a sum, by the way, which was later increased to over $4,000. Then, as our only medical friend at the time, the good doctor boldly wrote the introduction to our book, where it remains to this day and where we intend to keep it always.

      Perhaps no physician will ever give so much devoted attention to so many alcoholics as did Dr. Silkworth. It is estimated that in his lifetime he saw an amazing 40,000 of them. In the years before his death in 1951, in close co-operation with A.A. and our red-headed powerhouse nurse, Teddy, he had ministered to nearly 10,000 alcoholics at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital alone. None of those he treated will ever forget the experience, and the majority of them are sober today. Silky and Teddy were much inspired by Dr. Bob and Sister Ignatia at Akron and will always be regarded as their Eastern counterparts in our pioneering time. These four set the shining example and laid the basis for the wonderful partnership with medicine which we enjoy today.

      We could not take leave of New York without paying grateful tribute to those who made today’s world services possible: the very early pioneers of the Alcoholic Foundation, forerunner of A.A.’s present General Service Board.

      First in order of appearance was Dr. Leonard V. Strong, Jr., my brother-in-law. When Lois and I were alone and deserted, he, together with my mother, saw us through the worst of my drinking. It was Dr. Strong who introduced me to Mr. Willard Richardson, one of the finest servants of God and man that I shall ever know. This introduction led directly to the formation of the Alcoholic Foundation. Dick Richardson’s steady faith, wisdom, and spiritual quality were our main anchors to windward during the squalls that fell on A.A. and its embryo service center in the first years, and he carried his conviction