Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

by ELRICK B. DAVIS
October 21, 1939

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Article 1 of 7

Much has been written about Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization doing major work in reclaiming the habitual drinker. This is the first of a series describing the work the group is doing in Cleveland.

Success
By now it is a rare Clevelander who does not know, or know of, at least one man or woman of high talent whose drinking had become a public scandal, and who suddenly has straightened out “over night,” as the saying goes-the liquor habit licked. Men who have lost $15,000 a year jobs have them back again. Drunks who have taken every “cure” available to the most lavish purse, only to take them over again with equally spectacular lack of success, suddenly have become total abstainers, apparently without anything to account for their reform. Yet something must account for the seeming miracle. Something does.

Alcoholics Anonymous has reached the town.

Fellowship
Every Thursday evening at the home of some ex-drunk in Cleveland, 40 or 50 former hopeless rummies meet for a social evening during which they buck each other up. Nearly every Saturday evening they and their families have a party — just as gay as any other party held that evening despite the fact that there is nothing alcoholic to drink. From time to time they have a picnic, where everyone has a roaring good time without the aid of even one bottle of beer. Yet these are men and women who, until recently, had scarcely been sober a day for years, and members of their families who all that time had been emotionally distraught, social and economic victims of another’s addition.

These ex-rummies, as they call themselves, suddenly salvaged from the most socially noisome of fates, are the members of the Cleveland Fellowship of an informal society called “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Who they are cannot be told, because the name means exactly what it says. But any incurable alcoholic who really wants to be cured will find the members of the Cleveland chapter eager to help.

The society maintains a “blind” address: The Alcoholic Foundation, Box 657, Church Street Annex Postoffice, New York City. Inquiries made there are forwarded to a Cleveland banker, who is head of the local Fellowship, or to a former big league ball player who is recruiting officer of the Akron Fellowship, which meets Wednesday evenings in a mansion loaned for the purpose by a non-alcoholic supporter of the movement.

Cured
The basic point about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is a fellowship of “cured” alcoholics. And that both old-line medicine and modern psychiatry had agreed on the one point that no alcoholic could be cured. Repeat the astounding fact:

These are cured.

They have cured each other.

They have done it by adopting, with each other’s aid, what they call “a spiritual way of life.”

“Incurable” alcoholism is not a moral vice. It is a disease. No dipsomaniac drinks because he wants to. He drinks because he can’t help drinking.

He will drink when he had rather die than take a drink. That is why so many alcoholics die as suicides. He will get drunk on the way home from the hospital or sanitarium that has just discharged him as “cured.” He will get drunk at the wake of a friend who died of drink. He will swear off for a year, and suddenly find himself half-seas over, well into another “bust.” He will get drunk at the gates of an insane asylum where he has just visited an old friend, hopeless victim of “wet brain.”

Prayer
These are the alcoholics that “Alcoholics Anonymous” cures. Cure is impossible until the victim is convinced that nothing that he or a “cure” hospital can do, can help. He must know that his disease is fatal. He must be convinced that he is hopelessly sick of body, and of mind — and of soul. He must be eager to accept help from any source — even God.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a simple explanation for an alcoholic’s physical disease. It was provided them by the head of one of New York City’s oldest and most famous “cure” sanitariums. The alcoholic is allergic to alcohol. One drink sets up a poisonous craving that only more of the poison can assuage. That is why after the first drink the alcoholic cannot stop.

They have a psychiatric theory equally simple and convincing. Only an alcoholic can understand another alcoholic’s mental processes and state. And they have an equally simple, if unorthodox, conception of God.

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“Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here”.  https://silkworth.net/alcoholics-anonymous/the-elrick-b-davis-articles/.
06 October 2021

Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here

by ELRICK B. DAVIS
October 21, 1939

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Article 2 of 7

In a previous installment, Mr. Davis outlined the plan of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization of former drinkers who have found a solution to liquor in association for mutual aid. This is the second of a series.

Religion
There is no blinking the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous, the amazing society of ex-drunks who have cured each other of an incurable disease, is religious. Its members have cured each other frankly with the help of God. Every cured member of the Cleveland Fellowship of the society, like every cured member of the other chapters now established in Akron, New York, and elsewhere in the country, is cured with the admission that he submitted his plight wholeheartedly to a Power Greater than Himself.

He has admitted his conviction that science cannot cure him, that he cannot control his pathological craving for alcohol himself, and that he cannot be cured by the prayers, threats, or pleas of his family, employers, or friends. His cure is a religious experience. He had to have God’s aid. He had to submit to a spiritual housecleaning.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a completely informal society, wholly latitudinarian in every respect but one. It prescribes a simple spiritual discipline, which must be followed rigidly every day. The discipline is fully explained in a book published by the society.

Discipline
That is what makes the notion of the cure hard for the usual alcoholic to take, at first glance, no matter how complete his despair. He wants to join no cult. He has lost faith, if he ever had it, in the power of religion to help him. But each of the cures accomplished by Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual awakening. The ex-drunk has adopted what the society calls “a spiritual way of life.”

How, then, does Alcoholics Anonymous differ from the other great religious movements which have changed social history in America? Wherein does the yielding to God that saves a member of this society from his fatal disease, differ from that which brought the Great Awakening that Jonathan Edwards preached, or the New Light revival of a century ago, or the flowering of Christian Science, or the camp meeting evangelism of the old Kentucky-Ohio frontier, or the Oxford Group successes nowadays?

Every member of Alcoholics Anonymous may define God to suit himself. God to him may be the Christian God defined by the Thomism of the Roman Catholic Church. Or the stern Father of the

Calvinist. Or the Great Manitou of the American Indian. Or the Implicit Good assumed in the logical morality of Confucius. Or Allah, or Buddha, or the Jehovah of the Jews. Or Christ the Scientist. Or no more than the Kindly Spirit implicitly assumed in the “atheism” of a Col. Robert Ingersoll.

Aid
If the alcoholic who comes to the fellowship for help believes in God, in the specific way of any religion or sect, the job of cure is easier. But if all that the pathological drunk can do is to say, with honesty, in his heart: “Supreme Something, I am done for without more-than-human help,” that is enough for Alcoholics Anonymous to work on. The noble prayers, the great literatures, and the time-proved disciplines of the established religions are a great help. But as far as the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is concerned, a pathological drunk can call God “It” if he wants to, and is willing to accept Its aid. If he’ll do that, he can be cured.

Poll of “incurable” alcoholics who now, cured, are members of the Cleveland Fellowship of the society, shows that this has made literally life-saving religious experience possible to men and women who, otherwise, could not have accepted spiritual help. Poll shows also that collectively their religious experience has covered every variety known to religious psychology. Some have had an experience as blindingly bright as that which struck down Saul on the road to Damascus. Some are not even yet intellectually convinced except to the degree that they see that living their lives on a spiritual basis has cured them of a fatal disease. Drunk for years because they couldn’t help it, now it never occurs to them to want a drink. Whatever accounts for that, they are willing to call “God.”

Some find more help in formal religion than do others. A good many of the Akron chapter find help in the practices of the Oxford Group. The Cleveland chapter includes a number of Catholics and several Jews, and at least one man to whom “God” is “Nature.” Some practice family devotions. Some simply cogitate about “It” in the silence of their minds. But that the Great Healer cured them with only the help of their fellow ex-drunks, they all admit.

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“Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here”.  https://silkworth.net/alcoholics-anonymous/the-elrick-b-davis-articles/
10 October 2021