REMEMBERS WHEN HE AND SHE
AND THE FIRST
A.A.s WERE VERY YOUNG
Issue, 1944, A.A. Grapevine
As the wife of an early A.A., some of our experiences and my
reactions to my husband’s changed life may be interesting to
other wives. Bill was an alcoholic, I believe, from the
first drink he ever took, just a few months before our marriage.
From then on, for seventeen years, I did everything I could think
of to keep him away from liquor.
I will tell a little of our life before A.A. to help explain some
of my later emotions. Bill and I had no children, so I soon
felt that my job in life was to help Bill straighten himself out.
As time went on, he earnestly tried to stop drinking. He was
always very remorseful and perplexed the mornings-after. We
would then resolve to lick this liquor situation together,
launching off on some new tack.
As his drinking got worse, all decision and responsibility had to
be taken by me. It was lucky that we were companionable, for
gradually as our social contacts were broken we were thrust back
on each other for company. In order to get away from alcohol
over the week ends, I used to engineer some sort of outing, as we
both loved the outdoors. If our pocketbook was flat, we
might take the subway to the Dyckman Street ferry and hike along
the Palisades to some scenic spot where we would nibble our
sandwiches and gaze at the view. Or we might ferry to Staten
Island and walk there; perhaps broiling a steak over a campfire.
We have hired a rowboat at Yonkers and, using a bathtowel as a
sail, floated up the Hudson, to a spit of land near Nyack, were we
camped and tried to sleep. We once went so far to get away
from alcohol that we both gave up our jobs and took a whole year
off. This we spent motorcycling and camping over half the
Theses trips, although good for Bill’s health, did nothing
towards his permanent sobriety. In fact, his alcoholism grew
steadily more serious. He lost job after job until I became
entirely hopeless about him.
And then suddenly and finally Bill straightened out through the
help of an old friend. At once I was convinced of his
complete change and was of course extremely happy. Bill
began to go to religious meetings and to work feverishly with
alcoholics. I would go to meetings too and would try to
share his newfound enthusiasms. He always had some drunk in
tow and would work all night or get up in the middle of the night
to go to the suburbs if one called him. We had drunks all
over the house; sometimes as many as five lived there at one time.
One drunk committed suicide in the house after having sold about
700 dollars worth of our clothes and luggage. Another slid
down the coal chute from the street to the cellar when we refused
him the front door. Two others took to fighting, and one
chased the other all around the house with a carving knife.
The intended victim was saved by a third drunk, who delivered the
knife-minding one a knockout blow. An alcoholic who was
living in the basement was invited up for a pancake breakfast.
After eating his share, he suddenly put on his hat and started out
the door remarking that he was going to Childs for PLENTY of
Bill had found himself a job about this time; and it used to take
him away from home a great deal and I was left with one or more
alcoholics to look after. Once one of these boys lay in the
vestibule all night and screamed invectives at me because I would
not let him in. He was so loud the passers-by all stopped,
looked and listened. Another time it was 4 a.m. before I
succeeded in towing a drunk home. He was anxious to be at
his job the next morning and we had gone out around midnight to
look for a doctor, having been unable to get one to come to the
house at that hour. I helped his shaky steps up and down
stoops, lit his cigarettes for him and finally, when we could not
rouse a doctor, held a drink to his lips in a bar. When I
asked him how he then felt he said, “Well, a bird can’t fly on
one wing.” After a few more drinks I managed to get him
home, but he did not get to his job the next morning. I was
once suddenly taken sick, and when my sister arrived to nurse me
she found five men milling around in the living room, one of them
muttering, “One woman can look after five drunks but five drunks
cannot look after one woman.”
Now to describe my reactions to it all. When Bill first
sobered up I was terribly happy but soon, without my realizing it,
I began to resent the fact that Bill and I never spent any time
together any more. I stayed at home while he went off
somewhere scouting up new drunks or working with old ones.
My life’s job of sobering up Bill with all its former
responsibilities was suddenly taken away from me. I had not
yet found anything to fill the void. And then there was the
feeling of being on the outside of a very tight little clique of
alcoholics into which no mere wife could possibly enter. I
did not understand what was going on within myself until one
Sunday, Bill asked me to go with him to a meeting. To my own
surprise as well as his I burst forth with, “Damn all your
meeting,” and threw my shoe at him as hard as I could.
This bad display of temper woke me up. I realized that I had
been wallowing in self pity; that Bill’s change was simply
miraculous; that his feverish activity with alcoholics was
absolutely necessary to his sobriety; and that if I did not want
to be left way behind I had better jump on the bandwagon, too!
Bill’s wife, Lois
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