Philadelphia's 1st AA Newspaper
The Philadelphia Record. April 1,
EX-DRUNKARDS UNITE HERE TO HELP
Alcoholics Anonymous Tell How They
Won a Hard Fight.
By M. W. Mountjoy
Every Thursday evening in a
lecture room of St. Luke's and Children's Hospital, a growing
group of former drunkards gets together to buck each other up,
swap experiences and greet recruits.
They are the Philadelphia
chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (the "Double A's",
which may also stand for absolute abstention) a national
non-profit organization that has grown up around a former New
York city toper who recovered.
Started eight weeks ago by
a member of the New York chapter who came to Philadelphia to
live, the group already numbers 50 and is growing at the rate of
10 a week.
The meeting of these confirmed
and confessed alcoholics are curiously convivial and forthright.
The one we attended included seven "hopeless" cases
that had been lifted out of Philadelphia General Hospital by the
chapter, and 14 wives, mothers and sisters, most of whom wore
The chairman of the evening
was an insurance agent. He was anonymous, of course.
The chairmanship revolves at each meeting because, a member
explained, "if you give a recently dry rummy too much
importance he's liable to fall off again." The
founder of the chapter, a representative of a New York
engineering firm, who has been "dry" two and a half
years, took no special part in the proceedings.
"I suppose," the
chairman began, "we've all had more or less the same
experience. We've paid high-priced doctors, made the
rounds of sanitariums, know what the inside of an alcoholic ward
looks like and the morning after taste of water from a tin cup
in a police station."
He called on a young
attorney who walked to the front of the room.
he a lush!" proudly whispered the member next to us.
TOO SORDID TO TELL.
"With your permission I'd
rather not tell my story," the attorney said.
"It's a sordid one. Up to now my life has been
completely self-centered. I think this is true of all
alcoholics. In recent years I was a periodic drunk.
I stayed sober for months, chiefly as a reaction to my last
"But I won a case in
court today, and coming away I had that old feeling of elation,
that urge to celebrate. Then I realized I ought to be
thankful rather than proud.
"Stopping drinking is
not enough. You've still got the bottle heat in you.
You've got to be honestly thankful."
Each speaker was roundly applauded.
The second was a draftsman who last month panhandled an A.A. for
a nickel in a railroad station.
This man read what he had to say.
"I've been sober for 25
days," he testified, "which is my longest period of
dryness since 1932." He thanked "the fellows
here who broke bread with a social outcast" and commended
himself to "the Power that has helped me after all else
The next speaker was a
strapping young man with an Irish name.
THEY CAME AND GOT HIM.
"On my last bat,"
he said, "which I regret to say was not very long ago, they
had to come and get me. Now I've already started visiting
After that, members stood
up and introduced starters, several of whom were living
temporarily at the Salvation Army.
That was the formal part
of the meeting, which continued conversationally for another
hour after which the womenfolk served doughnuts and coffee.
NONE HAS FALLEN.
"Not one of this gang
has fallen off yet," an older member confided.
"Although, of course, we expect some to. More than
half of the national membership (now between 500 and 600) has
had no relapse at all. Another quarter had trouble, but is
headed for recovery. The other quarter we don't know
that record remarkable, since all of us had been given up as
hopeless and had given up hope."
The founder of the Double A's
is a tall, tanned broker with a pair of searching eyes and an
unassuming manner of speech. Double A's, he reminded us,
are not prohibitionists nor, necessarily churchgoers.
A TRUE ALCOHOLIC
"A man may drink steadily
all his life with an occasional roaring bender and not be a true
alcoholic," says an introductory pamphlet given to
recruits. "If anyone who is showing inability to
control his drinking can do the right-about-face, our hats are
off to him. Heavens knows, we have tried long enough and
hard enough to drink like other people.
"We have no
desire to make the country dry or anybody else dry unless he
happens to be, like us, allergic to alcohol.
HOW THEY DO IT.
are the steps we took toward recovery: (The following is a
admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had
to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us
"Admitted to God, as we understood Him, to ourselves, and
to another human being the nature of our wrongs.
a list of all people we had harmed and made direct amends
"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our
conscious contact with God as we understood Him.
"Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these
steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to
practice these principles in all our affairs."
A Houston (Tex.)
newspaperman, who started a chapter there, wrote:
non-religious terms the experience is like the realization that
sometimes comes to a person who has never appreciated good music
or good books and who all of a sudden gets the idea of the value
and pleasure to be found in them."
Back to AA History