This is the story of Pat C. as it appeared in the first edition of the ‘Big Book’ – Alcoholics Anonymous. Pat was the first known individual to get sober from reading the book alone. The story was put together by Ruth Hock (Bill W.’s secretary). The story was removed from the second printing of the first edition because Pat had relapsed on his way to visit AA in New York.
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As a mother looked idly through a small medical journal, an article written by a doctor on alcoholism caught her attention. Anything in reference to this subject was worthy of perusal, for her son, an only child, had been drinking uncontrollably for years. Each year of his drinking had added new heartaches, though every small ray of hope had been investigated, and though he had tried desperately to stop. But little had been accomplished. He was occasionally able to remain sober for short periods at a time, but things constantly became worse.
So this mother read the short medical article with a heavy heart, for she was constantly on the alert to find something which might prove helpful to her son.
The article gave only a vague hint of the solution found by many alcoholics, which is fully covered in this book, but the mother immediately wrote to the doctor explaining her heart-breaking problem, and requesting further information. She felt there must be help somewhere, and surely if other men had recovered from alcoholism, her son also had a chance.
The doctor turned her letter over to Alcoholics Anonymous. It ended as follows:
“God knows if you can help my son, it will bring happiness to many of us who love him and ache with him in his futile effort to overcome his problem. Please accept my gratitude for whatever you may be able to do and let me hear from you.”
A few days later the following letter was sent to this mother. It was our initial effort to help others through the book alone:
“About a hundred men, here in the East, have found a solution for alcoholism that really works. We are now preparing a book hoping to help others who suffer in the same way, and are enclosing a rough copy of the first two chapters. As soon as possible we will forward rough copy of the rest of the proposed book.”
We received no answer for some time, and later wrote again:
“We are sending you a pre-publication multilith copy of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS. We would appreciate hearing about your son’s condition and his reaction to this volume, as this is the first time we have had an opportunity of trying to help an alcoholic at long distance. Won’t you please write us?
After another period of silence from the far west, during which time we began to think this book was inadequate without personal contact, we received a long letter from the son, himself. A letter which we feel will be of tremendous help to others who live in distant places, who feel alone and totally unable to work this program out by themselves. A letter which encompasses a man’s solitary effort to take what we had to offer and carry the program through alone. Alone except for one book and the help which printed pages could give; alone until he had tried our program of recovery and found spiritual comfort and help.
He wrote as follows:
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your letters and for ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS. I have read this book from cover to cover and it is really the first time I have read anything dealing with alcoholism that made sense and showing understanding of the problems of the alcoholic.”
I found the personal stories very accurate as pertaining to my own experience; any one of them might have been my own story.
I started drinking in 1917 when I was 18. I enlisted in the army, soon became anon-commissioned officer, went overseas as a sergeant. I associated with older men, drank, gambled, and ran around with them, sampling everything France had to offer.
Upon my return from France I continued drinking. At that time I could get plenty tight at night, get up in the morning and go to work feeling O.K. The following fifteen years were one drunk after another which, of course, as they got worse, meant one job after another. Police Department truck driving, etc. Then in an attempt to get away from it all I enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps. In 13 months time I drank very little and was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant, a rank that usually takes 10 or 12 years to obtain, if ever. I started drinking again. In six months I was reduced to Line Sergeant. I transferred to get away from my former associates.
Then came several years in China. China of all places for a man who wanted to stay away from booze. My four years over, I did not re-enlist.
Came more jobs selling automobiles, real estate, etc. Then down to odd jobs. I was drinking so much no one could take a chance by giving me a steady job, such as I could easily have handled if I left the liquor alone. I married and the booze split that up. My mother was a nervous wreck. I was getting arrested for drinking three or four times a year. I had myself committed on two different occasions to State Hospitals, but soon after discharge, I was back at it again. Two years ago I went to a private hospital for a liquor cure. A week after getting out I was curious as to what would happen if I took a drink. I took it–nothing happened. I took another–why go further. I went back to the private hospital, came out and was O.K. for a few months–then at it again.
Now previous to this and at the time of these cures, I was working at a State Hospital for the insane. I saw continually the effects of liquor but did it help me to leave it alone? No–it did not. But it did make me realize that if I did not, I would end up in the bug-house and someone else would be carrying the keys. After several years of working at mental institutions always in a violent ward, on account of my six feet 2 inches and 210 lb., I realized there was too much nervous tension and every couple of months I would blow up and be off drunk for a week or ten days.
I left mental work and got a job at the County General Hospital where I am now in a medical ward. We get quite a few patients with D.T.s, all broken out with wine sores, etc. I steadied down a bit, but not enough. I was off sick for several days every six or eight weeks.
I married again. A good Catholic girl whose people were used to having liquor, especially wine around the house always. She of course could not understand about my drinking–as far as that’s concerned, neither could I. And all this time my poor mother and wife became more and more worried.
Mother had heard of your wonderful work and wrote a doctor. You answered with letters, and finally the book. Before the book arrived and after reading the chapters I knew that the only way to combat this curse was to ask the help of that greater Power, God. I realized it even though I was then on a binge!
I contacted a friend of mine who is liaison officer of the Disabled Veterans of the World War. He made arrangements for my care in a State Sanitarium which specializes in alcoholism. I wanted to get the liquor out of my system and start this new idea right. I explained my absence as Flu and under the care of the head psychiatrist spent most of the time from Sept. 1, 1938 till Jan. 15, 1939 at the hospital having my appendix removed and a ventral hernia fixed up.
Six weeks ago I returned from the sanitarium and your book was here waiting for me. I read, more than that I pored over it so as not to miss anything. I thought to myself, yes, this is the only way. God is my only chance. I have prayed before but I guess not the right way. I have followed out the suggestions in the book, I am happier this moment than I have been in years. I’m sure I have found the solution, thanks to ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS.
I have had talks with another man, an attorney, who was at the sanitarium when I was. He has my book now and he is very much enthused.
I go down to the sanitarium every week for a checkup and medicine which they give me, just a tonic, no sedatives. The manager has asked me to contact some of his patients along our line. How I told him I would appreciate his letting me do so!
Would you put me in touch with some ‘A.A.s’ out here? I know it would help me and help me to help others.
I hope you can make sense out of this letter. I could write so much more but this I have written just as it popped into my head.
Please let me hear from you.”
This man’s lone struggle was impressive. Wouldn’t the story of his solitary recovery be helpful to many others who would have to start out by themselves with only this book to aid them?
So we immediately sent him a wire:
JUST RECEIVED LETTER. MAY WE HAVE YOUR PERMISSION TO USE LETTER ANONYMOUSLY IN BOOK AS FIRST EXAMPLE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT PERSONAL CONTACT. IMPORTANT YOU WIRE THIS PERMISSION AS BOOK IS GOING TO PRINTER.
His wire arrived next day:
PERMISSION GRANTED WITH PLEASURE. LOTS OF LUCK.