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Alcoholism Recovery Program

Early AA History

Early AA History

Larry Jewell, Houston Press & Early AA Public Outreach

THE FIRST “A.A.” PAMPHLET AS DERIVED FROM THE SERIES OF ARTICLES FROM
THE HOUSTON PRESS

The content inside this pamphlet includes the articles written by Larry Jewell, a newspaperman and AA member that sobered up in Ohio in December 1939 with the help of Dr. Bob Smith and Clarence Snyder and then he was promptly put on a train to Houston, Texas in January 1940 due to health issues. Larry Jewell on the train with his Big Book had a Spiritual Awakening and was inspired to write six articles about Alcoholics Anonymous. These articles have been known as the Houston Press Articles. Upon Larry J.’s arrival in Texas, he brought his articles to The Houston Press and had them published in the January 27th release of the newspaper.

AA cofounder Bill Wilson in New York City was so impressed with the articles that he immediately had the articles published in this pamphlet by the Alcoholic Foundation in April 1940. There were very few printed in April 1940 and are extremely rare to find. As membership grew, this pamphlet was printed several more times in the early 1940’s.

LARRY JEWELL* (1940)

*Larry Jewell came to Houston from Cleveland with only a Big Book and a Spiritual Experience resulting from having taken the Steps while hospitalized. His Sponsors were Dr. Bob Smith & Clarence Snyder. He had not attended an A.A. meeting before coming to Houston.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS is an informal society of ex-alcoholics who aim to help fellow problem drinkers recover their health.

Rapidly growing, now numbering about 8000, our Fellowship is spreading throughout the country. The first member recovered seven years ago. Strong chapters, over one hundred alcoholic men and women each, are to be found in Cleveland, Ohio–Akron, Ohio–New York City. Vigorous beginnings have been made in Los Angeles. Baltimore, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington D. C., St. Louis, and Houston, Texas.

We of A.A. believe that two-thirds of our number have already laid the foundation for permanent recovery. More than half of us have had no relapse at all despite the fact we have often been pronounced incurable.

This approach to alcoholism is squarely based on our own drinking experience, what we have learned from medicine and psychiatry, and upon certain spiritual principles common to all creeds. We think each man’s religious views, if he has any, are his own affair. No member is obliged to conform to anything whatever except to admit that he has the alcoholic illness and that he honestly wishes to be rid of it.

While every shade of opinion is expressed among us we take no position as a group, upon controversial questions. We are only trying to aid the sick men and distracted families who want to be at peace. We have found that genuine tolerance of others, coupled with a friendly desire to be of service is most essential to our recovery. There are no dues or fees; our alcoholic work is an avocation.

The Alcoholic Foundation of New York is our national headquarters. Your inquiries will be answered if addressed to Post Office Box 658, Church Street Annex, New York City.

The Fellowship publishes a book called “Alcoholics Anonymous” setting forth our experience and methods at length. An excellent review of the volume by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick appears on page 27 of this booklet. Directions for obtaining the book and a detailed description of the Alcoholic Foundation will also be found there.

On page 32 physicians will find an excellent medical paper describing our approach. This paper appeared last year in The Journal Lancet

(Minneapolis) and was written by Dr. W. D. Silkworth, Chief Physician at the Charles B. Towns Hospital, New York, where our work had its inception five years ago.

We can no better present the spirit and purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous than to invite reading of six articles which recently appeared in

The Houston Press. These pieces were written by one of our newer members, a newspaperman who, scarcely two years ago, found himself in that shadowy No Man’s Land which lies just between Here and Here-after. Due to grave alcoholism and pulmonary trouble, two institutions had refused to admit him–too nearly dead, they thought. Then he found the Cleveland A.A. Fellowship. Now he’s on a Texas newspaper!

Let Mr. Anonymous of Houston and his editor tell you about it—-

AN EDITORIAL

(As published by the Houston Press)

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Age-old, but still alive, is the question as to when the drinking of alcoholic beverages ceases to be a social lubricant, an aid to conviviality, a solace to the weary and distressed, a tonic to the body and spirit; and when it becomes a devourer of health, success and happiness.

People of independent spirit like to settle the question for themselves.

People inclined to reform their neighbors–and even many otherwise reticent people, because they are honestly and generously concerned over the welfare at least of those near to them–sometimes come to the front with suggestions for the control of drinking, or even for its abolition.

But neither of these attitudes is the concern of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group of several hundred ex-drinkers who have taken to the wagon by a technique of their own, and who are riding there today after most of them had been pronounced hopeless by friends, families, employers, physicians, ministers, psychiatrists, hospitals and sanitariums.

The call themselves true alcoholics–people in whom alcohol becomes a disease for which medical and psychiatric science has not yet found a specific cure.

They say their cure works. They show as witness hundreds of lives restored to health and usefulness, hundreds more among their families relieved of terror and despair, and restored to happiness through the alcoholics’ changed lives.

The Press thinks their problem and their unusual success with it is so important that it begins today a series of six articles on Alcoholics Anonymous, written by “One of Them,” now living in Houston.

The series should provoke thought among the friends and families of “alcoholics,” among physicians and psychiatrists, ministers, social workers, employers, men’s and women’s clubs–and alcoholics.

The Press takes a liberal attitude on drinking. It stood for repeal of prohibition. But even the liquor industry, we believe, would wish success to a technique that promises much to the men and women who cannot handle their drinks.

Inquiry and comment are invited

STORY OF A “WAY OUT” FOR HOPELESS DRINKERS

How an Idea Originated by Ex-Alcoholics Has Helped 2000 to Recover

This is a series of six articles about a group of ex-drinkers who have succeeded in a new method of going on the wagon and staying there. One of their first principles is to pass their experience along, to help others similarly afflicted. The Press will be glad to receive comments.—The Editor

By a Member of Alcoholics Anonymous

People who get around much need no telling that the problem of those who drink too much for the good of themselves, their work and their families is already serious and becoming worse.

And those who know most about it, either because they themselves are drinkers of this type or because they are close to one who is, realize it in all its lacerating, hopeless details.

It is an age-old problem. Prohibition undoubtedly intensified it. The depression has multiplied its victims.

Today many people are taking the attitude of the English officer in India, who hated his assignment. When reproved for excessive drinking, he lifted his glass and said, “This is the swiftest road out of India.”

Now it is true that this part of Texas has escaped the worst part of the depression; but not all of it. And trouble is always easy to find, so that many, like the Englishman, have been indulging in excessive elbow-bending to get away from their worries, their disappointments and their fears in the unstable, war-crazy unsure world of today.

Free to begin drinking, some of them find they are not free to stop.

This series of articles is about them, for them, and for those who are willing to help them.

It is the story of how hundreds of ex-alcoholics, by a method which they themselves devised and perfected, have found the way out of the squirrel cage.

Most of them, after all that medical and psychiatric science, and even formal religion, could do, had been pronounced hopeless.

But if you think they are out to take the glass from the hand of drinkers to whom the diagnosis “alcoholic” does not apply, you are wholly mistaken. As one of them put it, “If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right about face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried long enough and hard enough to drink like other people.”

Thus the problem, as Alcoholics Anonymous sees it, is limited strictly to those who have become, or are on the road to becoming, drinkers headed straight for destruction, unless help beyond the usual is brought within their reach.

If this series sometimes turns autobiographical, it will be because it is difficult for a man who has been delivered of a ghastly fate to write with the soberness and restraint required by a strictly objective account.

Tried Many Cures

Jails, hospitals, attempts at suicide, psychopathic wards, sanitariums, all sorts of “spiritual” and “faith” cures, even hypnotism—these have all been mine without deliverance; some by choice, some because society’s hand was raised against me.

Society did not know I was sick. I had made my bed and society insisted that I lie in it. But alcoholics are definitely sick, as this series will try to show.

Nor did tears, pleadings or threats alter my course for long; and in spite of my own utmost determination, I could never find the answer.

I have personally met at least one hundred “cured” alcoholics—”fellow rummies” as they jokingly call each other.

Their stories parallel my own. Most of them are even worse. One man had been in a sanitarium more than one hundred times.

Another came to see me while I was “taking a rest” in a sanitarium—being defogged so I could use again what brains I had. A livid scar around his neck stood out like the welt raised by a whip. His wrists bore similar witness to the realization of the utter helplessness that had driven him to try suicide as his “swiftest road” out of the India of his perplexities.

I have been in the homes of some ex-alcoholics, Skeptical by nature, an investigator by training, I took no one’s unsupported word. But I saw for myself, not only the new bearing of confidence, even of joy, that exuded from the ex-drinker, but also the ordered life of his family and the new hope and happiness in their faces. I heard it in the tone of their voices.

Literally, these things are hard to believe unless you have had both the experience of being damned and then the surprise of being rescued out of “the jaws of hell,” as the old-fashioned revivalists used to put it.

No Mystery

Some of the experiences of these “cured” alcoholics will enliven the serious business of these articles, which is to explain how the alcoholic gets that way; why he or she is different from other drinkers who are able to “hold their liquor” all their lives; how the fellowship called Alcoholics Anonymous came into being and spread from one man, who in desperation evolved the idea, to include now nearly five hundred men and women, with centers being established in one section of the country after another; in as much detail as space will permit, just what the technique is, how it works, how the alcoholic may avail himself of it; and how anyone interested may help.

Repeating what the advance notice of the series said: “No medicine. No treatments. No cost. No mystery. No terrible battle of the will. Ministers have preached about it. Physicians and psychiatrists have praised it.”

No one has an axe to grind. Members of the fellowship give of their time—often their money—to help some victim. Why? The series will also explain that.

An Inevitable End

One can get an eye-witness picture of what happens when several score ex-alcoholics get together in a meeting. No more startling, unbelievable contrast could be imagined than a comparison with what they would have looked like had they assembled when each was at the end of his rope.

Physicians, perhaps more than any other group, know the alcoholic and his hitherto almost inevitable end. Here are the words of two of them:

“I personally know 30 of these cases who were the type with whom other methods had failed completely.

“Because of the possibilities of rapid growth inherent in this group, they may mark a new epoch in the annals of alcoholism. These men may well have a remedy for thousands of such situations.

“You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves.

“The subject seems to me to be of paramount importance to those afflicted with alcoholic addiction. I say this after many years experience as medical director of one of the oldest hospitals in the country treating alcoholic and drug addiction.”

The second says:

“Will the movement spread? Will these recoveries be permanent? No one can say. Yet we at this hospital, from our observation of many cases, are willing to record our present opinion as a strong ‘yes’ to both questions.”

The head of a hospital and sanitarium in a nearby Texas city, who has many alcoholics come to him, now requires all of them to read about the methods of “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

There must be fire where there is smoke.

I, for one, know this to be true.

Early AA Heads South

Alcoholics Anonymous came to Houston in 1940, by way of an unlikely series of events. Larry Jewell, a writer from Cleveland, Ohio, who was yet to even attend an AA meeting, was shipped here in a last-ditch bid to save his life.

A slide show of how Houston came to have one of the most vibrant AA communities in the world.
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