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THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK
LIKE A GENTLEMAN
WAS BORN in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1889, the last child
of a family of eight children. My parents were hard
working people. My father was a railroad man and a Civil
War veteran. I can remember that in my childhood, he
was ill at ease with the children because he attempted
to assert an army discipline that had been ground into
him during his three and a half years of army service.
The differences between my father and my sisters, who
were school teachers, made an excellent environment
for the type of child I was—that is, slick and cute
enough to take advantage of any adult quarrel. In other
words, I was always safe from the discipline of my father,
and, having developed along that line, I had considerable
difficulty in school. Rules were made for others, but
not for me. Of course, it was always my aim to have
my own way without being caught.
My mother was eighty-nine
years old when she died, and I was a full-blown alcoholic
at the time of her death. She was a woman devoted to
her family and loyal to her husband, but quarrels did
not make a happy environment for her. I had four brothers
and three sisters. As I look back, all the brothers
THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK . . .
personality problems. The sisters seemed to remain unaffected.
I seemed to react by developing a streak of varying
meanness, which would cause me to do things to create
excitement and to get attention. I very early sampled
the effects of alcohol. In fact, on one occasion, I
was picked up by the police and brought home. I was
then about sixteen years old. I didn't go to high school.
I went to five grade schools, primarily because I was
expelled for my conduct, but I eventually graduated
from the eighth grade.
I was always interested
in machanics and after having about twenty miscellaneous
jobs, lasting from one day to two weeks, I obtained
a job as a toolmaker apprentice. Being intensely interested
in the work, I changed my conduct sufficiently to master
the job. I finished my apprenticeship and was moved
into the drafting department. That was in Cleveland.
As a draftsman, I worked for several large companies
and gained a variety of experience. Not far from where
I lived they built a new technical high school and one
of the teachers sold me on the idea that I needed a
little machanical drawing if I were going to be a good
toolmaker. I proceeded to take up the drawing and advanced
rapidly in it. The school then obtained a job for me
in the drafting department of another company. After
I was on the drafting board about two years I decided
I wanted a technical education. I was then about eighteen.
I did not have a high school education so I went to
night school to take the full high school course, which
I finished in two years and nine months. I apparently
was willing to subdue these personality disturbances
in a tremendous drive to succeed. I had an objective.
I could discipline myself but along
way there would be festivities and occasions when I
got drunk. Although, during this period I was not addicted
to any pattern of alcohol consumption, when I did drink
the drinking was pretty wild.
I then entered
Case School and worked while I went to school and finished
there. This was an engineering college. Following graduation,
I was offered a pretty good job which I took. In the
fall of the graduating year, I became involved in some
litigation over the ownership of inventions and patents.
This experience sent me to law school where I went at
night and which course I completed in less than three
years, taking the highest state bar examinations and
passing them. The law school experience was not inspired
by a desire to follow patent law, which has been my
profession since: I went to law school primarily to
learn the law of contracts following my own experience
with litigation. A year later, after I completed the
course in contracts, I quit the law school, and undertook
some engineering work for a patent law firm on behalf
of clients who were in diffculties and who desired to
keep their troubles from their own engineering department.
This work consumed a period of about two-thirds of a
year, and worked out successfully so I decided to follow
patent law. I went back to law school, and doubled up
on the courses because I was then approaching thirty
years of age and I wanted to get through as quickly
as possible. I was supporting myself through all this
education by being a toolmaker and a draftsman.
I married when
I was twenty-eight years old, and started in law school
after I was married. As a matter
THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK . . .
fact, I had two children at the time I was admitted
to the bar.
I kept myself so
busy that, outside of some school and group parties,
I didn't go overboard on drinking very much between
the ages of twenty-five and thirty. My life was fairly
well crowded and I didn't seem to need any stimulants
to keep me going. By the time I had completed law school
I had picked up some experience in patent law, for I
remained with the patent law firm and worked too in
Washington where they found that I was a capable infringement
investigator. In 1924, I had acquired enough clients
of my own so that the firm made me a junior partner.
My drinking career began about four years after I had
moved up into partnership and had joined certain clubs,
societies and so forth, and during which period we had
Prohibition. I was then about thirty-seven or thirty-eight.
All during Prohibition,
every alcoholic felt that he made the best hootch, regardless
of how bad it was. I became a specialist in making elderberry
There had been
some occasions—there was an automobile wreck, for instance—when
I had police escort home but not to jail, all of which,
instead of doing me a favor, did me harm because I was
then full of self-esteem as to the progress I had made
both professionally and financially. The first definite
indications of an alcoholic pattern began to arise when
I would go to New York on business and disappear, and
wind up in Philadelphia or Boston for two or three day
periods. I would have to return to New York and pick
up my bills and bags. These periods became more frequent
I resolved that when I became forty, which was very
shortly, I was going on the wagon. Forty came and went
and then the resolution was advanced to forty-one, forty-two,
and so on in the usual pattern. I realized that I had
a problem, although my realization was not very deep
because my own conceit wouldn't admit that I had any
personality problems. I could not see why I couldn't
drink like a gentleman, and that was my primary ambition—until
I landed in A.A. This pattern deepened and became worse.
I became a constant drinker with a terrific fight to
control the amount of my consumption each day.
My practice had
advanced to the point where it could stand a lot of
abuse and it got it. Whenever a situation arose that
fast talk wouldn't explain away, I simply withdrew.
In other words, I fired the client before the client
fired me. I was willful, full of will to do things I
wanted to do and to get the things that I wanted to
Insofar as religion
was concerned, I had Catholic training in my youth.
I went to both Catholic and public schools. I never
left the church, but I was a fringe member, and the
thought simply never occurred to me that through the
exercise of what I had I might find the answer to my
problem, simply because I wouldn't admit that I had
a problem. The successful demonstration I had made of
my life problems in other respects convinced me that
some day I was going to be able to drink like a gentleman.
When I was about
forty-seven, after indulging in all kinds of self-deception
to control my drinking, I arrived at a period when I
felt convinced I had to have so much alcohol every day
and that the real problem
THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK . . .
to control how much. After two or three years of effort
along this line, I reached the point of acual despair
that I ever would be able to drink only a harmless amount
each day. And then my thinking became calculation as
to how much longer I had to live, how long the assets
would last. By that time, I had one boy in college,
another a senior in high school, and a daughter about
twelve years old. My efficiency as a professional man
was probably reduced to twenty-five per cent of what
it should have been.
I had two partners.
They suffered from my conduct without saying anything,
but the reason for this was that I still managed to
hang onto a very substancial practice. They probably
felt that it was useless, that surely I had enough intelligence
to know what I was doing. They were wrong. They never
raised the issue. In fact, as I look back, I have often
thought that they probably concluded that they would
put up with me for a couple of years, that I couldn't
live much longer, and that they would inherit whatever
was left of the practice. That is not unusual.
As far as my home
was concerned, I did not see then, though of course
I can see now, that it was anything but a happy situation
for my wife. My children had lost respect for me and,
in fact, it was only after three or four years of sobriety
that any of them ever said anything to me to indicate
that I had recouped even a little of their respect.
I was forty-nine
and a half years old when I was first approached about
the Akron Group. It was not known to me as a group,
but I later learned that my wife had known about it
for nine months and had prayed constantly that I would
stumble into Akron
way or another. She knew that at that time any suggestion
she made about my drinking would only build up a barrier,
a consideration for which I am ever grateful. Had anyone
undertaken to explain to me what the A.A. movement was,
what it's real function was, I probably would have been
set back several years and I doubt if I would have survived
So the story of
my introduction into A.A. begins with the activities
of my wife. She had a hairdresser who used to tell her
about a brother-in-law who had been quite a drinker
and about some doctor in Akron who had straightened
him out. My wife didn't tell me this, but one Sunday
afternoon when Mary was trying to get the cobwebs out
of my mind, Clarence and his sister-in-law, the hairdresser,
called at the house. I was introduced to them and Clarence
proceeded to put on his Twelve Step work. I was kind
of shocked about anybody talking about themselves the
way he did, and my impression was that the guy was a
little "touched." However, on a couple of
other occasions, Clarence seemed to bob up at the last
saloon that I would stop at on the way home every day.
I resented it of course, and I offered Clarence his
commission, whatever it might be, if he would please
not bother me because I had arived at the conclusion
that he was a solicitor for some alcoholic institute.
One evening I had gone out after dinner to take on a
couple of double-headers and stayed a little later than
usual, and when I came home Clarence was sitting on
the davenport with Bill W. I do not recollect the specific
conversation that went on but I believe I did challenge
Bill to tell me something about A.A. and I do recall
one other thing: I wanted to know what this was that
THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK . . .
worked so many wonders, and hanging over the mantel was
a picture of Gethsemane and Bill pointed to it and said,
"There it is," which didn't make much sence
to me. There was also some conversation about Dr. Bob
and I must have said that I would go down to Akron with
Bill in the morning.
The next morning,
my wife came into my room and wakened me and said, "That
man is downstairs and he said you said you'd go to Akron."
I said, "Did I say that?" She said. "Well,
he wouldn't be here if you didn't say so." And being
a big-shot man of my word, I said, "Well, if I said
so, then I'll go." That's about the spirit in which
I went to Akron. Bill bought me a drink or two on the
way, and Dorothy S. came with us, and the three of us
went over to the City Hospital. We drove my car and I
left it down in the yard. Bill left me at the elevator
and said, "Your room is so and so," and I didn't
see him again for six months. The interne came along with
a glassful of bleached lightning that put me away for
about fifteen hours. I went into the hospital in April,
My experience in
the hospital I considered to be terrific because Dr. Bob
told me very quickly that medicine would have very little
to do with it, outside of trying to restore my appetite
for food. I had had no hospitalization up to this time
because I would not call doctors when I was getting over
a bad one. I would use barbiturates. In fact, the last
three years of my drinking was a routine of barbiturates
in the morning, so that I could stop shaking enough to
shave, and then alcohol beginning about four-thirty or
five o'clock, with a struggle not to take a drink at noon
or during the day, because I had the idea that if I took
drink, I would smell as though I had a pint.
Dr. Bob did not
lay out the whole program. He startled me by informing
me that he was an alcoholic, that he had found a way
which so far enabled him to live without taking a drink,
and that the main idea was to find a way how not to
take that first drink. He told me that there were some
other fellows that had tried this with success, and
if I cared to see any of them he'd have them come in
to see me. I believe every member of the Akron Group
did come to see me, which impressed me terrifically,
not so much because of the stories they told, but because
they would take the time to come and talk to me without
even knowing who I was. I did not know there was such
a thing as group activity until I left the hospital.
I left on a Wednesday afternoon, had dinner in Akron
and then went to a house where I encountered my first
meeting. I had attended several of these meetings before
I discovered that all those who were there were not
alcoholics. That is, it was sort of a mixed bunch of
Oxford Groupers, who were interested in the alcoholic
problem, and of alcoholics themselves. My reaction to
those meetings was good. In fact, I never lost my faith,
since I had been prepared by some conversations toward
the end of my sojourn in the hospital with Dr. Bob,
conversations pretty much along spiritual lines. There
was one experience with Doc which made a terrific impression
upon me. The afternoon that I was to leave the hospital,
he came in to see me and asked me if I were willing
to attempt to follow the program. I told him that I
had no other intention. That was at the end of eight
days in which I had had no liquor. He then pulled up
his chair with one of his
THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK . . .
touching mine and said, "Will you pray with me
for your success?" And he then said a beautiful
prayer. That was an experience that I have never forgotten,
and many times in my own work with A.A. newcomers I
feel kind of guilty because I haven't done the same
One of the things
that came up repeatedly in the stories they told me
was that once they had accepted the program, they never
had a desire to take a drink. That was skeptically recieved
by me when I first heard it, but after some twenty-eight
or thirty fellows had come to see me, and pretty nearly
all of them had said the same thing, I began to believe
it. In my own experience I was so jubilant at finding
myself sober, and I had so many things to catch up on,
that a month went by before the thought even occurred
to me. I had a genuine release right from the start.
I've never had a desire to take a drink.
Doc dwelt on the
idea that this was an illness, but Doc was pretty frank
with me. He found that I had enough faith in the Almighty
to be fairly frank. He pointed out to me that probably
it was more of a moral or spiritual illness than it
was a physical one.
We went to Akron
for about six weeks and we did a lot of visiting among
the people in Akron. There were, at that time, in the
neighborhood of twelve or thirteen Cleveland members
who had been sober anywhere from a year and a half to
a couple of months. They had all been to Akron. It was
finally decided to undertake the organization of a Cleveland
group and toward the end of May, 1939, the first meeting
was held in Cleveland in my home. At that meeting, there
were a number of Akron people and all the Cleveland
Professionally, after I was sober for a month or so
I realized that I should school myself to dissolve the
partnership I was in because I felt that I would never
regain the respect of my partners no matter how long
I was sober, and that I would be at a disadvantage.
I still had enough practice to earn a good living if
I would only work, so I resolved that in January of
1940 I would launch a patent law firm of my own.
Shortly after I
came to this conclusion, I was importuned by another
well-known patent law firm to help them out on some
trial work because their trial man had had a heart attack
and had been forbidden to go into the courtroom. Somewhere
in one of the conversations, I mentioned that I was
comtemplating forming a new firm. On hearing that, these
people induced me to make the move immediately and join
them as a senior partner, which I did. I found in the
fall of 1939, that I was not mentally impaired, so far
as trial work was concerned, and thereafter took up
where I had left off when I was about forty-five years
old. My physical health was badly shaken, but I began
to pick up. In fact, after six months of living on food
instead of on whiskey, I gained about thirty pounds.
I realized that
there wasn't anything I could say to place myself in
a more favorable light with my children, that it was
going to be a matter of time; for I also understood
the intolerance of young people towards deficiencies
in their elders. I believe though that it helped my
family tremendously to have the A.A. meetings every
week in my own home. My oldest child sometimes sat in
on the meetings.
I had accepted
Catholicism somewhat as an inheri-
THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK . . .
My education had been pretty much pagan—science. I
resolved that if I were going to continue with the
Catholic Church, I was going to know the roots of
the doctrine, since those roots had caused me some
confusion. So I enrolled at the university for night
courses in religion, and I pursued those courses for
a year. In summing up, I can say that A.A. has made
me, I hope, a real Catholic.
Thought He Could Drink Like A Gentleman"
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