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RUM, RADIO AND REBELLON
man faced the last ditch when his wife's voice
from 1300 miles away sent him to A.A.
AN ALCOHOLIC! I don't believe it."
seen you tight several times, but you're no alcoholic!"
Many times have I heard the above expressions since
I have been in A.A., and many times I have had to reply
"Definitely I am an alcoholic, and while it may
be hard for you to believe, it is not hard for me, for
I have learned many things about alcohol and myself
that would, perhaps, be difficult for you to understand."
As these words are
written at fifty-three years of age, with over nine
years in A.A. behind me, with all its wonderful teachings,
I haven't the slightest doubt about being an alcoholic.
I have always considered
myself one of the lucky members of our fraternity. Lucky
because my excessive drinking never got me in jail,
or hospitalized, nor did it ever cost me a job. As a
matter of fact, when I came into Alcoholics Anonymous
I was close to being at the peak of my career. I certainly
was, as far as my living standard was concerned. However,
what I had gained materially on the credit side of my
I have since learned was more than offset on the debit
side by egotism, resentment and dishonesty.
I was born in Cleveland,
Ohio, the only child of a prominent dentist, and a very
proud mother. They were neither poor nor wealthy, but
far better off than the average couple. I had every
advantage a child could have, private schools (several
of them), dancing schools, two colleges, coon skin coats,
automobiles, a listing in the social register and all
the rest. All of which could turn out but one thing—a
very popular, but spoiled, brat.
In the various schools
I attended, it was always a case of just getting by.
Too many outside activities to do much studying. I was
active and did well, however, in school publications,
dramatics (which came in handy during my drinking career),
and Greek letter societies. I had no trouble at all
in being elected to the two drinking societies at my
I had run away from
school to join the army in World War I, but missed it
by one day since the Armistice was signed the very day
I landed in Atlanta to sign up with Uncle Sam. As usual,
I ran out of money, and, as usual, I wired my father
for funds to come home. He answered by wiring that I
could stay there until I learned enough to get home.
It was a terrible blow at the time and I thought he
was pretty much of a heel, but of course it was the
finest thing he could have done for me under the circumstances.
It took me a year to make it home. I went to work in
Birmingham for a newspaper at fifteen dollars a week.
Prohibition came along, and with it my first taste of
moonshine. I didn't particularly like it, but I loved
the effects, and managed for the next twenty-five years
RADIO AND REBELLION
drink anything and everything, either handed to me or
purchased, at the slightest excuse.
When I did make
it home in 1920, I re-entered school and caught up with
my class in a few short months—I actually did
a year's work in three months, proving much to the disgust
of my dad that I could do it when I wanted to.
All I can remember
about the Roaring Twenties is that I drank a great deal,
though I was having a grand time, managed to get to
Europe for a few weeks, was very proud of the dozens
of speak-easy cards entitling me to an entrée
in the better joints between Cleveland and New York,
took on a wife, and built a home in a fashionable suburb
High living, a great
many fair weather friends, the 1929 stock market crash,
and a couple of years of Depression, soon relieved me
one by one of my worldly goods, including my wife. In
this I was greatly aided and abetted by one John Barleycorn.
Like all alcoholics endeavoring to run away from themselves
and their environment, I decided to go to New York.
This was at the height of the Depression and the end
of Prohibition. Neither of these circumstances was very
helpful to my type, since I had not learned to face
The next few years
in New York can be described in a very few words. Drinking—and
more drinking. I got behind in my rent, but never in
my drinking. Looking back, it is surprising to me now
that I managed to keep working and have enough money
to squander at the various spots in the big city. By
this time I had become associated with the fast growing
and fascinating business of broadcasting. I was work-
for a Chicago firm that represented several large radio
stations. It was my job to sell time on these stations
to advertising agencies in New York. It was also my
job to entertain the owners of these stations when they
came East on business—or the pretense of business.
This phase was right down my alley; I had my master's
degree in the art of making "whoopee."
I was living in
a small room on West 53rd Street right off Fifth Avenue,
when I met a young lady who eventually was responsible
for altering my entire way of living. She was studying
fashion design, was living in the same rooming house,
and was from my home town of Cleveland. I made little
headway in my first few meetings with her. She was intent
on her studies, and kept her distance. By persistence
and salesmanship I managed to see more and more of my
new friend, and because of her sympathetic nature she
tolerated my company. Her influence and companionship
managed to lessen my drinking to some degree. After
several months of acquaintance I asked her to marry
me, but was politely refused. I asked this question
weekly for the next couple of years.
In January 1938,
I had the opportunity to go to northern Vermont to manage
a small daytime radio station that was up against it
financially, and was about to fold its antenna. The
challenge intrigued me; also it was another opportunity
to run away from myself and the "fast life of the
big city." Once again I asked my girl to marry
me and join me in this new venture. At this time, however,
she had an opportunity to go to Salt Lake City on a
new project for the government, but she did promise
me that if I would curtail my drinking and buckle down
she would give serious consideration to my latest proposal
and maybe join me at a later date when I got settled.
With new hope in my heart and new resolutions I set
off for Vermont.
My work kept me
busy the first few months on the new job. It was strictly
a one man operation and I knew I had to tend to my knitting
to make a go of it. Furthermore, I knew that I was looked
upon as a city slicker from New York, and I had to be
pretty cautious among small town, conservative Yankees.
One of the things I needed badly was business for the
station. New programming was beginning to build an audience,
but sponsors were pretty scarce. I got around this by
joining the local Rotary Club, and through this association
with the business men of the community my little station
began to grow. It also was the beginning of another
cycle in my drinking. It started when I joined a few
of the men for cocktails before the noonday Rotary luncheon.
Before long I was at the luncheon meetings an hour before
the others, that old and familiar trademark of every
alcoholic. Since the radio station was getting on its
feet, it didn't require so many nights of evening work,
and that permitted leisure time for drinking. After
all—wasn't I entitled to it? I sure had been working
awfully hard of late. It wasn't long before I became
a five o'clock alcoholic. During this time I faithfully
was writing my girl in Utah. Of course I kept her posted
on how well the station was doing and wrote convincing
letters of how well I was doing with the liquor problem.
My salesmanship was still good, for in the fall of 1938
she called me from Salt Lake and finally agreed to take
for better or for worse. We were married in Montreal
Proud of my little
station and of my new bride I settled down to a happy
married life. It was to be short lived, for on the day
before Christmas I completely disillusioned my wife
and ruined our first Christmas by coming home from the
Rotary lunch dead drunk. It was the first of many such
experiences that became the only cause of harsh words,
tears and heartaches in an otherwise truly beautiful
In 1940 another
good opportunity came up and we moved to Pittsburgh
where I was to manage two radio stations under the same
ownership. My business reputation had reached from Vermont
to Pennsylvania, but, thank goodness, my drinking reputation
had not. Once again I was back in big time operations,
and along with them, big shot complexes. It didn't take
long for me to fall in with a fast crowd who had their
lunch in the men's bar of a leading hotel. I graduated
there from a five o'clock alcoholic to a noon-day one.
By hook or crook I usually managed to sober up before
I reached home, but always "terribly tired"
from a "hard day's work," and just having
to have one or two before dinner. My wonderful wife
did everything to play along with me. She was tolerant
beyond all belief. I did everything to make her an alcoholic
too. She tried reasoning with me, endeavored to work
out various drinking schedules, in fact all the tricks
were practiced faithfully for a short time somewhere
along my shaky road to unhappiness. The inevitable always
happened. I would follow certain drinking schedules
or diets faithfully for a few days, and then somewhere
along the line would over-train and upset
applecart. On more than one occasion my wife would threaten
to leave me. Time after time, I would beg forgiveness
on bended knees, with tears rolling down my cheeks,
and promise I would never again drink too much. And
deep in my heart I really meant what I said because
I loved her more than anything else in the world, yes—even
more than liquor. It was hard for her to believe in
my love by my actions. Even I couldn't understand it,
because I did love her so. How could I continually break
my promises? Soon I was to discover the answer.
In the very early
spring of 1944, my frustrated wife couldn't take it
any longer. After another of my "never again episodes"
she packed up and left for her parents' home in Florida.
Her parting words were "I am not leaving you because
I don't love you; it's because I do love you. I can't
bear to be here when you lose the respect of others,
and above all—when you lose your own self respect."
For a few weeks
I toed the line. I was going to prove to her that liquor
wasn't necessary in my life, and above all that I still
loved her more than anything else in the world and that
I wanted her back. This routine was short lived too.
I began hitting the bottle again, and with it self-pity,
resentment, loneliness and remorse set in deeply. Why
should this happen to me—hadn't I provided a good
home—wasn't I making a good living—didn't
I just get a substantial raise that had put me in the
upper bracket class? Sure I still loved her, but hang
it all, she was unreasonable! I had given her everything
a wife could ask for. The more I thought like this the
more I drank to submerge my sorrows. One Saturday noon
I staggered home
with every intention of showing her. I would end
it all, and then, by George, she'd be sorry!
I entered the
house, opened a new bottle of whiskey and sat down
to drink myself into the right frame of mind to
get in my car, start the motor and close the garage
door behind me. A few hours later I came out of
a complete stupor in our living room with a flash
of sanity. Looking directly at me was a large oil
painting of my wife, and her very words seemed to
shout at me—"I am not leaving you because
I don't love you; it's because I do love you. I
can't bear to be here when you lose the respect
of others, and above all—when you lose your
own self respect." This was about ten p.m.,
and the time here is important.
It had happened
to me and I had to do something about it. Thank
God that in spite of my heavy drinking my mind was
clear enough to make a decision then and there.
I had read and heard a little about A.A. and so,
groping for the phone book, I found the A.A. number
and with hope in my heart eagerly telephoned. I
heard a lovely voice, and a sympathetic ear listened
to my plea. I was told that someone would call on
me shortly, to sit tight and not take another drink.
Sure enough in a couple of hours two men were at
my door and for the first time I heard some facts
about liquor and my problem that sounded sensible
to me. They told me their stories, which were much
more rugged than mine—yet what they said made
sense, and the way they put it was easy for me to
understand, with an understanding I had never had
before. I promised my two sponsors that I would
attend their meeting the next Tuesday evening. I
kept away from liquor and eagerly waited.
RADIO AND REBELLION
first meeting gave me a great deal of hope and lots
of willing ears for my tale of woe and for my questions.
After a few meetings I decided to drive to Florida
unannounced to see my wife and tell her about my
new found friends and association. I was certainly
a complete surprise when I arrived on the wings
of a tropical hurricane there wasn't much she could
do but let me in. That night she too had new hope
because I had made sure she would know what I was
doing about my drinking by packing every bit of
A.A. literature I could put my hands on right on
top so she couldn't help but see it when she opened
I stayed on
in Florida for three weeks, enjoying our reunion,
a new found health and a deeper love than I had
ever experienced before. We came back to Pittsburgh
as happy as a bride and groom. We attended meetings
together, and mutually enjoyed our new found friends.
In September of this same year I went to New York
alone. I thought this was a good time to experiment
with liquor. Of course, it didn't work. I tried
a few drinks my last night in the city before coming
home. Luck was with me, for I made my train, but
I arrived home the next morning with a new kind
of hangover. I had done something terrible! I had
not only let my wife down but also a lot of other
wonderful people who had helped me. Of course, more
than anything else I had let myself down, but I
didn't realize how much then—as I do now.
I didn't say a word to anyone about my lapse. I
went back to my group meetings, but not whole-heartedly,
and I often skipped them with the excuse that I
was too tired. It was worrying my wife a little,
she had the good sense not to take me to task
about it or goad me into going. I got through
the holidays all right until New Year's Day.
We had some people in, and I was making drinks
in the kitchen, when I suddenly decided to hoist
the bottle for a quick one. I had just raised
the bottle to my lips when my wife opened the
door and froze me completely in my tracks with
"Happy New Year, dear." I didn't take
the drink. I was scared—would she leave
me again? Later I told her I had not taken the
drink and that I was all right. When our meeting
night came around the next evening, I went—"for
her sake" I told her. I said I was okay,
but if it would make her feel better I would
go "as tired as I was after the strenuous
holidays." She told me not to bother going
"for her sake"; she told me in a nice
way that it didn't make any difference to her—and
that really scared me—so I went.
break, at least some will call it lucky, was
in store for me at my group that night. Attending
his fourth or fifth meeting was an old friend
I had not seen for twenty years. He was full
of his new found life of happiness and sobriety.
His enthusiasm and keen interest in A.A. fired
my spirits again. I attended my weekly meetings
with regularity, re-read the Big Book, attended
other group meetings, gave leads when asked
to and did some Twelve Step work whenever I
was called upon to do so. In other words, I
began contributing, and so, naturally, I began
to get something more. A whole new world of
happiness and love began to unfold before my
eyes, a truly new way of living.
at the dinner table my wife said that tonight
was my first birthday in A.A., and that the
would have the usual ice cream and cake for
the "one year man." Now I was on the
spot. I had never told a soul about my lapse
in New York. For the next couple of hours a
terrible battle went on between the good gremlins
and the bad ones, one faction urging me to tell
the truth, the other telling me to sit tight
and say nothing. I had no trouble making the
right decision when I saw my wife open her purse
at the meeting that night and deposit a cute
little angel in the middle of my birthday cake.
When I was called upon for a few words I had
to tell my friends that I wasn't one year old
in A.A. that evening but only a "nine month
baby." With that utterance I again made
a wonderful discovery. I had thrown off a big
lie that had been burdening me down for months.
What a wonderful new feeling, what a wonderful
end my story here, but for the new man I would
like to add a few words. You'll read and hear
a great deal about the spiritual part of our
program. I haven't written anything about that
part of my story, but I believe in a Greater
Power which I call God and I ask for His wisdom
and guidance daily. My first spiritual experience
in A.A. came quite early to me. You will recall
that I said the time that I got the idea out
of a clear sky to call A.A. on a certain night
was at about ten. While I was in Florida trying
to convince my wife with all the A.A. literature
that she should come back to me, she went over
to her desk and picked up a clipping she had
taken from the St. Petersburg Times about A.A.
It was the first she had heard or read about
it and she said she had considered sending it
to me or trying to have someone in Pitts-
send it to me so I wouldn't know where it came
from. However, knowing me, she thought it was
a foolish idea, that I wouldn't be interested.
But for some reason—she just didn't know
why—she just had to hold onto that clipping,
with its thin hope. She said she cut this clipping
from the paper at about ten on the same night,
and at the same time as I called A.A. in Pittsburgh—some
1300 miles away.
To the new man I would also like to say that
this program is not for sissies for, in my humble
opinion, it takes a man to make the grade. It
is not too difficult nor too easy to grasp.
I have had many more reasons to drink since
I have been in A.A. than I had in all the years
of my drinking. I've had more problems but,
thank God, I have had the teachings of A.A.
with which to face them. And, believe me, I
thank God that I found out about A.A. before
I had to beat my brains out—before I had
been hospitalized, jailed or lost a job. When
I hear the more rugged stories of the alcoholics
who became sicker than I did with this affliction,
I humbly thank God for showing me "the
handwriting on the wall."
In meeting me casually, I don't think my strong
belief in "The Man Upstairs" shows,
but I have no other explanation for the many
good things that have happened to me since I
have been in A.A.—they came to me from
a Greater Power. These words may be difficult
for you to understand now, but be patient and
you'll know what I mean.
If I were asked what in my opinion was the most
important factor in being successful in this
program, besides following the Twelve Steps,
I would say
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Honesty. And the most important person to
be honest with is Yourself. If there is
something in my story that rings a bell
with you, then do something—now!
I repeat, I am one of the fortunate members
of A.A.—a lucky guy who is very grateful.
Radio, and Rebellion" Pete
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