This Too Shall Pass

H.R. Mike E's Open Talk

Transcript of a talk given by H.R. (Mike) E. of the Northwestern Group of Alcoholics Anonymous on the 27th of Sept, 1951.

Mike was the first (sic) member of Alcoholics Anonymous in the City of Detroit after Detroit’s founder.

H.R. Mike E.

This story that I am about to tell hasn't changed very much over the years. However, I hope before I leave that I may impart to some man that was inflicted with this same disease as I myself - some ray of hope, some message, some word or some thought, that he too may enjoy the happiness, peace and contentment that’s been my lot to enjoy as a member of this wonderful organization of ours.

In Nineteen Hundred and Thirty Four, December of Nineteen Hundred and Thirty Four, there was a man (1) laying ill in a NY hospital. He was a hopeless alcoholic. He had tried every means of recovery known to the medical science. Finally, as he lay this day in desperate despair and despondency and hopelessness, he thought of ah…. one more thing that he might do and he said, “If there be a God, let Him show Himself to me now.”  And this man testified further that from that moment on it seemed as though the light - the room was completely filled with the most brilliant light. That he felt as though Atlas must have felt if someone had removed the earth from his shoulders. That he felt elated about it. It seems as though in this room that he was occupying that a great wind was gradually swishing through there. This wind was swishing through this man and this man knew, he said, beyond any question of a doubt that he was then in the presence of Almighty God. And he knew further that that obsession of drink had been removed from him for all time. And he turned to the physician that was attending him, a most prominent physician, a man who at that time and down through the years up until he passed away this last year was recognized as one of the finest and one of the best informed on alcoholism of our time. No less a person than Dr. Silkworth. And he turned to Dr. Silkworth and said, “Have I lost my mind?”  And the good Doctor said “No, you haven’t lost your mind.” But, he said, “I don’t know what has happened to ya, but whatever has happened to ya just hang onto it. Take it and pass it on to your fellow man. Because you, well could have the answer within your grasp, of this alcoholic problem that we have been working so many years with.”

The man I am referring to is Bill W, the Founder of this wonderful organization of ours. And as you all know, Bill went later to Akron and teamed up with Dr. Bob. And they together formulated this program of ours. And in the formulation of that program they gave to us 12 Steps.  The 12 Steps that are the rule and guide of our conduct in AA. Those 12 Steps are the things that I want to talk about tonight. I want to in my humble way to tell you folks how, by the use of them I have had sobriety over the last 11 years. I’m not a gonna delve too much into my sordid and colored escapades with John Barleycorn (2),  other than to tell you for the benefit of some that hasn’t heard,  that I wrestled with old John for 30 years . And he finally gave me an awful thrashing that I found myself, a little over eleven years ago, in a most terrible position. I found myself living in a world that was awfully dark. It was full of despair and discouragement and distress and ya name it… and it was full of that. And I sat in a gin mill not two blocks from a home that I had a small equity in and a wife that was looking after that home in which I had a smaller equity. A wife that it mattered not when or how I got home, had been there looking after this thing and had worked keeping the home fires burning; a wife that had cooked many meals that I didn’t get home to eat. A wife that it didn’t make any difference how long I had been absent from this home, was there waiting for the guy to come home that she thought she had married about 19 years ago. I always like to mention that because I like to take my hat off to these gals who saw fit to hang on and take the terrible mental beating that we fellas gave them. In the face of utter despair, hang on to something that…well we couldn’t of…in the face of the thing, we couldn’t of possibly have stood the gaps, like these gals did. Only to be an instrument by which when we found ourselves trying to overcome this disease of ours, that was the “Right Hand Bauer (3)”, the one that we could lean on and expect some help from and get it. You girls have played a most important part in the success of this organization of ours know as Alcoholics Anonymous.

I sat in this gin mill and with those conditions that I have just told you and meditated with myself whether or not I was going home to these two small equities that I had or whether I would go down on Michigan Avenue (4) and cast my lot in with the boys down there. I didn’t go to Michigan Avenue for the same reason that any other drunk never accepts responsibility until he has too. I had a crutch that I thought I could lean on, and I went home to that crutch. And I asked this little gal if she could give me a lift out of this deal that I was in and her answer was “No. You got into it, you’re gonna have to get out the best way you can.” Now that was the smartest thing that she’d ever told me. The reason that it was the smartest thing that she’d ever told me was that I knew the chips were all down then. I knew that I’d come to the end of the line. That I’d been caught off base and that whether I liked it or not, if I didn’t do something about this problem of mine Michigan Avenue it was going to be. Either that or death, or an insane asylum. I knew that just as sure as the day follows the night.

So I remembered four short months before, seeing a pal of mine that had been sent to Akron to be given a cure they told me then. I saw this man leave Detroit in a most deplorable condition. His shoulders were stooped and his head was bowed his hands were shaking and his eyes were blurry and his face was flushed. He was a broken man if I ever saw one. And I saw him return in less than two weeks time from Akron an entirely changed person. His shoulders were straight and his head was up. Those eyes were clear and the flush had left his face and his hands had lost their shake. He seemed to have been and entirely changed personality. I recognized that in this man. I sent for him. And he came and he brought me this program the same as you fellas have gone out on every call you’ve gone. And he told me about these 12 Steps. The Big Book hadn’t been written yet and the 12 Steps were formulated and were in transcript form. But he knew them, because they had taught them to him down in Akron. And he explained them to me as I am going to explain them to you and tell you how I have made them work for me over these years of so much happiness.

He said that I had to admit that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable. Not too much of a job for me to admit that I was powerless over alcohol because I used to be able to carry a pretty good package. And I found myself in the last, oh I’d imagine five years of my drinking where I was absolutely uncontrollable when I got a full head of steam on. I didn’t know where I was goin or what I was doin. I could get no more spark out of it. It didn’t matter how much I drank. I could just drink and drink until I became completely saturated and then there was nothing else to do but crawl away and suffer one out. While we’re on that subject it was never my privilege to sober up any other way but the hard way. Some of you fellas that have had to do it that way all the time know what I’m talkin about. And I know of no other thing on the face of the earth that it takes more courage to do than for a guy to come off of a drunk after he’s been on one for about six or eight weeks and finally decides that he’s got to shake it off. Our good and well meaning friends tell us that if we had a little will power we could take care of this. No, that isn’t the answer. Bill W laid his finger on the answer when he lay in that hospital over there in New York 17 years ago. And that’s the thing I wanna talk about and that’s the thing I found in this program. And that and that is the only thing that I attribute my sobriety too.

That this fella, saw fit to formulate these 12 wonderful Steps and pass them on down to us. And while we are on that subject I feel a keen responsibility too, as being the recipient of these 12 Steps that I continue to pass this message on, as long as the Lord sees fit to keep me able to do it. I think it’s a heritage that we can’t take lightly and we have to pass it on to the other fella. And I am always reminded when I am thinking of these things, of the thing that our dear friend Bob said, the last thing that he said almost, when he talked to us in Cleveland here just before he died, and he said, “This thing is awful simple.” He said, “You could reduce it to two words-Love and Service.” He said, “Let’s keep it that way, let’s don’t louse it up.” And that’s the way I feel tonight. I feel it’s just the most simple thing that was most ever organized for anyone. Tis’ent hard. There isn’t a thing hard in it.

But of course, it remains today the same as it was 17 years ago when Bill W talked to his first man. It remains the same as this fella told me 11 years ago when he said to me, “You’ve got to admit that you are powerless over alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable. And you’ve got to have a burning desire to do something about your problem. And with a desire on your part, with a firm desire on your part, to do something about your problem, we have the answer.”

And I had that desire.  I didn’t like that world I was living in. I had just been fired

from a position of trust and responsibility that I’d had held down for almost 20 years. Only to be thrown out in the middle of the street on account of being a common ordinary drunk. And I didn’t like that. And they weren’t too easy when they did it to me.

Oh I know, some would say well ya had no business drinking so much. I had no choice in the matter. I was an alcoholic. I was a sick man. I was allergic to alcohol. And that’s what this good doctor has recognized. And this doctor, this same Doctor Silkworth has passed this information on down the line and the medical profession has recognized that we people that are obsessed with this desire to drink   that it is a disease. And that it just isn’t someone bent on hell fire and damnation.

So I took that Step. There wasn’t any question in my mind back there years ago, but what I was powerless over alcohol. I knew that my life had become unmanageable because as I have just already told you, I lost everything that was near and dear to a sane mans way of existence.

And then the man said to me, “that I had to come to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” Oh, I had no idea I was insane at that time until I began to reflect on some of the things I had done. And I reasoned that nobody but an insane man would take a good healthy body and a good clean mind such as I had been endowed with and do to it  the things that I had been guilty of doing to this mind and body of mine through he excessive use of alcohol.

No one would take a position of trust and responsibility and treat it like I treated my position. No one would treat their friends like I treated mine. No one would go up to the alter and take a girl by the hand and promise to love and obey and then treat her the way  I’d treated my gal for 19 years. You just don’t do those things if you’re sane.

 Sure I took that Step. I come to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I knew nothing of this power that they talked about, but a little later on they told me that I could choose to call that Thing anything I wanted to.  Because they said, “I had to make a decision to turn my will and my life over to God as I understood Him.”

Now they didn’t say what kind of a God that was and it made sense to me then and it has ever since. Its made sense to me because they didn’t tell me which channel I had to go down through in order to obtain this sobriety that we was working for. They didn’t say it had to be a Protestant-God or a Mohammad-God or a Catholic-God or any kind. They just said a God of some kind. And that made sense.

And of course when this fellow came to me that night he knew the route that I had been traveling.   And he knew that I knew nothing about God because you don’t find Him in the blind pigs and the gin mills that I had been frequenting all these 30 years. I didn’t know anything about God.

Upper Room Devotional Magazine

My conception of God was that fellow in long whiskers that I got back there on my mother’s knee. But this fellow brought a most helpful bit of literature along with him that night when he come to see me, it was The Sermon on the Mount, by Emmitt Fox. And he said, “Read this and it’ll answer these questions that are going to be confusing to ya to get started in this deal.”  [He] Said, “You’re gonna, wanna know something about the spiritual way of life.”  [He] Said, “Emmet Fox will tell ya the easy way.” And he left that book with me and although I could hardly hold it in my hands, I was so shaky, I read the book completely through. And I think that was one of the biggest lifts, along with all the other things that he gave me that night because along about then he said to me, “You know if you’re gonna embrace this program, you’ve taken your last drink.” I said, “Do you mean to tell me I cannot drink again as long as I live?” And he said, “That’s right.” He said, “You’re allergic to alcohol.  You can’t take a drink as long as you live. But don’t let that throw ya.”  He said, “We have an easy way of doing this.” He said, “We just work on a 24 hour basis.”  [He] Said, “We get up in the morning and we have a quiet time. That’s the time,” he said, “when we talk to this Power that’s greater than ourselves, this God we agreed to turn our will and our lives over to.” And he said, “We ask this God to just keep us from taking a drink for the next 24 hours. And if we have a desire to take a drink through the day, we remember we’ve turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him and we ask Him to help us over this hump. And then when the day is done, having had sobriety for that period we get down on our knees and and thank Almighty God for the blessing, that it’s been our privilege to enjoy, then we start the next day the same way.”

“But,” he said, “A good way to start that day and to have that quiet time is with a little booklet that we call the Upper Room (5).” He said, “Some people use other booklets, it doesn’t make any difference, you don’t have to use the Upper Room.”  “But,” he said, “You should have some form, some regular form of service that you have in the morning before you start the day.”  And he said, “The procedure in Akron is to get a little booklet either the Upper Room, or one like it, and that has a scriptural reading from the Bible and it has a body there where it explains this little reading that you’ve just read in the Bible and then it has a thought for the day and it has a prayer for the day.”

And he said, “You take that and you do that and you start your day that way every day, and don’t think about tomorrow, don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow isn’t there. And don’t fret about yesterday because that’s gone.” He said, “The only thing we’re interested in is just that 24 hour period that we’re living.” Then he said, “We’ve got fellas down there at Akron that’s been sober four n’ five years, on just on that principle.”  There weren’t very many of them of course, at that time because there was less than 100 people. But he said, “All these fellas have done this thing just on these principles that I’m talkin to you about.  And I’m sure that if you’ll try um you’re gonna have sobriety the same as they have.”

I can stand up here tonight, and tell ya tonight, that the fella knew just exactly what he was talkin about, because I haven’t used any other method, only that. And that’s the one, that’s worked. Just 24 hours at a time. I know that if I’d started in to stay sober for a year I’d of been thrown before the first six months was up. But it was just 24 hours.

Well after I’d been in the deal a little while, and was havin this quiet time every morning, and, and this little wife of mine I didn’t go to her and tell her I’d joined Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn’t tell her things were gonna be different. I didn’t tell her that I was gonna be home every night. But she saw that I was. And the holidays were comin along and I wasn’t spoilin any more of them. And I was home every night in the week. Through the weekends and I got up and went to work every day.

She saw something had happed and she used to see me go to the bathroom every morning with the Upper room and the bible and she said, “What do you do in there with the Bible and the Upper Room?”  And I said I have a quiet time.  She said, “Don’t ya think it’d be a good thing if we had one together?”  I said, “Yes.” But I’d lived with that girl 19 years and it wasn’t till then, that I knew I was livin with a Christian woman. That’s how much I knew about the gal I was livin with. I was so busy with ol John Barleycorn and Mike that I couldn’t look at the other half of the family. Well at any rate she said, “Don’t you think it’s a good idea if we have this together?”  And I said, “Yes,” and we started in back there. Oh it’s been a good many years ago…I guess probably 10.  And we haven’t missed in the morning; we have that before we have our coffee. And we had a little prayer that we learned later on and I want to pass that on to you tonight because I always give it in my talk because I can put a guarantee along with this thing that if you’ll accept this prayer in the morning with your quiet time I’ll guarantee ya that your buyin the greatest amount of insurance against not only takin a drink, but having any trouble for the next 24 hours. One morning she says it and the next morning I repeat it. But, it goes like this:

Lord in the quiet of this morning hour, we come to Thee for peace, for wisdom, power. To view the world today through love filled eyes; Be patient, understanding, gentle, wise; To see beyond what seems to be and know thy children as Thou knowest them; And so naughty but the good in anyone behold; Make deaf our ears to slander that is told; Silence our tongues to aught that is unkind; Let only thoughts that bless dwell in our mind. Let us so kindly be, so full of cheer. That all we meet may feel thy presence near. O clothe us in Thy beauty, this we pray. Let us reveal Thee, Lord, through all the day. (6)

I can recommend that to ya for your morning prayers. You’ll find it, I imagine, in your library, if you can’t, your library can get it, because it’s printed on card form. Lots of AA people use it.

Well, then this fella told me that, “I had to make a searching and fearless moral inventory.” And that’s when I took a look at Mike Eshelman and that’s where I found out how much out of gear he was. But then he said, “You know this program is predicated on absolute honesty.” Well he didn’t need to go any farther.  That one item alone was enough to keep me busy and has all these years.

Of course I worked on all the other irregularities in my make up but the honesty end of the deal was the thing that… When he told me that I dare not take a drink again if that didn’t throw me I was sure this one was going to because He was talkin to a fella that over a period of years had lived pretty shadily.

He was talking to one of these big shots that was perfectly content to have his wife go out and be gainfully employed over a period of 19 years.  And know how much money she was making every month.  But wouldn’t tell her how much he was making.  He was a big shot.  You see He didn’t dare tell her how much he made because if he did, there wouldn’t be anything to drink on. And drink he must!

She was livin with a guy that she couldn’t send to the store with a dollar bill and expect to get the right change back. I used to lie, when the truth would serve better. I used to lie just to keep in practice. And here comes a guy and tells me that I’ve got to scrap all this and start leveling with everyone I come to and that I’ve got to make a searching inventory of this make up of mine, and start correcting all of those things. It looked like a tremendous job, I guess it was.

Now I suppose that there’re those in the audience that say, “Well I guess the guy’s gone soft. I guess he’s a pantywaist, not on your life,” let me tell you something, that the only thing that we alcoholics do when we take this fearless and searching moral inventory is to take a look at a guy that’s got all out of gear. That’s warped and that there’s something has to be corrected. And when we correct those things that are wrong with us, were only doing the things that we know are right to do. And it’s just normal to do that. So the only thing  were doing when we get into this deal and try to clean up some of that dirty mess of ours, is that we are trying to live like normal people. It just isn’t normal for a man to go out and stay away from his home as it was my practice to do for a week or ten days without his wife known where he was. It isn’t normal for a man like me to drink to the point where his company had to throw him out in the middle of the street because he wasn’t carrying out his end of the program. It isn’t normal for a man to treat his friends like I treated my friends. And it isn’t normal to do a lot of things that I did. So all on earth that I’m doing and as I stand up here tonight, the only thing that I’m doing is to normalize myself. And there isn’t any halo up there. And there won’t be and I will still be working on it if I live to be 100 years old.

And I’m awful proud of it.

Proud, that I belong to this outfit; Proud because of the principles that it stands for; proud because we are a guiding influence in this world of ours today. And if you’ll stop and consider just for a moment with me that we started back there, Bill W started back there alone back in nineteen hundred and thirty four. And then they was just one.  And tonight as I stand up here before ya there’s better than 120,000 of us. And if we consider for a moment that each of our lives touch just ten people – you add it up. Ten times 120,000 and they’re growing by leaps and bounds.

And we’re one of the most well thought of institutions on the face of the earth. And the reason we are, is that it’s the only thing on the face of the earth that you get for nothing and it isn’t any good unless you go out and give it away to someone else. It’s the only kind of an outfit of its kind where ya don’t join; ya don’t take any pledges; ya don’t sign your name to anything; you don’t agree to do a thing.

And that if ya had a million dollars you couldn’t buy entrance into that front door. And that’s what makes it big. And that’s what makes some of us that have been around awhile wanna keep on carrying on this thing in its most simple form. Pass it on to the other guy that needs it. Go out night after night it makes no difference where. To give the other guy a lift and help him along the way so that he may too be relieved of that suffering and that agony that we found ourselves in just a few short years back.

Then this fella said, “That I had to admit to God in the presence of another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. That I had to humbly, ask God to remove my shortcomings and I should become willing to have him correct my defects of character.”I took those Steps. I think that Step is most important.

In the old days down in Akron, they wouldn’t even think of going into AA for any length of time until they sought out a confident of some kind, a minister or a priest and got with them and got this thing leveled off.

Now I don’t know what you have done or I don’t know if you have anything that is botherin ya or not. But I’ll tell ya straight from the shoulder that I know a lot of guys that have. And I know a lot of guys that it’s made the difference between sobriety and not sobriety when they have gone and corrected this thing that’s been botherin them. And it isn’t hard and I know it because I did it myself. I know it because I’ve heard Archie tell about how he did it. And how Bill Wilson did it and how Bob S did it and Wally G (7) and all the rest of the old timers’ way down the line did.

Sure I took all those Steps, but let’s take a look at the record. I hadn’t been in very long until I saw quite a number of other fellas coming into this organization. And they came from all walks of life and a lot of them was a lot worse off than I. They came from skid row; they lost everything; they didn’t have a wife; they didn’t have an equity in a wife; they didn’t have an equity in a home; they had no place to hang their hat. And I said to myself, “Maybe you don’t belong in here. Maybe you can go back and do a little controlled drinking.” And I made a deal with myself. I got in in the fall and I said, “I’ll stay till spring. When spring comes I’m going up north and pitch myself a drunk and none of the boys will know anything about it at all.”

I had those ideas. Because I thought I could go and do some controlled drinking. I thought how nice it would be if I could go back and have a beer now and then. I’m the same guy that was so sick here a few minutes ago. I’m the same guy that took that Step number one and had a burning desire to do something about this problem of mine and got fine with the idea that maybe I could go up and take a drink.

By the grace of God, that’s all that saved me. I didn’t take it…but a lot of my friends have. And I’m not standing up here criticizing them because they did. But I am trying to tell them that if some way or another I can get it across to them that it can’t be done, then I’ve done my duty tonight.

And it can’t be done! If you’re once an alcoholic you will be until the day that they put the sod on top of ya! There isn’t a short cut. We can’t go back and take a drink no matter how long we’ve been sober. You wanna know why I know it, is because I have talked to innumerable men; Men that have been on a week, men that have been in a month, men six months, men a year. Yes, a man whose story is in that Big Book, who had a number of years of sobriety and decided that he could go back and do some controlled drinking and he tried it.

I talked to him personally and I said, “How’s about it?”  And he said, “No Mike.”

I said, “Did you get any bang out of it?”  He said, “No.”

 I said, “Did you have any trouble getting back on after you’d got off?”  And He said, “I thought I’d never make it again.”

I said, “Where did you start in?” and he said, “Right where I left off.”

And I’ve seen so many fellas try. And it can’t be done and The only reason for telling this story  about myself tonight or bringin this thing up is that after the fellow had tried it, and after he’s found out that he can’t do it, maybe there’s something he’s missed along the way, if he wants to call me I am always available.

You know this thing’s a lot closer to me tonight, than it was six months ago. Because it hasn’t been very many months since I buried an awful good friend of mine and an awful good friend of Alcoholics Anonymous   and an untiring worker for this cause. And a fella that had had trouble, oh he had had troubles – several times. But the last stretch he had four years of continued sobriety. Started in. and he did the same thing that Mike E thought he was gonna do back there 11 years ago. And he went out and took that drink. And it just took him eight weeks, just exactly eight weeks before we laid him away out here in the cemetery.  He’d been around a good many years, almost ten.

So if I can just leave that thought. Then I believe tonight, I believe tonight, and I believed tonight, the Lord, if he did used Danny just to show some of us other fellows that it can’t be done.

Now I’m not gonna take that drink. Now somebody said, “Well I wouldn’t say I’d never take a drink.”  I’m gonna keep sayin it I’ll a never take that drink. Because I believe if I keep that up here in the top of this noggin of mine - that that’s a good positive thought to keep and that with that in mind I’m never gonna take that drink. I’m scared to death of it

I know that I’m standin here tonight just one drink away from a drunk. That’s all it will take. And I know the things that’ll get me to take that drink - I know that.

  • Number one: start throwin some angles.
  • Number two:  start doin a little cheatin.
  • Number three:  start doin some lyin. 
  • Number four: Build up that resentment and that self pity and a lot of those other things that we people used to have.

I’ll throw myself in an awful short time, I know that.  And I’m gonna try not to do it. The best way to try not to do it is to keep yourself busy helpin someone else.

 And this fellow said, “I had to make a list of everybody that I had harmed become willing to make amends to them, and to do so except in cases where it would injure them or others.” I didn’t make a written list because I didn’t have enough paper. But I made a list. And I worked on it. I’m still working on it. The number one man on my list was the guy that fired me from this job I’m talkin to you about. He really threw me a rough time that guy. And I’d hate to tell you some of the things that id decided to do to him when I got around to it. They bordered on murder.

You see he wasn’t too kind in this job that he did for me.  He told me if I continued to get sick and I didn’t report, so they could send out and have somebody help me, why  I was all done and I got sick and didn’t report it and I was all done.

I’d been around this place for quite a number of years and you gather a lot of plunder at your desk in that time. And I made a simple request to this gentleman that wouldn’t he allow me to come in the next day and take my things out, or that night rather? And he said, “No, you get your things together now and get out.” You know how much a drunk can hate. Mine was intense.

But when I sobered up the first thing I remembered was this:  when they told me about this Step. That I had to go to these people that I had harmed, I had to quit carrying this resentment. And I went and looked this fella up. I had a little trouble findin him because they fired him right shortly after he fired me. But the company for whom I had worked after they saw me sober and saw that I meant business - this same outfit that fired me (to show ya what happens to ya in this program) - and they heard about it and they knew I was sober and they knew I was tryin to help other people.

They invited me back up to their plant to help them celebrate the awarding of the Army-Navy “E” Award (8). And that night we had a big party down at the Statler (9). And they was wading around in cocktails up to their knees down there  and I went down there to that with my good wife; And I met this fella because he was invited down there to help celebrate too.

And I met this fella and I walked up and shook hands with him. That was a part of my program, I don’t think he cared that much; He didn’t care whether I shook hands with him or not, but I did; Cause he didn’t have any resentment against me I guess. I don’t know whether he did or not, but I did against him and I had to lose it. I don’t think id of been here tonight if I hadn’t done that job, but that there gives you an idea of the size of the job you have to do sometimes in this thing. And of course I’ve had to make restitution to other people, I m still making it. I still gotta lifetime job I’ll hold.

I’ll be working on that as long as I live and I’m having a lot of fun doing that. I’ve just learned since I’ve sobered up why when you go down to a theater you don’t care much about sittin alongside of a drunk when your lookin at a double feature. You know I used to come home after being on one of these wing dings of mine and the little gal would leave the bedroom with a her pillow under her arm   and be going into the spare bedroom to sleep. She said I smelled bad. I wonder how many of your fellas who have been dry awhile would like to roll along side of a good ripe drunk and have to sleep with him all night? That’s what we asked the gals do all the time and didn’t think anything of it at all.

And of course in this matter of restitution I’ve got to a place where she can send me to the store now with a dollar bill. We’ve got a joint bank account again. That’s some of the rewards of this thing; she can believe what I tell her. She should be able too that’s only normal. But those are the things I’ve had to work on those are the restitution that they talk about and it’s wonderful when you do it. You won’t find anyone that you walk up to that aren’t overly willing to accept your apologies for whatever the thing might be.

 Then of course they tell ya about this Step work. You have to continue to take this inventory and when you are wrong promptly admit it. I don’t admit to easily. I’ve got a little story I always tell in connection with that some of you fellas have been around enough have heard it enough, I hope it doesn’t get tiresome but, some of the new folks it might throw some light on what I’m talking about. I used to live on the corner of St. Jean and Mack. I bought my shoes on Jefferson Avenue and my blind pig was right around the corner off of Mack. And I went out one Saturday afternoon to buy a pair of shoes and I dropped into the blind pig and got snarled up in a Euchre game and got about half high before I got the shoes and it come time to get the shoes and I didn’t have time to go to Jefferson so I just slipped in on Mack and picked up a pair and went home. I got home and my wife sent me down to the corner to get something else and while I was down there she opened the shoes.  When I got back she said to me, “Where did you buy your shoes?” and I said, “Why I bought them on Jefferson where I always get them.” She said, “Well that’s funny they’re wrapped up in Mack Ave paper.” And I said, “I don’t give a damn, we got them on Jefferson anyway!” We have a lot fun at the house about that little story.

I believe the next Step is the most important of the 12, after you’ve take the others. And that is the one, where it says, “We sought through prayers and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for His will for us and the power to carry that out.” That Step is most powerful in this program of ours, or in anyone’s daily life for that matter. Because that’s the Step we use when the goin gets tough and we don’t have the answer to these big problems that are bound to come up to all of us. That’s the time when we feel that we are inadequate to meet the responsibilities of the situation as it comes and we need some help from someone and there isn’t any help around. Except the help that comes from these two Steps that we took back there at the beginning.  And one was, “We’ve come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  That’s the time you use this Power, this God of yours.  When the goin gets tough and you haven’t got the answer, if you’ll set still for just one moment and meditate and sincerely believe that your gonna get this help and pray to almighty God  he’ll deliver you from whatever it is! You wanna know why I know, because I’ve used it. Oh it hasn’t been an accident these things that I’m gonna tell ya about. I’ve told ya that after,  I don’t know whether I’ve told ya or not but after they threw me out of this job of mine, I went down the street and started a little ‘ginny’ all on my own. And I took old John Barleycorn down there with me and we used to drink our dinners. And when I got into this deal I didn’t have anything but a lot of telephone calls from people who wanted to know when I was gonna pay them the money I owed them. And the sheriff was ready to turn the key in the joint. But then I got a hold of this program and I sobered up and I stayed on the job and we got some business in the place and I got some men working for me. I guess about 25 at this time. And I come into work one morning and all my men were out in the street. And they had a banner on their shoulder telling me that the place was on strike. And I was the whole works on the inside of this building at that time.  There wasn’t any Board of Directors or Assistant Superintendents or Foreman or anything, I was it.  And I didn’t know what to do. I know what I would have done in the old days. My blind pig or my saloon was just down the street a little ways. I’d a went down there and got myself about a half a dozen double shots and comeback and taken that place apart, or tried to. But I didn’t do that this time. Because I remembered a fella got out of his home one night and brought me a Program and told me about these 12 wonderful Steps. And then it was this one and that he said when the goin gets tough and you haven’t got the answer remember that you took those other two Steps and if you just ask this Power that’s greater than yourself to help you out of your problem He’ll see you through. Now it might not be the answer that you want but it’ll be the best thing for you. And I knelt down in that dusty little office of mine with nothing, but me and the rats in there that day and I asked God for guidance. And inside 15 minutes, those men were all back in my shop and they haven’t been out a day since, or an hour, or a minute.

That wasn’t just an accident and if you think it was listen to this one. I’m sittin in my office here awhile back, a year and a half ago. The secretary came in and said there was a man wanted to see me and I said for her to show him in and he sat down and I asked him what I could do for him and he said, “Well I’ll tell ya mister I was discharged from Jackson prison yesterday and I went back to my old place of employment for my job back and they told me that I couldn’t have a position there because I was an ex-convict.  And he said I was walking down Jefferson Avenue wondering what to do and I stopped a man over there and I told him the same thing I’m telling you. And he handed me this little card and he told me to come over and see you that you might be able to help. And I said, “Sure I’ll help.  I’ll give you a job - come into work tomorrow morning.”  For that, I don’t want any credit, I don’t deserve any; for that I was only doing my job.

But here’s the important part of this whole deal. Jefferson Avenue is a long street when you start from downtown and go out there a long way. And the point is that this man stopped the only man on Jefferson Avenue that could have possibly sent him over to me. And you know why he sent him over to me? Because I never close my eyes at night that I don’t thank Almighty God for the blessings that’s been mine through this program and ask Him to use me as His instrument to lead other fellas to this same joy and peace and contentment. That’s why I’ve got a representative from every corrective institution in the State of Michigan. You can start with the Federal Penitentiary at Milan and go right on down the string. And they’re men that are in AA. There men that have seen AA in these institutions. And when they are ready for pardon and parole it’s been my great privilege, not a duty, it’s been my great privilege to bring them in and work with them and they are some of the finest men I’ve got. That’s a part of the blessings of this deal. I wonder if you don’t think that I’m just overjoyed when I walk by this guy that brought me this little card from this fella on Jefferson Avenue.  From the only man in the City of Detroit that could possibly have helped him. As the case may be it happened to be the assistant pastor of the church that I attend. But that’s answer to pray and oh I’ve had so much of it. You know when you talk about prayer people think there’s some surrounding that. There isn’t any mystery surrounding it. I got into this thing when they told me I had to turn my will and my life over to the care of God and that I had to come to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. And that I found out that the leader of this deal of ours had a spiritual experience there in that hospital that day 17 years ago and he said pass it on down the line to us fellas and I took that at face value.

I got to readin about some other fellas that weren’t alcoholics, big men - the biggest of our time; Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower, Patton, old blood and guts Patton the toughest soldier that ever walked and chewed leather. Knew the order of common prayer by heart and never went into a battle but what he got down on his knees and did the same thing that I’m telling you about on this 12th Step of ours - or 11th Step of ours.

Then why shouldn’t the common ordinary drunk use it for sure? If it’s good enough for men like that it’s good enough for me. We don’t need to be bashful or ashamed or anything about it. It’s an inherent part of our birthright. Emmitt Fox will tell you about it. The “Big Book” will tell you about it. You know the trouble with most of us people is that we’ve got all the working tools to make this thing work for us and a lot of us don’t even own the “Big Book.” Let alone subscribe to our most wonderful magazine the Grapevine. I’m not selling Big Books tonight. I’m not selling the Grapevine. But I’m passing on this information to ya that…I know If you were a plumber you wouldn’t expect to go to your job in the morning without your tools. How can we expect to work this program unless we’ve go the proper tools? One of those tools is the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Suppose some morning we get up and we think maybe we oughta take a drink. If we’ll take that book and read it, before we take that drink, I’ll bet ya all the tea in China that you won’t take the drink. Cause the answers in there. The 12 Steps are in there. And in those 12 Steps it tells you about this Step that I’m talking about right now where we “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him praying only for His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

It works.  And then of course we have the last step where it say’s we “Having had a Spiritual Experience (or a Spiritual Awakening) as a result of these Steps, we try to practice them, our principles in our daily lives and carry this message to other alcoholics…  of course I’m trying to carry it tonight. It’s the most important part of our program to carry it. As I said earlier in my talk, it’s the only thing I know of on the face of the earth that you get for nothing and that isn’t any good unless you go out and give it to someone else. It’s that simple.

I think that’s about all, with the exception of, I like to have you bear with me for just a moment, I wanna do a little braggin. I see Doc Green over there, he’ll smile when I get through with this, but I’m gonna do it anyway. Ya know in the old days when we were around drinkin in these blind pigs and these saloons and what not and the bar tender come in and he hung up his apron and he said, long about this time or a little later, he said “Well boys, I’ll see ya in the spring I’m goin to Florida or I’m goin to California”. And the weather was cold and we set there and shake cause we needed a drink or because of the weather and waitin for him to come back next spring.

Well this spring I loaded this little gal of mine in a new Cadillac and we went west and we were gone eight weeks and we saw a wonderful lot of sights. We saw Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods and Salt Lake City and the Royal Gorge and Bryce Canyon, North Rim of the Canyon and Boulder Dam and Las Vegas and Los Angeles and San Diego and San Francisco and Yosemite.  Then we took a week and went down into Mexico and we did some deep sea fishing the first Id ever done in my life and I caught three good sized ones and I did it all on the money I’d saved from not drinking whisky.  Now the hell with them guys they can get somebody else to send them to Florida and California I’m goin myself!

I’d like to leave a thought with you; it’ll be a comforting thought if the goin gets tough and you want something to lean on. It’s about our Master, it was a time when he was talking to His disciples, just before this end of His time came on earth and He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. And I go and prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you unto Myself.  That where I am ye may be also. Ye know whither I go and the way I go.” And Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples said, “Master we know not wither One goeth…how can we know the way?” and Jesus said, “I am the way, the Truth and the Light. No man cometh under the Father but by Me. (10)”

As a parting thought, be careful how you live today, you might be the only Bible that some people ever read.


Thank you.

As transcribed by Patty H., approved by Bill T., Archivist, Area 33, Southeast MI 2/22/2011 We kept to the spelling of the language as it was spoken.
(1) Bill W., pg 1.
(2) The name for alcohol, used in the early 1900s, pg 2.
(3) The highest ranking card in traditional euchre, pg 2.
(4) Skid row, pg 2.
(5) Magazine on Christian spirituality, pg 7.
(6) Evangelist Church prayer, pg 8.
(7) Wally G, Akron, OH, wrote the “Big Book” story, “Fired again. It was placed just before Archie T’s story, “The Fearful One,” in the First Edition, pg 11.
(8) The Army-Navy "E" Award was an honor presented to a company during World War II for excellence in production of war equipment, pg 14
(9) The Detroit Statler Hotel (demolished), a.k.a. the Detroit Hilton Hotel, was located at 1539 Washington Boulevard across from Grand Circus Park between the David Whitney Building and Hotel Tuller in the Foxtown neighborhood of downtown Detroit, Michigan, pg 14.
(10) John 14:1
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