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"The Story of Ed"

William Griffith Wilson, "Tradition Three", pp. 143-145 Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

"An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature. Our struggles with them are variously strenuous, comic, and tragic. One poor chap committed suicide in my home. He could not, or would not, see our way of life."
-- William Griffith Wilson, "Bill's Story", pp. 16 Alcoholics Anonymous (Third Edition)

"If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you."
-- Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, "Doctor Bob's Nightmare", pp. 181 Alcoholics Anonymous (Third Edition)

Not long after the man with the double stigma knocked for admission, A.A.'s other group received into its membership a salesman we shall call Ed. A power driver, this one, and brash as any salesman could possibly be. He had at least an idea a minute on how to improve A.A. These ideas he sold to fellow members with the same burning enthusiasm with which he distributed automobile polish. But he had one idea that wasn't so salable. Ed was an atheist. His pet obsession was that A.A. could get along better without its "God nonsense." He browbeat everybody, and everybody expected that he'd soon get drunk - for at the time, you see, A.A. was on the pious side. There must be a heavy penalty, it was thought, for blasphemy. Distressingly enough, Ed proceeded to stay sober.

At length the time came for him to speak in a meeting. We shivered, for we knew what was coming. He paid a fine tribute to the Fellowship; he told how his family had been reunited; he extolled the virtue of honesty; he recalled the joys of Twelfth Step work; and then he lowered the boom. Cried Ed, "I can't stand this God stuff! It's a lot of malarkey for weak folks. This group doesn't need it, and I won't have it! To hell with it!"

A great wave of outraged resentment engulfed the meeting, sweeping every member to a single resolve: "Out he goes!"

The elders led Ed aside. They said firmly, "You can't talk like this around here. You'll have to quit it or get out." With great sarcasm Ed came back at them. "Now do tell! Is that so?" He reached over to a bookshelf and took up a sheaf of papers. On top of them lay the foreword to the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" then under preparation. He read aloud, "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Relentlessly, Ed went on, "When you guys wrote that sentence, did you mean it, or didn't you?"

Dismayed, the elders looked at one another, for they knew he had them cold. So Ed stayed.

Ed not only stayed, he stayed sober - month after month. The longer he kept dry, the louder he talked - against God. The group was in anguish so deep that all fraternal charity had vanished. "When, oh when," groaned members to one another, "will that guy get drunk?"

Quite a while later, Ed got a sales job which took him out of town. At the end of a few days, the news came in. He'd sent a telegram for money, and everybody knew what that meant! Then he got on the phone. In those days, we'd go anywhere on a Twelfth Step job, no matter how unpromising. But this time nobody stirred. "Leave him alone! Let him try it by himself for once; maybe he'll learn a lesson!"

About two weeks later, Ed stole by night into an A.A. member's house and, unknown to the family, went to bed. Daylight found the master of the house and another friend drinking their morning coffee. A noise was heard on the stairs. To their consternation, Ed appeared. A quizzical smile on his lips, he said, "Have you fellows had your morning meditation?" They quickly sensed that he was quite in earnest. In fragments, his story came out.

In a neighboring state, Ed had holed up in a cheap hotel. After all his pleas for help had been rebuffed, these words rang in his fevered mind: "They have deserted me. I have been deserted by my own kind. This is the end . . . nothing is left." As he tossed on his bed, his hand brushed the bureau near by, touching a book. Opening the book, he read. It was a Gideon Bible. Ed never confided any more of what he saw and felt in that hotel room. It was the year 1938. He hasn't had a drink since.

Nowadays, when oldtimers who know Ed foregather, they exclaim, "What if we had actually succeeded in throwing Ed out for blasphemy? What would have happened to him and all the others he later helped?"

So the hand of Providence early gave us a sign that any alcoholic is a member of our Society when he says so.


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Last updated 2005/06/23

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