A.A. is a Bridge to Happy Living
Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., May 1948
The Alcoholics Anonymous program is a bridge from the negative or egocentricpersonality of the sick alcoholic to the more desirable affirmative personality of thesober man, Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, physician in charge of Blythwood Hospital, OldGreenwich, Connecticut, believes. "An incident that happened twenty-five years agowhen I was an intern, explains to me the alcoholic personality," Dr. Tiebout told anopen meeting of the Manhattan Inter-Group recently. Patients of the "quiet ward" in thehospital where the doctor was an intern became upset and jittery. The nurses on thefloor told the doctor that the trouble was caused by a patient who claimed to be able toread minds—and seemed to be doing so. "This of course was of great interest to me,"said the doctor. "I couldn't read anybody's mind so it seemed like a good idea if I metthe man who could. I called the patient to my office. I asked him how he could do thisimpossible thing."
A Matter of Muscles
"'It's easy,' the man said. 'All you have to do is watch the muscle reaction. If a man isthinking "no" his muscles unconsciously contract and he pulls away. When he isthinking "yes" he is relaxed.'" "It wasn't until this summer, twenty-five years later, thatthe full impact of that incident hit me," Dr. Tiebout continued. "When the alcoholic issick, he is an 'aginner.' His mental attitude is one of withdrawal—his psychological'muscles' contract." The "aginner" cannot enjoy life, Dr. Tiebout continued, "No, I won'tgo along, I'll do it myself," is his attitude. He feels an apartness from others because ofthis inner refusal to go along. This person feels unrest, discomfort, tension,dissatisfaction. He is full of resentments and hostility. In order to overcome thesefeelings, he seeks happiness in excitement and liquor is one outlet. Then he becomesgregarious, noisy, opinionated, in his fear of becoming a "Mr. Milquetoast." This person,too, may become overconscientious - he is selfish and full of guilt. "The 'aginner,' saidDr. Tiebout, "has no acceptance of life and the world as it is. He hasn't a chance of livingon a twenty-four-hour program. Why doesn't this man give up? Because he has willpower—he can fight the world, alone - he thinks." The more desirable, affirmativepersonality is quieter and feels fewer compulsions. He shares in fellowship and feels lessguilt. This man is even-tempered and has learned to take things in his stride. He has anaffirmative enjoyment of life as it is. He no longer demands that life producethus-and-so. He's no longer trying to whip the world single handedly. "The AlcoholicsAnonymous program," Dr. Tiebout continued, "tends to produce the 'yes' state of mind.
"In your First Step the alcoholic admits that his life has become unmanageable. He can'twhip the world alone - and admits it. Then in the Second Step, he reiterates; admittingthat he cannot manage his life himself, he asks for help from the Power greater thanhe. He reminds himself of this constantly. "By attending group meetings he graduallyloses the feeling of aloneness - he is no longer set apart. He has become an integralpart of a group of people, enjoying their activities with them; he belongs. "By doingTwelfth Step work, the man or woman begins to 'sell' someone else and, by so doing,sells himself for what he is. "The person on the AA program then begins to say 'yes' tothe kind of person he is. He takes a moral inventory and when he begins to say 'yes' hebegins to grow. "Then as he begins to grow, he says 'yes' to God. Thy will be done.Through this he gains humbleness and humility," Dr. Tiebout emphasized.
Anonymous, New York, New York