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November 1957

AA Around the World

"HOW DOES IT WORK?" was the question I asked--first myself, then older members of my group, after a few months in AA, As the fog of my personal confusion lifted I became aware that a singularly workable structure kept speakers going in and out and coffee pots filled, in spite of absentees or falls from grace, in my own and other groups around town.

The older members whom I questioned were rather vague about just how it worked but someone handed me the Third Legacy pamphlet and I commenced to see the skeleton of our AA structure. But still I had not sensed the warm pulse of AA that sends life blood coursing out to all corners of the earth. Though I knew how strong it was, for I had seen AA maps and read the group directory, I couldn't really begin to understand until I became a working member semi-attached to Headquarters.

Statistics and charts have never carried much of a human message to me. The other night at a closed meeting I realized I was not the only member who wanted to know how it works. In answer to a question on a current group problem, I had mentioned how interesting it was that these same problems arose in all groups everywhere and how the group conscience usually solved them--quoting some correspondence from Africa to prove my point.

During the coffee break after our meeting interest ran high and many questions were asked about just how it did work. We thought you might enjoy sharing this fragment of typical General Service correspondence from one of the foreign files. Perhaps this explains better than any description. . . .

----South India

May 26, 1957

Alcoholics Anonymous Foundation

New York City

N. Y.

Dear Sirs:

Would, you please write me by return air-mail if this is possible. I have had a young man, 27 years old, an Arabian Sheikh, under my care; for the past three months. Alcohol has created a serious problem in his life since he was eighteen years old. He was depressed, but is now very fit and. in good health. He wants to give up alcohol but can't. He is very interested in what I have been able to tell him about Alcoholics Anonymous. He wants to come to New York to meet you. He is as fine a person as you could meet when sober, but irresponsible when drinking. He seems truly to want to be rid of this problem, but has had very little hope until he heard of you. He has been receiving deep psychotherapy from me which has helped him in many ways, but not with his alcoholic problem.

If he should come to New York where should he stay? If he stays in a hotel he fears he would drink. Should his wife accompany him? He speaks English very well, his wife not so well. She is with him here. They are a happy, devoted couple apart from the distress that alcohol causes.

I am confident that AA can and will help him. He expects to go back to his own country very soon. For this reason we hope you will reply as soon as possible, so that we may be able to discuss your reply before he leaves.

Sincerely yours, Dr. N----

New York, N. Y.

June 7, 1957

Dr. N----

----, South India

Dr. N----:

Thank you so much for your letter asking for help for your alcoholic patient. Enclosed are three pamphlets which we hope will give him an idea of how Alcoholics Anonymous helps alcoholics maintain sobriety.

Under separate cover, we are sending you a copy of our AA book of experience, "Alcoholics Anonymous." Since this is coming by boat mail, it may arrive after your patient has returned to his own country. If so he might wish to order a book for himself. We are enclosing an order blank which lists our literature and the prices.

It may interest your patient to know that we are in touch with a number of alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through the principles suggested in the AA Twelve Steps, even though they are alone and not able to attend AA meetings.

If your patient is interested, we would like to write him and put him on our mailing list so that he will receive our AA Exchange Bulletin each month. A copy of the June issue is enclosed. These bulletins would bring him news of AA around the world. You will note that we have material in the bulletin under the heading of "loners." Perhaps your patient will gain hope when he realizes that other alcoholics are maintaining sobriety under similar circumstances.

There is a small AA group in New Delhi, India. I am sending one of the members a carbon copy of this letter and will ask him to get in touch with you. Sharing AA experience and hope with other alcoholics is a key element that makes it possible for AA members to live without alcohol, and in most cases, without even wanting to drink.

After your patient has read the literature, perhaps he would like to write us and explore the question of whether or not he should come to New York. We feel that all he needs to achieve and maintain sobriety is a desire to stop drinking. If he will thoroughly follow the AA suggested Twelve Steps, he should be able to stay sober. We hope that he will write us so that we may share our experience and ideas with him.

Cordial best wishes.

Sincerely, Lib S----

----, South India

June 20,1957

Dear Miss Lib S----

Many thanks for your letter and literature you sent to Dr. N----It reached here June 14th. I made my decision on June 9th. I was convinced this was the only solution at that time. Since receiving your literature I have become more and more convinced every day--sure I can keep sober for twenty-four hours at a time with Cod's help. Of course for tomorrow I can make no promises, just for today.

My brother and I are planning to visit you in New York sometime this year. I will write you about this later. In the meantime I would very much appreciate receiving your monthly magazine. I expect to be leaving for my country soon. Please send it to the following address. . . .

I am not sure how to arrange payment in American currency, but in the meantime Dr. N----will send you a cheque on her bank account in New York.

Again with many thanks and best wishes.

Sincerely yours, Sheikh A----

New York N.Y.

July 15,1957

Sheikh A----

----,South India

Dear A----

Many thanks for your letter of June 20th. We are delighted to hear that you made your decision on June 9th. We welcome you to the fellowship of AA and hope that we may share our strength and hope with each other that we may solve our common problem. As you have probably learned from our AA literature, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic, and so we are grateful to have a new friend with whom we share our AA experience.

We are so happy that you are planning to visit New York sometime this year with your brother. There are many AA meetings here in the New York metropolitan area. Rome of the meetings are open to non-alcoholics as well as alcoholics, and we hope that your brother will be able to attend some of these meetings with you. I am, of course, assuming that he is not an alcoholic, but want you to know that he will he very welcome to attend open meetings here in New York City.

It may interest you to see the New York meeting list so I am enclosing a copy. "O" indicates the meetings that are open, "C" indicates the meetings that are closed. At closed meetings, only AA members attend so that they may discuss their problems and ask questions freely. Some things that AAs understand from their own experiences, are not understood at all by non-alcoholics.

We will put you on our mailing list right away. You will receive our monthly AA Exchange Bulletin. There is no charge for the bulletin.

Enclosed is a copy of the July issue of the AA Grapevine, our official AA monthly magazine. You will find a subscription blank on the inside back cover. If you cannot arrange payment in American currency, return the subscription form to me. I will be delighted to pay it, and you can repay me when you come to New York. However, Dr. N------'s check may take care of it.

If you care to share your experience, I would like to know how you and Dr. N------heard about AA. It always thrills me to hear how our AA message reaches one who has a desire to do something constructive about $ drinking problem. It is a pattern that is repeated over and over, and that has been going on since our co-founders, Dr. Bob and Bill, decided to try and help someone else. Now we are over 200,000 and are growing every day.

Cordial best wishes to you. Write soon again.

Lib S----

P.S. A copy, or rather the original of this letter was mailed to you on July 5th to your home address in B----Since hearing from Dr. N----that you're staying on at the hospital in V----I'm sending this to you. I want you to have it now, while you are facing the frustration of waiting to get out of the hospital. Believe me, I too had several disappointments when I joined AA. Today, I feel sure that they helped me develop patience, and a new technique to handle emotional panic and anger. The Serenity Prayer helped me--I'm enclosing a copy for you. Please try it--it works.

---- South India

July 1957

Dear Miss S----

Thank you very much for sending me AA literature. Sheikh A----is still here which is difficult. His family refuses to trust him and let him come home. The AA book by sea hasn't arrived yet and he has read every scrap of literature you sent by air. He would appreciate it very much if you would send other AA pamphlets here by air. I think before you sent "This is AA," "44 Questions and Answers" and "Is AA for You." If you would please send other AA literature by air I will see you get reimbursed. Will you kindly send the total bill I owe you to our New York office, c/o. . .

Please send the material to me as there is a slight possibility his family may relent and send his ticket for his return and then I can forward them. His family's attitude is very unhelpful at this moment and he is quite depressed. I am working hard on them--but unfortunately at a distance. He has been here since February 23rd and it seems like a long time, especially in the face of my advice (hat he is well enough to return.

Many thanks for your help,

Dr. N----

New York, N.Y.

July 15,1957

Dr. N----

----South India

Dear Dr. N----

Many thanks for your letter of July 5th. We are sorry to hear that Sheikh A----'s family refuses to trust him. However, this is not an unusual situation. Most non-alcoholic family members cannot understand why a man who is decent and honorable in other respects can suddenly have such a personality change and be so irresponsible when he starts to drink. It takes time for the family to really understand the problem and the nature of alcoholism. However, when they do understand the problem, they also come to understand how the problem can be solved.

From our experience, we have found that the key to understanding alcoholism is a new attitude toward compulsive drinking. The alcoholic is no longer regarded as deficient in character or will power; he is a sick man, a victim of an illness that can be arrested. Now the question is how to get this information to Sheikh A------'s family. There are several hooks which have been very helpful to the families of alcoholics. Does A------'s family read English? If so, I would suggest that they purchase the Al-Anon Family Group's book and Marty Mann's Primer on Alcoholism If you wish, I can get these two books for you and send the bill to your New York office as instructed in your July 5th letter.

We are enclosing some additional pamphlets for A------We particularly call his attention to "Alcoholism the Illness." This is a favorite of mine. Bill's two papers were particularly helpful to me when I joined AA. They helped me understand the nature of alcoholism and my own case. This kind of identification is extremely helpful and I hope that A------will find it so too.

I think that A------should order the Twelve steps and Twelve Tradition. This is a book that was written by our co-founder Bill, in 1952. There are twenty-four essays, one for each of the Steps and Traditions. Enclosed is an order blank. If you think this is a good idea, return the order blank to me and we will send the book to you air mail.

We are sorry at this turn of events, but do hope that A------is trying to apply some of the AA principles in this situation. The Twenty-Four Hour Program is very helpful in accepting a situation that we cannot change. Incidentally, I am enclosing a wallet card with our Serenity Prayer. My sponsor gave me one when I came to AA for help and I found many occasions to apply the prayer during my first six months. In time I learned to use it daily. It helps me to establish the right relationship with the universe and my fellowman, so I now start each day with a few minutes' meditation on the meaning of this prayer.

In a trying situation such as this, it is well to remember that we stay sober for ourselves. And please tell him that these things do work out if we maintain sobriety and do the thing that is right. Are there any other alcoholics there that he might try to help? Having made his own decision, it would be helpful if he could try and share his experience with someone else.

Cordial best wishes to you both. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely, Lib S----

----, South India

August 5th, 1957

Dear Miss S------

Thank you for your letter and all the pamphlets. The book Alcoholics Anonymous reached here one day before Sheikh A------left. We rather forced the family's hand by discharging him and sending practically everyone a certificate that he was well mentally, physically and spiritually. His brothers are nearly all alcoholics. They drink as much or more than he did, but manage to keep out of trouble better than he did. It seems oven more difficult to convince alcoholic relatives one has given up alcohol They just don't believe it. They threatened to put him in jail or a mental hospital. I have threatened to expose them if they do. An older brother Sheikh met A------in Bombay and took him to a psychiatrist. Fortunately he had my certificate on him and in the face of that the psychiatrist refused to certify him, and merely said he was well and needed no more treatment. As the Ruler has ordered A------s arrest if he returns to B------, and I think I have foiled attempts to have; him institutionalized, Sheikh S------plans to take him and his wife to Lebanon for two months. . . .If he is convinced that he has given up alcohol lie will try to persuade the Ruler and others to let him return. You may be sure these have been a trying five months. But it is wonderful to see A------Well, healthy, happy and ex-alcoholic.

Many thanks for your help.

Dr. N----

Ed. note: A recent letter from Dr. N.------reports that the Sheikh is sober and happy, and may return soon to his homeland.

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