Why We Were Chosen
Address given byJudge John T.
at the 4th Anniversary of the Chicago Group
October 5, 1943
Tonight marks the fourth anniversaryof the founding of the Chicago Group. In some respects the word"anniversary" is not a satisfactory term to describe this occasion,for it carries the implication that a goal, a congratulatory period, a restingpoint on a journey has been reached. The program which we have entered uponreally has no terminus, for it involves a continuous striving for improvement.Congratulatory periods tend to smugness, resting periods to retrogression. Thisprogram is not to be measured in years. It is timeless in every sense exceptday to day, or even more precisely, now!
The history of alcoholic addiction ismarked by an unwillingness or inability to live in the present. For it themorbid past has an unholy attraction and the uncertain future is filled withvague forebodings. The hope of the Alcoholic, the real tangible hope of theAlcoholic is in the present, now is the acceptable time, the past is beyondrecall — the future is as uncertain as life itself. Only the now is ours.
As I look about me tonight I see many newfaces. Some are here present for the first time, some who have been herebefore, and having failed in their quest of sobriety have returned. Tosuch of you the knowledge that some of us have been dry since the beginning ofthis group four years ago may incline to feelings of strangeness or timidity,and you should feel neither strange nor timid with us who share a commoninfirmity. To you but a few days or a few weeks removed from the misery andremorse of a recent spree, four years of sobriety may seem an eternity butthere is no such thing as seniority in a timeless program. We, who thru theGrace of God have stayed dry, are at the most, but twenty-four hours in thevanguard.
True, we have the advantage of a betterunderstanding of our problem. Day upon day, day after day, our sobriety hasresulted in the formation of new habits which makes the matter of staying so aless fearsome ordeal than it was in the beginning. We have had the advantage ofassociation with other Alcoholics, which has taken us from our old haunts andtended to remove, in a measure, the occasions of alcoholic suggestion. We olderones in our daily attempts to live according to the twelve steps of our programhave made a start, at least, toward eradicating disconcerting personality defects.But, important as all these considerations are, the great step toward ourregeneration was accomplished in that moment when we admitted we were powerlessover alcohol and made a decision to turn our will and lives over to God, as weunderstood Him. That act of resignation was an act of the then present moment,and that Source is as available to you now as it was to us then.
The days pass quickly by and time seemsunimportant. A little while ago there was Earl, then there were two and nowthere are hundreds. This group is not a result of mass production, this programcannot be sold. It can be lived and practiced, and it is in the power ofexample that its first attraction lies. Each of us presents the unselfish act,or series of acts, of some other one or ones. We were reached individually byother men like ourselves, whomaybe for the first time in their lives had performed an unselfish act.
Into our regeneration went no thought of individualprofit on the part of our sponsors, or greed or gain. We are the products ofthe most refined charity that men can bestow upon one another. The recognitionon the part of others of our true dignity as men and their willingness to dounto us as they would have themselves done unto.
The thing that has happened in the shortlife of this group is difficult of comprehension. Jack Alexander, the brilliantauthor of the Saturday Evening Post article, says that only through the mediumof fiction can it be adequately depicted. Let us try to appraise it by animaginary meeting. Let us assume that four years ago tonight a group of themost learned medical men in the city of Chicago were gathered together todiscuss each of our alcoholic case histories. As they reviewed them carefully,one by one, all followed an identical pattern. There were those who for yearsdrank as much as two quarts of whiskey a day. There were others who drank dailyfor years to the point of intoxication, and others who would go months withoutso much as a glass of beer. There were those who had voluntarily subjectedthemselves repeatedly to numerous so-called "cures"; some whovoluntarily had themselves committed to psychopathic institutions and insaneasylums; others who had experienced no more severe distress than an agonizingcase of jitters. But all were the same in this respect: that, having started todrink, we had no self-control that would indicate a stopping point.
The records before this imaginary group ofeminent scientists proved we were alcoholics, many chronic, some acute! Theyshowed long and unsuccessful hospitalizations, psychopathic commitments andpsychiatric investigations all without a single successful result. Thepronouncement of that august Tribunal of physicians was that most of the caseswere beyond the reach of science, and that the remainder soon would be. Afterthey had made this solemn pronouncement, let us assume that a shadowy figureappeared and in an unearthly voice said: "Notwithstanding the findings ofthis distinguished group, in four short years these hundreds of cases that youhave pronounced incurable shall, with the help of God, be madewhole." Around that room would be exchanged scornful and doubtfulglances and these unbelieving medical men would say as did Thomas of old:"When we see we shall believe." Yet each of us here present tonightis living proof that the prophecy of the imaginary voice has been fulfilled;without the drama of the miracle but just as certainly and just as attributableto the God of whom the imaginary voice spoke.
The thing which has happened in theChicago group, which is happening all over the country, has come about sogradually and through such material mediums as to pass unrecognized; even by us,for the moral miracle it really is. Instead of suspending the natural law bydirect intervention, God in His wisdom has selected a group of men to be thepurveyors of His goodness. In selecting them through whom to bring about thisphenomenon He went not to the proud, the mighty, the famous or the brilliant.He went to the humble, to the sick, to the unfortunate — he went to thedrunkard, the so-called weakling of the world. Well might He have said to us:
Into your weak and feeble hands I haveentrusted a Power beyond estimate. To you has been given that which has beendenied the most learned of your fellows. Not to scientists or statesmen, not towives or mothers, not even to my priests and ministers have I given this giftof healing other alcoholics, which I entrust to you. It must be usedunselfishly. It carries with it grave responsibility. No day can be too long,no demands upon your time can be too urgent, no case too pitiable, no task toohard, no effort too great. It must be used with Tolerance for I have restrictedits application to no race, no creed and no denomination. Personal criticismyou must expect, lack of appreciation will be common, ridicule will be yourlot, your motives will be misjudged. Success will not always attend yourefforts in your work with other alcoholics. You must be prepared for adversity,for what men call adversity is the ladder you must use to ascend the rungstoward Spiritual perfection, and remember in the exercise of this power I shallnot exact of you beyond your capabilities.
You are not selected because ofexceptional talents and be careful always if success attends your efforts, notto ascribe to personal superiority, that to which you can lay claim onlyby virtue of My gift. If I had wanted learned men to accomplish this missionthe power would have been entrusted to the physician and scientist. If I hadwanted eloquent men there would have been many anxious for the assignment, fortalk is the easiest used of all talents with which I have endowed mankind. If Ihad wanted scholarly men, the world is filled with better qualified than youwho would have been available. You were selected because you have been theoutcasts of the world and your long experience as a drunkard has made, orshould make you humbly alert to the cries of distress that comes from thelonely hearts of alcoholics everywhere. Keep ever in mind the admission thatyou made on the day of your profession into A.A., namely that you are powerlessand that it was only with your willingness to turn your life and will into Mykeeping, that relief came to you.
Think not, that because that you havebeen dry for one year or two years, or ten years, that it is the result of yourunaided efforts. The help which has kept you normal will keep you so just as longas you live this program, whichI have mapped out for you. Beware of the pride which comes fromgrowth, the power of numbers and of invidious comparisons between yourselves;or of your organization with other organizations whose success depends uponmembers power, money and position. These material things are no part of yourcreed. The success of material organizations arises out of the strength oftheir individual members; the success of yours from a common helplessness. Thepower of material organizations comes from the pooling of joint assets; yoursfrom the union of mutual liabilities. Appeal for membership in materialorganizations is based upon a boastful recital of their accomplishments; yoursupon the humble admission of weakness; the motto of the successful commercialenterprise is: "He profits most who serves best"; yours: "Heserves best who seeks no profit." The wealth of materialorganizations when they take their inventory is measured by what they haveleft; yours when you take moral inventory by what you have given.
If these things had been said to us thereare those upon whom the injunctions might lie heavy. They might seem austereand difficult commands but this would only be because we have not realized orhave forgotten the critical nature of our infirmities. Physical diseaserequires drastic measures for its cure, in many cases delicate and dangeroussurgery. Our conditions when we came into this group was even more serious thanthat of one who goes to a hospital with a gangrenous limb. For, after all, thelimit of his risk is his life while we risked life and in addition things moreprecious, sanity, honor, self-respect. We cannot expect to reach a problem sodeep-seated, that science deemed it unsolvable, with as little effort as isrequired for the removal of a decayed tooth. It requires the doing of difficultthings including self-discipline and above all unswerving obedience to aconscience. It is part of God's therapy that man cooperate; a cooperationrequiring high moral courage in the performance of difficult tasks.
The aphorism "Man does not live bybread alone" is more than poetry. It is the utterance of a greatphilosophical truth. There is a part of man that is animal. That part requiresthat he have bread, and that in quest thereof he be fitted to take his place ina highly competitive society. He must work, he must play and he must laugh. Butthere is another part of man which is Spiritual and that part can only beproperly developed by the exercises and restraints which conscience dictates.Unless man's Spiritual yearnings are developed as well as his physical andmental abilities, he is unbalanced and incomplete and a prey to those capitalenemies of all alcoholics: fear, loneliness, discouragement and futility.
And so as I draw to the end of theseremarks, you must think I have forgotten Earl and his anniversary. These thingsI have said to you have been discussed many times with Earl. Often have I heardhim emphasize that no individual is responsible for this group. Earl was theleaven selected by wise and benevolent Providence to germinate this group into being.He used the material entrusted to him with patience, tolerance andunderstanding but never for one moment has he felt that this group is hispersonal accomplishment, or that he was more important to its well-being thanthe most recently arrived alcoholic. The most that he would care to hear me sayabout him is that he has tried to be a worthy instrumentality to carry out aDivine mandate.
The wise, kindly man may steer us clearof many mistakes but even he makes some. But in spite of mistakes, in spite oferrors, even in the absence of leadership such as that with which we have beenblessed, this work will continue as long as the alcoholic recognizes hishelplessness and decides to confide his destiny to God. In conclusion I wouldlike to read a letter which I received this evening from one of the earlymembers of this group who says about the group and about Earl that which I think,deep in our hearts, all of us feel: