In A.A.’s pioneering time, none but the most desperate cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even these “last-gaspers” often had difficulty in realizing how hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably got well. That is why the first edition of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous,” published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.
They almost invariably got well, I think, because they laid hold of A.A. principles with fervor. More than fervor. The people I see slip and slide and less than fervent.
Not being able to admit hopelessness was a huge stumbling block for me when I first tried to get sober. I’m thankful that I realized, to some extent, right away that I was an alcoholic, though I had not much in common with many of the old men who populated the meetings. But my further drinking, drinking after I had been exposed to AA shows me that I still had hope that I would be able to drink. I actually hoped that I could be a functioning alcoholic. I’m lucky I lived through the experience I needed to prove to me that I could not. I’m equally as lucky that I could not be a functioning alcoholic. That seems like a very sad aspiration now.