They Lost Nearly All
“God willing, we may never again have to deal with drinking, but we have to deal with sobriety every day.”
Bob joined A.A. in New York City in 1961, probably never dreaming one day he would be the manager of A.A.’s General Service Office.
Bob was born in Houston, Texas, but raised in Kansas, the only child of loving parents. His parents drank only socially, and his father gave him his first drink – a tiny glass of sherry to celebrate the New York – when he was thirteen. He immediately saw the effect it had on him and prayed he wouldn’t drink any more. But in college he began to drink at fraternity parties and beer busts.
The family moved frequently and Bob found himself in a different school every year until high school, where he was always the new kid who had to prove himself. He retreated into a fantasy world. He became the classic over-achiever and sold his first article to a national magazine while still an undergraduate.
After graduation from college he moved to New York to pursue a writing career and landed a good job. He was soon regarded as a “boy wonder.” But by age twenty-two he was a daily drinker.
He then had difficulty in every aspect of his life. His service in the Navy was marred when he was given a “Captain’s Mast,” i.e., discipline for trouble he got into while drinking. His marriage suffered, his values became distorted, and by forty his health was severely damaged.
When the doctor told him he would have to stop drinking he did, for ten months, with no apparent difficulty, but he did not enjoy life without drinking, and soon he was drinking again and his physical condition deteriorated further.
He developed cirrhosis of the liver, had frequent blackouts, severe nosebleeds, angry bruises which appeared mysteriously all over his body. Despite three episodes of losing large quantities of blood by vomiting and from his rectum, he drank again.
His doctor finally gave up on him and referred him to a psychiatrist in the same suite of offices. “He happened to be, by the grace of God,” Bob wrote, “Dr. Harry Tiebout, the psychiatrist who probably knew more about alcoholism than any other in the world.” At that time Dr. Tiebout was serving as a nonalcoholic trustee on the General Service Board.
Dr. Tiebout sent him to High Watch to dry out. There he read the Big Book and began his slow road back to health and sanity.
When Bob had been in A.A. only a short time, an oldtimer told him that A.A. does not teach us how to handle our drinking, but it teaches us how to handle sobriety.
Not only did his health recover, so did his marriage, his relationship with his children, his performance on his job.
All these things A.A. gave him, but most of all it taught him how to handle sobriety, how to relate to people, how to deal with disappointments and problems. He learned that “the name of the game is not so much to stop drinking as to stay sober.”
“God willing, we members of Alcoholics Anonymous may never again have to deal with drinking, but we have to deal with sobriety every day. How do we do it? By learning – through practicing the Twelve Steps and through sharing at meetings – how to cope with the problems that we looked to booze to solve, back in our drinking days.”
Bob has served A.A. in many ways. He worked for G.S.O. for twelve and a half years. He was a director and trustee of the General Service Board for six years and office general manager for a decade. Upon retirement from G.S.O. in 1986, he took on the task for G.S.O. of writing an update of A.A.’s history covering the period from the publication of “Alcoholics Anonymous Comes to Age,” through its fiftieth year. Unfortunately, this manuscript was never published.
At the 1986 General Service Conference, Bob gave what the 1986 Final Report called “a powerful and inspiring closing talk” titled “Our greatest danger: rigidity.”
He said: “If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer the growing rigidity – the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to ‘enforce’ our Traditions, screening alcoholics at closed meetings, prohibiting non-Conference approved literature, i.e., ‘banning books,’ laying more and more rules on groups and members. And in this trend toward rigidity, we are drifting farther and farther away from our co-founders. Bill, in particular, must be spinning in his grave, for he was perhaps the most permissive person I ever met. One of his favorite sayings was ‘Every group has the right to be wrong.'”
Bob continues to give his service to A.A. in many ways. At the International Convention in Minneapolis in 2000, he appeared to be handling many jobs. He filled in to lead at least one of the small meetings, “Pioneers in A.A.” The program does not list him as the Moderator. He was probably filling in for someone else at the last minute.
Bob P., Connecticut. (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 554 3rd edition, p. 553 4th edition.)