It just takes one look at this guy to imagine what kind of drunk he was in his prime, but thankfully for the many people he has inspired and for those of us who still read his book, New Pair of Glasses, Chuck C. got sober at 44 years old. He testified before the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Subcommittee in Los Angeles on Saturday, September 27, 1969. This is his (partial) testimony, which has been copied from the official hearing records:
STATEMENT OF CHUCK C, MEMBER OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS.
Thank you, Senator Hughes. It’s a privilege for me to come with you this morning. I feel rather like a fifth wheel, because the things have been pretty well covered already: But I appear in a little different capacity than any of the others this morning, because I am Chuck C. and I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, applied to my own life, I haven’t had a drink or a sedating or tranquilizing pill since January of 1946, for which I am very grateful. We in Alcoholics Anonymous think that alcoholism is a disease. You have heard it spoken of this morning several times as such. I think informed medical opinion throughout the country recognizes it as a disease. It is defined as a disease of twofold nature, an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession of the mind.
However, most of us, or many of us, think that there is a third factor. We think it’s a living problem. We do not deny the allergy of the body or the obsession of the mind. I had them both. I tried for the last ten years of a 25-year drinking career to prove that I didn’t have an allergy of the body or obsession of the mind. However, I knew nothing about them, because I knew nothing about the disease of alcoholism. I tried to beat this thing myself for the last 10 years of a 25-year drinking career; and I proved to myself conclusively that I do have both the allergy and the obsession.
Now with 24 years of sobriety, 25 years of drinking, and the time before I drank to look at, I believe that our problem is primarily a living problem, and that alcohol is pretty much a symbol of it or a symptom of it.
We feel that the medical approach and psychological approach, and the religious approach are all good. We feel that all approaches to this disease should be brought to bear upon it, but most of us are convinced that if we’re going to get rid of the bottle we have to replace it with something better, with a state of being that makes drinking unnecessary.
For instance, why am I not drunk this morning? I’m an alcoholic. I’m an alcoholic of the tongue chewing, babbling, idiot variety: so why am I not drunk this morning? Because I have the thing I was looking for in the bottle. And what is the thing? It is a state of being that makes drinking absolutely unnecessary. There is nothing that a drink or a sedating or tranquilizing pill or needle can do for me but tear me down; therefore, there’s no necessity for it at all. It can’t do anything for me. I have the answer that I was looking for.
Now, we have been in existence as Alcoholic Anonymous for 34 years. We have a membership of perhaps some 500,000 but we see that’s just a slight percentage, it may be 2 percent, of the problem drinkers. And that’s all we’ve been able to accomplish in 34 years. But we’re not selling it short. We love it, but much more has to be done. We think that before long it might be the legal opinion that they can’t throw us in jail any more just for being a drunk, that we have to be taken care of as sick people. And it looks as though there will have to be detoxification centers and halfway houses throughout the country.
And it’s going to take a lot of money. It’s going to take a lot of know-how. We are very pleased about the fact that there is a separate committee now that is very much interested in this problem and that it is manned by knowledgeable people. We think that perhaps through the medium of these meetings throughout the country more interest will be brought to bear on the Senate as a whole and that as a result you will get appropriations which will make it possible for you to do some things — such as setting up these detoxification centers and halfway houses.
In this event what would be the position of Alcoholics Anonymous?
Traditionally we neither endorse or oppose any causes. We cooperate but we do not affiliate. We are on tap in most of these things, but never on top. So I think our position would be this: That when the detoxification has been accomplished, that we would, as individual members of Alcoholic Anonymous, then be available to share our experience, strength and hope with those who are coming through the halfway houses. And it is from this angle that I think that it would be of the greatest benefit to your program. We cannot take an active part as a society, but we can take an active part as individuals.
Senator Hughes: Sir, would you mind me interrupting you for a moment as you go along? I’d like to ask a question for the record. I have received a lot of mail from people who know nothing about Alcoholics Anonymous wondering why we don’t appropriate money to Alcoholics Anonymous to handle the job since they obviously do pretty well. Would you like to reply to that?
Mr. Chuck C.: We also have the tradition that we are self supporting. We don’t take any moneys from any outside sources whatsoever. We support ourselves through our own contributions. We have no paid teachers or speakers. We do this work on a voluntary basis. And I’d like to throw this in for the record, also, that I suspect that in the last 23 years half of my waking time has been spent working with alcoholics throughout this country and Canada and in many of the other countries. And I find it a very fascinating and rewarding experience – I think that’s what you wanted.
A very interesting fact has been brought out already: When I came to the program the average age probably would have been 45. I don’t think it would have been less than that. It might have been nearer 50. But over the years the age has come down, down, down, until today the face of Alcoholics Anonymous has changed considerably. They are coming to us much younger.
For instance, we have a man in our own group in Laguna Beach who had his first birthday in Alcoholics Anonymous before his eighteenth birthday. We find this is true pretty much throughout the country. Brought about through better educational programs such as the Committee on Alcoholism for instance, and things of that kind. People are coming to us much much younger than in my day and that is a very good sign.
In A.A. we have a lot of fun. I find it the most fascinating thing that has ever crossed my path. I love it. I happen to have hated alcoholics worse than anybody in the world. As a matter of fact, when I ran out of time I didn’t care for the human race. I thought it was a cosmic mistake. I didn’t even like the good people and the drunks I hated. Because I was a drunk and hated myself. I hated all drunks. In the last 24 years, however, I’ve come to the place where I think I love all of God’s children, and of all of them I love the drunks the most. So my dedication, my love, and my life, are in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, working with drunks.
Senator Hughes: I’d like to ask you a question and answer it any way you see fit. Why the word, “anonymous” Why do alcoholics want to remain anonymous?
Mr. Chuck C: There are many reasons for it. But the two great reasons – the fundamental reasons, I believe, are these: There is a little verse in the Good Book that says, “Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth,” and this is probably the first time in our lives that we have ever been willing to do things like getting up in the middle of the night and going clear across town, at our own expense, to a dark room with an alcoholic who is really suffering. It’s the first time in our lives we’ve been willing to do these things free – maybe even hoping that nobody will ever find out about it.
And the second reason is that as long as we are anonymous people can come to
us without feeling that they’re going to have their problems become general knowledge. And people will come to us with problems when they won’t go to anybody else, because, they don’t want it known that they have this problem.
This thing is seemingly proven in our work. Any alcoholic who sits through an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, leaves knowing the answer is there – whether or not he admits that he has a problem. Now, he might say to himself. “Well, I’m not one of these people. I haven’t gone to this extent. Therefor, I’m not an alcoholic.” But he knows, before he leaves that meeting, that the answer’s in the room for an alcoholic and maybe many years later when he runs out of time he remembers and comes back, and he isn’t lost.
So I believe that no one, no alcoholic, regardless of whether he has admitted
it or not, who is exposed to this therapy about which we are talking, leaves with any questions in his mind. I think he knows immediately that the answer is in the room.