The main objective of “Here’s To Your Health” is to educate the general population what Alcoholics Anonymous is and what it is “Not.” A.A. is not in favor of alcohol prohibition and they are “not” against anybody’s God given right to drink it, they are simply here for people who have a desire to stop drinking, but cannot.
A South Bend history professor sent the following email to Barleycorn: Alcohol prohibition (1921-1933) put honest brewers, distillers and bar owners out of business, put everything into the hands of criminals, gangsters, and smugglers instead, and never did prevent the small percentage of the population who were alcoholics from obtaining alcohol. They could brew it themselves in their homes if they wanted to. Prohibition was ended in 1933 because it did not solve the problem of alcoholism. Two years later, on June 10, 1935, A.A. was developed as a new kind of strategy: don’t harass the vast majority of the U.S. population who drink responsibly, but instead concentrate on finding some way to help the small percentage of real problem drinkers.
Restaurant owners don’t like drunks because one drunk can ruin the atmosphere for their entire restaurant. Bar owners don’t like drunks because the drunks are the ones who start trouble. Liquor store owners do not like to see shambling, incoherent drunks weaving and staggering into their stores and making the place look bad to other responsible customers. Policemen and judges don’t like drunks because they create public disturbances and endanger other people, by driving drunk. Employers don’t like drunks who show for work unable to function. The churches don’t like drunks because they see the harm they do to their families.
The problem is that with real alcoholics, lecturing and preaching at them and threatening them with punishments, either in this world or the next, does no good. That is what A.A. means by “true alcoholics,” people who have progressed past the stage where will power or threats or anything on this earth will stop them from drinking in hideously destructive ways. Real alcoholics like that don’t drink because they enjoy it, they don’t drink because it helps them have a good time at a party. They drink because if they don’t have alcohol in their systems they go crazy, and the inner torment finally becomes so great, that they cannot stop themselves from reaching for the only thing that will numb the inner pain for a little bit. The A.A. philosophy is to say, that for those who have no problems with alcohol, God bless them, and don’t deny them the pleasure. A.A. is only for those who have gotten into real bad trouble with their drinking, know they’re in bad trouble, have found that they cannot get sober on their own, and are ready now to seriously ask for help. And A.A. has shown that it can succeed in helping chronic alcoholics like that obtain long-term sobriety, even in situations where everything else failed.
Barleycorn’s last two stories were about Sister Ruth and Steve C. Because of her out of control drinking Sister Ruth was ready to commit suicide and Steve C. was unable to hold a job or provide for his family. These are the kind of people whom A.A. was designed to help. Most of us know, or have encountered, people like that, and it’s a real human tragedy.
The A.A. movement is interested in helping people to recognize the symptoms of obsessive and crippling alcoholism and in letting them know that there was a way of treating these unhappy people that really worked. In 1935, the A.A. program replaced the Prohibition Movement (which wanted to stop everybody from drinking alcohol) and replaced it with a new philosophy and a solution that actually worked: Concentrate on the small percentage of people, who are the “real” problem, find a way of helping them, and leave everybody else alone!
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