This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Cindy’s story: Towards the end of my drinking I spent a lot of time at my doctor’s office. I don’t know if I qualified for being a hypochondriac, but even when I wasn’t sick–I thought I was.

When we drink too much alcohol, everyday, it causes us all sorts of health problems. My stomach was constantly upset, my digestive system was out of whack, I had headaches and my nerves were shot, but alcohol was never mentioned as a probable cause for my ailments, imagined or otherwise. When my sister called the doctor that day she told him that she suspected alcohol was the culprit and in a flash he agreed with her and suggested that she should take me directly to the South Unit on Carew Street. The doctor called ahead and made the necessary arrangements. When they said “Treatment Center,” I definitely was not thinking about doing anything about my drinking, I was thinking about a hiding place where I could rest and get my boss and everybody else off my back. If everybody would just leave me alone–everything would be fine. “Ahh, yes, a place to hide,” said I.

They had AA meetings and AA speakers coming in every day to help chronic alcoholics like me. At the time, I knew nothing about AA, or had no idea what it was like. We were housed inside the South Unit but the facility was almost entirely run by people in recovery–it was an AA environment. After I agreed to stay there, they asked if I wanted to go to an AA meeting? I said, “No, why should I to go to an AA meeting, I’m not an alcoholic. I soon learned that AA meetings were a part of the structure there and if I was going to stay–I had to go to the AA meetings.

From the time I woke up in the morning there was a steady stream of outside visitors most of whom were former patients and other AA people in recovery. They talked to me, became friends to me and they gave me hope. They told me that they had once sat where I was sitting, but today they were alcohol and drug free–and happy. Dr. Zweig spoke to us too; he did a “chalk talk” and explained his A to Z pamphlet. Doc Zweig was Fort Wayne’s version of Dr. Silkworth, Doctor Bob and Albert Schweitzer all rolled into one. Through his charitable and tireless efforts, he salvaged the lives of untold thousands of local alcoholics between the years of 1945 and 1994.

On the following Wednesday Alfreida A. came to the South Unit and said, “Come on Girls, we’re going to a women’s meeting,” and she loaded us all into her station wagon and drove us to the meeting. That women’s meeting was held at the Washington House and I have no idea what they talked about? I do, however, remember that it was the second week of January and freezing cold. I remember looking at the huge sports complex across from the Washington House parking lot where I played softball. I gave up all my other sports but continued softball because we drank lots of beer after the games. I was thinking to myself, “What am I doing here with all of these people who are trying to stop drinking alcohol? This spring, I’ll be playing ball again and drinking beer–no matter what.”

While I was standing alone in that frozen parking lot looking at the ball diamond a woman named Rose came out and said, “Honey, whatever you’re thinking about, don’t worry, it will be OK. We just do this thing one-day-at-a-time, come on in. She must have read my mind, but she brought me back to the moment. Rose promised me that everything would be all right. God Bless AA women like Alfrieda and Rose and all of the others who saved me from myself.

John Barleycorn

The phantom writer of the column "Here's to Your Health". This writer is an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and therefore must maintain anonymity. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer