ONE day, while I was anxiously awaiting a laboratory report on a patient, I sat down on a stool at our lab bench, and reached for one of the unused microscopes which was focused on a glass slide. Simply to pass the time, I dropped a globule of tap water on the slide and focused the instrument on it. The field that came into focus contained a hair and myriads of one cell organisms.
As I watched, I saw many of these little one-cell creatures, the lowest form of animal life, swimming about helter-skelter in their liquid medium. Immediately there came to my mind the phrase from our Big Book: “The alcoholic is the extreme example of self-will run riot.” Here, beneath my visual focus, were organisms that lived as I once had lived, in a liquid medium. It was obvious that they moved about and sought their own immediate purpose without any true goal, and with little thought or concern as to their individual responsibilities or their responsibilities to their fellow organisms.
As I said, mid-way in the field there was a small hair. As I continued to observe, an organism would repeatedly swim into the hair and find itself rebuffed. This act was repeated over and over again. It became obvious that this living form of matter, just like many alcoholics, failed to learn from its experience or seek another way around the barrier.
As I watched, remembering my own drinking pattern and the countless stories that I have heard of other drinking patterns revealed at AA meetings, these words came floating through my mind from our Big Book: “Our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people.”
It seemed to me that I had been privileged to look with an omnipotent eye at a situation that is quite comparable to that found in alcoholism.
I moved the field I was observing so my microscope was focused near the end of the hair that was acting as a barrier to the path of these organisms. Here another phenomenon took place. Some of the butting organisms would be deviated or, by chance, move themselves into a new pattern of motion, so they could swim by the obstruction. Others, not successful, would literally perish.
Then came the real message of what I was witnessing: Of the organisms that did escape, not one turned around and came back behind the barrier to show any of his fellow organisms the solution he had found to his problem. This I thought, is important. These are the lowest forms of animal life. They have no nervous system, no brain, no conscience and no soul. How very like these organisms we would be had we not been given these things by a power greater than ourselves. The greatest spiritual gift received by the alcoholic was a divine inspiration that was given to Bill and to Dr. Bob, over a quarter of a century ago, when they realized that in order to keep this thing for themselves they had to go out and give it away.