The Wisdom of

Goshen Bill

  William Henry Caldwell, known by everyone in the program as Goshen Bill, was a little skinny black man with one wooden leg and a glass eye, and the longest, boniest fingers anyone had ever seen. When explaining to you the error of your ways, he would take one of those fingers and point it right in your face, and you listened! He was a famous figure in Goshen and Elkhart, but also came to the North Webster meeting every week, and considered himself part of the Kosciusko County A.A. group as well. The excerpts which follow are taken from a tape recording of a lead he gave in 1981 at the Twelve Golden Steps Group at Life House in Elkhart, Indiana.  

  You ever take water and gasoline, and put it in a bottle and shake? When you set it down again, it goes to the top and water goes to the bottom. See? It don't mix. Right and wrong don't mix. Uh uh.  

  You ain't going to catch a chicken flying south with geese. He know he can't make it--and he don't try.

But no, we try to please people. We was people-pleasers. If they said, "You can walk that wire," you'd try your best if it broke your neck. If you'd fall and break your hip, you'd still try to do it. Pleasing people. But you're tearing yourself up.

  And you can be on the program, trying to please people, and they'll get you drunk if you'll let 'em. Uh huh! Don't build anybody up too high.

I don't care how many years you been sober. It'll only take one drunk to do it. The further you get away from your last drink, the closer you're getting to the next one, if you're gonna take one. Because it's always gonna be here.

  I don't care what club you belong to. The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. What it say? "Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship."

And if you say you love God and hate your brother, if you believe that, I'll tell you what to do -- you just read the meditation for October 11th, and it'll tell you where you stand, and say you're a liar and the truth ain't in you.

So, what 're you gonna do? You can't lie to him and say ... ? How you goin' to lie to him when he made you? He know everything you goin' to do, from the time you were born until you die. Now how are you goin' to lie to him? He said, "I made you and I know you."

So, you can tell me some fancy tales, but it's only the truth that matters.

  The alcoholic's promises to quit, to change his whole way of life -- if God will just get him out of jail, or whatever -- [do him no good.]  I thought I meant it. And I did!  But I hadn't hit bottom. I hadn't give it up.

I didn't surrender. You know, there's a lot of difference in giving up and surrendering. You know that? I found that out about two boys was fighting. One was a heavy-set kid and the other a little skinny kid, about like I was. And whenever the girls come around, the big kid would knock the little one down, and beat him till he say he had enough, you know. [Chuckling]  He's showing off in front of the girls. So, finally one day the little guy's girl was in the bunch, and this big guy got him down, and just whaling away at him, and he said, "I give up." This boy got up off of 'em, and he reached and got a brick and knocked the holy hell out of 'em. [Laughter]  He said, "Thought you said you give up?" and he say, "I did, but I didn't surrender." [Laughter]

See what I mean? You got to surrender to make this program. You don't just give up. Anybody can give up! Uh huh, you can say, "I don't want another drink!"  How do you know? You're an alcoholic, you're gonna want it.

There's only one way to remove the obsession to drink, only one way to get it done. And that's through God -- God Himself is the only one that can remove the obsession to drink. People say, "I don't want none of that God bit, you know, to get sober either."  [But that never works,] 'cause you can't stay sober by yourself  if you're an alcoholic.

  When you're drinking, you're the biggest shot in town. You wanted everybody to know how big you was. You make an impression on people, instead of trying to take care of yourself.  

  That's like the guy that comes to the program, he said "he didn't believe in God." [He said he was an atheist.] The other guy he was working with says, "Well . . . ."

[The atheist] say: "Praying? . . . uhn, what'll I say?" [The other man] said, "Whatever you want to."

So he got down on his knees, he said, "Whoever it is that's helping this man," say, "help me."

And he got help! Why? He had surrendered. He give it up. And when he was saying, "whoever helping that man, help me," God was helping that man, see? And it worked. He was ready.

  A lot of 'em get side-tracked. They get on [Interstate Highway] 80 and 90 out here, toll road, you goin' to Chicago. All right, if you get off at the wrong corner, you ain't gonna make it. You might make it, but look how many extra miles you'll drive, how much extra gas it'll cost you to go out there and get lost, and then come back and find the toll road to go to here.

If you'd listened the first time, you'd a' been there. We have to learn to listen. That's the first thing an alcoholic got to do, is to learn to listen. Then you LISTEN to LEARN.

Because I never saw an alcoholic yet that would listen to you. He will outtalk you, or change the subject, or "Yes, but . . . ."  When they start doing that, stop talking!  Because he is not accepting anything you say.  So just [say], "Well, I'll see you later," and get up and leave.

  But if he hurt enough, he'll come looking for you. You hear him say, "too far for me to go to a meeting." If he hurt enough, he'll go. Uh huh. It take pain to send us here. You forget all about that damned pride when you get to hurting. See? You say, "Well, that's a place I know I can get it [to stop hurting like this]."

And you will, when you hit bottom, 'cause there's nowhere else to go but UP. They say it's like being at the south pole, all directions is up. North pole, all directions is down. So we was at the south pole. Can't go no farther, death is the next thing. So we started to move up.

  And all of you people, every one of you:  if you want this program, if you got to surrender your own will, DO IT.  If you don't, it ain't gon' last, I tell you that. I seen it tried too many times.  Say, "Well, I stop by, see what the boys doing."  Uh huh.  You gonna drink Coke, uh huh?  Pretty soon, before you know it, you got a double [whiskey].  

  Meetings! They get so [they think they're suffering such hardship]!  "I can't make meetings, too far for me to walk."  Well now we got meetings almost anywhere you look! If you don't go to a meeting, it's your own fault! You don't want to go. Nobody had to pick you up and take you to a meeting. They didn't pick you up and take you to a tavern, did they? Did it ever rain so hard you couldn't go get a drink? [Laughter]  Hell no! It never got too cold, snow never got too deep. But still, you get so [you're saying in this little whiny voice], "Oh, weather too bad, I can't get out there."

You haven't surrendered either. Uh uh. You go just as far to stay sober as you did to stay drunk. And that was twenty-four hours work. You had no off-time when you was drinking. If you wasn't drinking, you was thinking about it. If you wasn't thinking about, you was trying to hustle enough to get it. You wasn't satisfied to go to sleep and not have a drink to wake up on.

  Step number one:  we admitted, see, that we was powerless over alcohol, and we also admitted that our lives had become unmanageable.  Right?  All right.

What does the second step say? We came to believe . . . that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. They all in past tense, the first three [steps].

And the next one, you made a decision -- you didn't say "I think I'll do it" -- you made a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understood him. If you was lying, you ain't got no program.

There's nothing tangible that anyone can give you that you won't want another drink. That's up to you and God. You can lie to me. You can tell me,  "I  haven't had a drink in so many years," and drunk yesterday! It ain't gon' hurt me. You -- either one of you, or all of you -- go out and get drunk tonight, I don't have to wake up with a hangover! So what's the use lying to me? I can't give you sobriety! I can just tell you how I got mine.

  All right, when we leave the bottle, what do we want to go back [to that tavern] and see what they're doing? We know what they're doing! You're just showing your own weakness.

And at one time in every alcoholic's life, he do NOT have the power NOT to take a drink. That's when he need God. If he ain't got God, he gonna take a drink. Yeah!

  [There're some things we got to do] . . . IF  we want happy sobriety. You know, a dry drunk is worse than a wet one to me. When you're drunk, you got sense enough to know, one day you're gonna sober up or die. But if you're on a dry drunk, what have you got to look forward to? Gets big enough he ain't ashamed [to start doing what he knows he's got to do.] Huh?  

  But, you know, there's three answers to every prayer: Yes, No, and Wait. And we don't want to wait. You take an alcoholic, he ain't got time to wait, he's chomping at the bits, he's got to go, he ain't got no time to waste. That's when you mess up. I tell you what you do when you get like that: You turn your will and your life over to the care of God. You took it back when you're going doing other things.

He ain't going to beg you to let him take care of you. He can do without you. He said [Matthew 3:9], before he'd let the devil have more souls than he did, he would command stones to be made into souls! I don't want no rocks taking my place, I want to live right. He can do without you. He don't have to have you. There was a time he didn't have a human being. He decided to make [Adam and Eve from scratch]. See? . . . .

Now [Jesus] told Peter, said, "Before the cock crows three times, you will deny me."  "Oh no, Lord!!!  Not ME."  Heh, heh. And Christ is up there on the stand, they ask Peter, said, "Weren't you with him? He say, "Hell no, I don't know nothing about him."  See?  That's how quick he got back in self.

Christ was walking on the water. Peter say, "If  that's you . . ." -- and who else do he think could walk on water but him?  [Laughter]  See?  He was in doubt -- he say, "If  that's you, tell me to come to you." He say, "Well come on, this is me." So Peter made a couple of steps, and then he got thinking, "Look, old Peter walking on water!"  BOOM! Down he went.  [Laughter]  It don't take but just half a minute for you to get back into self.

  We got people come to A.A. just to get a job, see. And how long will they stay sober? Until he make a pay. First thing he's got to do is learn how to handle money, because he drink it up and throw it away, everything he made. And he owe everybody that'll let him have anything.

And he call that fun? You wake up in the morning and you stagger to the bathroom and you got three jobs a' going at the same time, and none of 'em was washing your face. You was busy:  you're trying to puke, and you just feel like you're gonna die, and wish you could die, and you get a little sicker, and then you're scared you're gonna die. You're just all messed up.

  Once you get a taste of it, it's just like a cat is:  he lose his mother, and you want him to drink milk, and he won't drink it, put some milk on your finger, and let him touch that, and he'll follow it, and then you won't have no more trouble, he'll drink it. But you got to show him how. None of us, while we were drinking, knew how to stay sober. Didn't know how, didn't know nothing about it.  

  I've had my seventeen years of pretty good times! And I don't want nobody to interfere with it. Huh! I come here to quit drinking, I didn't come here to quit fighting. And if you want to see a battle, you let somebody try to make me take a drink. Then I'll show you what the old man can do! Because I don't want it, I don't need it, and it isn't necessary.  


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