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The First Links In The Chain
Rowland Hazzard 10/29/1881 - 12/20/45
After telling Rowland H. that he could never regain his position in society, Dr. Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist, was asked, "Is there no exceptions?"
"Yes," replied Dr. Jung, "there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences." He went on to describe a spiritual experience as "To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them" (pages 26/27 in the "Big Book" Alcoholics Anonymous).
The doctor admitted his failure in bringing about this psychic change and dashed water on Rowland's hope that his past strong religious convictions could alone bring on a "vital spiritual experience".
Rowland's father and his mother's father were "men of the cloth." The comments in the "Big Book" coupled with the apparent religious upbringing in his father's home would lead us to the conclusion that a belief in God was an ingrained value in Rowland's life. At the time of his death, December 20, 1945 Rowland was a vestryman in Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City. AA history students will identify Calvary Episcopal with Rev. Sam Shoemaker and the Oxford Group which served as a spiritual support group in Bill W's and other early sober alcoholics lives. According to Lois W., Rowland was an "ardent Oxford Grouper until his death."
Rowland grew up in wealth, respectability and in a family that placed great value on human relations. His grandfather had great respect for the dignity of his employees. He wrote, "Place a people face-to-face with vast labors, lower the physical tone by an enervating climate, let them find by experience that the labors are too great for their powers; and listless, slipshod habits result with whisky as a relief from trouble." In 1875, this enlightened statement must have been considered liberal and radical by his fellow industrialists.
Growing to manhood in an exciting and active environment filled with people who were making things happen was an education of its own. The well-to-do Hazzard family customarily sent their young men to prep schools for an education directed toward college and for training in moral disciplines and social manners. Rowland attended Fay School in Southboro, Mass., and Taft School in Watertown, CT. On to Yale in 1899, Rowland received a Bachelor-of-Arts degree with the class of 1903. In today's vernacular it could be said Rowland was born and raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. Yet while coming from a lofty station in life, he was by several accounts not aloof from his fellow man.
The years following Yale were spent learning the family businesses, and from 1914 to 1916 he served in the Rhode Island State Senate.
As World War I got underway, Rowland became a civilian member of the Ordnance Department. Later he resigned to accept a commission as Captain in the Army's Chemical Warfare Service.
Any problem Rowland had with alcohol did not lead to his dismissal from any of the positions he held within the family corporations, the antics of the drinker being explained away and covered up. "There is corporate denial."
The socially prominent families of the 1920's and 30's were mum on family problems; especially were they guarded about moral weakness in their ranks. In that day, many considered alcoholics to be morally weak. The onset of Rowland's problem with alcohol is difficult to fix. There are some events that would lead us to believe it could have been as early as 1918.
When his father died, why did not Rowland take over the operating helm? He was 37 and had held several positions within the corporations. Brother Thomas was 26 and only three years out of college. Thomas, not Rowland, became the one to administer the estate, a responsibility of great entrustment.
There is a brief mention of Rowland being President of Solvay Securities, a family holding, from 1918-1921. From 1920 to 1927 he was a member of Lee Higginson & Company, a New York investment banking firm. The record shows he resigned Lee Higginson in 1927 to travel in Africa, an adventure generally reserved for the royal and rich of that time.
We do know that in 1931 he was under the care and treatment of Dr. Carl Jung in Zurich, Switzerland. On page 26 of the "Big Book" we find this insight into Rowland's battle with alcohol: "For years he had floundered from one sanitarium to another. He had consulted the best known American psychiatrists." This statement leads us to believe that several years prior to 1931 Rowland and his family recognized he had an alcohol problem. Ebby T., who carried the message to Bill W. had this to say about Rowland: "I was very much impressed by his drinking career, which consisted of prolonged sprees where he traveled all over the country."
The 1927 to 1935 period is vague and sketchy. Yet in reading accounts of Rowland's life as reported in Yale Class Reunion Books and his obituary, one is left with the feeling they go to great effort to explain Rowland's absence from Wall Street.
Accounts of that eight year period is a mixture of health problems and private ventures. While in Africa, he contracted a tropical disease and in 1928 he traveled to the west coast for his health. In 1929 he bought a ranch in New Mexico. Upon discovery of high grade clay on the ranch, he organized in 1931-32 the La Luz Clay Products Company to produce floor and roof tile. In 1932 he took up residence in Vermont. Between 1932 and 1936 he divided his time between Vermont and New Mexico. There is no mention of his travel to Zurich in 1931 nor the "about one year" in Dr. Jung's care as mentioned in Bill W's January 1963 letter to the doctor.
As Bill writes to Dr. Jung in January 1961: "Mr. H. joined the Oxford Groups, an evangelical movement then at the height of its success in Europe.... Returning to New York, he became very active with "O.G." here, then led by an Episcopal Clergyman Dr. Samuel Shoemaker."
In August 1934, Rowland was at his home in Shaftsbury, VT., 15 miles south of Manchester. It was during this stay in Shaftsbury that he learned through two other Groupers of Ebby T.'s possible six months sentence to Windsor Prison for repeated drunkenness. The two Groupers were Shep C. and Cebra G. whose father was the judge before whom Ebby was to appear. In Bennington, Rowland and Cebra G. intervened at the hearing and asked that Ebby be bound over to Rowland.
The Judge agreed and Rowland took Ebby to his home in Shaftsbury and later on to New York City where Ebby stayed with Shep C.
Of the first meeting with Rowland, Ebby said, "...he was a good guy. The first day he came to see me he helped me clean up the place."
Ebby's carrying the message to Bill W. is well known but little is known about Rowland's personal sharing with Bill.
Robert Robert Thomsen in his book "Bill W." reports that Bill could never recollect if it was Ebby or Rowland who gave him William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience". A likely scenario is that Rowland gave the book to Ebby who in turn gave it to Bill.
Thomsen also reveals that Grace McC., Rowland H., Ebby and others would join with Bill around a little table in the rear of Stewarts Cafeteria for coffee and sharing after their O.G. meeting.
The absence of comment by Bill, Lois, Ebby and other early A.A. members about Rowland joining AA would lead us to conclude he didn't. Lois writes in "Lois Remembers", "...he remained an ardent Oxford Grouper until his death in 1945." Lois goes on to mention that Cebra G. later joined AA in Paris.
From Rowland's perspective there was no compelling reason to join AA. After all, by the time the "Big Book" was published he had been sober eight years. His sobriety is evidenced (page 26, "Big Book"), "But this man still lives and is a free man. He does not need a bodyguard nor is he confined. He can go anywhere on this earth where other free men may go without disaster, provided he remained willing to maintain a certain simple attitude."
In 1935 Rowland returned to Wall Street as general partner in Tailer & Robinson, a brokerage firm; 1938-39 he was associated with Lockwood Greene Engineers Inc.; 1940-41 Rowland was an independent consultant. This later job position is often a resumé explanation for periods of unemployment. In 1941, Rowland became Executive Vice-President of Bristol Manufacturing of Waterburg, CT. Bristol (now Bristol Babcock of Watertown, CT.) is a leading manufacturer of industrial measuring and recording devices.
While at his office desk on Thursday, December 20, 1945, Rowland suddenly died of a coronary occlusion. At the time of his death he and his wife Helen resided on Park Avenue in New York City but held a legal residence in Peace Dale, RI.
His past few years had been filled with sadness. Rowland Gibson, his oldest son and a Captain in the Army, was killed in 1941. Peter, his second son, a navy pilot, deliberately flew his plane into a screen of American flak while pursuing a Japanese kamikaze plane. Peter was first reported missing in action March 1945 and later confirmed killed in action.
Of all the contributions Rowland and his family made in industry and through philanthropic activities, none has had a more far reaching impact than his unselfish effort in sobering up one Ebby T. If not the first, certainly one of the earliest Twelfth Step calls. It opened the door to millions of hopeless alcoholics.
We all need to remember that the origins of AA were a direct result of Roland Hazzard's sponsorship of Ebby Thatcher, preventing Ebby from going to jail or prison. Ebby was our original court ordered Paper Signer. He then later as a sober member of the Oxford Group carried the message to Bill Wilson. If we owe our sobriety to Bill Wilson and A.A. then we also owe it to the original "paper signer" Ebby Thatcher.
The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Philosopher-psychologist William James (1842-1910) was intrigued with mystical, existential experiences that people reported to him. He contended that such experiences were superior to any religious doctrine. He did not care about the religious persuasion of mystics as long as they achieved a personal experience.
It is easy to see how such a description fit Bill Wilson's experience. The mystical experiences reported by James also followed calamity, admission of defeat, and an appeal to a higher power.
The official AA biography of Wilson says:
James gave Bill the material he needed to understand what had just happened to him - and gave it to him in a way that was acceptable to Bill. Bill Wilson, the alcoholic, now had his spiritual experience ratified by a Harvard professor, called by some the father of American psychology! (Emphasis in original.)
Most people assume that the founders of Alcoholics' Anonymous were Christians. After all, Wilson talks about God, prayer, and morality. On the other hand, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is absent from his spiritual experience. There is no mention of Jesus Christ providing the only way of salvation through paying the price for Bill Wilson's sin. Wilson's faith system was not based on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Nor is there any mention of Jesus Christ being Lord of his life, even after taking Catholic instruction with Father Ed Dowling, his spiritual "sponsor."
Not only is there clear evidence that Bill Wilson did not embrace Christian dogma and doctrine as the only way to the Father, but Wilson was also heavily involved in occult activities in his search for spiritual experiences. Such are the roots of Alcoholics Anonymous rather than Christianity.
To briefly recap:
In 1934, Ebby Thatcher, childhood friend of Bill Wilson's, was about to be locked up as a chronic drunk in Bennington, Vermont. He was visited by three men from an Oxford Group; Shep Cornell, Rowland Hazard, and Cebra Graves. (A precursor to our Twelve Step work!) They later sentRowland Hazard back alone to see Ebby. He acted as a sort of sponsor and told his story. He taught Ebby the precepts he had learned from the Oxford Group. Later, as we know, in December of that year, Ebby had his chance to relay these precepts to Bill Wilson. Here they are, transcribed from a tape of one of Bill's AA talks:
We admitted we were licked.
Now we begin to see the emerging pattern of events in Akron and in the New York area in the ten year period before the start of AA. We see how, through the machinery of the Oxford Group and its key leaders, Frank Buchman and Sam Shoemaker, events conspired to make possible this meeting between Bob and Bill in Akron in 1935. Shep, Cebra, and Rowland were all three Oxford Group members. They were part of the business teams which were working around the country in various cities. In November of 1934, Ebby surrendered his life to God at the Calvary Episcopal Church mission run by Sam Shoemaker. (Sam had met Frank Buchman in China in 1918, and by 1934 was regarded as a major leader of the Oxford Group movement in the United States and was hosting their headquarters.) Ebby is staying at his mission. Bill W. shows up there drunk looking for Ebby, can't find him, and goes to Towns Hospital.
Bill Duval recalls in a letter, "Bill W. told us at the mission that he had heard that Ebby, on the previous Sunday at the Calvary Church, had witnessed that with the help of God he had been sober a number of months." Bill said that if Ebby could get help here, then he (Bill) needed help, and he could get it at the mission, also. Bill looked prosperous compared to our usual mission customers, (actually, he was wearing a Brooks Brother's suit purchased at a rummage sale for $5.00!), so we agreed that he go to Towns Hospital where Ebby and others of the group could talk to him."
After his spiritual experience at Towns, Bill immediately made a decision to become very active in Oxford Group work, and to try to bring other alcoholics from Towns to the group. He visited the mission Oxford Group meetings and the hospital daily for four or five months, right up to the time of the Akron trip. Not one of the drunks he brought stayed sober.
BILL W. AND THE OXFORD GROUP WORK
(Jim Newton enters the scene)
Rowland Hazard, who rescued Ebby in August 1934, had a thorough indoctrination in Oxford Group teachings and he passed many of these along to Ebby and Bill W. Soon after his release from Towns Hospital at the end of 1934, Bill and the rest of the alcoholic contingent of the Oxford Group began gathering at Stewart's Cafeteria in New York following their regular meeting. Shep Cornell, then a member of the Oxford Group business team that included Rowland, Sam Shoemaker, and Hanford Twitchell, was also a recovering alkie. Lois Wilson talked of regular attendance at the Oxford Group meetings with Bill, Shep, and Ebby. James Houck, a nonalcoholic Oxford Group member in Frederick, Maryland, stated that Bill W. went to many Oxford Group meetings at the Franc is Scott Key Hotel in Frederick and always centered on alcohol. He was obsessed with the idea of carrying the message. The conclusion is that Bill had a wide acquaintance in Oxford Group circles, not just confined to Sam and Calvary House. Bill told Houck that he worked on 50 drunks in the first 6 months with no success. Calvary House was Sam's residence and contained an Oxford Group bookstore. Calvary Mission was at another location in the "gas house" district. Thousands of people passed through the mission where they offered lodging, free meals, and Oxford Group meetings every night. Tex Francisco was its superintendent in 1934 when Bill showed up there.
Now enters the man most certainly responsible for the fateful Akron meetings between Bill and Dr. Bob. Jim Newton was surely the sole catalyst that ordained the Oxford Group would be in place in Akron, Ohio when Bill showed up there in 1935. This amazing string of circumstances plays out as follows:
Jim, at age 20, was a luggage salesman in New York who had come upon an Oxford Group meeting by accident (actually, he was looking for fun and games that night!) in Massachusetts in 1923 when he was 18 years old. He was converted at the party, got on his knees and gave the direction of his life to God at that time. He met a lady named Eleanor Forde who greatly influenced his thinking about the movement. (He and Eleanor were to meet and marry 20 years later in 1943.)
Several twists and turns of fate placed Jim Newton in Akron, Ohio and installed our next cast of characters. These were both Oxford Group members and regular attendees at Oxford Group meetings. We will be talking about the intertwined relations of Henrietta Seiberling, Dr. Walter Tunks, Harvey and Russell Firestone, Sam Shoemaker, Frank Buchman, T. Henry and Clarace Williams, and Anne and Dr. Bob Smith.
Jim Newton went to Ft. Myers, Florida in 1926, at age 21, to visit his father, and they bought a 35 acre tract of land across the road from the Thomas Edison estate(6). Jim Newton became as an adopted son to Mr. and Mrs. Edison, and often acted as host and toastmaster at Edison's famous birthday parties which were attended by Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and many world renowned business leaders and public figures.
Here begins another key circumstance to set the stage in Akron, Ohio. Harvey Firestone, Sr., offered Jim a job as secretary to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1926, and moved him to Akron, Ohio putting him in residence at the Portage Country Club adjacent to the Firestone Estate. Jim worked for Firestone eleven years and was being groomed as president of the company when he resigned and went full time with the Oxford Groups. Firestone's clergyman was Rev. Walter Tunks. Jim joined Tunks' church and became active in raising funds for their birthday committee.
Jim had been in New York for the Jack Dempsey vs Gene Tunney fight. While there he confessed to Frank Buchman that his life was in turmoil and he was about to take a "geographical cure". Buchman sent him to meet Sam Shoemaker at the Calvary Church an d he made an Oxford Group confession to Sam and was led to join one of the Oxford Group business teams.
These were groups of important men who made attempts to convert others to the Oxford Group method of spirituality. Jim frequently met with the aforementioned Shep Cornell and Rowland Hazard. He met T. Henry and Clarace Williams, husband and wife Oxford Group members from Akron and members of Walter Tunks' church. The business team put on house parties in various cities at the finest hotels and clubs. In January of 1933, Frank Buchman, leading a team of thirty men and women, descended on Akron for t he first time to give testimonials at the Mayflower Hotel and in Akron churches, and initiate the townspeople in the experiences of the Oxford Group. Here we can clearly see input from Jim Newton's parties with Firestone and Tunks' Episcopal Church group to influence the choice of Akron as the site of this endeavor, rather than some other city. Had Jim not already been a business team member and in place in Akron, it is very unlikely that Buchman would ever have chosen this small, rather unknown city as a place to pursue his evangelistic efforts. Jim was the spokesman who introduced Buchman at all the affairs that week in Akron.
Now our cast of characters is nearly complete and in place. Still to appear on the scene, however, are Henrietta Seiberling, Anne and Bob Smith, and T. Henry and Clarace Williams.
When Jim first arrived in Akron he had been welcomed into the Firestone family, and had become fast friends with a son, Russell (Bud) Firestone. Bud had a very bad drinking problem and had already been sent to several hospitals to no avail. Jim went with Bud to still another drying-out place, on the Hudson River in New York, and stayed through the entire 30 day program. Then he took Bud to an Episcopal Conference in Denver to which the Oxford Group people had been invited. On the train East again after the party, he was able to introduce Bud to his old Oxford Group minister, Sam Shoemaker. Alone with Sam, Bud surrendered his life to God in a private car on the train. His life changed, and his family situation and marriage were saved.
"Now Akron was the place where AA was to be founded. Jim Newton had helped bring to the city the Oxford Group message of his alcoholic friend, Bud Firestone. The message led to Bud's "miraculous" recovery which lasted for a time. The message and the recovery were broadcast to an interested community by a grateful father, Harvey Firestone, Sr., and by widespread press accounts."
Clarace Williams was there, and joined the Oxford Group along with T. Henry Williams, and began regularly attending the meetings. About the same time, a lady named Henrietta Seiberling, the wife of John Seiberling of the Seiberling Tire and Rubber Company, found herself with personal and marital problems, and separated from her husband. She turned to the Oxford Group and attended the first meetings at the Mayflower Hotel. She went with a woman named Anne Smith, the wife of a well-known Akron surgeon who was in deep trouble with his drinking.
The progenitors now assume their roles. A kindly and missionary-oriented couple, the Williams, had been impressed with the Oxford Group message, and had a home to offer for a meeting place. A gifted and compassionate lady named Henrietta Seiberling, who had mastered some of the Oxford group principles, had her eye on using the biblical principles to help her good friend, Dr. Bob Smith, with his drinking problem. Add to this mix the efforts of his wife Anne, who assembled books and spiritual readings and principles from the Bible, the Oxford Group, and various other Christian writings, all the while praying for a solution to her husband's seemingly hopeless drinking problem. The talented and very alcoholic surgeon became the focus of all these efforts. He did a lot of spiritual reading, attended a lot of meetings, but remained drunk.
Now all the earlier seeming coincidences converge, and this story merges into the facts we all know from our AA literature.
Onto this scene landed the "rum hound" from New York, moved by what both Bill Wilson and Henrietta Seiberling felt was the guidance of God. Bill had recovered from his disease, and was determined to stay sober by seeking out and helping another drunk. The "rum hound from New York", (Bill's self-description when he made the fateful phone call to Henrietta), "just happened" to bring to Akron some solutions heretofore never assembled in one place and delivered by just one person.
1. Some important knowledge about the disease of alcoholism accumulated through the work of Dr. Silkworth at Towns Hospital in New York.
2. An important spiritual solution to the problem that had been passed from Dr. Carl Jung to Rowland Hazard and then on to Bill by Ebby Thatcher.
3. A validation of this spiritual solution by the scholarly studies of Professor William James.
4. A linkage between the problem of alcoholism, and this solution that God could and would solve the problem if a relationship were sought with Him by using the Oxford Group's practical program of action, which was already proven by the results experienced by Rowland and Ebby when they followed the Oxford Group program.
In Akron, T. Henry and Clarace Williams and Henrietta Seiberling were attending Oxford Group meetings at the Mayflower Hotel and elsewhere. Dr. Bob Smith also attended with his wife, Anne. He shied away from talking about his problem publicly, and continued drinking. In her concern for Bob, Henrietta suggested to T. Henry that if they could set up a smaller, more private meeting perhaps Bob might feel more at ease and be able to make a confession in the Oxford Group fashion, and a commitment to sobriety. T. Henry's home was chosen for this special meeting and these meetings started on a Wednesday in April of 1935 -- just one month before Bill Wilson came to Akron. These meetings were usually led by T. Henry, Henrietta, or Florence Main, and at one of these Dr. Bob was able to confess that he was a secret drinker and needed help as he could not stop. This was the very place that was to become the home to the "about to begin" Alcoholic Contingent of the Oxford Group.
We can now see how all these characters contributed to putting Dr. Bob and Bill at a meeting in Henrietta Seiberling's home in the Gate House of the Firestone Estate, and make possible the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
AKRON - MAY 11, 1935
We can find no references anywhere to indicate that Bill Wilson considered or made any conscious effort to locate an Oxford Group member when he made his desperation phone call in the Mayflower Hotel in Akron. Henrietta Seiberling wrote as follows:
"Bill looked into the cocktail room and was tempted and thought, 'Well, I'll just go in there and get drunk and forget it all and that will be the end of it!' "
Instead, having been sober five months in the Oxford Group, he said a prayer. He received guidance to look at a ministers' directory board and a strange thing happened. He put his finger on one name -- Tunks. The Rev. Walter Tunks was Harvey Firestone's minister, and Firestone had brought Buchman and thirty Oxford Group members to Akron for ten days in gratitude for their help for his son, Russell, a drunkard.
Out of the act of gratitude of this one father, this whole chain started.
One of the most striking things in reading about the founding of Alcoholic Anonymous is the fortuity of how several different things came together to provide a formula that could address what up to that time had proven un-addressable - a chronic, progressive and (if not arrested) fatal disease of the body, mind and spirit.
Dr. William Silkworth, a pioneer in studying alcoholism, was one of the first physicians to deduce from his study of alcoholics, what would thereafter seem obvious, that alcoholism was a disease two-fold in nature: that it was both a physical allergy and a mental obsession. As the craving, the physical allergy for alcohol -- be it a pattern of daily evening drinking, weekend binges, or episodic drunkenness -- becomes more and more ingrained, the mental obsession or delusion drives the person to believe that, despite the often severe consequences of the last drinking episode, no harm will be done by the next drink. Dr. Silkworth understood that the two primary protectors of health, reason and will, were of no use against this disease. He shared what he had learned with his patient Bill Wilson.
William James, a Harvard professor, whose younger brother Bob was an alcoholic, undertook a cross cultural study of individuals who had undergone profound psychic changes. His book "The Varieties of Religious Experience" describes his research. What he found was that opportunity for profound psychic change was in fact a crucial part of the cultural life of many different peoples scattered throughout the world and that there were common attributes to this change.
Bill Wilson recognized that the profound type of change described by James was in fact the huge emotional displacement and rearrangement that Jung believed was the only possible chance of recovery for Rowland Hazzard, an alcoholic he had treated continuously for over a year without success. Somehow a disease that had remained untreatable for centuries, because it generated in the mind self-deceptive thinking at the same time it created craving in the body, became treatable because of its very mind-body pervasiveness. The possibility of profound psychological/spiritual change, what Dr. Jung had speculated was the only hope, offered a solution.
And, as they say, the rest is history. Dr. Jung directed Roland Hazard to the Oxford Group, a religious group experimenting with a practical way to incorporate the opportunity for the profound changes to occur that William James surveyed in his study. Hazard told Ebby Thatcher about the ideas of the Oxford Group who in turn related them to Bill Wilson. As Bill Wilson well knew, most alcoholics were mad at everyone, including God, and from its very beginning AA eliminated all religious trappings from the spiritual wisdom that underlies it.
Bill Wilson, a stockbroker and Dr. Robert Smith, a physician, were the co-founders of AA. The third AA member was a lawyer. What AA offers is not for everyone who needs it, but for those who want it.
Almost every alcoholic engineer or lawyer I know would initially rather have pursued any other alternative he or she could find, to twelve-step recovery. One does not easily bend to the idea of undergoing profound change, even one that provides a release from feelings of guilt and depression and a joy associated with a renewed appreciation for the value of life. But just as the disease of alcoholism suits engineers and lawyers, so does recovery.
One of the profound changes of recovery is that personal selfish desires become placed in a more subservient role. The alcoholic begins to live life in a manner in which thoughts are centered not on what one can get out of life, but on what one can give to others. Sounds like what my old professor, who stressed knowing all the facts, said his profession was all about. Alcoholism may be a disease designed for engineers and lawyers (and men and women of every other profession) but so is recovery from it.
On the Web October 20, 2002 in the Spirit of Cooperation
Three mighty important things, Pardn'r, LOVE And PEACE and SOBRIETY