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Sybil C., First Woman in A.A.

Sybil C., First Woman in A.A.

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Published by CC
Alcoholics Anonymous early members
Alcoholics Anonymous early members

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Published by: CC on Dec 16, 2012
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12/14/12 A.A. History -- Sybil C., First Woman in A.A. West of the Mississippi1/6www.barefootsworld.net/aasybilc.html
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Sybil C.
The First Woman in A.A. West of the Mississippiby Nancy O.
Sybil C.
Sybil C. was the first woman to enter A.A. west of theMississippi. Her date of sobriety was March21, 1941. Her nameat the time was Sybil Maxwell, though she later opened her talks by saying, "Myname is Sybil DorisAdams Stratton Hart Maxwell Willis C., and I'm an alcoholic."She was born Sybil Doris Adams on May 20, 1908, in the small oil town of Simians, Texas. Herparents were poorbut hardworking and she had a brother Herman, ten years her senior. Herman wascalled "Tex." Sybil adored her big brother. She remembered that when she was five and he fifteen,he would hold her and rock her to sleep.Tex joined the Army during World War I, was reported missing in action, and when the family heardnothing further they assumed he was dead. However, when Sybil was thirteen they learned that hewas alive and living in Los Angeles. The family immediately moved to California.Sybil felt like a misfit in Los Angeles. She affected the flapper makeup popular at the time: heavywhite powder on her face, and two big red spots of rouge on her cheeks and lots of lipstick and blackeyebrows."I must have looked like a circus freak or something like that," she wailed. "I was in eighth grade outthere in Los Angeles, and the other kids laughed at me. I had trouble making friends, being shy andtimid by nature, but also my papa wouldn't let boys even walk home with me, let alone go to parties. I just wasn't allowed to do anything, and I knew I didn't belong anywhere."
12/14/12 A.A. History -- Sybil C., First Woman in A.A. West of the Mississippi2/6www.barefootsworld.net/aasybilc.html
"So naturally I started drinking at a very early age, against my better judgment, full of shame andremorse because of Papa's teachings. He was a good man. When I was fifteen, I got drunk one night,passed out, and had to be carried home and put to bed in my mother's bed. I cried the next day andpromised that it would never happen again -- and I meant it. But I didn't know myself, I didn't knowthe disease of alcoholism. The next Saturday night the kids handed me a bottle and I drank it. And Icontinued to do that through a couple of semesters of high school, and I stayed drunk throughseventeen years of failed marriages and more jobs than I can count."Sybil dropped out of high school and took a secretarial course and was hired as a secretary. It wasthe first in a long list of jobs. At various times she was a real estate broker, a taxi driver, abootlegger, an itinerant farm worker, the editor of a magazine for pet owners, and a salesperson. 'Ididn't mind working," she said, "but I never seemed to get anywhere. I was just on a treadmillbecause of booze."She had a child by her first husband, a sailor. She thought having the child would prevent herdrinking, but she drank more than ever, and her parents eventually took the child from her.She and her husband hitchhiked out of town to find grape picking jobs. They thought getting awayfrom their city friends would help them quit drinking, but she soon was drunk again. During one ofher drunks she heard music. At first she thought she was hallucinating, but she followed the sound andwandered into a tent where a revival meeting was in progress. The preacher asked for anyone to comeforward who wanted to be saved. "Well, that was me," Sybil told A.A. members. "I went all the waydown while the people were singing. The preacher put his hand out and placed it on my head, and Ithrew up all over him. It was so terrible! I was so ashamed, I couldn't bring myself to tell anyoneabout it until I got into Alcoholics Anonymous eleven years later."She left her sailor husband and hitchhiked back to Los Angeles to her mother's house. Her brother,Tex, now had a speakeasy on skid row, and to make money to take to her mother to support the child,she went into the bootlegging business with him. Eventually the speakeasy was raided and they wereout of business. Then she went to work in a taxi-dance hall.Little is known of her second husband, but she met her third husband, Dick Maxwell, while working inthe taxi-dance hall. One night a rich, handsome stranger walked in and bought dance tickets withSybil for the whole night. During intermission he bought several pitchers of beer (the girls got adollar for every pitcher their partner bought), and she told him her sad story. He offered to marryher and adopt her child if she would promise not to drink any more.Now she had a wonderful husband, a home, a housekeeper, and a car. But she couldn't stop drinking.In 1939, while visiting her mother, she read the Liberty magazine article called "Alcoholics and God."She thought the story fascinating but did nothing about it and her downward spiral continued.Eighteen months later God gave her another chance, when she read the Saturday Evening Post's March1, 1941 issue which contained the famous Jack Alexander article about A.A.. She wrote to New Yorkand received a reply from Ruth Hock, then Bill Wilson's secretary, who told her that there were nowomen members in California, but that Marty Mann was sober in New York. Ruth referred her to thesmall group of men then in the area.'
 A.A. History -- Sybil C., First Woman in A.A. West of the Mississippi3/6www.barefootsworld.net/aasybilc.html
, , , , .found ten or twelve men seated around a table and three or four women seated against the wall. Whenthe chairman began the meeting he announced "As is our custom before the regular meeting starts, wehave to ask the women to leave." Sybil left with the other women but her husband stayed and themembers assumed he was the alcoholic. When he rejoined Sybil he said "They don't know you're alive.They just went on and on bragging about their drinking until I was about to walk out, when they jumped up and said the Lord's Prayer, and here I am." Sybil headed for the nearest bar and gotdrunk.But she remembered that Ruth Hock had written, "If you need help, call Cliff W." and had given herhis phone number. He explained: " You didn't tell us you were an alcoholic. We thought you were oneof the wives. If you had identified yourself as an alcoholic, you would have been welcome as theflowers in May."When she returned the following week, Frank R. brought in a large carton full of letters bundled intobunches of twenty to fifty. He explained that they were all inquiries and calls for help from peoplein southern California. "Here they are! Here they are! If any of you jokers have been sober overfifteen minutes, come on up here and get these letters. We've got to get as many of these drunks aswe can in here by next Friday, or they may die."The last bundle was of letters from women. Frank said: "Sybil Maxwell, come on up. I am going to put you in charge of all the women."Sybil liked the idea of "being in charge" but replied, "I can't, sir. You said I have to make all thosecalls by next Friday, or somebody might die. Well, I'll be drunk by next Friday unless you have somemagic that will change everything so I can stay sober."Frank explained that everything she needed to know was in the Big Book."And it says right in herethat when all other measures fail, working with another alcoholic will save the day. That's what youwill be doing, Sybil, working with other alcoholics. You just get in your car and take your mind off yourself. Think about someone sicker than you are. Go see her and hand her the letter she wrote, andsay: 'I wrote one like this last week, and they answered mine and told me to come and see you. If youhave a drinking problem like I have, and if you want to get sober as bad as I do, you come with meand we'll find out together how to do it.' Don't add another word to that, because you don't knowanything yet. Just go get 'em."It worked, and she never had another drink.When Bill and Lois Wilson made their first visit to Los Angeles in 1943, Sybil was one of thedelegation of local A.A.'s who met them at the Town House hotel. Later she met Marty Mann.But Dick Maxwell began to feel abandoned and lonely. He urged her to cut down on her A.A.activities so that they could have more of a home life. He had grown to hate A.A. and refused to readthe Big Book or discuss the Twelve Steps. Finally he suggested that the solution to their marriageproblems was for her to go back to drinking and he would take care of her.Sybil quickly packed a bag and left. She left her lovely home and rented a housekeeping room with agas hotplate and a bath down the hall for nine dollars a week and went to work for the L.A. Times tosupport herself. "A.A. just had to come first with me," she explained.

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