Remembering a Recovery Pioneer: Houston S. and Addicts Anonymous

Houston S.

Recovery Pioneer Houston S.

~ Recovery pioneer Houston S. died 50 years ago this week. Houston launched Addicts Anonymous in 1947, and was also sponsor to Dr. John Mooney, founder of Willingway Hospital and Dr. Al Mooney's father.

Chris B. allowed us to share his email about Houston. ~ Houston S., a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, approached Dr. Victor Vogel at the US Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, KY (Narcotic Farm), about starting a 12-step group for addicts. As a result of Houston’s efforts, Addicts Anonymous, the first 12-step group for addicts formed February 16, 1947. Houston was actively involved with Addicts Anonymous until 1963.

Addicts Anonymous is possibly the greatest untold story to come out of the Narcotic Farm. Members of the group leaving Lexington would often continue their recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous or in other cases, start 12-step groups for addicts (i.e. early New York Narcotics Anonymous in 1949).

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Houston for his efforts to carry a message of recovery to persons with addiction to drugs other than alcohol. Perhaps the best way to convey this is simply through the words of those who benefited from his service. Below are excerpts from the Addicts Anonymous newsletter The Key:

February 11, 1951: “On our fourth anniversary we wish to pay tribute to our beloved sponsor, Houston S., of the Frankfort AA group. We are indebted to him for bringing several members of the Frankfort AA group here four years ago this month to start our group. Since that time he has personally sponsored this group and has given unselfishly of his time with the attendant personal expenses. We know that he wishes to take no personal credit but will say, as he once said; “I was only acting as a messenger from the Higher Power.” But we are all sincerely grateful to you, Houston.”

October 14, 1951: “During recent years, problems of varying nature have arisen and through all the turmoil and confusion inherent in the birth and growth of any group, Houston has constantly advised and worked towards stabilizing the group. In a quiet and retiring manner Mr. S. has encouraged new members, bolstered faltering spirits and kept in close contact with those leaving the hospital, always ready to help solve many difficulties faced by men and women trying to readjust to everyday society. He attends every meeting that our group here conducts, traveling at his own expense and on his own time, anxious only to see that AA here continues to flourish and grow. The public does not and probably will never know how much of his time and energy Mr. Houston S. gives to AA here at this hospital. However for all his help and patience and devotion to the cause of AA for the addict, we all thank him deeply and sincerely for to us who are here and those of us who have been here and are now leading decent, fruitful lives in a free world; Addicts Anonymous and Houston S. are synonymous.”

March/April 1962: “This issue marks the 15th Anniversary of the Public Health Service Hospital group. It was founded February 16, 1947 by Houston P. S., a man who has been the savior of many hundreds of addicts who, without his labor, may never have been exposed to the AA way of life. The success of the program has been possible only through the tireless and selfless efforts of this truly great individual. His efforts have not been dampened by his personal illnesses, his problem or disappointments. And today his continued effort is as great an inspiration as it has been through the past fifteen years.”

Spring 1963: "At this time, February, 1963 the Addicts Anonymous movement is sixteen years old. It is difficult to estimate how many people have been helped through this program. However, the membership receives letters daily from people who are now free of drugs and give all credit to the A.A. movement. At the beginning of our seventeenth year of organization we still are fortunate to have our original sponsor with us. He has taken many pains with this program and has done good for the addict that cannot be weighed by any scales on this earth. He claims that he derives more benefit than he gives by helping others. You have the underlying gratitude of hundreds that you have helped and Addicts Anonymous thanks you from the bottom of their hearts, Mr. Houston S.”    

One Response to Remembering a Recovery Pioneer: Houston S. and Addicts Anonymous

  1. Noiseyboy at #

    This is a refreshing look at someone who attacked the disease of addiction without caring about giving a specific poison the honor of being identified in the group he founded. We need now more than ever this common identity and focus on the disease as a whole in all our groups.