The Family / Children of God
The Alcoholic Prophet
by Ed Priebe, with contributions by Mike
Mar 23, 2003
The following are quotes from the letters of David Berg, revered as the founder and prophet of The Family (aka the Children of God) In these quotes, Berg declares that he, God's Endtime Prophet, received many of his "revelations from God" when under the influence of alcohol-sometimes when in a completely drunken state. This article is based upon the original compilation by Ed Priebe, and further edited by others.
By putting these quotes together, I am not criticizing those who drink alcohol, since I myself enjoy wine. Neither do I condemn those who have the misfortune to be alcoholic. Alcoholism is rampant in my own family. Members of my own family have had severe problems with substance abuse and several of my relatives have literally drunk themselves to death; it could just as easily have been me.
The reason for compiling these quotes is to allow Berg to demonstrate how many of his prophecies, revelations and policies were uttered when he was drunk. And while he argued at first that wine merely loosed his tongue, his own writings clearly document his dependence on alcohol, and the increasingly devastating effect that it had on him as the years progressed. Because of his position of total leadership—and his claims that what he spoke was the very words of God—his alcoholism negatively affected Family members in a dramatic and widespread way.
According to Alcoholics Anonymous, in a home where a parent is alcoholic, family life is "inconsistent, unpredictable, arbitrary and chaotic." This was Berg. He declared endless 'revolutions' and implemented spur-of-the-moment harsh policies that caused severe hardships upon Family members, often causing unnecessary suffering and long-term damage.
Mike, an ex-member, states:
"As an A.A. member and a recovering alcoholic, alcohol no longer can have that power over me as long as I don't take that first drink. Since Berg never joined A.A. he never had an opportunity to practice the honesty it takes to get on the road to recovery. The A.A. program provides the suffering alcoholic the tools and support needed for the real thing, genuine, true recovery. That honesty would have entailed Berg confronting the fact that he was not a specially anointed person, chosen out of all of mankind to be the 'David' the prophet of the end time that this perception of himself was delusional."
A quote from "The Twelve Steps" is revealing:
"Alcoholics especially should be able to see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking. We have drunk to drown feelings of fear, frustration, and depression. We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk again to make more passions possible. We have drunk for vainglory—that we might the more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power. This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon. Instincts on rampage balk at investigation."
—(The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, excerpt from Step 4).
Here then are David Berg's own words, beginning with these quotes from "Questions & Answers" on September 15, 1971:
1. It was early morning, about 7:00 a.m. MO turned over sleepily, drank a little wine from the glass beside his bed—then I heard him pray: 'Jesus help them!'
8. Jesus, we are but men! We cannot stand the things of the Spirit! Thank You for the wine that helps us to be able to take it ... Wine helps you to stand it, to bear it. Wine helps to deliver me from the bondage of the flesh, to liberate me to the realm of the Spirit. It is God's alchemy that turns the baser metal into gold, and turns my pewter into gold! I'm only pewter, but God turns me into gold! I'm only flesh, but God, with a little wine, turns me into Spirit!
16. (Tongues) Moses and David bless the wine that cheers the heart of David—that giveth his spirit freedom and openeth his mouth, that he may speak the words of God! (Tongues) Poor David! He's so weak-so much flesh. He cannot be freed except through wine, his spirit is so bound. He has so much pride. He can only be freed with wine.
19. MO: O Jesus, free the voice of David that he may speak unto thy children. Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus! Forgive me, O God that I have such weak flesh that I must have wine to liberate me from the flesh to the realm of the spirit." ("Questions And Answers!" ML 111)
Even in his earliest years, you will notice that Berg not only enjoyed wine, but stated that he was dependent upon it to get into the realm of the spirit and receive revelations from God. He said: "He cannot be freed except through wine" and " I must have wine to liberate me from the flesh to the realm of the spirit."
On January 29, 1972, Berg said:
16. Behold, my mouth is dry and I thirst! (Here I give MO a little sip of wine, and he in turn, gives me some, and the Lord says:) If thou wouldst open thy mouth wide and receive it, I will not only give thee honey and sweetness from My mouth, but I will give thee wine of My Spirit and thou shalt tingle to the thrill of My ecstasies, if thou wilt receive it. (Mo sees a wine-drinking sex orgy with the Lord and others and laughs, and the Lord says:) Doest thou wonder at the words of Moses.
27. Behold, I thirst! Behold, I thirst! (I give him another sip of wine!) Hallelujah, Thank you Jesus! Even as thou dost minister unto the things which his mouth needeth, thou dost pour from thy heart to his being and thou dost satisfy his mouth with good things that he desireth, so shall I satisfy thee, and thy heart shall be filled with good things. But only thou above all women shall receive that which is most precious—the words of My Spirit that I have given unto My Servant David, the water of Life which is poured forth unto this generation!" ("A Psalm of David!" ML 152)
Berg asked for wine in religious language, mimicking Jesus' dying words on the cross, saying, "Behold, I thirst." Jesus refused to drink the bitter wine he was offered. Maria offered Berg much sweeter wine, and the "revelation" Berg received while inebriated was of a "wine-drinking sex orgy with the Lord and others."
Scenes like this are exactly what came to pass in the movement in later years. Was Berg speaking the words of God? No. As time passed, it would become more and more apparent that Berg's tongue was being loosed by alcohol only to utter what was in his own heart. As he later admitted, "They say that alcohol brings out the real you." It certainly did in his case.
February 18, 1973, Berg said:
Peter Piper, Pied Peter Piper!—But not so pied as his old Grandpa! You know what they're going to call me?—Isaiah was a noble prophet, Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and David the crazy prophet! Ha! but the kids and the goats, they don't mind me to be crazy. I prophesy better when I'm crazy than when I'm sober. ("Heidi", ML 206)
Berg declared that he was "pied" and "crazy" (drunk) and said, "I prophesy better when I'm crazy than when I'm sober." Here he declared that he needed to be in a drunken state to receive revelations. This set the precedent for his many future confrontations with Maria, where she tried to rein him in but he made up excuses to have alcohol. Berg's alcohol-induced revelations became more bizarre. In the following talk on October 8, 1973, Berg claimed that he was possessed by the spirit of a Russian architect, Ivan Ivanovitch (John Johnson in English).
17. Alex just Russian sailor! (He's pretty old!) No, he's not so old!—He's full of life! He likes Russian girls! He makes lots of love to girls in bottom of boat in Dnepr River. That's right now Alex have much fun with the girls in the bottom of boat on Dnepr River alongside the park! I told you about that before! Sweet Baby! You want me to pinch your titty?—Okay?
19. Will you bring me bottle of Vodka?—'Cause I'm all out of Vodka, I don't find no Vodka no more, no Vodka, all out of Vodka! When are you going to bring me some Vodka, huh? I need Vodka!
20. (Are those stories about persecution of the Christians true?) Oh, I don't know—what persecution? (The ones you read about in the magazines?) What Christians?--Maybe so, maybe no. They make much money on funny stories!—I don't know. Why don't you get me no Vodka, honey?
34. (Do you have a Bible at your house?) I have a bottle and it's all empty and it needs to be filled! (But do you have a Bible at your house?) Don't allow no Bibles. (Don't allow any Bibles?) No, no. (So you don't have one?) No, no, no, no, no, no! I need to have a little bottle, not a Bible! ("Ivan Ivanovitch!" ML 279:34)
While totally drunk, Berg passed over the suffering of millions of persecuted Russian Christians, describing their persecution as "funny stories" written for money. Come again? How could Berg, a supposed Christian and Prophet, utter such things? His state is best summed up by this quote from the famous American statesman, Samuel Johnson: "Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a great deal of pains to become what we see him. Such an excess of stupidity, sir, is not in Nature." (Samuel Johnson, July 28, 1763)
One of the most obviously failed prophecies Berg ever gave was the "40 days" prophecy in which he predicted the destruction of America at the end of an 80-day period, the end of January 1974. It never happened. Let us examine the state Berg was in when he received this "revelation" on November 12, 1973. It explains why it was not a true prophecy.
21. I take fourth swallow (takes four swallows of wine): 10 days for each swallow! God gives 40 days of spirit to His prophet, and 40 days of sight to the people! Those that believe spirit believe for 40 days before sight, by faith!
22. (Tongues:) 'But beware unto them which behold the end of the 80 days which I have shown thy father David!' You believe your father?
26. I believe God means what He says in this shocking revelation above! You in the U.S. have only until January to get out of the States before some kind of disaster, destruction or judgment of God is to fall because of America's wickedness!" ("Forty Days!" Nov.12, 1973, ML 280)
It's bizarre for those of us who were in the Family to look back now in the light of day and picture Berg laying in bed, glugging down wine, counting his swallows to predict the date of America's destruction. And we believed him. Two years later, on October 31, 1975, Berg was candid enough to admit that he was self-conscious about his drinking problems, referring to himself as a "wino."
1. Poor kids! I'm so sorry for them. They'll be so discouraged and disillusioned. Familiarity breeds contempt. (Maria: But she lived with us before and she loves you more than ever.) But he gets up early in the morning and he works hard, and I don't think he likes winos." ("The Halloween Wheel!" ML 363.)
Within one year, on March 11, 1974, we see how serious Berg's problem had become. He would live for another twenty years and his problems with alcohol would become increasingly worse. Read these quotes carefully. They show the mental state that Berg was in—the man we trusted was speaking God's Words for today, a man whom we trusted with our lives.
53. Honey, how did that phone call to Arthur come about this morning? (Maria: You told me to phone him--you kept telling me. But I said, "Are you sure?--Maybe you're drunk!") See, it was the Lord! (Maria: And you said, "I'm not drunk! See, I can see my one finger in front of my face, one finger!)
54. See, when I get drunk, I yield to God's Spirit, and then I am happy about it! Well, I guess that's the truth! That's something, if you have the Spirit of God, if you get intoxicated, why it just makes you even more free in the spirit--at least it does with me! ("Jesus & Sex!" ML 525.)
At the time Berg ordered Maria to make that phone call, he denied that he was drunk. As proof that he wasn't drunk, he held one finger up in front of his face and claimed he was sober enough to actually see it! You have to admit, that's pretty far gone. Berg later admitted that he had been drunk—in the morning already, mind you!—but that being drunk had helped him to yield to God's spirit.
The following quotes are from "Alexander, the Evil Magician!—More Questions & Answers!—A Midnight Revelation!", ML 666, written February 7, 1978. It was midnight this time, not morning; Berg was well fortified with alcohol and had been talking about politics; he then began talking about his so-called 'spirit guide,' Abrahim.
Note that by this time Maria had become concerned about the severity of Berg's alcoholism and was trying to rein it in. Up till now she had been a willing accomplice in his drinking; she happily believed that for Berg to hear from God, he had to be intoxicated. As so often happens in an alcoholic home, Maria had become what is called a "co-dependent," an enabler, part of the problem. Here is their midnight conversation:
6. Abrahim can travel very fast!—iDon't you remember? (Maria: But he's not allowed to leave you.) Well, when I'm sleeping. If you give me enough wine, he can go out and investigate for me, and I don't have to go. (Sneezed time after time!) Atushka! Atushka! Please get me some more wine before I die! Please, quick!
7. Seven sneezes and I'm a goner! (Maria: You've done that before when nothing else got you any wine, so you started sneezing. I think it's a trick of Abrahim.) Hurry! I've got to have some wine! (Maria: I think that's a trick of Abrahim!) No, he's not even here. He's out visiting.
25. If you want more, you have to ply me with wine to grease my spirit—iif you want more. (Maria: What spirit does Isaiah have?) (Then he wouldn't tell me anything more, he said:) If you want more, you must ply me with wine to give you the answers. If you don't give me any more wine, you don't get any more answers. If you ply me with wine, then I will give you answers.
26. With a little more, I have one more shelf of goodies! Why would you deny me? Why don't we go to sleep, because you won't write any more, because you won't give me any more wine to ply my spirit.
27. Why don't you want to ply me? I could give you so much more. I could give you so much more information, and tell you so much of what is going on, if you'll jut ply me a little bit. (Maria: Dear Abrahim really likes his wine! So I finally gave him some more wine, then he started answering me:)
Notice how Maria tried to rein him in: she diplomatically blamed Berg's "tricks" to get alcohol, not on Berg but on his "spirit helper,"Abrahim, saying that it was Abrahim that wanted the wine—hence it was not Berg's fault. Berg insisted that his sneezing indicated an actual need for wine, so much so that if he didn't get any he would die.
Denial is called "a hallmark of alcoholism" and spouses of alcoholic mates also live in a state of denial, unwilling to admit that things are out of control. Maria was clearly in a state of denial. She was lucid enough to tell Berg that she was convinced his sneezing was nothing more than an act to get wine, yet—as out of control as things had become—she still believed he actually needed wine to prophesy.
Curious to know what kind of spirit Isaiah had, Maria asked Berg. He refused to answer. He insisted no revelations until she plied him with wine. Maria tried to stand up to him but her desire for Berg to prophesy was stronger. After he repeatedly promised her more revelations if she would only ply him with wine, Maria gave in. As she explained, "Dear Abrahim really likes his wine! So I finally gave him some more wine, then he started answering me." Berg would later say:
3. I was never on drugs for years or that sort of thing. I've drunk wine for quite a few years and had a few benders. ("I Was Sick!" May 24, 1978, ML 698.)
A "bender," as you may know, is an extremely serious drinking bout, often resulting in the alcoholic passing out, with no memory of what he said or did while drunk. This however, was not a real problem Berg claimed, since—
29. The Lord puts up with me in all kinds of my craziness, idiosyncrasies, all kinds of mistakes, failures, wine, women and song. ("Shtick!" May 21,1978, ML 703.)
This is a classic Berg rationalization on how he dealt with the inevitable inner guilt. Bill W., A.A.'s co-founder wrote,
"After all, a lively bender was only a good man's fault. What real harm therefore had we done? No more surely, than we could easily mend with a few casual apologies. This attitude, of course, is the end result of purposeful forgetting. It is an attitude which can be changed only by a deep and honest search of our motives and actions."
—(As Bill Sees It, pg. 64).
It's unclear who first blamed Berg's drinking problem on Abrahim—whether it was Berg himself or Maria—but the excuse was accepted by both of them as the logical explanation for Berg's drinking. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you that an alcoholic can invent some of the wildest excuses you can imagine to get a drink, but Berg's excuse was truly original. If he had stood up in an AA meeting and said, "My spirit guide is an alcoholic gypsy. He's responsible. He's the one who makes me drink"—the place would have exploded with laughter. ("As excuse and rationalizers, we drunks are champions."—As Bill Sees It, pg 267) But Berg took it seriously. Let's listen to his rationale:
15. Who knows but what the Lord puts the spirits in training in the other world? We know that they come back as ministering spirits to try to help the living. They come back & inhabit us & can speak through our mouths & even enjoy our sex & even be tempted to drink a little too much!
35. I have my own spirit, of course. But I also have Abrahim. I mean, we can have different spirit helpers, & in a sense they incarnate & they do become like part of us in certain activities. I mean he just loves to fuck! You know how he explodes when I'm fucking! He thinks it's great!—And he apparently still enjoys his liquor, the old rascal! But I mean, after all, he's still learning. Maybe this is an experience to teach him to not go overboard, or he's going to kill his host! ("Where Do Babies Come From?" Mar.5, 1979, ML 794.)
Obviously "Abrahim" did not learn, as Berg continued drinking until the last year of his life. Maria had co-dependently given Berg alcohol, saying, "Dear Abrahim really likes his wine!" Berg was also in a state of denial, downplaying the seriousness of his alcoholism. Although he admitted that his drinking binges were coming close to killing him, he turned around and said that Abrahim was merely " tempted to drink a little too much," and that "he apparently still enjoys his liquor, the old rascal!"
Dear Abrahim? The old rascal?
Now watch the interaction between Berg and Maria on November 13, 1977, as she desperately tried to limit Berg's drinking, but eventually gave in to him time and again.
8. Don't you understand? Wine opens the gate of revelation! And if you give me a little more wine, I give you a lot more revelation! (M: You will?) Yes, of course, if you give me some more wine. I have to have wine to open my mouth to give you some more revelation. Don't you like that? (M: Uh-huh.) Okay? I'll wait for you: You give me a little more wine, I give you a lot more revelation. Okay? I think that's a good deal for you, Honey Baby! Don't you understand, huh?--You don't want any more revelation, huh?
9. One more bottle & I'll give you a new revelation! Wouldn't you like a new revelation? What would you like, Honey Baby? (M: I want you to tell me some more about Otano.) Okay. You get me another bottle & I'll try to contact Otano, Okay? (M: Promise?) Yes, of course.
30. (M: Is Davidito going to judge the people in Tenerife?) I'm not going to tell you nothing more, not another word, unless you ply me with wine! (But then will you tell me more?) Yes!—Yes! (M: You promise?) Yes. (M: What are you going to tell me about?) I'll tell you all about Davidito & Taurug & Otano & Tenerife, & all those things, if you ply me! (M: You promise?) Yes.
Once again we see the tragic drama of Berg's alcoholism and Maria's co-dependency played out, with her giving in to his demands that she "ply him with wine" if she wanted more revelations. But considering how drunken Berg was, you really have to wonder why she fell for it. Read the next paragraph to see how far gone Berg was already that night:
31. I'll tell you a very big important secret about my important parts!—Do you want to hear it? Do you want to hear about my secret parts? (M: What?)—That I have to go to the toilet! There are lots of big secrets you don't hear about at all yet. ("The Mystery of Otano!" ML 796:8,9,30,31)
Yeah. Like we really want to hear. In the following Mo Letter, Berg insisted that Abrahim was still the one demanding the alcohol, promising to give new revelations from God if only she would only "grease his throat."
4. (M: Tell me more!) If you give me one more swallow, I'll tell you. Abrahim knows everything you want to know. If you grease his throat with just a little bit of wine, he'll tell you everything you want to know. ("Boca do Inferno!" 798:4)
This drama continued for years with Berg continuing to hold "revelations from God" hostage until Maria greased his throat and plied him with wine. Notice in the following quotes how Berg laughed loudly and claimed that he wasn't fooled when Maria tried to say they had no more wine. After all, he was a prophet.
36. OK, run quick & get me my swallow.
62. (Maria: We were talking about Timothy, then we were talking about Ivan, you were singing, & then we were talking about Abrahim. But that's all the wine & you have to go to sleep.) No, that's not all. I know where there's some more! (Laughs loudly!)
63. I'm a prophet, honey, don't try to kid me! Ha, ha! (Maria: No more, Sweetheart, no more.) I can, I can. I can because, you know why? Because you love me! (Maria: I love you so much I don't want you to drink too much.) And Jesus loves me. And I love.
64. And Abrahim loves me & Alex loves me & you want to have some fun, & you want to learn some more about Abrahim & Alex & Ivan Ivanovitch & Timothy & Rachel & Deborah, & if you give me a little more wine to lubricate my tongue, I'll give you some information, some very very very secret information you would like to have about Timothy. ("The Secret!" Apr.13, 1978, ML 845.)
As drunk as he was, Berg knew that Maria was extremely curious about "very very very secret information," and manipulated her to get more alcohol. When he was sober two days later on April 15, 1978, he rationalized:
15. So, thank You Lord! Thank the Lord for wine which helps make us honest. Honey, I need a little more, a little more honesty juice. They say that alcohol brings out the real you. Some people want to fight, some people want to murder, some people laugh & act crazy & foolish & clown & put lampshades on their heads. Some people want to fuck & have a lot of sex. (—I prophesy!)
16. It helps me have the courage to be honest. It releases me from my inhibitions & phobias & fears. ("The King's Love!" ML 847.)
The very next month, May, 1978, Maria wrote an emergency letter asking the entire worldwide Family to fast and pray for Berg to live, as he had a serious illness. At the time, no admission was made about Berg's drinking. The letter stated:
1. We want to notify you of an urgent situation which will require your desperate prayer as well as your utmost cooperation.
2. Because of strain and overwork, Dad is very seriously ill, and is unable to either eat or drink. So he is requesting as many in the Family as can and agree willing to fast with him form all solid food for three days as soon as you receive this notice.
3. He has been without solid foods for three weeks, so if he can do if for three weeks, you should be able to do it for only three days. ("Proclaim a Fast!" ML 689)
Maria did not explain at the time what the illness was. A Spanish Family member, Roser, who had lived in Berg's Home, told other Family members in Greece that Berg had nearly drunk himself to death. Roser was angrily denounced as a liar.
(Note: Berg would finally be forced to confess four years later: "It's my own fault ... I was trying to drink myself to death! I didn't eat hardly a bite of food for three weeks! I drank 69 bottles of sherry in 21 days! That's over three bottles a day!" But at the time, of the Fast, none of this came out. Instead, when Berg was better, he joined in propping up the facade. He allowed Roser to be called a liar. In a Mo Letter entitled, "I Was Sick," May 24, 1978, he merely said that he had "spent time looking at the waves.")
4. I don't think I've ever been as severely ill as this, and I'm sure it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten discouraged. I would say I got my eyes entirely off the Lord, but I was certainly spending time looking at the waves.
40. So thank the Lord I'm still here, much to the disappointment of the Enemy! I've been through some spiritual attacks during this time, direct demonic attacks such as I think I have never ever known in my whole life, which I may have to tell you some day.
Berg's near-encounter with death after his three-week binge on sherry didn't stop him from drinking. It did apparently blow the entire lid off the little game Berg and Maria had been playing of, "Ply me with wine if you want revelations from God." Even Berg had to come to terms with that. It was around this time that Berg was willing to abide by a two-glass per day rule (which he later made a Family-wide rule). Berg now came up with a new excuse to drink-to deal with sorrow and pain, as these quotes from September 25, 1979, one year after the fast, show:
54. Oh Sweet Baby, I love you! I could tell you more, but I need a little drink because I'm so dry. Thank you, Sweet Baby, you're so faithful to all the needs of your Prophet.
56. Oh honey, I'm so tired & this old flesh is so rotten & corrupt & tired! Will you please give me a little more drink to assuage my sorrow & drown my pain & take away my misery. Jesus!
58. Would you give me a little joy juice to assuage my pain?
67. Just like I need a little drink right now. Please, I don't care what kind of bottle it comes out of or what it is, I'm just dying of thirst, I'm so hungry & thirsty! Don't you understand? ("The Shepherdess!" ML 837.)
Paragraph 67 underlines the seriousness of Berg's state and how chemically dependent his body had become upon alcohol. He didn't care what kind of alcohol it was. He just had to have some.
But exactly three months later Berg had to deal with a staff member whose drinking was, in Berg's eyes, worse than his own. He said, "We recently had some workers here on trial, testing them on probation ... But we discovered that the man, head of the little family, had a drinking problem & had had it for years & was prone to drink too much, & when he did he'd get in a very bad mood, almost schizophrenic, very morbid & moody & bad tempered & occasionally even very violent, beating up his wife, etc." (ML 856:38)
On December 24, 1979, Berg talked to Maria about this staff member. That night Berg had a dream which he related the next morning in a talk entitled "Christmas Eve Massacre!" (ML 856). He dreamed that in 1740, French soldiers had massacred a drunken British garrison which was supposedly stationed on the south coast of France. Despite the fact that his, Berg's, personal drinking was out of control, he had this to say about Family members who drank too much alcohol:
36. And we each had a couple glasses of wine. In our Family here, that 's the ration.
37. Nobody is supposed to drink more than two glasses of wine at any meal, & we only have wine at evening dinner.
68. I understand we have quite a few problem cases in the Family of people who are drinking too much & don't know how to handle their liquor & are intemperate & excessive, & it causing problems.
95. Any Home that has this problem, anybody in the Home who is not willing to obey & be cautious & conservative in their use of wine ... I think that, after sufficient warning, you'll have to ask them to leave. God's Word says that the heretic you are to reject after the first & second admonition!
98. In other words, you give them two warnings, two admonitions & then the third time they are caught violating the rules, out they go! ... they should be put out of the Family, excommunicated!
Berg himself was an alcoholic at this time, though attempting to be moderate in his drinking, yet bluntly called alcoholic Family members "heretics" and said they should be excommunicated. Apparently, because drinking did not put him in "a very bad mood, almost schizophrenic, very morbid & moody & bad tempered & occasionally even very violent," he figured he really didn't have a problem.
Two years after this Berg stated that he couldn't come down too heavily on the former staff member for his alcoholism, because he himself had problems with liquor. But notice how, in his state of denial, he again downplayed the seriousness of it, saying, "I have a little problem with it myself once in a while." Translation: over-drinking was still
an ongoing problem.
7. Well, I know the whole problem—from the beginning you know what it was. It wasn't just liquor. How could I blame anybody with a problem with liquor? I have a little problem with it myself once in a while if I get mad or sad or upset. ("Dad's Birthday Message!" Feb.18, 1980, ML 877.)
Remember "Proclaim a Fast!" in May 1978? Four years later, in 1982, the truth came out that Berg had nearly drunk himself to death. Roser had been telling the truth. Berg had been discouraged over a top leader (Rachel) leaving the group, plus had received a throat infection, he claimed, from performing oral sex on a woman, and had tried to burn it out of his throat with sherry. Now, four years later, the ongoing damage was still so serious that he was compelled to talk about these things. He said in his Mo Letter, "My Confession!—I Was an Alcoholic!":
"Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death."
—The Big Book, 4th edition, AA, Chapter 3, pg. 30
2. I'm ashamed to admit that I damaged my stomach, obviously, through some of my past misdemeanors. They were really more than misdemeanors, they were more like felonies! The worst time I did it was after Rachel left us. That was quite a blow when Rachel & Emanuele departed.
"First off, they can be told that the majority of A.A. members have suffered severely from self-justification during their drinking days. For most of us, self-justification was the maker of excuses; excuses, of course, for drinking, and for all kinds of crazy and damaging conduct. We had made the invention of alibis a fine art.… We thought "conditions drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct theses conditions and found that we couldn't to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were."
—The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions, excerpt from Step 4)
3. I guess I got mad at the Lord & I said, "Well, Lord, if everybody else is going to quit, I might as well give up & quit too!"--& I drank too much.
6. He [Timothy] helped Maria save my life when I wouldn't do anything but drink! And that's what ruined my insides & I'm still suffering for it.
7. It's my own fault, I was trying to end it all! I was trying to do worse than ruin my stomach, I was trying to drink myself to death, believe it or not!
10. I didn't eat hardly a bite of food for three weeks! I'm ashamed to admit it—but you might as well know ... I drank 69 bottles of sherry in 21 days! You figure it out. That's over three bottles a day!
11. Of course, I got an infection in my throat, that was one of the things that started it & got me discouraged, & I thought if I drank enough sherry maybe I'd kill it! And that came from some foolishness. Well, let me tell you, that's the last time I ever sucked a woman.
14. Well, right after sucking her, my throat got on fire ... I don't know what she had, but I got something like strep throat & it swelled up & I was on fire! I thought, "Well, whatever it is, maybe 20% alcohol can kill it!"—& I guzzled down a few bottles of sherry.
136. Well, now I've got to make another confession. I vowed I was going to write a Letter to the Family & describe it & tell'm what happened & the results, & I was going to call it: "I was an Alcoholic!"
139. I had two uncles die of alcoholism—it runs in our family. Both of my Mother's two brothers, literally died of alcoholism, drank themselves to death! I never told you that before, did I?—Because I didn't want you to know I was an alcoholic.
141. I went through delirium tremens! I didn't realise what a horror of Hell people go through in that kind of withdrawal! You can have it from liquor, & let me tell you, after 21 days & 69 bottles of sherry, I had one hell of a withdrawal!—And I went through a Hell of delirium tremens! I saw things! Talk about seeing pink elephants on the walls, I saw worse things than that I could describe to you!
143. I had the most horrible experiences! I could hear the whole city talking! I could see all kinds of monsters, demons, African animals! It was just like I was watching a movie show, it kept flashing pictures, flashing pictures, like somebody was changing slides, the craziest things you ever heard of: The rump of a zebra, the head of a deer, all kinds of crazy things like I was over in Africa someplace! Horrors! Some were just utterly without meaning, nothing, I could see bricks or part of a building or this or that.
145. I could hear things, voices, I could see things, I guess like some of your drug trips or something, voices. I got so sensitive in the Spirit that I could hear everybody in town talking in their houses & their apartments! I could have screamed! Maybe I did, I don't know! Did I?
170. I've never told the whole story yet in detail, not even tonight. And that is some tale, let me tell you!
172. Maybe it would do'm good to read how disjointed I got! My mind got disjointed! ("My Confession!--I Was an Alcoholic!" ML 1406, Summer 1982.)
Mike had the following reaction upon re-reading Berg's "confession":
"Berg stated, 'I was an alcoholic.' I've heard AA members who have been abstinent for as long as 30 years, introduce themselves as, 'My name is _________. And I'm still an alcoholic.' Berg typifies the denial non-recovered alcoholics blind themselves with, when he published the Mo Letter 'My Confession!—I Was an Alcoholic.' An honest admission would have read 'I Am an Alcoholic.' The strength of the AA recovery program is in the individual's daily personal acceptance of the sickness he has, coupled the resolve not to consume one single drop of alcohol 'for the next 24 hours.' "
Later, Berg admitted that he had been trying to commit suicide and drink himself to death. He was "hoping to die." He was drinking sherry to deliberately burn his throat, hoping to burn out the infection at the same time. If he died in the process, so be it.
41. I was hoping to die, I was just almost trying to end it all! I thought, "Either this is going to make me or break me, it's going to cure me or kill me, whatever!" So I've often thought, "Well, I'm still suffering from the self-abuse of that period when I burned out my insides by trying to drink myself to death!" ("God Knows When!" Feb.14, 1983, ML 1407.)
Note that Berg was in such an advanced stage of alcoholism that he was unable to stop drinking without bringing on severe DTs (delirium tremens) and hallucinations, including "demonic attacks" that terrified him:
3. I've been having such battles all night long! I don't understand it. I'm fine during the day, & I don't have these battles then at all. But the devil just terrifies me sometimes at night!—And I'm getting worse, not better. I was having these dreams all night about being out of my body & looking down on all our activities.
10. Isn't that strange? It seems like my darkest hour is just before dawn! I have my biggest battles then. There must be something in that—like the vampires & witches.
16. You don't understand, but I really fight to stay alive in the night! The demons of Hell try to kill me, & they try to kill me with fear!
25. But sometimes I almost go crazy in the night, I get so terrified & so paranoid! My God, how the Devil attacks me!
35. The demons must know that's my weakness. They really prey on me. My God, what horrors & nightmares I have! ("Terror by Night!" Jan.10, 1980, ML 857.)
Berg's problems and demonic nightmares would continue for years, as we shall soon see in some quotes from 1984. However, at first Berg was so terrified, in such fear over his delirium tremens that he actually did try to rein in his drinking. Within one year, on February 16, 1981, he gave a talk entitled "Family Daily Wine Rationing!—Only one 8-oz. cup or glass per day!" (ML 1134) in which he said:
2. We did make a two-glass limit, but considering the size of some of these glasses, some of these glasses they're using are as big as two glasses instead of just a small wine glass. Name actual amount
6. So I'd suggest we start telling the Family the Family limit for alcoholic beverages for the entire day & night should not be more than one glass of wine ...
7. Because I've certainly found out that I feel better & sleep better & everything since I quit drinking so much wine at dinner.
19. I understand some of the Families are drinking too much. I know we were for awhile & I don't think we were any better off for it. I think we're much better off now that we've toned down, tapered down to no more than one glass a night or two small wine glasses.
20. I've quit drinking entirely except for my wine at dinner. Sometimes I drink just a little tiny bit during the night.
27. So the Family ration should be no more than 8-ounce glass or cup of wine per day.
31. So if I can cut down from two or three glasses at dinner at night & none per day, why can't you? And I certainly feel a lot better, sleep better, am better & feel better ...
"Many alcoholics have attested to the times when they 'put the brakes on' their drinking practices. Sometimes it could be done for days, sometimes for months or even years. But sooner or later the power alcohol had over them always got them to take the foot off the brakes & back unto the gas pedal. Berg's roller coaster ride as related in these passages in his own words fits the profile every A.A. member knows is common to the alcoholic."
This "feeling better" would not last. In May 1984, four years later, Berg confessed that his demonic nightmares were recurring, and that he didn't see the use in trying to drink in moderation any more if the nightmares continued anyway:
3. The devil sure fight me through ... these dreams! My God! Why do I have to have such horrible dreams?
18. It makes me feel like what's the use of trying not to drink, when I have nightmares anyhow! (Maria: Honey, the Devil is trying to get you to drink, see, but you have to keep fighting.) It's enough to drive anybody to drink! (Maria: Honey, he tries to get you to. He does all kinds of things like that to get you to drink. Don't you understand? That's probably why he tries that.) Why does the Lord let him?
22. If I don't go back to sleep I'm going to drink too much again! Oh my God! Three o'clock in the morning!
23. I think I know what Hell is like, if they have to go through that kind of tormenting fantasies! But why should I have to suffer Hell when I'm supposed to be saved? I thought I was supposed to be saved, & yet it almost makes me even doubt my Salvation & I wonder if the Lord has delivered my soul to Hell! ("The Crooked City!" May, 1984, ML 1778.)
Berg did indeed go back to drinking heavily. Two years later, in 1986 he admitted, "Sometimes I drink too much," but reassured the Family that he was trusting God to help him keep his drinking under control.
7. I guess as some of you know, sometimes I drink too much, which I shouldn't, & it abuses my body so that the Lord's gotta help me ... not drink so much. ("Prayer For Dad & Future Farewell!" Jan.86, ML 2086.)
"The inconsistency is made worse by the things he does on his sprees. Coming to his senses, he is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These memories are a nightmare."
—The Big Book, 4th edition, AA, Chapter 6, pg. 73
Here's a quote from Ricky (Davidito), Maria's son, who lived with Berg and Maria his entire life. Ricky refers to "these years" meaning the period of the "teen training" they had in their home between 1984-86:
"At different times during those years, Techi and I would sleep in bunk-beds or walk-in closets adjacent to Berg's room with beds built into them. Berg liked having us there, but often he would be so loud that we would all be awake for hours listening to his drunken rantings and off?key singing.
"One night when Berg was drunk, after arguing with Maria for hours about why she needed to get him some more wine, he gave her an ultimatum that unless she got it right now, he would kick her out and get one of the teen girls to be his new wife. He called Maria the "Old Church" and of course, the teen girls were the "New Church". We all figured Berg was just drunk and probably wouldn't remember it in the morning. But on the other hand, Berg dumped one wife because she didn't do everything he wanted, so really, what was to stop him from doing it again? As you might guess, Maria brought him more wine that night."
The next year, in March 1987, we see that Berg's heavy drinking continued unabated. In "The Last State?" (ML 2306), Berg was slapping and shouting at his 14-year old granddaughter, Mene, telling her that she was possessed by devils. Notice what her main criticism of Berg was, that so incurred his wrath:
128. It's too bad you didn't come to me & confess & tell me & ask me to pray for you, I had to hear it from other people. Why didn't you ask me to help you? (Mene: I was ashamed.) Exactly. (Maria: A lot of it was criticism against Grandpa.)
129. What have you against me? What have I ever done to you but shower attention on you, even favour you, try to be good to you, help you, let you live in our home for three years ... invited you into our own quarters right here to live right next door to us & to sleep with my children, & into our own bedroom, & into our own bed! (Maria: That's when you started criticising Grandpa, when you were sleeping in his own quarters.) For what? Let's have it out! (Mene: For drinking too much.) Well, I'll have to confess that that was certainly one of my weaknesses & vices, especially when I get discouraged over people like you. You'd better pray that I don't drink myself to death tonight over you, worrying about you!
134. So you were so self-righteous you thought you could condemn me for drinking too much over worries & problems bigger than you could possibly even imagine, while you've got something much worse!
144. Let me tell you, sister, you've got a beam in your eye! I may have had a little mote or a little speck & have drunk too much when I was terribly concerned & upset about sadness in our Family, like Rachel deserting us & Emanuele deserting us & my own daughter deserting us. Did you ever have to think that maybe you were the cause of some of it?
There are four main points worth noting in the above quotes.
First of all, Berg admitted that he was back to drinking too much again.
Secondly, he now had a solid new excuse for his drinking which was now serving him well: he was "drinking too much over worries & problems bigger than you could possibly even imagine," and "when I get discouraged." As Berg had stated earlier, "I have a little problem with [drinking] myself once in a while if I get mad or sad or upset." He now said he drank "when [he] was terribly concerned & upset."
Thirdly, he was in denial over the extent of his past drinking problems. In "I Was an Alcoholic" he had been forthcoming in his self-disclosure, stating that he had tried to kill himself by drinking 69 bottles of sherry in 21 days. Now when referring to that three-week binge, he referred to it as "a little mote or a little speck," saying, "I may have had a little mote or a little speck & have drunk too much when I was terribly concerned & upset about sadness in our Family, like Rachel deserting us."
Fourth, he blamed his drinking problems on others. He blamed his present drinking on Mene herself—though he had just heard about her "problems" for the first time that very night: "I may have ... drunk too much when I was terribly concerned ... Did you ever have to think that maybe you were the cause of some of it?" Berg then said that if he drank himself to death that very night, it would be her fault, not his: "You'd better pray that I don't drink myself to death tonight over you, worrying about you!"
Six months later, in September, 1987, in "God's Pet's" (ML 2344) under the heading "Dad's Victory!" Berg claimed that he had finally overcome his drinking problems:
6. I went through a lot of trials & problems & fears! I think I've been through enough to drive anybody to drink, especially with worrying about it in the night & not being able to go to sleep & all. That's no excuse, but at least I think the Lord has now given me the victory over that! (Maria: You're doing so good, Honey, it's wonderful! TYL!) PTL!
7. I just decided it wasn't worth it, so I quit! I still drink a little at night, but not like I used to. I've set pretty much a limit & that's it! The Lord wanted me to fight the battle, that's what He said, & win the victory myself.—Of course, with all His help & the Family's prayers & everything else. But I had to make the decision, I had to make the choice, in order to strengthen me. If He'd done some kind of a miracle & just taken it away, I don't think it would have done me any good. He wanted me to fight & do it, & thereby be strengthened!
8. I think I was sort of hoping for that kind of a miracle, but he wanted me to gain strength of character & strength of determination to get the victory! PTL!
"More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellow to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it."
—As Bill Sees It, pg 140
Berg may well have gained a temporary victory over drinking, but two months later, in November 1987, he left the Philippines for Japan. There he began drinking again. Ricky (Davidito) was asked: "Berg claims he finally stopped his alcoholism, beginning about September 1987. From what you know, did Berg really contain his drinking about September 1987? Was he on the wagon in Japan and Canada?" Ricky wrote:
"Well, I remember him getting really drunk at nights in Japan, but after that it didn't seem like he really did drink all that much—like in Canada. By the time he fled to Europe, he had stopped drinking all together and when he would go out all the time Maria was always worried about him going near a Pub or any kind of alcohol while out. He once had a glass of wine while at a restaurant in Sweden alone with me and I got in trouble for letting him—but what was I supposed to do? They worried that he would start again because of that, but he didn't."
Berg had claimed two months before going to Japan, "I still drink a little at night, but not like I used to." Berg's "little" drinks at night got out of control, as Ricky recalled: "I remember him getting really drunk at nights in Japan."
Finally, when in Canada for a couple years, Berg did not drink much. Of course, by this time, Berg's health was rapidly failing and he needed to be on the drug, Cortizone. Maria now had a reason to tell Berg he had to stop drinking. A website on Cortizone has the following question and answer: "Q: What are the precautions when taking this medicine? A: "Avoid alcohol (includes wine, beer, and liquor). Alcohol increases risk of stomach irritation or ulcers."
Finally, after decades of a bizarre alcoholic odyssey, and only for the last couple years of his life, Berg stopped drinking completely—except for the one glass of wine in Sweden. The point is: he only stopped when it affected his own health. He didn't stop during all those decades when it was negatively affecting the lives of thousands of his followers. David Berg's severe problems with alcohol, and Maria's co-dependency and enabling him to drink, had severe repercussions in the lives of Family members.
And as is brought out below, it was not willpower on Berg's part that caused him to finally stop drinking—but the effects of encroaching old age.
Mike was present at a series of meetings Peter gave in Moscow in '97.
"At those meetings Peter publicly declared that Berg completely stopped drinking two years before he died. Hearing this actually served to fuel to my own self justifications and incapability to stop drinking. My wife, who works as a nurse in a nursing home for the aged, says that she has cared for a good number of alcoholics who get to the point where their old age ailments and subsequent medication supercedes their desire for alcohol intake."
Berg had many problems and alcohol was only one of them. Yet when you consider the devastating effects of alcohol on Berg—and thus on the entire movement, since he was the leader and Prophet—you can see that alcoholism alone was a serious problem. All those times Berg made rules on alcohol quotas for the F, those were without doubt rules he tried to keep for himself, unsuccessfully. Every alcoholic does this in one way or another.
Although you can sympathize with someone who has problems with alcohol and try to help him or her, the one thing you should never do is to make that person the ultimate spiritual authority in your life. You should not commit your own fate and your children's fate into the hands of a chronic alcoholic, nor trust that the words he is uttering are the very voice of God.
Final notes by Mike, an ex-member and recovering alcoholic:
"My perspective of Berg has been measured according to the fact that for years I was a follower and believer in this proclaimed 'David', the 'chosen vessel' whom Biblical prophets had spoken of in the Scripture, the divinely appointed 'End-Time Prophet to this generation'. On top of that in spite of many prayers for deliverance over the 30 yrs that I was a member of the Family, my alcoholic experience progressively grew worse, despite many temporary periods of abstinence that ranged from as long as 14 months to as short as 4 hours. Note that often my justification for my own excessive consumption of alcohol was in Berg's writings, and I reasoned, 'If God allows His own Prophet to be a drunk, then of course He'll allow me too.'
"Even in the Family's communal living environment I could successfully mask the severity of how sick I was and the extent to which I drank. There are people who knew me well when I was an active alcoholic. I've since talked with them about my experience. They predictably react saying, 'Well you weren't the falling-down-drunk type of alky, because we never saw you acting like that. You didn't have it that bad.'
"The fact is that most of the people that lived with me didn't see how serious my problem was; because I kept it hidden and secret. For example I managed to get enough alcohol in my blood between 5 and 7 in the morning before others got up, that way there was no trembling in my hands during devotions. (In one home I'd have a bottle hidden in the woodshed, and of course I was going there for some 'prayer time' before bringing in wood for the stove.) I've no doubt that Berg managed to do the same and also hid from others the severity of his alcoholic malady. Furthermore, many alcoholics consume unimaginable amounts of the drug without being hindered by the trademark slurred speech and the other blatant visible indicative signs.
"To sum up my perspective on Berg and his alcoholism: I believe that Berg, blinded in his delusions of being the end time prophet, could not begin to even consider that he had a lot of things he needed to change about himself in order to find a real solution for not only the alcoholic problem, but also for the additional severe character and mental illnesses he tragically suffered from as well."