For decades, Dr. Howard Markel has taught Fitzgerald’s life and works to his students with the express purpose of using his life to demonstrate how deadly the diseases of alcoholism and addiction can be. Fitzgerald drank and smoked himself into a terminal spiral of cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, angina, dyspnea, and syncopal spells.
More than once, friends suggested that Fitzgerald join Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in 1935. His response was both contemptuous and, ultimately, self-defeating:
I was never a joiner. AA can only help weak people because their ego is strengthened by the group. The group offers them the strength they lack on their own.
Instead, he chose to go it by himself, hoping that willpower alone would free him of his addiction - but the binges never really stopped.