Overcoming Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
Joining in Support, Not Splitting in Departure
By Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Some Comments and Some Questions
Introduction and Three Approaches
It would be naïve to think that there are only three ways—mutually exclusive ways—to overcome alcoholism and addiction. Why?
All three of these three ways have fathered strong failure rates, particularly as they are seemingly and frequently viewed today. Regrettably, they are often considered to be exclusive of each other. They are often called unscientific, irreligious, ineffective, or downright devilish or dangerous. But those roads have been traveled before. And there may be a new way to examine and utilize them together.
This article does not presume to be authoritative, “evidenced based,” or “peer reviewed.” This should be clear even though (in addition to being a recovered alcoholic and addict with more than 25 years of continuous sobriety)—I am often introduced as an historian, writer, speaker, Bible student, CDAAC, and thoroughly “qualified” alcoholic and addict who has paid his dues.
Additional Approaches with Mixed Results
I would be the first in line to mention that there are additional and alternative ways which have succeeded—and also have produced an impressive failure rate.
The first has been is to quit cold turkey and never touch a drink or an addictive drug again. I’ve seen such cases succeed. One personal example I learned occurred when my father quit a heavy smoking habit before I was born. He never smoked again. Nor have I. Nor have my two sons. And apparently not even my two adult granddaughters. Yet there are also widely respected arguments that one can never quit by himself or with human help alone if really hooked—if a “real” drunk or an addict. Nonetheless the legacy of stringent abstinence has worked at times.
The second approach has been to set up guard rails in advance. Prevention! Perhaps a “just say no” technique. Sometimes a kid will see his father or mother die of cancer-related smoking, of drug overdose, or of alcoholism and its outpourings. Yet that very same kid will sit in an A.A. meeting, telling about his parent’s horrible death and his own resolve never to start—only to titillate his audience with his own drunkalog and disaster story. Can one resolve in advance to avoid the plague of alcoholism and drug addiction? I did not. And, for a variety of reasons and innumerable crazy excuses. Still, both of my sons—now in their fifties—seem to have no desire to follow my path. And they haven’t. For most, however, neither willpower nor personal experience nor intensive education have shown invincible strength and resistance when temptation or peer pressure or bad company or fear or anger or ungodly behavior have intervened to offer solace or joy as a reward for taking a chance. “This one didn’t get me” is a brave and hollow victory cry as one steps into the drunk tank.
A third method has often involved enforced isolation. I talked about this option with a distinguished narcologist from the USSR. And he pointed out that the Russian solution was often to chain the addict to his bed. But he didn’t say for how long. And imprisonment itself has often proved to be a spawning ground for making booze, sneaking drugs, and trading poisons. I know because I was in prison and saw these things happening. Courts have watched frequently jailed offenders return time and time again. And, as an attorney and A.A. sponsor, I frequently saw such futile punishments. I believe it fair to say that neither punishment, nor imprisonment, nor enforced isolation have amassed high success scores in my areas of observation. In fact one man that I tried to help in Maui had been jailed 7 times for drunk driving. He remained piously dry on our beautiful island for a short time only. He then returned to booze and many more court adventures until he finally was forced to stand alongside the highway with a sign stating he was a drunk driver. The result? He soon went back again to his beloved booze.
Finally, there have been repeated, vast, costly government-financed grants and research projects, and the investigations of scientists and academics attempting perhaps to add other options to the previously mentioned alternative ways. Relapse prevention has become a profession and a frequent prelude to recidivism. Pharmaceuticals have become a bountiful source for scientific writings. Behavioral analyses have been tendered. So have counseling and psychological techniques proliferated. Have they proved effective answers? I attended and spoke at one prestigious statewide conference in Pittsburgh where the medical speaker was explaining: “Relapse is OK.” Maybe it is, in his learned view; but the number of revolving door prisoners, treatment patients, A.A. failures, and even vitamin therapies have seemed to have failed to meet the requirements for successfully beating frequent relapses. Boldly, Bill Wilson himself (a law student for years and an A.A. co-founder) erected a confession and avoidance guard by stating that AAs had no “monopoly on God.” Despite his premise, more and more AAs today are substituting higher powers, meeting makers, nonsense gods, and unbelief for the Creator’s power that gained such prominence in early A.A.
The Three Ways of Approaching Recovery That Were First Mentioned Above
The first approach could be called that of medical and psychiatric management and perhaps hospitalization. I leave that discussion to those who dote on the reliability—exclusive reliability, they claim—of evidence based professional techniques and outcomes. The problem for me is that I’ve seen and participated in them all and watched them fail in my own case and in the case of the countless drunks and addicts I have sponsored and/or tried to help. More persuasive to me were the three points made by the physicians who had a connection with the A.A. story itself. The first, of course, was the eminent Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Carl G. Jung who treated the case of Rowland Hazard, failed, and said that—except for a few conversion cases—he had never seen one case like Rowland’s recover. “You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic,” Jung told Rowland. The second medical evaluation involved the repeated writing and testimony of Dr. William D. Silkworth, who was chief psychiatrist at Towns Hospital. Silkworth had treated Bill Wilson three times—along with thousands of others--and then pronounced Bill and his fellow suffering alcoholics: “medically incurable.” But Silkworth then told Bill that the “Great Physician” Jesus Christ could cure Bill. The third medical encounter among early AAs included the story of two top psychiatrists who met with two recovered drunks and observed the miraculous result. But they stated clearly that, in their opinion, had these men come to their hospital, they would have been pronounced 100% incurable. Without Divine help, they said.
So, in my own experience, a number of doctors I’ve met have said: “Alcoholics Anonymous is the only thing that works.”
The second approach is that which doubters often label “the spiritual.” But—holding their noses-they may actually concede that this approach means salvation and walking by the Spirit of God. Those who applied such techniques had great success before and at the time of A.A.’s founding. There are ample records of the successes of the Salvation Army, the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Christian Rescue Missions, and evangelists like Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey, and F. B. Meyer. In fact, at a gathering of eminent clergymen, doctors, and scientists where Bill Wilson himself was a speaker, one of the speakers (a clergyman) made this statement:
This illusory “spiritual” part that some of the academics, professionals, and even physicians and clergy have sometimes refused to honor is that thousands have been healed by the power of God. (Perish the thought that they would call the approach “religious”). They’ll skirt the results with excuses that the proofs—the facts—the written evidence—the testimonies--are “anecdotal” and not “science based.” And, while such erudite judgments may satisfy colleagues at a conference, they just don’t stand the test, for example, of the complete cure of the first three AAs. These three believed in God, were or became Christians, had studied the Bible, had been pronounced medically incurable but turned to God for help, and were completely cured. At that time, there was no A.A. program. No Twelve Steps. No Twelve Traditions. No Alcoholics Anonymous basic text. No drunkalogs. And no meetings of the type known today in the many “self-help” groups that number in the hundreds.
The final approach is that found in what some scientific detractors like to call “mutual help groups,” or “self-help groups” or “12 Step Groups” or “anonymous fellowships.” And despite the extraordinary successes of the early AAs between 1935 and 1942, A.A. has been violently attacked in verbiage by at least three diverse groups.
(1) The first anti-A.A. detractors are composed of a few prolific posters who hold themselves out as Christian and attempt to link A.A. to Free Masonry, LSD, spiritualism, and “automatic writing.” They condemn the Steps as Twelve Steps to destruction and A.A. as an entity which “real” Christians must eschew. The lack of validity in such criticisms has been the subject of many of our writings to this very date.
(2) The second anti-A.A. groups are composed of a polyglot mix consisting of humanists, atheists, unbelievers, the irreligious, academics, and professionals who essentially label today’s A.A. as a peculiar kind of ineffective religion founded by a continually sinning Bill Wilson who yielded to greed, drugs, adultery, spiritualism, mental illness, and other human shortcomings and maladies. The lack of validity in these criticisms is based largely on the bias of the critics against church, religion, the Bible, Christianity, and God. They are strong in advocating that A.A. just doesn’t work—despite ample evidence that it does work for those who go to any lengths to follow its path and actually place their recovery in God’s hands.
(3) The third are a growing number of AAs who have their own special difficulties. For one thing, a large number of them are not “attracted” to A.A. but rather “forced” to A.A. by treatment programs, professionals, courts, probation personnel, and even interventionists. For another, most have no significant knowledge about the successful, early A.A. Christian Fellowship, and its totally new Christian technique that worked so well in Akron and Cleveland and has been
dumped by many A.A. leaders, servants, and employees. For another, they work with literature that was altered and is being altered in increasing amounts and ways to portray A.A. as a program that works for atheists, agnostics, “meeting makers,” those who believe in nothing at all, and those who subscribe to various religions such as Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem, and pantheism.
The answer is that the A.A. program has such a diverse population today that it includes all of the above and might be likened to a floating, desperate, group of shipwrecked individuals who can’t agree on a lifeboat let alone locate it. And this troubled group should not be likened to the tens of thousands of fervent AAs who follow their program, trust in God, and help others.
The International Christian Recovery Coalition Approach
In a general way, I present two sets of facts about myself with great regularity: (1) I am a writer, historian, retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and an active recovered A.A. member with more than 25 years of continuous sobriety. And I have published 43 titles and over 850 articles on Alcoholics Anonymous History and the Christian Recovery Movement. (2) I am Executive Director of an informal, growing, world-wide fellowship of Christian leaders, workers, newcomers, and others who publicize and disseminate the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible have played in the origins, history, founding, original A.A. Christian Fellowship, and its astonishing successes. And can play today.
After two and a half years since its founding in Orange County, California, the International Christian Recovery Coalition has been joined by hundreds of participants in every state of the United States and in many countries outside of the United States. It has held a number of nationwide conferences and summits. It has mounted a website, a blog, a forum, a Facebook, and a Twitter presence and regularly publishes ongoing research and news about Christian recovery. It has established a number of Christian Recovery Resource Centers, enlisted a number of participants in its Speakers Bureau, maintained a main office in partnership with the County of Maui Salvation Army, and a Southern California office in Huntington Beach, California. It has established a ChristianRecoveryRadio.com site with films, audios, and radio programs.
And, in a serious, but jocular way, the Coalition folks have often called themselves Recovery friendly, History friendly, Bible friendly, 12 Step and A.A. friendly, Newcomer friendly, and Friendly friendly. They have a desire now to encourage collaboration among 12 Step groups and fellowships, treatment programs, counseling programs, hospital and detox programs, sober living programs, clergy, churches, recovery leaders and pastors, sober clubs, chaplains, social agencies, prison and institution outreach groups, and individual leaders and workers who subscribe to our mission statement.
The Three Approaches—“Medical,” “Religious,” and “12-Step”--Can Combine Together Cooperating and Affirming Their Reliance on God for Recovery and Living a New Life
Most in the recovery field have lost site of the breadth and faith involved in the old school Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship program. This really was a three-fold approach bringing together:
(1) Hospitalization, medical attention, and detox as musts. As Bill Wilson put it, the doctors are the experts, “we are their assistants.”
(2) Heavy insistence on helping the suffering alcoholic to recover. This involved a host of important ideas—7 summarized as the Original Program and the 16 practices that typified the daily recovery efforts of the old school AAs. A newcomer was required to profess belief in God and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was required to renounce liquor permanently. He was required to bend every effort to obey God’s will. He was required to grow spiritually through prayer, Bible study, Quiet Time, and reading religious literature. He was urged to keep religious and social comradeship with other members. And he was urged to attend a religious service once a week. But, at every turn, he was urged to “work with others;” to carry the recovery message to those alcoholics who still suffered; and to provide an exemplary life of principles and practices that conformed to those laid out in the Bible. Helping others, then, was a must.
(3) So was reliance on God. And, despite whatever changes, amendments, deletions, and shifts have occurred in A.A. meetings, groups, conferences, speaker presentations, and literature, reliance on God is today as much a part of the basic text and pronounced program of Alcoholics Anonymous as it was in the days of the Christian Fellowship in Akron. To be sure, the door has been opened to those who invent higher powers, pseudo spirituality, nonsense gods; eliminate prayers to our Heavenly Father; and denounce mention of the Bible. But the International Christian Recovery Coalition is peopled today with strong world-wide support for a program that rests on the power of God, practice of the principles in the Bible, and help for others to get straightened out by turning to God for help if they want that help and will go to any lengths to get it.