Interview With the Author of “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict”

 

 

 

 

Interview With the Author of “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict”

Dr. Paul’s story, “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict” is published in the Third Edition of the Big Book; his remarks on acceptance, which appear on pages 449 and 450, have been helpful to many AA members over the years. This interview was conducted by telephone to Dr. Paul’s home in California.

 

How did you come to write the story that’s in the Big Book?

The editor of the Grapevine—a woman named Paula C.—was also the chairperson of the committee to review the stories. She wrote to tell me that the magazine was going to use an article I’d written on why doctors shouldn’t prescribe pills for alcoholics. So she knew my writing a little bit and she asked me if I had a dual problem and would I be willing to write an article about it for consideration in the Big Book. My reaction to that was the same as my reaction when it was suggested I come to AA—I thought it was one of the dumbest ideas I’d ever heard and I ignored her letter. Later on she called and asked for the article, and I lied and said I hadn’t had time to write it. She extended the deadline and called me a second time. I had a gal working in the office with me who was in the program, and she thought it would be nice to have typed a story that might end up in the Big Book, so she said to me, “You write it, I’ll type it, and we’ll send it in.” So that’s what we did. But by that time they had done another printing of the Second Edition, and I thought, Fine, that means they won’t use it. But Paula said she liked it and the Grapevine published it with the title “Bronzed Mocassins” and an illustration of a pair of bronze mocassins. Eventually it was put in the Big Book, but the title was changed, and my guess is that they wanted to show that an alcoholic could be a professional and be an addict, but that wouldn’t make him not an alcoholic. It worked well but maybe it overshot the mark, and now one of the most uncomfortable things for me is when people run up to me at a meeting and tell me how glad they are the story is in the book. They say they’ve been fighting with their home group because their home group won’t let them talk about drugs. So they show their group the story and they say, “By God, now you’ll have to let me talk about drugs.” And I really hate to see the story as a divisive thing. I don’t think we came to AA to fight each other.

Is there anything you regret having written in your story?

Well, I must say I’m really surprised at the number of people who come up to me and ask me confidentially if what they’ve heard on the very best authority—usually from their sponsor—is true: that there are things in my story I want to change, or that I regret having written it, or that I want to take it out because it says so much about drugs, or that I’ve completely changed my mind that AA is the answer or even that acceptance is the answer. I’ve also heard—on the best authority!—that I’ve died or gotten drunk or on pills. The latest one was that my wife Max died and that I got so depressed I got drunk. So, is there anything I’d like to change? No. I believe what I said more now than when I wrote it.

Do you think that your story might help those who are dually addicted?

I think it does. I think the story makes clear the truth that an alcoholic can also be an addict, and indeed that an alcoholic has a constitutional right to have as many problems as he wants! But I also think that if you’re not an alcoholic, being an addict doesn’t make you one. The way I see it, an alcoholic is a person who can’t drink and who can’t use drugs, and an addict is a person who can’t use drugs and can’t drink. But that doesn’t mean that every AA meeting has to be open to a discussion of drugs if it doesn’t want to. Every meeting has the right to say it doesn’t want drugs discussed. People who want to discuss drugs have other places where they can go to talk about that. And AA is very open to giving the Steps and Traditions to other groups who want to use them. I know this from my own experience, because I wrote to the General Service Office and got permission to start Pills Anonymous and Chemical Dependency Anonymous. I did that when I was working in the field of chemical dependency. We started groups but I didn’t go to them because I get everything I need from AA. I don’t have any trouble staying away from talking about drugs, and I never introduce myself as an alcoholic/addict.

I’m annoyed—or maybe irritated is a better word—by the people who keep insisting that AA should broaden to include drugs and addictions other than alcohol. In fact I hear it said that AA should change its name to Addicts Anonymous. I find that a very narrow-minded view based on people’s personal opinions and not on good sense. History tells us that the Washingtonians spread themselves so thin they evaporated. Jim B. says the greatest thing that ever happened in AA was the publication of the Big Book, because it put in writing what the program was and made it available all over the world. So wherever you go it’s the same program. I don’t see how you could change the program unless you changed the book and I can’t see that happening.

It’s a question of singleness of purpose?

That singleness of purpose thing is so significant. It seems to be working; why would we change it? I can’t think of any change that would be an improvement.

Nowadays drunks seem to come to meetings already dried out, but that wasn’t always the case.

No, it wasn’t. You don’t get Twelfth Step calls as dramatic as they used to be. Now I find that if you’re called upon to make a Twelfth Step call, it’ll be on somebody who is in the hospital. You find out when they’re available and not in some other kind of meeting, and make an appointment. But this might change as the number of treatment programs begins to fade out.

I used to make “cold turkey” calls, where the alcoholic hadn’t asked for help. One time I went to see this guy who was described to me as a big husky fellow. He was holed up in a motel. I found out from the manager of the motel that he was on the second floor, and as I was walking up the outside stairs to get to his place, I thought to myself, if this guy comes charging out the door, he could easily throw me over the stair railing and I’d end up on the concrete. So I thought, well, the good news is I’d probably be one of AA’s first martyrs. Then I thought, yeah, but I’d be an anonymous martyr. I made the call anyhow, and he got sober for a while.

In your Big Book story, you say that acceptance is the key to everything. I wonder if you’ve ever had a problem accepting what life hands you.

I think today that my job really is to enjoy life whether I like it or not. I don’t like everything I have to accept. In fact, if everything was to my specifications and desires there would be no problem with acceptance. It’s accepting things I don’t like that is difficult. It’s accepting when I’m not getting my own way. Yes, I find it very difficult at times.

Anything specific?

Nothing major, though it sometimes seems major that I have to accept living with my wife Max and her ways of doing things! She is an entirely different person than I am. She likes clutter, I like things orderly. She thinks randomly and I like structured thinking. We’re very, very different. We never should have gotten married! Last December we were married fifty-five years.

I guess she knows your thoughts on this matter.

Ad nauseum.

You’re still going to meetings?

I’d say five or six a week.

Do you and Max go to meetings together?

Max isn’t in AA, she’s in Al-Anon and she’s still very active in it. But I go to Al-Anon too, and that helps a great deal, and Max comes to open AA meetings with me and that helps too. It’s kind of like Elsa C. used to say: when two people have their individual programs, it’s like railroad tracks, two separate and parallel rails, but with all those meetings holding them together.

Do you think you’d still be married if you hadn’t gone to meetings all these years?

I’m sure we wouldn’t. I initially thought that the Serenity Prayer said I’d have to change the things I couldn’t accept. So I thought, well, we can’t get along so it’s time to change the marriage. I used to go around looking for old-timers who would agree with me and say that’s what the Serenity Prayer meant. But Max and I finally made a commitment to the marriage and stopped talking about divorce and started working our programs. In fact we tend to sponsor each other, which is a dangerous thing to do, but we help each other see when we need more meetings, or need to work a certain Step or something like that.

Do you have, or did you have, a sponsor?

Early on I was talking to a friend of mine, Jack N., who was sober a couple of months longer than I was. Jack and his wife and Max and I used to go to AA speaker meetings together. I was telling him how my home group was nagging at me because I didn’t have a sponsor, and on the spur of the moment I said, “Why don’t you be my sponsor?” and on the spur of the moment he said to me, “I’ll be your sponsor if you’ll be my sponsor.” And I said, “I don’t know if they’ll allow that.” But we decided to try it and it worked out. He calls me ’cause I’m his sponsor and I call him ’cause he’s my sponsor so I guess we call each other twice as often. We’re still sponsoring each other. That’s been going on for twenty-seven years. He moved to L. A. but we stay in touch, mostly by phone.

Is there a tool or a slogan or a Step that is particularly useful to you right now?

Pretty much every morning, before I get out of bed, I say the Serenity Prayer, the Third Step Prayer, and the Seventh Step Prayer. Then Max and I repeat those prayers along with other prayers and meditations at breakfast. And I say those three prayers repeatedly throughout the day.

I grew up thinking that I had to perfect my personality, then I got into AA, and AA said, no, that isn’t the way we do it: only God can remove our defects. I was amazed to find that I couldn’t be a better person simply by trying harder!

What I’ve done with a number of problems—like fear and depression and insomnia—is to treat them as defects of character, because they certainly affect my personality adversely. With depression, I’ve never taken any antidepressants. Instead, with any defect I want to get rid of, I become willing to have it removed, then I ask God to remove it, then I act like he has. Now, I know God has a loophole that says he’ll remove it unless it’s useful to you or to my fellows. So I tell him I’d like my defect removed completely, but he can sleep on it, and in the morning he can give me the amount he wants me to have, and I’ll accept it as a gift from him. I’ll take whatever he gives me. I’ve never done that when he hasn’t removed a great deal of my defect, but I’ve never done it when he has permanently and totally removed any defect. But the result is that I no longer fight myself for having it.

That’s a helpful way of seeing things. It makes defects into a gift.

That’s right. And it’s the Rule Sixty-two business [see Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 149]. It’s like Father Terry always says, “Be friendly with your defects.” In fact some poet said, “Hug your demon, otherwise it’ll bite you in the ass.” Poets can talk like that.

Has your sponsoring changed over the years?

I do a lot more stuff by telephone. When I’m speaking at a meeting, if I think of it, I give out my home phone number. So I get a lot of phone calls from all over the country. People ask me if I’m willing to help them as a sponsor and I tell them, well, you call me every day for thirty days, or maybe sixty or ninety or whatever, and then they call me every day, and we get to know each other, and during that time we find out what it’s like to be relating to each other. It’s kind of a probationary period. Then if they still want me to be their sponsor, we’ll go ahead and if they don’t, we move on and there’s no loss. And this gets them accustomed to calling, so when they have a problem, they don’t have to analyze it at great depth and decide if it’s bad enough that they should bother me with a phone call. I haven’t personally been doing each Step individually with people as much, but I’ve redone all the Steps myself on an average of every five years. And every time I’ve done that, my sobriety has stepped up to a new plateau, just like the first time I did them.

Sometimes people call me ’cause they’re feeling in a funk, their sponsor has moved away or died, or they’ve moved away from their sponsor, or the meetings don’t mean much anymore. They aren’t getting anything out of AA. And because of my relationship with pills, I’ve had a lot of people come to me and say they’ve got—what do you call it?—a “chemical imbalance.” They’re seeing a counselor who says, “Yeah, you’re depressed,” and the counselor wants to start them on an antidepressant. My suggestion is, if you want to do something like that and you haven’t done the Steps in a number of years, do the Steps first. And repeatedly people will do that and decide they don’t need the pills.

When you speak at out-of-state AA meetings, does Max go with you?

I don’t go unless she goes.

Why not?

Because I decided I didn’t come to AA to become a traveling salesman and be away from home. So we go where it’s a big enough event that they can take us both. And what’s really more fun is if it’s a mixed event where Max can speak, especially if she gets to speak first. She likes that. She likes to say that I say that she tells a perverted version of my drinking story. Then she points out that I was the one who was drinking and she was the one who was sober.

There are many more young people in the Fellowship now. Do you think young people have special problems because they’re getting sober at such an early age?

People always say they’re so glad to see the young people come in, and I agree, but I’m glad to see the old people come in too. I like to see anybody get sober. It’s hard to say whether your pain is greater than my pain or mine’s greater than yours. I’m sure that young people have problems, but we all have problems—gays have problems, people who are addicted to other drugs have problems, single people have problems. I can’t think of anything more of a problem than being a woman alcoholic trying to get sober, married to a practicing alcoholic male, and with a handful of kids. That must be as about as big a problem as you can get. Everybody has special problems.

I’ve said it often and I haven’t had any reason to change my mind: the way I see it, I’ve never had a problem and nobody will ever come to me with a problem such that there won’t be an answer in the Steps. That gives me a great deal of confidence. I think the program—the Steps—covers everything conceivable.

I’m getting way off from what you asked me. I can’t give short answers. I often tell people that the more I know about something, the shorter the answer, but when I don’t know, I just make up stuff.

Did you find it helpful at some point to become familiar with the Traditions?

I find the Steps easier to understand than the Traditions and the Traditions easier to understand than the Concepts. In fact, I find the long form of the Traditions considerably easier to understand than the short form, and I find that the long form is much more specific on the idea that AA is for alcoholics and not for just anybody who wants to come in. A lot of people like that phrase “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking,” and people interpret that to mean that if you’re willing to not drink, you can call yourself an alcoholic and a member of AA. That’s not at all what it says. I think it means that if you’re an alcoholic with a desire to stop drinking, that’s the only requirement for membership.

How many years have you been sober now?

Twenty-seven.

Twenty-seven years of meetings. Have you seen any changes in the way the meetings are conducted?

All I see is that there are more meetings and bigger meetings and more variety of meetings. I just love to see AA grow. I enjoy meetings. I’ve been to meetings in Singapore and Hong Kong and Japan, but I think the most interesting was when Chuck C. and Al D. and I were vacationing in the Cayman Islands and we couldn’t find any meetings. We were twelfth-stepping alcoholics there and decided we all needed a meeting, so we went to the local newspaper and got some publicity. Then we had a public information meeting, then we got a regular meeting started. As far as I know, that meeting is still going.

So you haven’t gotten bored by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Well, I thought about that some years back. Why is it that so many people aren’t around any more? Where do they go? It seems to me that most of the people who leave AA leave because of boredom. I made up my mind I wasn’t going to get bored, and one of the things I do when I get bored, if I can’t think of anything else to do, is to start a new meeting. I’ve probably started fifteen or twenty. The most recent one was last November. I got a couple of friends together and we started a “joy of sobriety” meeting—it’s a one-hour topic discussion meeting and it has to be a topic out of the Big Book and it has to be on the program and how you enjoy living the program. It’s fast-moving and we just have a lot of fun. It’s a great antidote for depression.

What’s the most important thing you’ve gotten from AA?

This whole thing is so much more than just sobriety. To be sober and continue the life I had before—that would have driven me back to drink. One of the things I really like about AA is that we all have a sense of direction, plus a roadmap telling us precisely how to get there. I like that. All I want out of AA is more and more and more until I’m gone.

—DR. PAUL

Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (July, 1995). Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 

 

Gossip

 

 

Gossip

Observation of this particular weakness of the human flesh, male or female, leads one to the discovery that gossip arises directly and unmistakably from a feeling of inferiority. The gossip actually feels inferior either to the person he’s gossiping about or to people in general. The psychologists have undoubtedly known this fact a long time, but it’s good to discover it for oneself, for both its comfort and its curative effects.

After one has learned this particular truth he will realize that it is a sign of weakness in himself and that others will recognize it as such in him.

The whisper monger is working the old fallacy of trying to elevate himself by tearing down someone else; or of trying to pull others down to his level because he can’t rise to theirs.

Whether the dealer in dirt is male or female makes little difference. There is actually little to choose between them and neither makes a pretty sound. Certainly neither is practicing A.A.

But there is a cure. Every gossiper needs a listener. Gossip must have a transmission belt for it to do any damage. It cannot travel on its own power.

Wouldn’t gossip wither at its source if there was no one to listen to it?

As long as there is even one gossip in A.A. there will be too many. But, their number could be reduced effectively and quickly if no one would stop to listen to them. Their whisperings would do no damage if no one would pass along anything they have to say.

Even though a gossip is usually fascinated with his own words he would soon tire of them if he found that he was whispering to himself. Then what he was saying would cause no unhappiness because there would be none to hear and pass it along.

Perhaps then the remedy is not to indict the gossip. After all, his behavior is one symptom of a diseased mind and a sick soul, and he would not be gossiping about anyone for any reason if he had been able to comprehend even the barest rudiments of the A.A. philosophy. Obviously, he doesn’t know what A.A. is, no matter how many meetings he may be attending, or speeches he’s giving, or committees he’s participating in, or how much he goes about giving lip service to A.A. No one can put the real meaning of A.A. into words with the same tongue that’s gossiping.

The gossip is sick. And like anyone with a contagious disease he should be quarantined. This is a simple process. Just don’t listen to him. That not only will help to spare the victims of gossip; it will also help the gossip to recover from his disease.

There is a specific cure for the gossip. There also is a cure for all of the personality ills that afflict many of us. A.A. offers both the diagnosis and the treatment—that is, the principles and the philosophy and the way of life which embody the spirit rather than the mechanics of A.A. By seeking to live this way of life and apply the principles, the necessary corrective process is put into operation. The more successfully and completely one can live the principles the nearer he will come to correcting his character defects.

So why not focus attention on the means of correction and the goal we all seek? The song may be worn out but it’s still good philosophy to “accentuate the positive.” This calls for concentration on the mental images of what we want to be and what we can be. The one who concentrates consistently enough will correct his defects because no one really wants to be a gossip, a spoiled brat, a bossy run-it-all or any of the other types of bores, nuisances and menaces.

— T.Y.
Greenich Village, New York

AA Grapevine
December 1946
Vol. 3 No. 7

Copyright © by The A.A. Grapevine, Inc.

 

 

Thank You, Dr. Paul

 

 

Thank You, Dr. Paul

She found direction and strength in the words of another alcoholic

I attended my very first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when I was just 19 years old. My friend, who was only 19 herself, took me to a meeting in San Juan Capistrano, California. I didn’t know when I walked into the meeting that it was led by Dr. Paul, writer of the Big Book story, “Acceptance Was the Answer,” formerly titled “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict.”

At that meeting, I was extremely nervous and did not yet believe I was an alcoholic. I thought that I just had a drug problem, which I tried to explain to the group. After the meeting, Dr. Paul came up to me, handed me a Big Book and said, “Why don’t you read, ‘Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict,’ and come back next week?” I thought, Who is this guy? I don’t even drink that much.

However, the truth was that when I wasn’t doing drugs, I drank. If I had one beer, I would drink it really fast to get the effect. When I drank, I also did drugs. I realized that alcohol always caused me to get into trouble. Therefore it was a problem, even though I liked the effect alcohol gave me, just like drugs.

So I returned the next week. I told Dr. Paul that I believed I was an alcoholic. He welcomed me to the group and told me to keep coming back. He never told me who he was. After that meeting, my friend told me who Dr. Paul was. We attended the meeting for the next few months.

By the time I was 26, I had been sober for a while. I was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis and the doctor gave me a prescription for painkillers. I became addicted for several months. Once again I found myself going back to Dr. Paul’s story. In it he writes, “Today I feel I have used up my right to chemical peace of mind.” Even though I hadn’t had a drink in many years, I had abused a chemical. So I felt I needed to restart my recovery date. I am now coming up on two years sober, God willing.

I like where Dr. Paul states in his story, “I can’t say, ‘Thy will be done,’ and take a pill. I can’t say, ‘I’m powerless over alcohol, but solid alcohol is OK.’ I can’t say, ‘God could restore me to sanity, but until he does, I’ll control myself—with pills.’ Giving up alcohol alone was not enough for me; I’ve had to give up all mood- and mind-affecting chemicals in order to stay sober and comfortable.”

For myself, coming into this program at such a young age, it was hard to understand this. I was always looking for the easier, softer way. But the only way to make it in this program for a woman like me is to have a sponsor, study the Big Book, go to meetings, pray and work with other alcoholics.

Being of service is so important to me. Service always gets me out of self-pity. I also do a gratitude list each and every day. If I’m having a down day, then I pick up the phone and reach out to someone else and ask them how they are doing. I do not talk about myself; I just listen to them. This works every time. Thank you AA for my sobriety. And thank you Dr. Paul for what you taught me in so few words.

—Heather B.
Yankton, South Dakota, USA

Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (September, 2017). Reprinted with permission.

 

 

Doctor Calls “Slip” More Normal Than Alcoholic

 

 

 

 

Doctor Calls “Slip” More Normal Than Alcoholic

 

The mystery of slips is not so deep as may appear. While it does seem odd that an alcoholic who has restored himself to a dignified place among his fellow-men, and continued dry for years, should suddenly throw all his happiness overboard and find himself again in mortal peril of drowning in liquor—often the reason is very simple.

People are inclined to say: “There is something peculiar about alcoholics. They may seem to be well, yet at any moment they may turn back to their old ways. You can never be sure!”

This is largely twaddle. The alcoholic is a sick person. Under the techniques of Alcoholics Anonymous he gets well, that is to say, his disease is arrested. There is nothing unpredictable about him any more than there is anything weird about a person who has arrested diabetes.

Let’s get it clear, once and for all, that alcoholics are human beings just like other human beings—then we can safeguard ourselves intelligently against most of the slips.

Both in professional and lay circles, there is a tendency to label everything that an alcoholic may do as “alcoholic behavior.” The truth is, it is simply human nature!

It is very wrong to consider many of the personality traits observed in liquor addicts as peculiar to the alcoholic. Emotional and mental quirks are classified as symptoms of alcoholism merely because alcoholics have them—yet those same quirks can be found among nonalcoholics, too. Actually they are symptoms of mankind!

Of course, the alcoholic himself tends to think of himself as different; someone special, with unique tendencies and reactions. Many psychiatrists, doctors and therapists carry the same idea to extremes in their analyses and treatment of alcoholics. Sometimes they make a complicated mystery of a condition which is found in all human beings, whether they drink whiskey or buttermilk.

To be sure, alcoholism like every other disease does manifest itself in some unique ways. It does have a number of baffling peculiarities which differ from all other diseases. At the same time, many of the symptoms and much of the behavior of alcoholism are closely paralleled and even duplicated in other diseases.

The alcoholic “slip,” as it is known in Alcoholics Anonymous, furnishes a perfect example of how human nature can be mistaken for alcoholic behavior.

The “slip” is a relapse! It is a relapse that occurs after the alcoholic has stopped drinking and started on the A.A. program of recovery. “Slips” usually occur in the early stages of the alcoholic’s A.A. indoctrination, before he has had time to learn enough of the A.A. technique and A.A. philosophy to give him solid footing. But “slips” may also occur after an alcoholic has been a member of A.A. for many months, or even several years, and it is in this kind, above all, that one finds a marked similarity between the alcoholic’s behavior and “normal” victims of other diseases.

No one is startled by the fact that relapses are not uncommon among arrested tubercular patients. But here is a startling fact—the cause is often the same as the cause which leads to “slips” for the alcoholic. It happens this way:

When a tubercular patient recovers sufficiently to be released from the sanitarium, the doctor gives him careful directions for the way he is to live when he gets home. He must be in bed every night by, say, 8 o’clock. He must drink plenty of milk. He must refrain from smoking. He must obey other stringent rules.

For the first several months, perhaps for several years the patient follows directions. But as his strength increases and he feels fully recovered, he becomes slack. There may come the night when he decides he can stay up until 10 p.m. When he does this, nothing untoward happens. The next day he still feels good. He does it again. Soon he is disregarding the directions given him when he left the sanitarium. Eventually he has a relapse!

The same tragedy can be found in cardiac cases. After the heart attack, the patient is put on a strict rest schedule. Frightened, he naturally follows directions obediently for a long time. He, too, goes to bed early, avoids exercise such as walking up stairs, quits smoking and leads a Spartan life. Eventually, though, there comes a day after he has been feeling good for months, or several years, when he feels he has regained his strength and has also recovered from his fright. If the elevator is out of repair one day, he walks up the three flights of stairs. Or, he decides to go to a party—or do just a little smoking—or take a cocktail or two. If no serious after-effects follow the first departure from the rigorous schedule prescribed he may try it again, until he suffers a relapse.

In both cardiac and the tubercular cases, the acts which led to the relapses were preceded by wrong thinking. The patient in each case rationalized himself out of a sense of his own perilous reality. He deliberately turned away from this knowledge of the fact he had been the victim of a serious disease. He grew overconfident. He decided he didn’t have to follow directions.

Now that is precisely what happens with the alcoholic—the arrested alcoholic, or the alcoholic in A.A.—who has a “slip.” Obviously he decides again to take a drink sometime before he actually takes it. He starts thinking wrong before he actually embarks on the course that leads to a “slip.”

There is no more reason to charge the “slip” to alcoholic behavior than there is to lay a tubercular relapse to tubercular behavior or a second heart attack to cardiac behavior.

The alcoholic “slip” is not a symptom of a psychotic condition. There’s nothing “screwy” about it at all. The patient simply didn’t follow directions.

And that’s human nature! It’s life! It’s happening all the time, not merely among alcoholics but among all kinds of people.

The preventative is plain. The patient must have full knowledge of his condition, keep in mind the facts of his case and the nature of his disease and follow directions.

For the alcoholic, A.A. offers the directions. A vital factor, or ingredient, of the preventative, especially for the alcoholic, is sustained emotion. The alcoholic who learns some of the technique or the mechanics of A.A. but misses the philosophy or the spirit may get tired of following directions—not because he is alcoholic but because he is human. Rules and regulations irk almost anyone, because they are restraining, prohibitive, negative. The philosophy of A.A., however, is positive and provides ample sustained emotion—a sustained desire to follow directions voluntarily.

In any event, the psychology of the alcoholic is not as different as some people try to make it. The disease has certain physical differences, yes, and the alcoholic has problems peculiar to him, perhaps, in that he has been put on the defensive and consequently has developed nervous frustrations. But, in many instances, there is no more reason to be talking about “the alcoholic mind” than there is to try to describe something called “the cardiac mind” or “the t.b. mind.”

I think we’ll help the alcoholic more if we can first recognize that he is primarily a human being—afflicted with human nature!

— Dr. William Duncan Silkworth

Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (January, 1947). Reprinted with permission.

Dr. Silkworth contributed the two letters included in “The Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book.