This week’s “Here’s To Your Health” interrupted Sister Ruth’s story to comment about a recent Journal Gazette article titled, “Alcoholics are ill, Needs society’s help,” by Don A. Marshall Jr. a prominent Fort Wayne Psychiatrist. I would be remiss not to expand a bit on Dr. Marshall’s article. Alcoholics quite often suffer from other mental disorders besides chronic alcoholism and those cases can require outside help from psychiatrists or therapists. Bill Wilson had a life-long struggle with acute depression and for many years he was under the care of Dr. Harry Teibout (Tee-bow), a prominent NY psychiatrist with a dry sense of humor. Dr. Tiebout is the one who coined the term “Halotosis” for those alcoholics whose egos come out of remission. But, in my humble opinion it’s wrong to give readers the impression that the proper way to treat alcoholism is to go to a psychiatrist, and besides treating the psychological aspects, to treat them with drugs like Prozac or Wellbutrin.
Dr. Zweig, a local M.D., who treated thousands of chronic alcoholics and addicts from 1945 until his 1997 death said, “We can’t fix drunks by giving them alcohol nor can we fix drug addicts by giving them drugs!” No responsible M.D., whether a psychiatrist or any other specialty, would ever claim that psychological help or medication alone, can cure alcoholism and addiction. We could eliminate America’s alcoholism and drug addiction overnight with pills, if all we had to do was to make sure alcoholics and addicts took their medication on schedule! In my own experience, it is true that chronic alcoholics attending A.A. meetings and working a twelve-step program can sometimes be helped in dealing with other psychological problems if they take appropriate medication. Many alcoholics suffer from depression, which can sometimes be helped to a degree with medications, and alcoholics who are severely bipolar are also probably going to require some kind of medication, as well as those who are schizophrenic, and in fact if they do not, they are probably going to be too mentally disturbed to work the twelve steps effectively.
A.A. was developed in the first place because Bill Wilson had gone to all the psychiatrists in New York without success. The best psychiatrists in New York City had finally admitted to him that they could not help chronic alcoholics like him. Then he found that Carl Jung in Switzerland, one of the most famous psychiatrists in the world, had come to the same conclusion. Psychiatry could not help hard-core chronic alcoholics in 1935, and it has not worked at any point since. Honest psychiatry, I believe, would have to admit that this is still the case today. Even though prosecutors and court systems are currently trending towards psychiatry instead of A.A., it does not change the simple truth that psychiatry’s record of treating chronic alcoholism is marginal at best.
Dr. William D. Silkworth M.D., said, “I believe chronic alcoholism is two-fold in nature; an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession of the mind.” I accept all of the above, but I don’t believe that’s all there is to chronic alcoholism. If it were merely physical and mental, a good medical doctor and psychiatrist could take drunks apart, put them together again, and fix them in mass. Inasmuch as there has never been such a program of mass recovery that does not include a basic “spiritual awakening,” it seems to me the problem behind the problem must be “spiritual” in nature. Alcoholics Anonymous’ Step 12 states: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps…and etc!”
In Bill Wilson’s book, Alcoholics Anonymous, he gives this diagnosis for alcoholism: Alcoholism is, but a symptom of a “greater malady” which is “spiritual disharmony.” And, it further states that a complete psychic change or spiritual awakening is the solution for alcohol addiction. This diagnosis for alcoholism did not come from the mind of Bill W.; it came from one of last century’s greatest psychiatrists, Carl G. Jung (1875-1961). Carl did not get it from his chosen field of psychiatry; he got it indirectly from his grandfather of the same name Carl G. Jung Senior (1794-1864) who was a medical doctor.
In Chapter Five of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, there’s a part titled, “How It Works,” that is read at the beginning of most A.A. meetings in this area. It states in “How it Works,” that, “We were where no-human-power could help us, and then it later says, but God could and would if He were sought!” Most modern psychiatrists I’ve spoken with seem to believe that this is childish nonsense, but unless I am mistaken, no human power includes our mother, father, brother, sister, preacher, teacher, rabbi, swami, guru, neighbor, boss, superior officer, medical doctor, and psychiatrists.
Last Thursday, I attended a new A.A. meeting in Syracuse started by Submarine Bill, Frank N. and a South Bend Professor. The South Bend Professor is the author of three books, The Higher Power of The Twelve Step Program, The Factory Owner & the Convict, The St, Louis Gambler & the Railroad Man, and also the co-author of Nancy Olsen’s book, With a Lot of Help From Our Friends, about Senator Harold Hughes’ 1970 congressional movement to decriminalize alcoholism and addiction and also co-author of Sgt. Bill S’ book about alcoholism, On the Military Firing Line. The professor was conducting another of his famous polls and he said, “Psychiatrists in the St. Joe Valley are claiming a two percent recovery rate for their alcoholic patients; have you ever met anybody who got sober by just seeing a psychiatrist? I answered, “No,” and he informed me that he’d polled many other active AA sponsors too, and none of them could name a single person with long-term sobriety who got that way by visiting a psychiatrist? I never gave it much thought, but I do know when Mrs. Barleycorn and I attended AA’s international convention in Toronto, the Sky Dome and Convention Center was filled with recovering alcoholics from 90 different countries and they’re just the tip of the A.A. iceberg. So, in conclusion, and with all due respect to my distinguished colleagues in the addiction field, I feel obligated to remind our readers, that there are no dues, or fees for A.A. membership. There’s no pill in the world that can improve our conscious contact with God and that after 70 continuous years of proven success, A.A. remains the only methodology that really works for treating chronic alcoholics.