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ASSOCIATION OP PSYCHIATRIC SOCIAL WORKERS
story of how more than one hundred men have recovered from
Company; 400 pages
review covers the book, a discussion with the authors, and
attendance at the meetings of the New York City group of
Alcoholics Anonymous. Contact with this group increases
one s respect for their work. To the layman, the book is
very clear. To the professional person it is as first a
bit misleading in that the spiritual aspect gives the impression
that this is another revival movement. The book is simply
and clearly written. It gives a vivid picture of the emotional
predicament of the person suffering from serious alcoholism.
It presents the disorder as a disease; a fatal disease in
the social and physical sense. People who have benefitted
from the treatment tell their story in simple, compelling
language. There are excellent descriptions of what happens
to the family of an alcoholic. There is a sincerity and
enthusiasm about the writing of this work that commands
ANONYMOUS seems to have succeeded in cases where the physician,
the clergyman, the psychiatrist, or the social worker have
failed. The method works only with the patient who really
wants to get well; who is willing to face the truth about
himself - his prejudices, his infantilism, his evasions.
It effects its most phenomenal results with the patient
who has gone so far that unless he does something drastic
he will either become insane, kill himself in drink, or
commit suicide. The patient must be willing to admit that
he has failed, that he has no power over his drinking, that
the "wet-nursing" of his family only makes him
worse, that he must do this thing alone. In this frame of
mind he selects someone to listen to his story but for the
first time in his life he is being really honest with himself
and admitting that he is responsible for the mess he has
made of his life. When he must prove that he is willing
to face reality by trying to patch up some of the antagonisms
he has created around him. Then he is ready for some deeper
reorganization of patterns. It is a sink or swim psychology;
there is no pampering by the group and no protection. The
group accepts the new-comer as an adult who really wants
to get well; they will show him how but they won't do it
for him. Having admitted he has no power over his drinking,
he must be willing to allow a higher power to help him.
This is no ready made spiritual formula; it is not a church
religion. It is a spiritual experience that somehow even
extreme atheists seem to have been able to achieve. (One
can watch the process of this change at the meetings of
the group). The last step in the cure, the part that keeps
the patient from slipping back into drink, is that he devotes
himself to helping other alcoholics. The movement is kept
alive by this type of work.
is more impressive to the professional person to watch the
technique in action than to read the book. The Mew York
City group is made up of intelligent people, many college
graduates, many professional people. There is no holier-than-thou
spirit prevailing, there is good fellowship, gaiety, fun,
and a real desire to stay sober.
work is organized under an Alcoholic Foundation, which prevents
and alcoholic from obtaining a salary for doing the work.
One or two of the group tried using the approach on a fee
basis, but the spiritual aspect which keeps these people
sober seemed to have died when the patient tried earning
money this way; these few people found themselves drinking
again and so returned to the volunteer relationship.
new resource is developing groups all over the country.
Social workers will find them of great help with the extreme
cases of alcoholism. The book describes the method in detail
- it is a layman s approach, a layman's book. It needs no
explanation for the patient and should certainly be read
by every alcoholic.