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PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 9(4):21-24, April, 1958
by LLOYD E. FOSTER, MARTY MANN and OTIS R. RICE
You Know" was a weekly radio program on the network
of the American Broadcasting Company for thirteen weeks
the autumn of 1949. This program was sponsored by the Protestant
Radio Commission in cooperation with the National Council's
Department of Pastoral Services and the Public Affairs Department
of the ABC.
of the Play
Graham comes to Pastor Riggs to talk about her
husband, Harry. The Graham's have been two years in Middleton.
Harry came to take a very good position, and they have two
children. Louise says she simply must talk to someone, that
has always drunk a bit but recently has been coming home
They have discussed it, and Harry has blamed it on working
and on the need to drink in his business. Louise asks if
pastor will see Harry, and he says he will if Harry wants
does not show up for his evening appointment. At
midnight Louise telephones Mr. Riggs. Harry has not been
he has the car. The pastor manages to find Harry, who is
and takes him home. He stays until Harry begins to sober
expresses very sincere regret and contrition. The pastor,
skeptical, believes Harry may really change. Things do improve
is so pleased she invites the pastor one evening to
dinner. Harry fails to arrive. About midnight a cab driver
Harry home drunk. Harry's alcoholism in the months ahead
worse and worse. Louise, desperate, comes again to the pastor
discuss leaving Harry. She decides against this, and also
that she has been cutting herself off, due to a false feeling
shame, from the help her friends might give her.
alcoholism reaches a climax when he falls from a
second-story window and is injured. The pastor and physician
discuss how he may be helped. They decide to appeal to Alcoholics
Anonymous. As the drama ends, an A.A. member arrives to
help Harry Graham.
In behalf of the Department of Pastoral Services
of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the
States of America, here is the Rev. Dr. Lloyd E. Foster
discussion. His guests are Mrs. Marty Mann, Executive Director
the National Council on Alcoholism, and the Rev. Otis R.
(formerly) Chaplain, St. Luke's Hospital, New York City,
lecturer at Yale University School of Alcohol Studies. Here
Chaplain Rice, in the story, Pastor Riggs felt that he
had failed in his attempt to help Harry Graham overcome
problem of alcoholism. Wherein did he fail?
Pastor Riggs thought that he had failed because, like so
many other pastors, he thought of his job as bringing a
salvation with those resources in his own hands. He felt
have been able somehow, by his own understanding and by
manipulation of the situation, to make this man well. And
he was a failure because he himself could not do it but
him over to someone else.
I don't think he failed at all. In the first place, he
gave Harry Graham understanding, not condemnation. He didn't
lecture at him, and he didn't preach at him. He listened
He tried to help him. And he found out where to turn for
When the story concludes, a member of Alcoholics
Anonymous had gone to talk with Harry. How would he guide
how would he share with him?
He would begin, I think, by telling a little bit about
himself in order to show Harry Graham that he wasn't alone
more; that there was sombody else who had been over the
and had won out. He would then tell Harry Graham how he
out. Incidentally, both the pastor mentioned the thing that
A.A. member would have told Harry Graham. He would have
about a new compelling interest and would have told him
spiritual awakening. He would have told him about a pattern
living that would show him how to live happily without needing
Any worker, then, may turn to A.A. I want to stress the
very fine service that the A.A.'s are rendering, particularly
cooperation with pastors. When an alcoholic or a member
family comes to the pastor, he may refer the alcoholic to
A.A.' and they stand by to help and assist in a splendid
May I add also that the pastor's task is not done when
the transfer to A.A. has been made. They welcome the help
pastor in further consultation with the man, and I think
true of the doctor as well.
In the story the doctor said that Harry had a disease.
He stated that alcoholism is a disease. What does that mean?
IT means that Harry was a compulsive drinker, that his
drinking was completely out of control. He had lost the
choice over where he would drink, when he would drink, and
much he would drink. Harry didn't intend to get drunk. He
to have a few drinks with his buyers and then go home like
everyone else. But once he started he couldn't stop.
It is a disease in the sense that a person loses
control of his life.
That is true. He loses control of his drinking and that
makes him lose control gradually of every department of
This is a very helpful concept to the pastor. We no
longer have to look upon the alcoholic as someone whom we
condemn and in whom we must inspire more guilt. We know
feels guilty already, that at this point at least he is
do anything about his own life without help. Of course there
moral problems involved; but at this time what he needs
understanding and love rather than condemnation.
That is true, and frankly that makes it very difficult
for people because the symptoms of alcoholism are rather
unpleasant behavior. People's natural feelings in the face
unpleasant behavior are anger, resentment, hostility, and
frustration. They try to do what they think is right for
alcoholic, but usually they are just raising his defiance
they are trying to force him. He can't be forced. He can
That is, it is very important to understand that
alcoholism is a disease, and particularly for members of
family, because unless they understand it they will not
sympathetic and share in the solution of his problem?
I think it a necessary prerequisite to any kind of help
for an alcoholic.
It is, however, one of the most difficult things for an
alcoholic's family to do to have that understanding, as
it is for
the pastor. The alcoholic irritates many pastors when he
them. Indeed, sometimes the pastor is so angry that he cannot
the fine resources which he has within himself, within his
within the Christian community.
It takes a lot of overcoming, I think, on the part of
It would be especially true of the family, wouldn't it?
I think it would.
They are so close to the problem that they don't
understand it and therefore they are depressed and irritable
intolerant toward him.
Further, it disturbs their lives, too. Alcoholism is one
of the few diseases that affects the lives of all those
And the community as well, of course.
And those involved in the situation, then, are less
qualified to help because they don't understand it?
Very often, but they could understand it. There are ways
and means by which they could find out more about it.
Isn't there an opportunity too for the Christian Church
in this situation for teaching in the community, for exemplifying
this attitude in the fellowship of the church itself, in
attitude of the pastor, in the attitude of the worshipping
congregation? It is a great opportunity for the community
taught by the church.
One of the most encouraging things at the present time
is that so many Protestant pastors are trying to get new
and skills in counseling and to make themselves available
people in the community.
am thinking of a family now in which there is an alcoholic.
Their patience has been sorely tried. They are discouraged.
are rather hopeless about it. What can they do to bring
of solution to this problem of alcoholism?
If their alcoholic is anywhere near ready to do anything,
they can seek out the nearest group of Alcoholics Anonymous.
he, or sher because it may be a woman, is not ready, they
nevertheless really educate themselves if they wish. There
local committees for education on alcoholism in many cities
this country. If there isn't one in their city, they can
the National Committee on Alcoholism, 2 East 103rd Street,
York 29, N.Y. Incidentally, the most important thing they
is to learn and live up to the three concepts which the
Council tries to spread:
Alcoholism is a disease.
2. The alcoholic is a sick person.
3. The alcoholic can be helped and is worth helping.
is a public health problem and therefore a public
If you know someone who is struggling helplessly
against alcohol, why not turn to an understanding pastor
for help? He will counsel and guide you. Often he will direct
to Alcoholics Anonymous, a clinic, or to an information
which can help both the family and the alcoholic himself.
above all, the pastor will offer the power and resources
Christian church. Remember, that now, as throughout the
faith in Christ changes men's lives.