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THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL, January 28, 1983

WHERE RECOVERY BEGINS

In the glare of the spotlight which of late has been turned on the drunk driver in this country, the whole problem of alcohol abuse has been getting more respectful attention than in the lifetime of just about anyone living.

No longer is the abstainer pictured as the classic killjoy. It even has become the "in thing" to decline a drink. Apparently the thought that the driver of the next car coming down the highway in your direction just may be one of the 17 million alcoholics in the U.S. has had a sobering effect on the public's attitude toward liquor.

Also, and perhaps because there is a new realization about the number of alcoholics in the country, the subject of the treatment of alcoholism is getting wide attention.

Treatment centers of every description have sprung up - from those taking a straight medical or psychiatric approach to those emphasizing a spiritual, even Christian approach.

The interesting - and sobering - thing about this problem is that it is one toward which few dramatic new approaches have been devised. There still appears to be but one effective solution - an answer that can only be described as spiritual.

Certain drugs have a temporary effect on the alcoholic's addiction. Psychiatry has enjoyed limited success in cases especially responsive to psychiatry. But in an age when mankind has grown to believe that human resources are sufficient for any conceivable human need, alcoholism has stubbornly continued to defy every effort to devise an easy solution. Like sin (which it closely resembles in principle), this condition has yielded only to an approach which recognizes the helplessness of the victim and which requires that he exhibit a broken spirit and a contrite heart.

Of all the facts associated with the overall problem of alcoholism, the one most difficult to understand, by far, is the fact that those most anxious to help the alcoholic are almost invariably the ones most likely to hinder his recovery.

Many a desperate alcoholic, wallowing in the depths of his addiction, has gone from bad to worse because the road to recovery was effectively blocked by loved ones and friends trying, with equal desperation, to help. The "help" invariably served only to postpone the day of reckoning - and for an alcoholic, recovery begins with a moment, if not a day, of reckoning.

Anything - act of kindness, deed of love, gift of money, suspension of sentence - which has the effect of making it harder for the alcoholic to recognize and acknowledge (the acknowledgment is even more important than the recognition) that he is helpless in the grip of a hopeless condition, constitutes no favor.

To grasp the full implications of that idea, sit down and ponder the meaning of the answer you will get if you should call Alcoholics Anonymous for help in behalf of a friend.

You know A.A. is in the business of helping alcoholics. You have heard that they will come any time and do anything to help. Their telephone number is in every directory. So you pick up the phone and you call.

The person on the other end of the phone is interested but strangely abrupt. Does your friend know he needs help? No, but there's no doubt. Is he asking for help? No, he still thinks he can control his drinking. "Then there's nothing we can do. When he calls for help, we'll talk to him."

It's sometimes a long and agonizing wait. But it's the only point where recovery has any hope of beginning.

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