|Alcoholic, Compelled To Drink,
Loses Freedom Of Choice
By VIOLA B. PHILLIPS Herald
"Alcoholism is basically a mental
problem," said Dr. Gerrit Quelle at an
Alcoholics Anonymous public session
Dr. Quelle is a psychiatric social
worker at the Rehabilitation Hospital,
"Mental illness has become
respectable." he said, comparing
today's situation with 200 years ago
when the mentally ill were placed in
cages for the public to view as a
Sunday afternoon diversion.
"Today, the city of San Francisco
alone has more alcoholics than all the
drug addicts across the nation,"
according to the social worker.
"An alcoholic is not a man who enjoys
a drink, nor a man with a weak will or
a bad character. An alcoholic is a
person compelled to drink. He has lost
his freedom of choice regarding
alcohol," was the psychiatrists
Each person is born into a world that
requires adjustment and life can be
rough, explained Quelle. A person
usually adapts only under pressure.
hence, parental spankings for
correction of children.
To adapt to reality, to be healthy, one
must constantly change, averred
Quelle. Change makes one
uncomfortable but one must change or
lose out, he pointed out.
In the story of alcoholism, a
l6-year-old, bashful with girls, may go
to a dance. He wants to be sufficient,
he loves his self-dignity and w a n t s
these maintained. Threatened
emotionally, he feels alcohol will
He may find his nervousness gone
after two drinks, for alcohol is a
sedative, explained Dr. Quelle.
As he continues in this course,
somewhere in his subconscious
develops a conviction that alcohol is
essential whenever a problem arises,
said the social worker. A mental
disorder, a disarrangement in
the mind of the person comes and -he
is no longer free to choose.
Alcoholism has a physical component,
but basically it is a mental problem,
the subconscious telling a person he
needs a drink whenever he is under
stress, according to Quelle.
The alcoholic tries to protect himself
from the pressure to adapt, the
learning process, and feels alcohol
saves the situation for him.
The problem remains and may
multiply and degeneration begins in the
area not utilized or developed, just as
does an arm or leg left in a cast.
The alcoholic's conscious mind is
forced by his subconscious to act
against reality. The discomfort of the
hangover or being jailed is less, he
thinks, than not having a drink,
The alcoholic feels guilty so he needs
alibis. If someone else can be blamed -
fine. Usually the mates of alcoholics
are the targets. The alcoholic learns to
manipulate his mate to gain an excuse
to be angry with her so he can accuse:
"You drive me to drink."
Sometimes those anxious to assist may
actually encourage alcoholism-the
mate may accept the blame, the
company official may cover when
work performance is unsatisfactory;
the small town police may provide free
taxi service to bring the drunk home,
said the social worker.
The real need is to help the alcoholic
overcome his fear of looking at
himself and reality, said Quelle.
Nonalcoholics have the same problems
in facing up to reality, according to Dr.
Quelle. Each person lives a little in a
"That is the reason for pink lilies in the
bathroom," he said.
The basis for rehabilitation in
Alcoholics Anonymous is fellowship
with another human being and
willingness to give of oneself
A person can't sit down meditating by
himself and come to himself; and
without self-respect, he cannot love
another explained Dr. Quelle.
The alcoholic is a scared person--can
he give of himself? He is asked by AA
to do a very difficult thing - relinquish
what he feels is his sole support,
alcohol; and to trust another person
for support. But this is the core of
gaining sobriety, according to the
"How can others help? By bailing him
out of jail?" asked the psychiatrist.
"Probably not," he answered. "The
alcoholic must be helped to face reality
and in the process the helper may
even get hurt," said Quelle.
If the alcoholic attains sobriety, he
becomes a better man in the process.
Quells noted some wives divorce their
alcoholic husbands after he gains
sobriety, for with his new maturity,
they no longer feel comfortable with
him. They then turn around and marry
To help the alcoholic back to reality,
one must act in compassion and
matter-of-factness, willing to be a
learner oneself, said the social worker.
Even to those close to an alcoholic, he
may seem repulsive, besides posing
danger to others. In order to help him,
one must see beyond the repulsiveness
to his need and despair, declared the
Alma W., a member of ALANON, a
sister organization for families of
alcoholics, described a typical Sunday
afternoon 16 years ago before her
husband found AA.
Filled with self-pity, she would empty
the car of beer cans and the bottle
under the driver's seat to take the
children to Sunday school and church
alone, leaving Bob at home with a
hangover. She would tell everyone he
was sick. Even insist to the children
on' occasion that it was not unusual
for fathers to fall asleep on the living
Alma said she would vacillate between
loving and hating him, and when he
would lament, "I'm just no good," she
would argue the point, but in reality
she would agree with him.
She explained in her home and
community, beer had been commonly
accepted but drunks had been viewed
with contempt. As newlyweds, she
and. her husband had had a lot of fun
drinking but he was the strong one, the
one able to make family decisions.
When his drinking increased,
discovery of his hidden bottles would
rouse her resentment. She had tried to
combat his drinking by hiding his
alcohol, by talking to him, but nothing
One evening they went together to a
meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous,
planning to huddle in a corner apart as
usual. The sounds of laughter heard
before they entered were a surprise for
she had concluded no one laughed
unless he was drunk.
A man greeted them at the door,
introduced himself and then led them
to others' friendly acceptance.
"By the way, which of you is the
drunk?" he asked nonchalantly.
But in the warmth of this
understanding group, she felt no need
to put on a front. During the meeting,
they recited t h e Lord's Prayer
together and it had seemed so
meaningful in the AA setting.
"We can't live the life of the alcoholic.
We have to live our own," said the
wife of her husband's sponsor, inviting
Alma to ALANON.
Alma then suddenly realized she had
been trying to live her husband's life
for him. At church she had only
listened for something to help Bob, but
now her own character defects began
to get attention.
She had enjoyed the pedestal position
and the lovely gifts awarded her by
her husband, tortured with guilty
feelings. At ALANON she began to
learn something of humility and of
finding happiness in helping others.
Ann Larders' note about ALANON
had evoked 10,000 inquiries at the
New York office alone, concluded
Alma, noting the need of families of
alcoholics to receive fellowship and
Charlie M., an alcoholic, told of
having wanted to bury his wife with
the vacuum sweeper. For whenever he
had come home after two beers -
"only two beers, you know" - and
passed out on the living room sofa,
she had gotten out the vacuum
sweeper to torture him with its roar
and bumping of the sofa.
Charlie described AA as a group of
persons who by the grace of God have
learned to diminish their character
He described himself as a farm boy
with severe feelings of inferiority
coupled with a burning desire to be the
top man. He had wanted to whip the
sportswriter who didn't give him top
billing at high school sports events, but
when he did get that acclaim, he knew
it really wasn't true, he said.
After marrying his childhood
sweetheart, he heard her threaten so
many times to leave him that he
wished she would go.
With the prospects of fatherhood, he
promised to quit drinking, but he get
thrown out of the hospital for charging
the nurses had switched babies, giving
him a girl instead of the boy he so
much desired. He had meant to
control everything, he explained:
Then his wife did get a divorce. Full of
resentment at being forced to pay
support money, even though he loved
his child, he had decided to get drunk
then commit suicide to prevent his
wife from collecting the support
money. Charlie admitted the scheme
doesn't make much sense.
The pilot was not in favor of
passengers jumping from his plane, so
the suicide scheme failed.
It was then that Charlie hit bottom.
"No one wanted me or needed me," he
said, explaining his despair.
In desperation, he had had himself
committed to a mental asylum. A few
days later, he asked to be released and
was refused. His former wife carne to
his rescue on condition that he go to
Charlie was among the 25 per cent
who are unsuccessful in their first
encounter with AA, he reported. He
recalled having “every kind of slip.”
But he stayed sober for three months
and his former wife agreed to remarry
him. In the barber chair in preparation
for his wedding, he looked in the
mirror and saw "this important wheel"
and went around the corner for a
double whiskey sour to celebrate.
The wedding took place anyway.
Unhappy and lonely at a retreat, he
had wandered off by himself. Before a
beautiful grotto with lovely statues
which to him represented good, he
knelt and prayed, fearful God would
help only those who are good.
"Oh, God, if there is a God, help me
to get my thinking straight” he had said
"I just don't want to drink," was his
waking thought the next morning.
Charlie discussed the steps in AA's
12step program and said most of his
days now are okay, but there are days
of frustration when he cries out:
"Oh God, how can you do this to me
when I'm trying so hard to be good?"
He learned to remind himself that AA
hadn't "promised a bed of roses, just a
hand to help," and taking a positive
stance, he would say, "Okay, God,
you're testing me again.”
No one prays for trouble, Charlie
noted, but everyone has it. However,
if God didn't want him to have these
problems, he would remove them, he
"If you have trouble understanding
God, just spell it with two o's and be
it," is his treasured definition of God.
Several pamphlets were available to
the public and vases had been placed
for contributions for books to be
placed in the public schools.
Any drinker who wants to stop
drinking is invited to call AA's number