Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Travis, Language of the Heart

Expand Messages
  • Glenn Chesnut
    Laurie, It strikes me that the question of whether alcoholism was or was not referred to as a disease during the early AA period is a lot more complicated
    Message 1 of 5 , May 9, 2009
    View Source
    • 0 Attachment
      Laurie,

      It strikes me that the question of whether
      alcoholism was or was not referred to as a
      "disease" during the early AA period is a
      lot more complicated than you are implying.

      - - - -

      See for example one of the best modern
      sociological studies of Alcoholics Anonymous:

      http://hindsfoot.org/kas1.html

      Annette R. Smith, Ph.D., "The Social World of
      Alcoholics Anonymous: How It Works," with an
      introduction by Linda Farris Kurtz, DPA,
      Hindsfoot Foundation Series on Treatment and
      Recovery (New York: iUniverse, 2007), pp. 74-75.

      Annette Smith notes that:

      The word "disease" appears only three times
      in the A.A. Big Book. It is mentioned first on
      page 64 in discussing alcoholism, then again
      at the beginning of the second part of the
      book in the story of Bill Dotson, the Akron
      lawyer who was Alcoholics Anonymous Number
      Three. When Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob visited
      Dotson in the hospital, they told him he had
      "a disease," and when he explained his
      conversion to his wife, he told her he felt
      that God had cured him "of this terrible
      disease." (AAWS, 1976:187-188, 191)

      However, in spite of its avoidance of the
      specific word "disease," alcoholism is referred
      to over and over again throughout the book
      as a "sickness," a "malady," and an "ailment,"
      and alcoholics are characterized as persons who
      are "sick" or "ill." In the Personal Stories
      section of the third edition of the Big Book,
      one of the subtitles is "How Forty-Three
      Alcoholics Recovered From Their Malady." [NOTE 44]

      Kurtz (2002:5) states that despite the fact
      that "A.A. does not promote the disease concept
      of alcoholism," most members refer to their
      alcoholism as a disease. However, this can be
      regarded more as a metaphor than as a literal
      description in the sense in which the word
      disease is usually employed in technical medical
      terminology (Kurtz, 1979:199-202). Use of this
      metaphor removes the stigma generally attached
      to alcoholism in society, allowing A.A.
      participants to see themselves as "sick"
      rather than "bad" (Conrad and Schneider,
      1980), and to assume the "sick role" (Parsons,
      1952), so that recovery becomes possible. As
      will be shown in this chapter, dealing with
      and finally accepting this concept is crucial
      in enabling newcomers to move through the four
      progressive stages of becoming integrated into
      A.A.'s social world.

      NOTE 44. Sick, sick person, or sickness on
      pages 18, 64, 67, 90, 92, 100, 101, 106, 107,
      108, 115, 139, 140, 141, 147, 149, 153, 157,
      and 164.

      Ill or illness on pages 7, 18, 20, 30, 44, 92,
      107, 108, 115, 118, 122, 139, 140, and 142.

      The words ail or ailment are used on pages 135,
      139, 140.

      Malady appears on pages 23, 64, 92, 138, 139,
      and 165. (AAWS, 1976)

      AAWS. 1976. Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed.
      New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
      Orig. pub. 1939.

      Kurtz, Ernest. 1979. Not-God: A History of
      Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, Minn:
      Hazelden.

      Kurtz, Ernest. 2002. "Alcoholics Anonymous
      and the Disease Concept of Alcoholism."
      Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 20 (Nos. 3/4):
      5-40.

      Conrad, Peter and Joseph W. Schneider. 1980.
      Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to
      Sickness. St. Louis: C.V. Mosby.

      Parsons, Talcott and Renee Fox. 1952. "Illness,
      Therapy and the Modern Urban American Family."
      The Journal of Social Issues 8(4):31-34.

      - - - -

      It is impossible, I believe, to discuss the
      issue of�why alcoholism was regarded as a
      disease in early AA without a detailed and
      careful study of�Sally Brown and David R.
      Brown, A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann.

      We can start with p. xiii, a citation of
      "Imagine Such a Disease" by the President of
      the American Medical Society.

      And then go on to p. 10, where the Brown's
      describe the basic credo which Marty publicized
      all over the United States:

      "Alcoholism is a disease and the alcoholic
      is a sick person.
      The alcoholic can be helped and is worth
      helping.
      This is a public health problem and therefore
      a public responsibility."

      - - - -

      Or let us note how the issue is discussed by
      Bill Swegan, the principal spokesman for the
      wing of early AA which stressed the psychological
      side of AA rather than the spiritual side.

      Sgt. Bill Swegan, On the Military Firing Line
      in the Alcoholism Treatment Program, pp. 13-15

      "Alcoholism is not a behavior problem,
      but a very complex disease"

      "In the past half century, more has been
      accomplished to recognize, define, and
      eliminate the stigma associated with alcoholism
      than had been brought about in any previous era.
      At the heart of this change has been the partial
      removal of the old principle of defining
      alcoholism by the behavior it produces, and
      the progress that has been made in solving
      many of the mysteries surrounding the disease.
      It is an illness, and this is now recognized
      by most health agencies, medical treatment
      facilities, and therapists.

      Some resistance to the disease concept still
      remains however among law enforcement people,
      who often still wish to regard it completely
      as a behavior problem. And this is also usually
      true among the members of the alcoholic's
      family. We must not forget that parents,
      brothers and sisters, spouses and children,
      are the ones who are constantly exposed to
      the negative consequences of the alcoholic
      behavior. It is difficult indeed for families
      to think of alcoholism as a disease, when they
      are the ones who are most immediately subjected
      to all of the financial and social pressures
      caused by the alcoholic family member, and
      they are the ones most likely to suffer
      physically from the alcoholic's rages and
      tantrums and automobile accidents ....

      Because even the major components of behavior
      differ widely from alcoholic to alcoholic, it
      is easy for someone who is an alcoholic to
      pretend to himself that he is not. I certainly
      did that to myself when I was in my twenties:
      convincing me that I was in fact an alcoholic
      was a very difficult process, even though when
      you read my story, this may seem preposterous.
      How could I conceivably not have known, quite
      early on, that I was an alcoholic? It was
      because people would point at so-and-so, and
      say that he was an alcoholic, and I seemed to
      myself to be totally different from that person,
      in numerous essential ways. Therefore --
      I would try to convince myself -- if he is an
      alcoholic, then I am not, because I am not
      the same as him.

      Since alcoholism produces guilt and destroys
      the alcoholic's feelings of self-worth, this
      produces even greater barriers to responding
      in any kind of positive way. If I had to admit
      that I had become an alcoholic, then I would
      feel even guiltier than I already did back
      when I was in my twenties (which was overwhelm-
      ingly great), and my almost totally-demolished
      sense of self-worth would have been even
      further destroyed. So I fought any attempt
      by others to try to convince me that I had
      a problem with drinking.

      We must continue working to educate people
      about the true nature of alcoholism. It is
      not a behavior problem, and the kind of guilt
      I felt about my compulsive drinking was
      inappropriate. I had to do something about
      it, and I had to do it before I was totally
      destroyed by it. But becoming ill is not a
      matter for which one should feel guilt, nor
      is contracting an illness something which
      should shatter one's sense of self-worth. We
      do not blame sick people in a civilized society,
      but help them to get well again.

      And if I myself fall prey to some treatable
      disease, from which I could recover by taking
      appropriate steps, the intelligent response
      is not to feel that I have become worthless,
      but to take those steps which I must take to
      bring about my recovery."

      - - - -

      If you want to talk about what Jellinek
      believed and said, you have to ask "Jellinek
      when?" because he changed his position over
      a period of time. But he is most often
      remembered for his 1960 book which was
      entitled�"The Disease Concept of Alcoholism."

      And Jellinek also means his AA disciples,
      like Searcy Whaley in Dallas, Texas, to whom
      Bill W. sent Ebby to see if Searcy could get
      him sober.

      - - - -

      What I'm trying to say here is, that if you
      want to discuss the question of whether or not
      alcoholism is properly to be regarded as�a
      "disease" or an "illness" or a "malady" (or
      as something else entirely), this is perfectly
      all right. And we can talk about our own
      theories about what is "good AA" and what is
      "bad AA."

      But once you start talking about "what the Big
      Book says" and "what early AA people believed,"
      you have to go back and actually read the early
      documents, and accurately report what those
      folks actually said on that subject.

      Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana)
    • marionoredstone
      ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: From (MarionORedstone at aol.com) Footnotes from my upcoming book Inside these Rooms From E. Kurtz, PhD,
      Message 2 of 5 , May 9, 2009
      View Source
      • 0 Attachment
        ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

        From <MarionORedstone@...>
        (MarionORedstone at aol.com)

        Footnotes from my upcoming book Inside
        these Rooms

        From E. Kurtz, PhD, Monograph Alcoholics Anonymous
        and the Disease Concept of Alcoholism (2000)

        In 1938, while preparing the manuscript of the
        A.A. Big Book, Bill Wilson asked Dr. Bob Smith
        (a proctologist) about the accuracy of referring
        to alcoholism as a disease or one of its synonyms.
        Bob's reply, scribbled in a large hand on a
        small sheet of his letterhead, read: "Have to
        use disease -- sick -- only way to get across
        hopelessness," the final word doubly underlined
        and written in even larger letters.

        (Smith in Akron to Wilson)

        The answer William Griffith Wilson gave when specifically asked about alcoholism as disease after he had addressed the annual meeting of the National Catholic Clergy Conference of Alcoholism in 1961:
        “We have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments, or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Therefore we always called it an illness, or a malady --– far safer term for us to use.”

        In A.A.’s pamphlet, 44 Questions, the answer to the question What is Alcoholism? It is said:
        There are many different ideas about what alcoholism really is. The explanation that seems to make sense to most A.A. members is that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other illnesses, can be arrested. Going one step further, many A.A.s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking, which, regardless of consequences, cannot be broken by will power alone.

        - - - -

        From GFC: what does the Big Book actually say?

        3 TIMES:
        The word "disease" appears three times
        in the A.A. Big Book. It is said
        explicitly (in the first instance) or implied
        by context (in the other two usages) that
        alcoholism is a "spiritual disease."

        It is mentioned first on page 64 in
        discussing alcoholism:

        "Resentment is the 'number one' offender.
        It destroys more alcoholics than anything
        else. From it stem all forms of spiritual
        disease, for we have been not only
        mentally and physically ill, we have been
        spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady
        is overcome, we straighten out mentally
        and physically."

        Note that the words disease, ill, sick,
        and malady are treated by Bill Wilson
        here as exact synonyms. All four words
        meant exactly the same thing in the Big
        Book when it was published in 1939.

        Then again at the beginning of the second part
        of the book in the story of Bill Dotson, the
        Akron lawyer who was Alcoholics Anonymous
        Number Three, the word disease is also used.
        When Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob visited
        Dotson in the hospital, they told him he had
        "a disease," and when he explained his spiritual
        conversion to his wife, he told her he felt
        that God had cured him "of this terrible
        disease."

        So the word disease may only appear 3 times
        in the Big Book, but in each instance, it was
        a vitally important time, where Bill Wilson
        was talking about the very heart and core of
        the AA program.

        19 TIMES:
        Sick, sick person, or sickness on pages
        18, 64, 67, 90, 92, 100, 101, 106, 107,
        108, 115, 139, 140, 141, 147, 149, 153,
        157, and 164.

        14 TIMES:
        Ill or illness on pages 7, 18, 20, 30, 44, 92,
        107, 108, 115, 118, 122, 139, 140, and 142.

        ONLY 6 TIMES:
        Malady appears on pages 23, 64, 92, 138, 139,
        and 165.

        ONLY 3 TIMES:
        The words ail or ailment are used on pages 135,
        139, 140.

        - - - -

        From: Laurie Andrews <jennylaurie1@...>
        (jennylaurie1 at hotmail.com)

        Friends,

        I don't recall using the phrase "what early
        AA people believed"; I quoted Bill W and the
        Big Book.

        Bill cautioned against describing alcoholism
        as a disease entity and went so far as to say
        AA didn't use the term, preferring malady,
        sickness etc. Disease is only mentioned once
        in the first part of the book, where the
        program is outlined; here the reference is to
        "spiritual" disease, and I'm not sure how a
        physician would be qualified to diagnose that
        condition.

        Bill D mentions disease in the stories section
        and others might do in later editions, but
        that's their personal opinion, not AA "policy".
        I've read "Mrs Marty Mann: the first lady of
        Alcoholics Anonymous"; she had own agenda.

        Seems to me Glenn makes the same error as the
        Grapevine in conflating disease with illness
        (malady, ailment etc). They are not the same;
        I can be ill or sick but not necessarily have
        a disease. That many AA's lazily use the term
        disease to describe their (and my!) condition
        doesn't make it right. Ringwald (op cit)
        writes: "William Miller and Ernest Kurtz, two
        respected researchers and observers, compiled
        various outside conceptions of alcoholism
        mistakenly attributed to Alcoholics Anonymous.

        AA literature, they write, does not assert

        that there is only one form of alcoholism
        or only one way to recover; that alcoholics
        are responsible for their condition;

        that moderate drinking is impossible
        for every problem drinker;

        that alcoholics suffer from denial and should
        be bullied into treatment; or that alcoholism
        is purely a physical or hereditary disorder.
        AA's core beliefs do, however, resonate with
        or resemble those of other fields from which
        it has often borrowed or which it has influenced."
        In meeting after meeting I hear AA's making
        these and other claims; these opinions are
        also often voiced at public information
        gatherings by those who simply haven't studied
        the sources.

        Till the shadows flee away,

        laurie A.
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.