What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA as it is often titled, has become an international society, a fellowship, in which members help one another stay away from drinking alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous has spawned similar movements addressing addiction to other mind-altering drugs (psychoactive drugs) such as narcotics (NA), cocaine (CA), methamphetamine, or prescription drugs and deleterious behaviors such as gambling or inappropriate sex. AA, for all the negative reputation it may have gained in the past, is the major force combatting alcoholism and addiction in the USA, indeed, in the world.
History of Alcoholics Anonymous
The bible of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services and also known as “The Big Book,” is sold at numerous bookstores, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and any local AA Central Office found in cities all over the world. Below is a photo of the front cover shown for educational purposes:
This book, titled Alcoholics Anonymous, was first written and edited in 1939 by the co-founders of AA, Bill Wilson (“Bill W.”) and Dr. Robert Smith (“Dr. Bob”). Three more editions have appeared since then.
The early beginnings of AA can be seen in the educational movie about Alcoholics Anonymous: “My Name Is Bill W”. Prior to the 1935 efforts of Bill W. and Dr. Bob to help alcoholics recover from their affliction, earlier attempts to manage alcoholism, then thought to be a psychological lack of will, centered around religious endeavors, of which The Oxford Group was a prominent entity. Bill W, a stock broker, married, and a veteran, suffered through years of the affliction, including while a member of The Oxford Group. While turning one’s life problems over to God did help, his drinking would not cease until he and Dr. Bob discovered a powerful phenomenon: it takes another alcoholic helping a suffering alcoholic for the desire to drink ethyl alcohol to disappear without relapses (for both individuals). And thus 1935 saw the birth of AA, portrayed recently in terrific theater (Alcoholics Anonymous). The Oxford Group became history. Alcoholics Anonymous Timeline gives us a brief review of the AA chronicles. The following additional history found on aa.org educates us further:
“A.A. had its beginnings in 1935 at Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon. Both had been hopeless alcoholics. Prior to that time, Bill and Dr. Bob had each been in contact with the Oxford Group, a mostly nonalcoholic fellowship that emphasized universal spiritual values in daily living. In that period, the Oxford Groups in America were headed by the noted Episcopal clergyman, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker. Under this spiritual influence, and with the help of an old-time friend, Ebby T., Bill had gotten sober and had then maintained his recovery by working with other alcoholics, though none of these had actually recovered.
“Meanwhile, Dr. Bob’s Oxford Group membership at Akron had not helped him enough to achieve sobriety. When Dr. Bob and Bill finally met, the effect on the doctor was immediate. This time, he found himself face to face with a fellow sufferer who had made good. Bill emphasized that alcoholism was a malady of mind, emotions and body. This all-important fact he had learned from Dr. William D. Silkworth of Towns Hospital in New York, where Bill had often been a patient. Though a physician, Dr. Bob had not known alcoholism to be a disease. Responding to Bill’s convincing ideas, he soon got sober, never to drink again. The founding spark of A.A. had been struck.”
The efforts of Bill W. and Dr. Bob likely have saved an incalculable number of lives as well as rehabilitating families destroyed by the ravages of alcoholism and addiction. While never receiving a Nobel prize, these men unselfishly gave of themselves in order to bring order out of chaos, a feat nearly unmatched in the history of medicine. How effective is AA? I do not know (statistics vary), except to say that no other therapy has done as well as the Twelve-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. How far has AA come? Click on Alcoholics Anonymous for an enlightening You-Tube video produced by The Hazelden Foundation and showing the meeting of the 75th Anniversary of AA. Over 60,000 “friends of Bill W.” met in the Alamodome in Austin, Texas. Awesome.
How It Works
One can get an idea how Alcoholics Anonymous works by watching the very instructive hour-long You-Tube videos, “Decoding the Twelve Steps:” Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. The book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services teaches us about much of the basis behind recovering from alcoholism in AA. It can be obtained from numerous bookstores, Google Books, Amazon.com, and any local AA Central Office found in cities all over the world. Here the front cover is illustrated for educational benefits:
Alcoholics Anonymous and “The Neurosurgeon”
Many are under the impression that alcoholism occurs mainly in skid row bums. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, some unfortunates in that category arrive there after years of uncontrolled alcohol or drug intake, having started as an educated and hard-working citizen. The Neurosurgeon is a psychological novel about a brain surgeon, Dr. Ira Stone, caught up in the spiderweb of addiction and his struggle for redemption via Alcoholics Anonymous. Though fiction, the story is woven from the addiction experiences of anonymous physicians and others in AA and at Recovery Centers.
From The Neurosurgeon
“…‘Nothing has changed, Ira,’ my wife sighed. ‘It is as if we are two people living in different cities. You ignore my kids, even your own. Your job, our checkbook, and the den are your life. Maybe we both need some help.’
‘I never quite got over Sam’s death.’ She laid her towel down. A depressed countenance had replaced her super-smile. ‘And my arthritic knee is killing me. My doctor has me on OxyContin now.’
‘OxyContin! Jeez, Monica. You know how addicting that is.’ I shot her a withering look while picking up the next dish from the sink, my favorite short glass.
I could not cope with another addict in my family. One was enough—my daughter. I did not count me among the accursed. I frowned, suddenly not recalling what we were talking about. Oxy-something. Whatever…
‘Ira, thanks for helping with the…’ Monica’s leaden words trailed after me and fell away. I had already peeled off for the den.
I did not want to hear about her problems. I could not even cope with my own. I glanced at my drink. God, I cannot stop. I sat there staring off into the middle distance. Uncomfortable judgments kept pacing back and forth. ‘Have you considered going to rehab?’ My family, my siblings, my girls—they must all be so ashamed of me. I’m glad Mom and Dad are not around to see this.
I spun the ice chips. Someone at AA said that Appleton was a good place to go. A small fortune for the first month, though. I wonder if it is worth the price tag. The price tag? It likely paled before the cost of my affliction, though that idea quickly evaporated. Still and all, this surgeon’s fucked-up brain-case was housing his fucked-up beliefs along with a hard-wired consortium of fucked-up consultants, all attempting to treat his fucked-up thinking—and it was not working. Alone, I was simply incapable of unlocking the cryptogram, the key eluding me as it crossed my lips once more—another ounce of whiskey.
And then, from a submerged soundtrack, a message from long ago surfaced. The Namakan—The craft rocked with the waves, and the rhythmic but muted slap, slap sound played on my ears. Again I wondered if a higher power had been sending a message in Morse code.
I poured more and more royal lubricant into my chalice and drank, the very earth stopping its motion, all sounds ceasing. I can’t go on like this. Monica now alludes to a divorce. My children won’t talk to me. My health is slipping. I may lose my job and medical license. The guys at AA strongly hint at a recovery program. I heard Monica weeping on the other side of my closed door. A massive lump settled in my throat, and my hands were shaking. How could I live without my Crown Royal? How could I live with it in this decaying lotus field, losing all honor and discipline?
I gazed at a black and white photo of my parents. Mom and Dad, I have to do this. Please do not be angry at me, Dad. I’m so sorry. I saw wetness on my fingers. It had come from my cheeks. I felt I was less than. My deteriorating psyche was now on dialysis.
If I go, what will my colleagues at work think? Will they point me toward the exit? What will everyone say behind my back? Still, I realized what I had to do. Even if it killed me. Or the alternative surely would. I made my decision…”
Alcoholics Anonymous & “The Neurosurgeon”
Alcoholics Anonymous & “The Neurosurgeon”
Later at Recovery Center
“…One evening Doctor Simon ThunderHawk presented the most recent medical findings on addiction, society’s greatest pestilence, a disease condemned by mankind even as we all headed for the nearest tavern. Blue highlights reflected from his shoulder-length sable hair. Richly endowed eyebrows rose and fell as he imparted his message. The projected PowerPoint presentation fascinated me, a physician…”
“…The Sioux Indian puckered his brow, eyes as wide as chestnuts. ‘Listen to me, dammit! We are sick. We will never be cured!’ With one sonic punch ThunderHawk slammed his pointer stick against the canvas. ‘I know, my friends. One prick of anger and one jigger of whiskey was all it took for Slick to release his snake venom in me, and I found myself in jail for vehicular manslaughter. As a paroled felon, I can never vote, and I am excluded from most jobs.’ His voice was deep and tight. ‘If we cannot control our sacred fears and resentments, relapse will occur. It happened to me and it will happen to you. We drink and we use, leaving scorched earth in our wake, disease and destruction mushrooming as we feed the beast.
‘Like Brer Rabbit stuck on Tar Baby—the more we punch it, the more stuck we get, and then one half of us in this room will return to our using or drinking, risking death from medical complications, auto accidents, suicide, gun battles, and just plain rot. Slick awakens, slipping out of hibernation, the newly resurrected dead taking over—and we just keep on punching the Tar Baby. For those unfortunates, the bell will toll, and the maw of Hades is just around the corner. A long, lonely highway it is.’ And then Simon ThunderHawk wrote on the white board,
My name is Slick. I lie here quietly. You do not see me. I wish you death and suffering. I am cunning, baffling, and powerful. I relish pretending I am your friend and lover, but in truth I loathe you. I despise you, and you will die! I am the proud excrement of Satan, and my name is Slick…”
(View another page in this website to see a thesaurus of 2,060 synonyms for “said,” “thought,” and “walked” in the author’s Mini-Thesaurus for psychological novels. Synonyms for these verbs were used extensively in the psychological novel, The Neurosurgeon.)
[This website and my novel, The Neurosurgeon, are protected by copyright ©]
Online sources for this psychological thriller about neurosurgery and addiction: