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week one of the best-known teetotalers in the U.S., John
D. Rockefeller, had 60 people to dinner. No cocktails were
served, for several of Mr. Rockefeller’s guests were
members of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” a widespread,
publicity-shy group of one-time guzzlers who have cured
Psychiatrists now generally consider alcoholism a disease,
specifically a psychoneurosis. Alcoholics generally drink,
not just because they like liquor, but to escape from something--a
mother fixation, inferiority feelings, an intolerable domestic
situation, social or economic maladjustment. They may suffer
the torments of the damned, even while drinking themselves
into a stupor, and especially in the brief period between
waking up with a remorseful, clattering hangover and getting
down the first drink of the day. Psychiatrists try to help
them by discovering the hidden reason for drinking and showing
how it can be removed. But cynics in sanatoriums, watching
a sober man walk out the door full of good intentions, often
bet on how many days or weeks will elapse before he is back.
Nagging by families usually makes things worse.
five years ago a traveling sales-man named Bill, after repeated
alcoholic relapses, was pronounced hopeless by his doctors.
Bill was an agnostic, but someone asked him if he couldn’t
believe that there was some power bigger than himself--call
it God or whatever he liked--that would help him not to
drink. The idea was that though Bill was always willing
to let himself down, he might be more reluctant to let God
down. Bill tried it, found that he had no trouble resisting
the desire to drink. He was cured. He told his discovery
to others, and the cure spread. These reformed drunkards
called themselves “Alcoholics Anonymous,” now
number over 400 in towns all over the U.S. - They do their
missionary work on their own time, as an avocation.
of this interest in liquor control, some of the group wrote
to John D. Rockefeller two years ago--asking not for money
but for advice. Mr. Rockefeller asked a representative to
look into their doings, grew so interested that he helped
to publish a book, Alcoholics Anonymous (Works Publishing
Co.; $3.50), in which some members described their battles
with the demon and how they won.
opinion on the usefulness of Alcoholics Anonymous is divided.
Some psychiatrists think the group is making a mistake in
not leaning more heavily on medical guidance. Others feel
that it gives something that psychiatry does not, should
be encouraged to the fullest extent.
Time, February 19, 1940)