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ALLERGIC TO DRINK:
Plus Inability to Heed Warning of Own Weakness, Leads Inebriate
of Six Articles)
What is an alcoholic? How does he differ from
other drinkers? An incident to illustrate:
that I had nothing to sell, puzzled that I did not come
as a patient either, the nurse finally ushered me into the
office of one of Houstons most eminent physicians.
He is prominent also in other activities that often have
put him in the spotlight. He is a big name.
had come, as an ex-alcoholic, to tell him about Alcoholics
Anonymous and to have him introduce me to an alcoholic victim
among his patients whom I might help; for I am a stranger
good doctor, eyebrows bristling, welcomed me with gruff
suspicion. No, he had never heard of Alcoholics Anonymous.
But he listened. I felt he was showing more Texas courtesy
way through my recital he broke in: Humph, he
humphed, I have no patience with these fellows you
call victims. His voice showed it. Why,
I can handle anything. So could they control their drinking
if they wanted to.
he gave me the name of an able man whose excessive indulgence
in firewater was endangering the business he had built up,
wrecking his health, rendering his family desperate.
just out of a cure, said the doctor. But he
gave them the runaround some way. Hitting it up again. See
what you can do with him. Tell him I sent you. His family
is crazy. I can do nothing more.
you have in one situation the two kinds of drinkers--the
man who can handle anything, and the drinker
who steps right out of one of the usual cures
and hoists a few before he even gets home.
our experience tells us that everybody cannot handle
anything. The alcoholic cannot control his drinking.
Sometimes the dividing line over which he has slid is hard
people are alcoholics with their first drink. Most of them
become such by degrees.
can a drinker define his position on the scale? How can
the condition known medically as alcoholism be recognized
before the desperate stage?
get drunk once in a while does not necessarily prove one
is an alcoholic in the sense in which the word is used here.
A man may drink steadily all his life with an occasional
roaring bender, and not be thus classified.
before writing this article, I lunched by chance with a
newspaperman of short acquaintance. This subject came up
and I showed him a draft of yesterdays story in this
he said. That hits me. Ive been on the wagon
for nine months now. Ive never heard of Alcoholics
Anonymous; but I know it isnt the tenth drink that
will get me down, but the first one. But Im not an
what they all say.
likes to admit that he is bodily and mentally different
from his fellows, especially if he imagines (though wrongly)
that doing so pegs him as somehow inferior in good taste,
self-control, gentlemanliness, or what have you.
then, I said. Youre not an alcoholic.
However, heres a test Ill bet youre afraid
can diagnose yourself, Ill get a bottle. Come to my
room this evening and well sit around and gas, while
you try some controlled drinking. Take several shots and
see what happens.
if you can stop abruptly and forget about it. Try it several
times. It will not take long to decide if you are honest
with yourself, and it may be worth a bad case of jitters
to learn the truth.
doing, the gentleman of the press replied. He came
back with it so quickly that you couldnt doubt he
meant it. Done that too many times already. Its
the first drink that sends me off to the races.
an alcoholic. Perhaps not for a long time will he touch
another drop. Then some fine day when he isnt looking,
one of the insanely absurd and inadequate reasons with which
the alcoholic deludes himself when he wants a drink, will
pop into his head, just when the drinks are handy.
first glass down, its the old story again; but this
time hes older. The reasons for his former sobriety
may be gone. The picture is different. He has shamed himself,
damaged his pride and self-confidence. And perhaps he cant
snap out of it by himself or with the ordinary kind of help.
true alcoholics, it is never a question of control or moderation.
Their only out is absolute abstinence.
Anonymous might well make the last two words of the preceding
paragraph the second meaning of A.A.
is this total aversion necessary for the drinkers and not
Khayyam, you remember, said of the juice of his well beloved
grape: Tis a blessing; we should use it,
should we not? And if a curse, why then, who put it there?
alcoholic can indulge in no such philosophical fancies,
any more than a diabetic can gorge himself on sweets
body and his mind become sick, with alcohol.
is as though he is allergic to drink. The allergy theory
is admitted by physicians who advance it to be only a
theory. Nevertheless, it explains many things that otherwise
do not make sense.
things especially characterize the alcoholic as a different
breed of cattle.
first is the phenomenon of craving. Not merely the thought
that a drink would be agreeable, but a definite, undeniable
second is the appearance of the curious mental phenomenon
that, parallel to the victims sound reasoning which
warns him of the folly and danger, there inevitably runs
some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink.
Insanely trivial because, measured against the hell which
from experience he knows hes in for, no one in the
state of mind called normal and sane would act on it for
reasoning fails to hold him in check. The insane idea wins
third distinguishing characteristic is the fact that the
alcoholic, actual or potential, is absolutely unable to
stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.
point has been smashed home on many members of Alcoholics
Anonymous out of bitter experience.
many are the dodges they have tried in vain! Here is a partial
list: Drinking whiskey only with milk, drinking beer only,
limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, drinking
only at home, never having it in the home, never drinking
during business hours, drinking only at parities, switching
from Scotch to brandy or rum, drinking only natural wines,
agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip,
swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking
more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going
to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment
to asylums--the list could go on ad infinitum.
can add a favorite of my own. Believing that the evil of
drink lies not in its use but in its abuse. I tried asking
whatever you may choose to call the higher Power to teach
it seems God didnt build me that way. Im glad
I found out in time.
is an illness in a class by itself.
feel sorry for the victim of cancer. No one gets angry about
it. But look at the alcoholics trail of misunderstanding,
fierce resentments, financial insecurity, disgusted friends
and employers, warped lives of blameless and trusting children,
sad wives and parents--and more.
is why Alcoholics Anonymous wants this message spread broadcast.
If you see no need for it now, who knows how soon you may
have occasion to remember it? It may not be a bad idea to
clip this series and save it against that day.
Houston Press Index
Story of a Way
Out for Hopeless Drinkers
Seemingly Allergic to Drink: Alcoholic's Burden
How it Started
and Gained Speed
to Overcome Alcoholism
A New Approach
to Psychotherapy in Chronic Alcoholism