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IRISH ECCLESIASTICAL RECORD
Vol. 73: 258-259, March, 1950
by J. McCarthy
Dear Sir, - What is to be thought of the Fellowship of
Alcoholics Anonymous, whose avowed purpose is 'to help the
alcoholic if he wishes to recover?'
correspondent has kindly sent us a number of leaflets and
booklets in which are set out and explained the constitution,
aims and the methods of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
have examined this literature carefully and have also read
independent descriptions of the work and history of the
which was founder in America in 1934, and now has a membership
over 100,000 scattered over thirty countries. We have been
favourably blessed by what we have read on this subject.
Fellowsip is a voluntary, non-sectarian, non-political
society of alcoholics who have an honest and ernest desire
recover (and to stay recovered) from their unfortunate state.
emphasized that this state is truly a disease in the case
real alcoholic - a disease which is partly a physical allergy
mainly a form of mental obsession. The aim of the society
Alcoholics Anonymous is to rehabilitate those so afflicted
diseased. The means are social therapy and a programme of
which is summarized in twelve steps. The psychological approach
seems to be very sound and well-considered. We shall only
few points here. The alcoholic finds great human sympathy,
understanding and strength in the company of those who have
afflicted as he is, and who are winning through. This fellow-feeling
is very helpful. The alcoholic is asked simply to concentrate
keeping off one drink, the first, for one day at a time.
He is not
asked to take a pledge for life. Thus he is not from the
frightened and depressed by the magnitude of the problem
recovery. This problem has been reduced to and set out for
manageable proportions. He is exhorted to realize his dependence
upon God - Whose help must be earnestly asked. As a final
twelfth, the alcoholic has set before him the motive of
help and hope to others similarly afflicted. This is a vital
most valuable part of the programme. The alcoholic is made
realize that he can help others. This realization serves
and to destroy his sense of failure and uselessness and
his self-respect. It becomes also a powerful incentive to
alcoholic to persevere in sobriety. The Fellowship has made
extravagent claims for the success of the treatment provided.
does not claim final cures - but rather the effective arresting
the disease. And there is abundant evidence to show that,
of it and with due cooperation, very many so-called hopeless
alcoholics have been rehabilitated.
who has experience of the great problem and heartbreak
of trying to help and restore to normality and decency chronic
alcoholics, will be grateful for the help which this Fellowship
proffers. The emphasis of the programme is mainly upon the
virtues of humility, sincerity, honesty with oneself, and
need for the help of God. We see nothing in the program
conflict in any way with Catholic principles. There is,
evidence that Catholics have, through Alcoholics Anonymous,
returned, not merely to sobriety, but to the regular practice
their religion. This is as might be expected. Restoration
of a sense
of responsibility and self-respect should naturally lead
conscientious realization of religious duties.
are just a few suggestions we would make. Firstly, we
should like to see it admitted that, while alcoholism may
enough reach the stage of being a serious disease in particular
cases, this pass is generally reached as the result of earlier
culpable excesses. This admission who have no deleterious
It would rather serve as a greater incentive to strive for
Secondly, for the sake of Catholics, we should like to see
reference to the necessity and incalculable value of supernatural
helps for the alcoholic in his struggle towards sobriety.
helps can be abundantly obtained by frequent reception of
sacraments. The difficulty about inserting such a reference
general programme of recovery is that it is desired to keep
programme on non-sectarian lines. But, perhaps, priests
into contact with members of Alcoholics Anonymous might
those concerned the point to which we have referred. We
that suggestions and co-operation would be welcomed. Needless
the use of the available supernatural means would serve
consolidate successes won along natural lines. The supernatural
elevates, it does not destroy the natural.