PASTORAL PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 9(4):21-24, April, 1958
by LLOYD E. FOSTER, MARTY MANN and OTIS R. RICE
Synopsis of the Play
Louise Graham comes to Pastor Riggs to talk about her husband, Harry. The Graham’s have been two years in Middleton. Harry came to take a very good position, and they have two fine children. Louise says she simply must talk to someone, that Harry has always drunk a bit but recently has been coming home drunk. They have discussed it, and Harry has blamed it on working so hard and on the need to drink in his business. Louise asks if the pastor will see Harry, and he says he will if Harry wants to.
Harry does not show up for his evening appointment. At midnight Louise telephones Mr. Riggs. Harry has not been home and he has the car. The pastor manages to find Harry, who is drunk, and takes him home. He stays until Harry begins to sober up. Harry expresses very sincere regret and contrition. The pastor, while skeptical, believes Harry may really change. Things do improve for a time.
Louise is so pleased she invites the pastor one evening to dinner. Harry fails to arrive. About midnight a cab driver brings Harry home drunk. Harry’s alcoholism in the months ahead become worse and worse. Louise, desperate, comes again to the pastor to discuss leaving Harry. She decides against this, and also sees that she has been cutting herself off, due to a false feeling of shame, from the help her friends might give her.
Harry’s alcoholism reaches a climax when he falls from a second-story window and is injured. The pastor and physician discuss how he may be helped. They decide to appeal to Alcoholics Anonymous. As the drama ends, an A.A. member arrives to try to help Harry Graham.
ANNOUNCER: In behalf of the Department of Pastoral Services of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, here is the Rev. Dr. Lloyd E. Foster to 1ead.a discussion. His guests are Mrs. Marty Mann, Executive Director of the National Council on Alcoholism, and the Rev. Otis R. Rice, (formerly) Chaplain, St. Luke’s Hospital, New York City, and lecturer at Yale University School of Alcohol Studies. Here is Dr. Foster:
FOSTER: Chaplain Rice, in the story, Pastor Riggs felt that he had failed in his attempt to help Harry Graham overcome the problem of alcoholism. Wherein did he fail?
RICE: Pastor Riggs thought that he had failed because, like so many other pastors, he thought of his job as bringing a soul to salvation with those resources in his own hands. He felt he should have been able somehow, by his own understanding and by his own manipulation of the situation, to make this man well. And he felt he was a failure because he himself could not do it but must turn him over to someone else.
MANN: I don’t think he failed at all. In the first place, he gave Harry Graham understanding, not condemnation. He didn’t lecture at him, and he didn’t preach at him. He listened to him. He tried to help him. And he found out where to turn for help.
FOSTER: When the story concludes, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous had gone to talk with Harry. How would he guide him? And how would he share with him?
MANN: He would begin, I think, by telling a little bit about himself in order to show Harry Graham that he wasn’t alone any more; that there was sombody else who had been over the same road and had won out. He would then tell Harry Graham how he had won out. Incidentally, both the pastor mentioned the thing that the A.A. member would have told Harry Graham. He would have told him about a new compelling interest and would have told him about a spiritual awakening. He would have told him about a pattern for living that would show him how to live happily without needing a drink.
FOSTER: Any worker, then, may turn to A.A. I want to stress the very fine service that the A.A.’s are rendering, particularly in cooperation with pastors. When an alcoholic or a member of the family comes to the pastor, he may refer the alcoholic to the A.A.’ and they stand by to help and assist in a splendid way.
RICE: May I add also that the pastor’s task is not done when the transfer to A.A. has been made. They welcome the help of the pastor in further consultation with the man, and I think that is true of the doctor as well.
FOSTER: In the story the doctor said that Harry had a disease. He stated that alcoholism is a disease. What does that mean?
MANN: IT means that Harry was a compulsive drinker, that his drinking was completely out of control. He had lost the power of choice over where he would drink, when he would drink, and how much he would drink. Harry didn’t intend to get drunk. He intended to have a few drinks with his buyers and then go home like everyone else. But once he started he couldn’t stop.
FOSTER: It is a disease in the sense that a person loses control of his life.
MANN: That is true. He loses control of his drinking and that makes him lose control gradually of every department of his life.
RICE: This is a very helpful concept to the pastor. We no longer have to look upon the alcoholic as someone whom we must condemn and in whom we must inspire more guilt. We know that he feels guilty already, that at this point at least he is unable to do anything about his own life without help. Of course there are moral problems involved; but at this time what he needs is understanding and love rather than condemnation.
MANN: That is true, and frankly that makes it very difficult for people because the symptoms of alcoholism are rather unpleasant behavior. People’s natural feelings in the face of that unpleasant behavior are anger, resentment, hostility, and frustration. They try to do what they think is right for the alcoholic, but usually they are just raising his defiance because they are trying to force him. He can’t be forced. He can only be led.
FOSTER: That is, it is very important to understand that alcoholism is a disease, and particularly for members of the family, because unless they understand it they will not be sympathetic and share in the solution of his problem?
MANN: I think it a necessary prerequisite to any kind of help for an alcoholic.
RICE: It is, however, one of the most difficult things for an alcoholic’s family to do to have that understanding, as it is for the pastor. The alcoholic irritates many pastors when he comes to them. Indeed, sometimes the pastor is so angry that he cannot use the fine resources which he has within himself, within his church, within the Christian community.
MANN: It takes a lot of overcoming, I think, on the part of most people.
FOSTER: It would be especially true of the family, wouldn’t it?
MANN: I think it would.
FOSTER: They are so close to the problem that they don’t understand it and therefore they are depressed and irritable and intolerant toward him.
MANN: Further, it disturbs their lives, too. Alcoholism is one of the few diseases that affects the lives of all those around the afflicted one.
RICE: And the community as well, of course. MANN: Indeed.
FOSTER: And those involved in the situation, then, are less qualified to help because they don’t understand it?
MANN: Very often, but they could understand it. There are ways and means by which they could find out more about it.
RICE: Isn’t there an opportunity too for the Christian Church in this situation for teaching in the community, for exemplifying this attitude in the fellowship of the church itself, in the attitude of the pastor, in the attitude of the worshipping congregation? It is a great opportunity for the community to be taught by the church.
FOSTER: One of the most encouraging things at the present time is that so many Protestant pastors are trying to get new insights and skills in counseling and to make themselves available to the people in the community.
I am thinking of a family now in which there is an alcoholic. Their patience has been sorely tried. They are discouraged. They are rather hopeless about it. What can they do to bring some sort of solution to this problem of alcoholism?
MANN: If their alcoholic is anywhere near ready to do anything, they can seek out the nearest group of Alcoholics Anonymous. If he, or sher because it may be a woman, is not ready, they can nevertheless really educate themselves if they wish. There are local committees for education on alcoholism in many cities in this country. If there isn’t one in their city, they can write to the National Committee on Alcoholism, 2 East 103rd Street, New York 29, N.Y. Incidentally, the most important thing they can do is to learn and live up to the three concepts which the National Council tries to spread:
1. Alcoholism is a disease.
2. The alcoholic is a sick person.
3. The alcoholic can be helped and is worth helping.
This is a public health problem and therefore a public responsibility.
FOSTER: If you know someone who is struggling helplessly against alcohol, why not turn to an understanding pastor near you for help? He will counsel and guide you. Often he will direct you to Alcoholics Anonymous, a clinic, or to an information center which can help both the family and the alcoholic himself. And above all, the pastor will offer the power and resources of the Christian church. Remember, that now, as throughout the ages, faith in Christ changes men’s lives.