Counseling the Alcoholic

Counseling the Alcoholic by Mrs. Marty Mann, Executive Director, National Council on Alcoholism, New York via Silkworth

GNN Note – It is my personal experience these techniques work with any addiction – any addiction whatsoever, not just alcoholics. / END

The Blue Book, Vol. XVIII, 1966

I like the title of the talk assigned me, viz., “Counseling the Alcoholic.” I
am not a counselor. My experience in working directly with alcoholics came
through membership in AA. I have the honor of being the first woman who made
it in AA, and as that was 27 years ago this month, I have been around a long
time. I have done a great deal of 12th step work. In that sense it could be
said that I have counseled alcoholics. I think that is what one does in 12th
step work. And I think that is where one learns the two most vital points in
reaching and helping the alcoholic. These are what I want to talk to you

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I ought perhaps to address my remarks primarily to those who have not had the
indoctrination, the induction, into the field of counseling the alcoholic that
AA members automatically get.

Therefore, the first point I want to make is that, in my opinion, the first
requirement for successful counseling of the alcoholic is the correct attitude
of the person doing the counseling toward the alcoholic. There are many highly
qualified people in the field of counseling with all kinds of degrees and many
years of experience, but they can’t work with alcoholics. I think that very
often they are unaware of the reason why they can’t work with alcoholics. As
far as they know consciously they are sympathetic. They recognize that these
people are ill; in fact, they repeat happily the basic statement of NCA that
alcoholism is a disease. But actually they have given only lip service to that
concept. Intellectually they have accepted it – intellectually only – and I
would remind you as priests – you know this better than I – that human beings
do not act on their intellectual beliefs. They act on their feelings; they act
on the beliefs that are in their hearts rather than in their heads. And if
they do not deeply believe that alcoholism is an illness, that these are sick
people, in their hearts, then they are ineffective in dealing with alcoholics.

The sad part about this is that far too many people do not recognize this
division within themselves. They are unaware that their disbelief runs deep,
sometimes so deep that they can’t put their finger on it. It is a conditioning
that they probably received before they were six years old (and the
psychiatrists tell us that is crucial) that they imbibed almost with their
mother’s milk, and at their mother’s knee, and by osmosis, because of the
society in which we all grew up, acquired the old attitudes that alcoholism is
purely a sin, that this is a moral question, wholly and completely. You see,
nobody in the field of alcoholism denies that there are tremendous moral
implications in alcoholism, because of the behavior that it induces and also
because of the thinking that develops from continued ingestion of alcohol. In
AA we call it stinkin’ thinkin’. It can be very far from any of our ideals
about morals and virtues and faith. All of these things are true. But this is
not what I am talking about.

Continue Reading / pdf – second full paragraph page 10 / Silkworth >>>

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