Younger People in Addiction by Mrs. Marty Mann, Executive Director, National Council on Alcoholism, New York via Silkworth
Younger People in AA
I firmly believe that with the increasing education about alcoholism,
increasing understanding of it, increasing acceptance of it as the illness it
is, people are coming for help at earlier and earlier stages of their
problems. It is not unusual to go to an AA meeting, particularly in a big
city, and find everybody there looking to me like infants. Now, I recognize
that is partly because of my own increasing age, for people look younger every
year, I find. But it is true that there are a very large number of people in
AA, all across the country, who are in their 20’s today. This was not true in
the beginning. And these people have hit a kind of bottom that is certainly
totally unlike this general picture.
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I think we have to recognize this in counseling the alcoholic – that this
bottom is a purely personal thing. A person may hit bottom because of his own
thinking on the subject, because of what he has learned, because of the fact
he has recognized what is ahead of him. Just enough has happened to make him
see that the pattern fits, and he has read about it, or listened to someone
who knows telling him about it. He sees what lies ahead, and he doesn’t want
to go that road. And nobody would, if he had a choice.
Today he has a choice. There are things he can do. There are places he can go;
there are people that he can talk to, and he need not yield to, he is not
bound hand and foot to the inevitable progress of alcoholism. He can break the
chains. He can become free. It is very satisfying to me, to realize how many
young people are preferring to be free once they learn what these chains are
Now “bottom” may not have shown on the outside at all. He may not have lost
anything. He may never have lost a job. He may not have lost his family or
even had the threat of losing his family. He may be materially well off, but
inside, as he recognizes his condition, and what it means, and where it will
lead, he hits a kind of emotional bottom. He hits bottom where it counts, in
the feelings. Alcoholics aren’t any different from anybody else.
I like to tell my fellow alcoholics, remind them, we are people just like
anyone else. We have the same equipment that other people have. We have a
mind, we have an intellect, we have feelings – sometimes I think that is the
one area where we may be a little different – perhaps our feelings are more
acute, but I am not certain whether that antedated the ingestion of alcohol or
whether alcohol watered those feelings, like watering a garden. And they
became more acute and bigger and more visible than other people’s.
We have a soul. I firmly believe every human being does, no matter what his
actions are, or what terrible things he may have done. We have all the
equipment of everybody else. We are people and, therefore, we share a lot of
the failings of the human race. I don’t think alcoholics are unusually blind
to alcoholism. Everybody is blind to alcoholism. They are sharing what
everybody else has.