The Alcoholic Suffers

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

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We have attempted to do this in the 10 years or so since Father Kennedy made
this suggestion, and I believe that it has had an impact. I believe that it
has enabled a lot of people to get to AA. As he said, “It lets them save face
in their own minds.” And I know perfectly well that one of the barriers to
successful helping of the alcoholic is the load of guilt that the alcoholic is

This is even truer with some groups than others. It has been my experience,
and I have talked with a lot of you, that the priest who develops alcoholism
has a bigger load of guilt than anyone else. And it often can be an effective
barrier against help.

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I think that anything that we can do to lift the load of guilt, since it is a
barrier to recovery, we should do, and I think that much can be done in the
counseling session to lift it.

The Alcoholic Suffers

We don’t have to say that everything you did while you were drunk is just
dandy. It wasn’t. And the alcoholic knows that really better than anyone else.
The alcoholic has suffered – and this is something that many people don’t
realize – more intensely from remorse and shame than anybody on the outside
can ever imagine. We don’t need to hammer them over the head with guilt. They
can create more than outsiders ever dreamed of. Their burden of guilt is
greater than any outsider will ever realize, and it is our job, if we are
counseling, if we are trying to help, to remove any possible barriers to

The second thing that I want to talk about today is something that was brought
to my attention a good many years ago, when I had a young man working for me
whose name was Denis McGenty. I don’t have to tell you he was a Catholic. And
he was quite a guy. He was a member of AA, and he was a real artist with the
words. He was a spellbinder. Denis was a sociologist. But his drinking had
interfered and he never got his Ph.D. And he began talking about it, and
thinking about it while he was working for me. One day he was discussing
various subjects that he might take for his doctoral dissertation, and he
said, “You know, I have got a wild idea that I would really like to try. I
think most alcoholics are saints manqu. They are people who have all the
qualities and qualifications for becoming saintly and somehow it gets
misdirected. And it is one reason that they get caught in this toil, this
vicious circle that they go around and around in. I believe that most
alcoholics of whatever denomination have been seeking God in their own way
through their drinking. In fact, though they have taken the path that is
leading them away from Him, that isn’t what they had in mind.”

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