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The Blessing of Alcoholism

Rupert Wolfe Murray septembrie 28, 2012 Opinie, Societate/Life
15 comentarii 1,103 Vizualizari

Books about therapy don’t usually sell very well and when Dr M. Scott Peck, an American Psychiatrist, wrote The Road Less Travelled he wasn’t sure he would sell any. After all it was about the role that spirituality can play in therapy, a concept that was widely ignored by western psychiatry at the time (the book was published in 1978).

The Road Less Travelled had a huge impact on psychiatry, therapy and people all over the world. It sold over ten million copies, was translated into more than twenty languages and is still selling like hot cakes on Amazon.com.  David Sheff interviewed him for Playboy and wrote “Few books since the Bible have influenced so many people. Certainly, few have sold more.”

Peck has a lot of good things to say about Alcoholics Anonymous, which has spirituality at its core. He calls alcoholism “the sacred disease”and says that “alcoholics and AA have a great blessing and a great genius.” This is quite refreshing as I have seen a lot of rather cruel and cynical criticism of AA recently (Youtube is rife with it).

Peck’s praise of AA isn’t some feelgood technique to make addicts feel better about themselves. It is backed up by some really interesting points and can be read in his book Further Along the Road Less Travelled.  He believes that we are all “broken”– full of grief and terror — even if we are not fully aware of it. And we are doubly cursed because we can’t talk to each other about these things, even though they are critical to our happiness. We hide behind masks of composure.

Alcoholics, on the other hand, are not any more broken than the rest of us but they are unable to hide it anymore. “So the great blessing of alcoholism is the nature of the disease. It puts people into a visible crisis, and as a result into a community — an AA group.”

Community is the key to personal development, spirituality and happiness, according to M. Scott Peck.  He also says that community is what Jesus’message is all about, a message that he claims has never been properly understood.  The tragedy of modern man is that we live such individualised lives that there is very little opportunity to share our deepest fears with each other. There is no real community and as a result most people are destined to be unhappy.

But creating a community isn’t easy. It’s not just a question of meeting up with friends or going to a club, as in those situations it’s unlikely that you are going to open up and talk about your worries and fears. Scott Peck says that “community develops naturally only in response to crisis. So it is that strangers in the waiting room of an intensive care unit will rapidly come to share with each other their deepest fears and joys, because their relatives lie across the hall on the critical list.”

The only problem is that as soon as the crisis passes so does the community.  Peck writes about the “tens of thousands”of American veterans who meet up every weekend “drinking themselves silly, mourning the days of World War II. They remember those days with such fondness because even though they were cold and wet and in danger, they experienced a depth of community and meaning in their lives that they have never quite been able to recapture since.”

Peck’s praise for AA is based on the fact that they have a system which gives people the most important thing in life: an ongoing community.  “The great genius of alcoholics in AA is that they refer to themselves as recovering alcoholics…and by using that word ‘recovering’they are constantly reminding themselves that the process of recovery is ongoing. And because the crisis is ongoing, the community is ongoing.”

M. Scott Peck’s main criticism of western psychiatry is that it disregards spirituality, largely due to the overwhelming influence of Freud. In 1992 Peck was invited to address the American Psychiatric Association and he told them that people were turning away from the profession because they were unable to discuss spiritual issues with their psychiatrist.  He urged them to incorporate spirituality into their thinking and stop the loss of patients to “the competition”– religious, fundamentalist and new age healers.

People who go into AA or other 12 Step Programmes get what is known as “a sponsor” This is effectively an amateur therapist.  Although they are not formally trained in psychology or psychiatry Scott Peck considers them as good, if not better, than professional therapists. The main reason for this is that they address the spiritual needs of their charges and also people are encouraged to outgrow their sponsor, something that very few psychiatrists would be willing to accept.

Peck concludes his chapter on alcoholism (in Further Along the Road Less Travelled) with this bold statement: “I believe the greatest positive event of the twentieth century occurred in Akron, Ohio, on June 10, 1935, when Bill W and Dr. Bob convened the first AA meeting. It was not only the beginning of the self-help movement and the beginning of the integration of science and spirituality at a grass-roots level, but also the beginning of the community movement.”

Scott Peck was 69 when he died in 2005. Click here to see his obituary in the Washington Post.

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Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. GNV987 spune:

    Thank you. If I remember correctly Jung observed that very few practising catholics ended up using his services

    • workacholic person spune:

      From all the vices in the world ,alcholism is the worst . It costs a lot, it induces violence and , above all, irrationality. A drunkard cannot judge correctly, he/she has paid for losing his/her mind.When you are sober , it is easy to say :” I am sorry, I’ve lost my mind. I do not remember anything. Blank.” The road less travelled ” reminds me of a great American poet,he who made the great speeches for President Kennedy: Robert Frost . The message is completely missunderstood : it refers to a more original, creative way in life, away to bring fulfilment and satisfaction in one’s life. It may refer only to the great contribution AA has had in detecting, treating and sometimes,curing alcoholism.And the rest is…..silence.

      • GNV987 spune:

        The message I resonate to is that science (medicine is billed as part science part art, but the art part is shrinking rapidly) in many cases hits a brick wall because it cannot deal with, and ignores spiritual issues and sometimes patients need for healing require in part a spiritual approach.

  2. F. Baciu spune:

    Why stop at alcohol?Why not mandate heroine use so everyone can benefit from 12 step programs and rehab clinics? Everybody knows there’s no community like a recovering addicts comunitty, such joy.

    • Interesting point, but 12 step (AA type) groups HAVE been set up for drug addiction and they call it Narcotics Anonymous. It’s huge and global. They also have 12 steps groups for sex and gambling addicts and loads of other “lesser” types of addiction. The 12 steps is a methodology for dealing with a beahviour/compulsion/addiction you can’t control, like internet gaming or shopping or pornography. The beauty of it is that it’s all small groups with no money involved so there’s no big corporation making a profit out of it.

  3. R.A.Muresan spune:

    Lucrurile nu sint simple daca vorbim de alcoolism si de mijloacele de vindecare de azi. Insa putine lucruri sint cu-adevarat simple. Omul e complicat, societatea e complicata. Succesul social duce la complicatii nu neaparat mai mici decit insuccesul. Comunitatea poate fi buna dar si rea: la sarbatori comunitatea te incurajeaza sa bei si te poate lasa apoi parasit, si tot ea te poate incuraja si ajuta sa te lasi. Comunitatea iti furnizeaza prejudecati folositoare dar si multe altele nefolositoare, comunitatea te incurajeaza sa cauti succesul dar inhiba adesea individualismul, desi este evident ca doar un individualist poate avea cu adevarat succes.

    Pe de alta parte, un om are doua emisfere cerebrale si mai multe motivatii, ba chiar personalitati. Religia ar fi trebuit sa-l invete sa relationeze cu unicul, filosofia ar fi trebuit sa-l invete sa dialogheze folositor cu sine iar stiinta, sa descopere sau sa vada si mai ales sa caute si sa accepte legitatea. In modernitate, religia ii furnizeaza omului obisnuit doar o nostalgie dupa ceva pierdut si o multime de prejudecati, filosofia il umple de frustrarea data de vorbaria pretioasa si goala iar stiinta ii apare departe si complicata, aproape imposibil de abordat.

    Succesul de vinzare al unei carti nu e usor de interpretat. In lume, atit cartile lui Marx cit si ale lui Hitler s-au vindut nu in milioane, ci probabil in zeci de milioane de exemplare. Iar comunitatile au luat-o razna atit in comunism cit si in nazism, ele pretinzind ca vindeca tesutul social grav bolnav. In toate era vorba de puterea bruta a ideilor, de spiritualitate.

    Iata alcoolul: se vinde aproape peste tot in lume desi nu acopera o nevoie primara — in lumea islamica fenomenul e controlat foarte riguros de catre religie, prin simpla interdictie. Pe de alta parte, animalele nu beau in mod obisnuit alcool, ba chiar au o aversiune naturala fata de alcool. Aceleasi animale insa, in lipsa apei curate vor bea apa usor alcoolizata dupa care, daca vor avea de ales intre apa alcoolizata si apa curata vor preferea mereu apa alcoolizata.

    Sa luam acum fericirea si nevoia de fericire: americanii o stipuleaza si legitimeaza direct in constitutie, celelalte popoare insa nu o fac. In America, AA a avut cel mai mare succes tocmai datorita comunitatilor puternice: singuratatea e descurajata, ba chiar asimilata morbidului. In Europa, chiar daca singuratatea nu e neaparat incurajata, nu e nici descurajata si rareori e asimilata morbidului. De asemenea, in cultura europeana, fericirea nu e vazuta decit arareori ca scop in sine. In Europa insa, in mod traditional, fericirea e conotata spiritual si religios. In Europa, individualismul l-a dat pe Newton sau pe Einstein, America insa a cistigat doua razboaie mondiale si a salvat de mai multe ori de la pieire lumea libera. In Europa, comunitatile au degenerat in comunism si nazism, in America, comunitatile au construit cea mai puternica democratie.

    Citati si spuneti:
    “Peck’s praise of AA isn’t some feelgood technique to make addicts feel better about themselves. It is backed up by some really interesting points and can be read in his book Further Along the Road Less Travelled. He believes that we are all “broken”– full of grief and terror — even if we are not fully aware of it. And we are doubly cursed because we can’t talk to each other about these things, even though they are critical to our happiness. We hide behind masks of composure.
    Alcoholics, on the other hand, are not any more broken than the rest of us but they are unable to hide it anymore. “So the great blessing of alcoholism is the nature of the disease. It puts people into a visible crisis, and as a result into a community — an AA group.” ”

    In primul rind, chiar nu cred ca un om obisnuit are cam aceleasi probleme ca si un alcoolic, desi cu totii avem probleme. Dar apoi, ideea ca toti suferim si nu ne dam seama mi se pare exagerata. Dupa cum mi se pare exagerat sa spunem, de pilda, ca in lumea moderna, toti sintem inclinati spre depresie. A, cu totii avem temeri, frici, angoase, fobii: frica este totusi un simtamint natural care apare chiar si la animalele carnivore. Pe de alta parte, daca ar fi sa admitem o teza a spiritualitatii (religiei) clasice, oamenii sint fiinte cazute, iar boala este asimilata “natural” cu pacatul. Stiinta moderna descurajeaza insa felul asta de a gindi omul.
    Admitem ca alcoolicii sufera totusi mai mult decit noi, ceilalti: constiinta lor ajunge sa fie una puternic alterata iar depresia e chiar una dintre primele consecinte grave ale alcoolismului. Se zice ca depresia e o boala moderna, dar e de stiut ca, in padure, tot de stres moare si puiul de cimpanzeu a carui mama e de negasit. Uneori, oamenii pleaca de la tristete, beau din ce in ce mai mult alcool si ajung la depresie. Dar tristetea este un sentiment nobil si necesar celor care se maturizeaza sau care evolueaza spiritual. Incit, problema alcoolicului este de fapt aceea ca nu stie sa gestioneze singuratatea. E drept ca putini oameni stiu sa faca asta, desi multi traiesc aproape singuri: sa ne amintim insa ca comunitatea nici nu ne-a lamurit vreodata la ce e buna singuratatea. Drept e si ca individualitatea, demersul independent sau singuratatea reprezinta lucruri diferite.
    Insa comunitatea cu-adevarat folositoare nu este aceea care te recheama mereu la sinul sau, ci e aceea care nu mai gindeste singuratatea ca pe un inamic. Problema nu e ca exista tristete, frica, singuratate, ci ca nu stim si nici nu vrem sa aflam la ce folosesc ele.
    Sigur ca oamenii sint fiinte sociale, insa creativitatea este aceea care ii salveaza mereu, iar creativitatea autentica se regaseste chiar in ceea ce comunitatea alege mai mereu sa ignore: e vorba de individualitate, lucru independent, singuratate. Or, desi problemele alcoolicilor si ale celorlalti sint foarte diferite, solutia e aceeasi: recursul la creativitate. In mod cu totul neintuitiv, creativitatea nu e sa descoperi sau sa inventezi mereu cite ceva — acestea sint doar rezultate –, ci sa inveti sa cauti.

    • reader canada spune:

      I’m not being fussy however the article was written in English, ALL comments are in English except your comment. Is there a specific reason? I don’t get it. Could you explain please, if you don’t mind?

      • R.A.Muresan spune:

        @ reader canada

        This platform is written mostly in romanian language. You could ask yourself why Rupert Wolfe Murray has written his text in english. My guess is because he is more eloquent in his own language. The same reason applies in my case.
        Anyway, we all have now at our disposal Google Translate.

      • I wrote it in English because my Romanian isn’t good enough to expose it to the public…if I wrote in Romanian you would think I was … an alcoholic…

        But I don’t mind getting comments in Romanian, and this one looks particularly interesting.

        Thanks to you all for giving feedback.

        Rupert

    • GNV987 spune:

      Exista creativitate fara o componenta de spiritualitate? Pe baza unor axiome si a unor legi ale logicii se pot construi tot soiul de silogisme care devin adevaruri noi dar se poate numi asta creativitate? Se poate considera inteligenta artificiala creativa?

      • R.A.Muresan spune:

        @ GNV987

        Nu. Nu cred ca exista creativitate autentica fara spiritualitate. Insa nici n-am afirmat asta. Am aratat doar ca demersul spiritual, ca aproape oricare altul, poate sfirsi prost: si ca, in definitiv, lucrurile nu sint simple daca vorbim despre spiritualitate, asta si fiindca prin spiritualitate fiecare cultura intelege altceva. La fel stau lucrurile si cu comunitatea sau cu familia.

        Da. Desigur. Aproape orice fel de silogism are in spate un demers intuitiv fara de care descoperirea in stiinta n-ar fi posibila. E-adevarat, demonstratia este doar ultimul pas: dar uneori o demonstratie poate necesita resurse formidabile de creativitate si chiar aparitia sau dezvoltarea unor domenii noi.
        Cit despre inteligenta artificiala, aceasta nu va fi prea curind creativa in adevaratul sens al cuvintului. Deocamdata nu avem “nici macar” o inteligenta (artificiala) constienta de sine.

  4. Dedalus spune:

    Multa filosofie pentru ceva atat dificil de controlat si cu efecte psihosociale atat de catastrofale cum e alcoolismul.

    Revenind la oile noastre, cu totii stim ca in Romania consumul de alcool social acceptat ca “normal” excede adesea limitele pentru alcoolism.

    Testul cel mai simplu: “maxim un pahar de vin pe zi / 2 zile consecutive pauza)” cred ca e picat de majoritatea conationalilor. Asta nu inseamna ca sunt alcoolici neaparat, ci doar ca riscul este foarte ridicat.

    Eu nu am auzit de AA in Romania, nici de clinici de dezalcoolizare. Presupun ca exista.

    Cred ca din cauza lipsei de cunostinte in ce priveste consumul de alcool, foarte multi se considera absolut normali, cand de fapt chiar sunt de mult alcoolici.

    Problema alcoolului este ca modifica comportamentul in mod individualizat, adica un pahar de vin poate sa nu insemne nimic, paote sa provoace euforie sau poate sa impinga la violenta, in functie de toleranta si reactivitatea persoanei respective.

    Consumul de alcool nu e nimic altceva decat un obicei. Ce anume ii indeamna pe oameni sa bea? Multe. Ce anume ii face sa se opreasca din acest obicei? Putine.

    • I had no idea about addiction or treatment until I started working for http://www.castlecraig.ro Since then I found a really impressive American in Cluj (Floyd Franntz) who works with a church NGO (Cristiana) in setting up AA groups all over Romania. Amazing work

      I also gave up drinking alcohol in 2007 as an experiment. I wasn’t an alocholic but I was drinking too much wine every evening. I didn’t intend to not drink for so long but found it so easy to not drink that I kept it up. Now I can’t see the point of drinking alcohol when there are so many nice teas and juices and mineral waters to choose from. The only problem is at parties, when I have to listen to people talking nonsense, so I guess I am more intolerant of BS .

      • SJP spune:

        Dear Rupert W Murray.

        Strikes me as interesting that similarly to yourself.
        An Englishmen resident in Romania for nigh on 15 years. With as the internet seems to indicate similar educational and life experience.
        That you gave up an excess, roughly when I started. Now disavowed by many, have to agree that like minded individuals grouped en mass be that expensive retreats in south east UK or the shabby cafe in down town Cluj have a sense of community.

        In a similar way to rendering stories to or receiving from attributes of viata înainta de revoluția with a cheap hat and all agreeing Fosta sunt mai bine de acum as we view thread bare flags bedecking worn out blocks.

        My latest curse/mantra is how we the English built an empire. Followed with a short tirade that much of my expatriate life how much was achieved without the internet, mobile phones, faxes. But the joy of punched holes in a ribbon of paper. From deepest jungles to scorching deserts etc,

        The overnight sleeper train from Gara de Nord to all extremities of this country is still cheaper than your missive regarding the concoction of Thatcherite dogma and Branson.

        Noapte Buna



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Rupert Wolfe Murray este consultant independent pe probleme de comunicare. Scotian cu resedinta la Bucuresti Citeste mai departe


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