Reviewed by Bob K.
There is a tendency for those of us in the “non-believer” camp to throw out the baby with the bathwater in regard to the dark blue prayer book. What is personally offensive, or at the least, unpalatable, can blind us from some essential truths contained therein.
There are few, if any, who have understood alcoholism and alcoholics better than Bill Wilson, ably assisted as he was by Dr. William Silkworth.
Many millions have drunk to great excess, experienced debilitating consequences, and quit drinking. Only some miniscule percentage “stays quit.”
Abstinence is REMARKABLY unsatisfying.
“THE DOCTOR’S OPINION” describes a cycle that has been experienced by many (most?) of us. I stopped drinking numerous times and experienced something much akin to:
They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks – drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery. (p. xxviii-xxix)
It’s unfortunate that the AA Big Book didn’t stick with the “psychic change” talk, rather than treading down a path of “spiritual maladies” and supernatural solutions.
Nonetheless, when drinkers of my type put down the booze, we are not “fixed,” but propelled into some unpleasant and uncomfortable state of “existential angst.” Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but eventually and inevitably, the temptation of “the sense of ease and comfort that comes AT ONCE by taking a few drinks” wins out once again prompting a new bout of “drinking problems.”
Gabe, a brilliant fellow, the son of an eminent psychoanalyst, is a graduate of Oxford University and has a PhD from MIT, and taught philosophy and psychology for many years at King’s College in London.
Gabe is also an atheist, someone who has suffered from a variety of depression and anxiety related problems, and an author.
His very recently published Twelve Steps to Psychological Good Health and Serenity – A Guide is a tribute to the wisdom inherent in the psychology which underlies AA’s process of “spiritual” healing. As a skeptic, both personally and professionally, Gabe came very grudgingly to a recognition of 12 Step benefits.
He questioned EVERYTHING.
A psychological crisis pushed him to do a personal “modification” of the process.
He needed SOMETHING!
In many ways, Gabe’s book is a translation from the language of religion to the language of science. It offers a path of transformation that is palatable to the secularist. It saves the baby while dispensing with the loathsome grungy liquid.
Books written by philosophers can be cumbersome, even tedious, but Gabe has brought a “lightness” to a heavy subject. The writing style is “breezy” akin to that of Bertrand Russell, or Bill Wilson.
Relevant quotations are drawn from the broadest of sources:
By letting it all go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. When you try and try… the world is beyond winning. Lao Tzu
You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. Marcus Aurelius
Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace. Dalai Lama
Confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the surface brighter and clearer. I feel stronger for confession. Mahatma Gandhi
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. Muhammed Ali
This book offers a scientist’s view of addiction, and a simple, directed tour through the 12 steps, albeit a secular version.
As I did, Gabe needed SOMETHING, and he seems to have found it in the psychological healing that is attainable through the 12 step process. Not a miracle.
More like therapy.
Bill Wilson wrote: “The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.”
When “spiritual” is translated to its most human meaning, he seems to have been correct.
Twelve Steps To Psychological Good Health And Serenity – A Guide is available at Amazon.