4 - Democracy Is a Therapy  pp. 83-111

Democracy Is a Therapy

By Stephanie Muravchik

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



The situation that New York businessman and habitual drunkard Bill Wilson faced one Saturday afternoon in 1935 was a relatively new one in his drinking career. He found himself standing in a hotel lobby staring pathetically at a lively, patron-filled bar. The sounds of intoxicated hilarity sorely enticed him as he desperately tried to master an almost overwhelming urge to buy a drink. He had a half year of sobriety under his belt, but none of his other bouts of dryness had ever lasted very long during his two decades of destructive drinking. Thus, he was in for a struggle – one he had never won before. To make matters worse, he was in Akron, OH, far from friends and home. He was there pursuing a business opportunity in the hopes of salvaging his shattered financial and professional life.

A man in Wilson's shoes had few places to turn in 1935. In the first half of the twentieth century, a variety of institutions housed alcoholics – psychiatric asylums, hospitals, sanitaria, inebriate farms and colonies, skid row missions, and prisons – but few did more than help a drunk dry out temporarily. No one seemed to know how to keep someone like Wilson on the wagon for good. Wilson himself had done numerous stints in hospitals, to no avail. After each release, he had returned to drinking sooner or later. Physically impeding access to alcohol via confinement or geographical isolation was the alcoholic's main hope.

“A Psychiatrist Looks at AA,” The Grapevine (February 1972): 45–6
“Psychiatry and Medical Views,” The Grapevine (February 1956): 7–8
“Psychiatry and the Big Book,” The Grapevine (June 1958): 47–9
“Where Psychiatry Fits In,” The Grapevine (November 1956): 13–14
Final Report: Twenty-Sixth General Service Conference of AA (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous, 1976), 23
A. T. in New York City, “The Joys of Occupational Therapy,” The Grapevine (April 1955): 15–17
A. T. in New York City, “The Joys of Occupational Therapy,” The Grapevine (April 1955): 15–17
Andrew Malcolm , “Advice to AA from a Psychiatrist,” San Francisco Secretary's News Letter, October 1976
B. E. in Memphis, TN, “An Agnostic's Higher Power,” The Grapevine (April 1973): 13–14
Bill Mc. in Monterey, CA, “My Help Was Always There,” The Grapevine (June 1953): 38–9
Bob in Salem, OR, “I Needed Psychiatry,” The Grapevine (September 1953): 31–3
D. B. in Gulfport, FL, “Amateur Analysts,” The Grapevine (February 1973): 21–2
E. Deering , “Doctor, Why Can't I Stop Drinking?” The Grapevine (August 1970): 7–10
Harry Tiebout , “The Pink Cloud and After,” The Grapevine (September 1955): 2–7
Harry Tiebout , “What Takes Place in an Alcoholic's ‘Spiritual Awakening’?” The Grapevine (April 1954): 30–5
Harry Tiebout , “Why Psychiatrists Fail with Alcoholics,” The Grapevine (September 1956): 5–10
Howard T. Blane , “The Alcoholic Personality,” The Grapevine (June 1963): 32–7
J. L. , “Reality Therapy,” The Grapevine (April 1968): 45
J. S. in Syosset, NY, “In Defense of Psychiatrists,” The Grapevine (September 1970): 39
J. S. in Syosset, NY, “In Defense of Psychiatrists,” The Grapevine (September 1970): 39
Leo C. in Portland, OR, “On the Subject of Dependence,” The Grapevine (January 1948): 5
O. Hobart Mowrer , “How ‘White’ Is a ‘White Lie?’” The Grapevine (September 1962): 10–15
OR, “Having One Primary Purpose,” The Grapevine (November 1950): 20
P. K. in Peublo, CA, “One Cheer for Psychiatry,” The Grapevine (December 1953): 18–20
R. W. in Van Nuys, CA, “Is My Gratitude Grateful,” The Grapevine (June 1963): 2–4
RJC in Philadelphia, PA, “I Told It to Doc,” The Grapevine (July 1958): 38–40
Robert Tournier “Alcoholics Anonymous as Treatment and as Ideology” Journal of Studies on Alcohol 40, no. 3 (March 1979): 230–9
Whitley, “Life with Alcoholics Anonymous,” 1977, 838