A little ditty on the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous (The doctors opinion).
Who was the doctor that wrote this?
William D. Silkworth, M.D. was Director of the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions in New York City, where he had treated, one of the founding members of AA, Bill W. several times before and was asked to write a letter on their behalf. Because of what he had seen in Bill and the few men that soon followed, the doctor was very happy to write a positive recommendation to put in their book.
Why was this doctor’s opinion put in the book? Is this a medical book?
As mentioned in the previous blog the men that were getting and staying sober through this fellowship, which had no name at the time, felt that the message they had could be taken farther out to help others if they put what they were doing to stay sober in book form.
Bill W. had been hospitalized one last time. However this time he had gone through some changes and the doctor was amazed at the transformation that had happened to Bill over these early days of his sobriety. The doctor gave him permission to talk to some of the alcoholic patients there. Back then alcoholics were basically considered hopeless and insane. Treatment was done in asylums and results were terrible. The alcoholic was considered a mental defective or at best weak willed. The medical community had a very low opinion of the alcoholic. So they felt having some positive words about the members coming from a doctor who worked in the field of alcoholism would be important. But no, the book is not in any way a medical book. It was penned by these sober alcoholics themselves.
What was the doctor’s message?
In the letter that Dr Silkworth wrote for the book it was very important in another way as he was one of the first ones to actually describe and define the disease of alcoholism. The doctor agreed with the AA members that “the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind.”
Dr Silkworth’s theory explains a lot to the alcoholic who only knew from their own experience that once they took a drink they had no control over their intake. In the second statement the doctor expanded on his theory that ” the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker.” He stated examples from the countless alcoholics that he worked with that this was much more than a lack of mental control and will power. He also gave a strong recommendation about what these men and this book had to say to the alcoholic and the solution they had found.