Walk Down Misery Street

FOOTNOTES AND AUTHOR COMMENTARY

 

1This sense of unique kinship among users and alcoholics was the driving force of establishing Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and later Narcotics Anonymous (NA). For almost a century now, this fellowship continues to save lives of countless addicts worldwide.

We may recall the founding of this movement in a nutshell: the famous Bill Wilson, an unsuccessful Wall Street broker and chronic alcoholic, wound up in mental hospitals with delirium tremens on more than one occasion. All the doctors refused to treat him, believing Bill to be a hopeless case. One day, at the house of a priest, he met another “hopeless” alcoholic like him (Doctor Bob). They shared their secret lives of alcoholism with each other. They separated that evening, convinced that alcoholics could not only pour drinks for each other or bury each other, but also could save one another. Thus, a movement was born. (p. 13).

2An “active” drug user is one who currently uses drugs (p. 33).

3Notions such as “Don’t go to extremes,” “think about negative consequences,” “don’t speculate about the distant future, don’t dwell on past, and live one day at a time,” and so on come from the same source of wisdom. There is universal set of rules, a kind of “Addict’s Book of Wisdom” for those who wish to recover. These rules and approaches to life are repeated in each substance abuse clinic and 12-step meeting. Drug users hear these principles and slogans dozens, hundreds, thousands of times, with the intention to practice them in daily life (p. 40).

4The measures taken to treat patients in those first rehab clinics were, by today’s standards, draconian and resembled those used in prisons. Patients there were forced to carry out difficult and, at times, completely pointless jobs. They would be kicked out or punished for even the tiniest infractions. In addition to strict daily routines and labor, the techniques of group psychotherapy were also introduced, including some unique ones. A patient was placed in a so-called “hot seat” in the center of the room. Each of the other patients present (up to fifty in a group) would directly confront the person in the “hot seat”: “You’re arrogant. You’re a liar. You’re a thief. You’re a criminal.

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