“We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described in this book.”
The above ties back to the Foreword to our book’s First Edition where we say, “we hope (for other alcoholics) these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.” However, getting to that point was a two-stage process since Dr. Silkworth was at first hesitant over possible criticisms amongst his peers upon disclosure of his “physical allergy” theory explaining the alcoholic’s beyond-all-control drinking. So, and with the doctor’s first letter forever remaining unsigned, our “The Doctor’s Opinion” includes two letters from him along with our mention of our request for his second letter. We will find more insight in relation to all of that while later comparing our mention of an effective 12th-Stepper being one who is “properly armed with facts about himself/herself” (page 18) to how that idea first appeared in our book’s pre-publication manuscript as “certain medical facts”. Overall, however, and surprisingly to some people, A.A. never expresses any opinion anywhere as to whether or not alcoholism is an actual disease. Rather, we only say the good doctor’s theory “explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.” (“The Doctor’s Opinion“)
“The subject presented in this book seems to me to be of paramount importance to those afflicted with alcoholic addiction.” (Dr. Silkworth)
Dr. Silkworth understood alcoholism and what is needed to recover, and the subject of our book is that of applying the spiritual solution to the alcoholic’s dilemma in order to finally be rid of whatever it might be that has been making it impossible for him or her to “put the plug in the jug” and leave it there.
“…after many years’ experience as Medical Director of one of the oldest hospitals in the country treating alcoholic and drug addiction…a sense of real satisfaction when I was asked to contribute a few words on a subject which is covered in such masterly detail in these pages.” (Dr. Silkworth)
Dr. Silkworth had worked with thousands of alcoholics with very little success prior to the rise of A.A., so his sentiment here is not at all surprising.
“Many years ago one of the leading contributors to this book came under our care in this hospital and while here he acquired some ideas which he put into practical application at once.” (Dr. Silkworth)
You might notice the good doctor has said Bill put some acquired ideas into practical application at once, and in “Bill’s Story” we can read a little in relation to that:
“Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.
“These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound.
“For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He (Dr. Silkworth) listened in wonder as I talked.
“Finally he shook his head saying, ‘Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were.’ The good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows that they are real.” (page 14)
Returning to “The Doctor’s Opinion”:
“The classification of alcoholics seems most difficult, and in much detail is outside the scope of this book.” (Dr. Silkworth)
That statement might at first leave the impression we need to go looking elsewhere for more information, but the good doctor is only trying to drive this point home:
“All these (types of alcoholics I have just mentioned), and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving…the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity… The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.”
Some folks might want to believe the above represents an A.A. suggestion or directive of some kind to “Don’t drink”, but the doctor who knows he cannot make an alcoholic into a normal drinker is only saying abstinence is the only way to keep our allergy to alcohol from killing us. If “Don’t drink” were at the core of the A.A. program of recovery, that would be the next line in “The Doctor’s Opinion” and none of us would have any real need or reason to read any farther! But rather than anything like that, and in relation to the matter of abstinence, the good doctor instead mentions this kind of idea:
“He accepted the plan outlined in this book…
“He (became) ‘sold’ on the ideas contained in this book…
“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book…and…remain to pray.”
(William D. Silkworth, M.D.)
Read our book carefully and pray (or not) as you will, but please let us know if you might ever find “Don’t drink” anywhere within it!