Bootstraps and Frothy Emotional Appeal

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All right, good morning, I’m Derek Stone with big book Wizard and we are doing week five of the online big book study. Before we do a review of last week’s information, just a quick disclaimer here, I’m not claiming membership and affiliation with a representation of any organization or facility or group, 12-step or otherwise. These videos are for educational purposes only, they’re not to be construed as professional advice nor should they replace any professional treatment that you might need including detox, rehabilitation, outpatient, counseling, therapy, medication, meeting attendants, 12-step work, sponsorship etc.

Okay, a quick review of last week’s episode, we were in the dark we’re still in the doctor’s opinion and we were looking at a couple of paragraphs that told us that detox can play an important role in getting an alcoholic freed from their physical craving for alcohol, long enough so that they can employ a 12-step program and that’s sort of what we see the doctor saying there in the paragraphs that we covered. We also covered that the correct use of the phrase craving for alcohol is in reference to a physical phenomenon, and strictly exclusively refers to anything and everything occurring after the first drink.

So oftentimes the word craving is misused today, or maybe it’s used correctly today and it was misused then, whoever is using it correctly doesn’t matter, what matters is that we use it the way that the doctor was using it so that we can understand what we’re reading when we read what he wrote to us, and the way that he uses that word craving is strictly in the physical sense, the bodily sense. Silkworth was not the first doctor to refer to this phenomenon as being the symptom of an allergy, I believe the first written text of that was a book called the knee Bertie printed in 1800 and I forget the author’s name of that, you can do a google search if you’re that interested in that. And I think that was the first written reference to a physical component of alcoholism, I don’t know if they called it an allergy back then.

Of course allergies were kind of a new thing when Silkworth was writing and so that’s why he says this may be a manifestation of this thing allergy that we’re exploring, and what he meant by that is that there is a physical reaction to a substance that is not in keeping with the majority of people who come into contact with that substance. Now today we know that the true definition of allergy goes a little bit deeper than that, in terms of the body being able to produce histamines and us being able to do like a skin test or something to actually prove that there is an allergy. And so in that sense you know medically it might not be the most sound phrase to use, but when allergies were first hitting the scene and all we knew about them was that it was a physical reaction to a substance that’s not in keeping with the majority of people who drink, or who come into contact with that substance. He looked at alcoholics and said well they’re having a very similar physical reaction to alcohol, and so this might be this thing allergy that we’re now discovering.

And the allergic reaction, I put that in quotes for that reason, the allergic reaction to alcohol is limited to what he calls a hopeless alcoholic or what the rest of the big book would go on to refer to as a real alcoholic, and it never occurs in the average temperate drinker. In other words this phenomenon of wanting, needing, stating or desiring to have two drinks and then proceeding to have four or six or seventeen instead never occurs in the non-alcoholic drinker. And I created a slide that I’m going to be continuing with next week, that kind of lays these two things side by side, but this is if you want some more information on what all of this here means I’ll circle it even though it’s the only thing on the screen. You can go ahead and watch last week’s video and maybe I’ll put the link to that somewhere up at the top of the screen or somewhere.

Okay, so we are going to be in this opinion, I’m not a fan of these Roman numeral pages so I’ll give you a moment to find it but the doctor’s opinion is the last chapter right before Bills story, so if you turn to the beginning of Bill’s story you can work your way backwards. In my book it is XXVI but I don’t believe that’s going to line up with anyone if you’re using fourth edition, I think my doctor’s opinion numbers line up with the third edition of the big book. But it’s right after his second letter that starts with the doctor writes, and it’s the page where the first indented paragraph on the page starts with the words we believe, so if you’re kind of looking I’ll give you a second to find that, actually if you’re watching the recording of this you can always pause and find it.

Okay, the second indented paragraph on this page says frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices, the message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight, in nearly all cases their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves if they are to recreate their lives. So there’s a lot there, for example what does frothy emotional appeal refer to, I mean if it seldom suffices, if it doesn’t work in other words to help an alcoholic or encourage an alcoholic to get or stay sober, then it probably behooves us to know what frothy emotional appeal means. And so examples of frothy emotional appeal might be do you see what alcohols doing to you, if you keep on going this way you’re going to die, you’re hurting your children, you’re hurting your family, you could lose your job, you’re facing jail time these are all things that are appealing to an alcoholic in other words if I go to court and I make an appeal, I’m appealing to an alcoholic on an emotional level and frothy just means with fervor or excitedly.

And so oftentimes well-intentioned family members of alcoholics, well-intentioned friends and family members who don’t know any better, heck there’s even professionals in the field who are still doing this don’t know any better, and are appealing to an alcoholic on this frothy emotional level. This is the whole just say no campaign, drugs are bad okay, right this whole mentality of just convincing people that the path they’re going down is wrong and damaging and all of that. Well that’s not going to work for a real alcoholic, what would work for a non-alcoholic just appealing to a sense of, you know most non-alcoholic people engage in activities that are harmful to them, someone comes along and points out how those activities are harmful to them, and they decide oh I don’t want to harm myself anymore or other people and then they’re done. If you’ve had any amount of time around an alcoholic, or if you are an alcoholic or and for the purpose of these discussions drug addict as well, then you know that that approach doesn’t work.

You know you don’t have to be told this you already know that, frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices, the message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight, what the heck does that mean, what is depth and weight, what kind of message has depth and weight? Well we all kind of intuitively know this, we all kind of intuitively know what it means for something to have depth and weight for example if you’re talking to someone, if you’re at a meeting for example and you hear someone give a share, if someone says something to you and you go wow that’s deep. Well that’s what we’re talking about, wow that’s deep, that message that they just shared with you is deep, it has depth, and it has weight. It’s not just sort of a surface level message that’s just trying to appeal to your emotions, it actually strikes something in core, I mean when you hear truth you know you recognize it.

And that’s what he’s talking about, there has to be a message that reaches people at their core. And so this includes the description of the alcoholic, this is why the big book authors go to great pains to describe the alcoholic accurately, because it’s not enough to just say well I was drinking way too much and it was destroying my life and there were all these external consequences and everything was out of hand, well yes. But when one alcoholic starts talking to another about I thought I was going crazy, I had all the reasons in the world to try to stop or moderate what I was doing, and all my efforts to do so were failing and I started asking myself do I just not love these people, do I just not care about myself, do I just not care about this job, when you start talking like that and the alcoholic who’s listening to you realizes oh this person knows, these are the things I’ve been afraid to utter out loud.

Then they know like okay that message there has depth, you know it reaches someone at a level more than just yes I was drinking too much, and I was being a jerk and etc. in nearly all cases their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves if they are to recreate their lives. Yes, and so recreate is kind of an interesting phrase right it’s not rebuild, it’s not regain and that’s often what people think it’s like I want to we oftentimes hear alcoholics or even family members talk about getting better. And the language I’m a big proponent of this, I believe that the language we use especially when we’re not thinking about what we’re saying, especially when we’re just talking naturally and conversationally, the language that we use really reveals the thinking process that we have underneath. And so when a family member says I want them to get better, or when an alcoholic says I just want to get better it’s interesting, because the word that isn’t used most of the time.

And I talked to hundreds of family members a month, thousands a year, alcoholics the same and I mean I just talk to a ton of people in around this stuff and I’m always hearing I just want them to get better, what I never hear is I want them to get well. I shouldn’t say never I do hear that on occasion, but what I rarely hear is I just want them to get well. It’s like wellness is up here, and then you have sickness way down here and as long as someone remains in that bracket that’s good, and what really happens is an alcoholic will fall below that, they’ll fall into oh hold on you’re unmanageability is now unmanageable for us, we want you to get better, get back into that manageable zone. And alcoholics will often say that too I was maintaining just fine and now I fell below that zone, and I want to get better and just get right above that, that threshold again of how far I’m willing to go and just get right.

And they never want to break through this top bracket; they never want to go up into what we would actually call wellness. And again I shouldn’t say never, but that’s the language when we’re saying I want to get better, we’re talking about regaining an old life. My life before alcoholism destroyed everything, well a thought to consider and a thought that I often ask people ponder is, is it possible that that life is unsustainable as evidenced by the fact that that life led to drinking. And so maybe we’re not so much trying to regain an old life, as we are trying to recreate a new one, and so that word recreate given to us by Dr. Silkworth is really an interesting concept. And I do believe as we go through the book that’s a message that we’ll see a little bit more of, is how to recreate our lives not regain the old one, but to recreate a new life.

And of course in order to do that our ideals must be grounded in a Power greater than ourselves, this can’t be grounded in the idea that I’m going to do it, I’m just going to pick myself up by my bootstraps, don’t even get me started on that figure of speech, maybe I’ll do a separate video about that. But I think that’s really damaging idea that we have prevalent in our culture, is this idea of picking myself up by my bootstraps. And so I see on the chat someone’s asking me to do, I think that’s what that’s asking, and so yes let me take a sip of coffee. Yes, so what’s funny is people will often say that and perhaps you’ve heard this expression, just pick yourself up by your bootstraps. And this expression and when we get into step three, who knows how long it’ll be before we do that, but on the study when we get in there I’ll cover this again.

But pick yourself up by your bootstraps is a statement of self will, I mean it’s a self-will statement. It’s this idea that I can fix myself, I can heal myself, I can throw enough self-will at any problem to fix it or to get better or whatever, and we’re so committed to this expression in our community, in our society, in our culture that we actually use this as a figure of speech, oh just pick yourself up by your bootstraps or I’m just going to have to pick myself up by my bootstraps. But the original quote comes from Abraham Lincoln, who says it is impossible for a man to pick himself up by his own bootstraps, that’s where we get it from and we are so committed to this idea of being able to do it, that we’ve bastardized the original quote and the original meaning of the quote.

I mean the original quote says the exact opposite of the way that we’re using it; he goes on to compare that effort picking ourselves up by our own bootstraps. If you don’t know what bootstraps are they’re like these things I don’t know, they’re on the back of a boot and they allowed people to put their shoes on easier, their boots on easier. It’s like the piece of leather attached to the back that you can use to pull your boots up on your feet a little easier, and the idea that I can grab onto the back of those while I’m wearing my boots and actually pick myself up off the ground with those is what that expression is saying, that’s exactly what it’s saying. And Abraham Lincoln goes on to say, it’s the equivalent of standing inside of a bucket and then attempting to use that bucket to lift myself up off the ground from inside the bucket, and you can begin to see the impossibility of that, and yet we’re so committed to this idea that I’ve got enough power to lift myself up, to pull myself up out of the muck and the mire and even Silkworth a man of medicine is saying nope they’re not going to be able to do that.

If they’re going to recreate their lives their ideals cannot be grounded and just pick yourself up, it can’t be grounded in this idea of I can do it, it can’t be grounded in encouragement, it can’t be grounded in any of that, it’s got to be grounded in the idea that there’s a power above me that’s going to be able to lift me up. That’s sort of the idea and that’s a through-line throughout the rest of the book that we’ll see, I’m not just isolating out of context a couple of words here. Okay, well I didn’t expect to spend that much time on that, on that paragraph. Next paragraph, if any feel that as psychiatrists directing a hospital for alcoholics we appear somewhat sentimental, in other words we’re directing a hospital and we’re talking about spirituality, and we’re talking about God and that’s obviously sentimental and by sentimental he just means like non-scientific.

If any feel that has psychiatrists directing the Hospital for alcoholics, we appear somewhat sentimental let them stand with us on the firing line, see the tragedies, the despairing wives, the little children, let the solving of these problems become a part of their daily work and even of their sleeping moments, and the most cynical will not wonder that we have accepted and encouraged this movement. Okay, so oftentimes I remember going to meetings in very early recovery and talking about my problem of the day, and I thought my problems were so profound that they needed to be shared with people no matter what. I’ve got a captive audience, and you’re going to hear about them darn it, and I would puke my problems out under the table and they would go around the room and I’d get encouragement and frothy emotional appeal and support and all of that from people, and then there’d always be that one asshole who would start talking about the steps.

And I’m like thinking to myself listen to me jerk, I’ve got some real-world problems, I need some real-world solutions don’t be talking to me about God and the steps, it just seems sentimental and outdated. And today I’m happy to say that I am that asshole, I am the one who if you are to share with me your problems my first thought is how is God going to fix this, how are the steps going to fix this. And it’s not because I’m out dated or old-fashioned, it’s because walk a mile in my shoes that’s what the doctor is saying here, let them stand with us a while on the firing lines, see the tragedies that spurn wives. Dedicate a couple of years of your life to solving the problems alcoholics present on a regular basis, to repairing the damage done to families, to pulling people up out of the muck and the mire. And do that for a couple of years and if at the end of that you are not marveling at the value of the 12 steps play, then maybe we can have a conversation then.

But I’ve been in this game for well a couple of weeks ago it was 19 years, I celebrated 19 years a couple of weeks ago and yes I can relate to the doctors passage here, it’s probably the paragraph in the doctors opinion I can relate to the most is yes I’ve spent a long time trying to help people solve these problems, and it seems like the steps are, lightly a godsend, they’re a beacon of hope. And so this doctor is saying look I get it, I get it we look crazy as medical doctor talking about God and the steps and encouraging these alcoholics to come in and talk to our patients, but we found very little else, in fact he goes on to say that in the next paragraph, we feel after many, that should say many not any, we feel after many years’ experience that we have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabilitation of his men, than the altruistic movement now growing up among them.

And this altruistic movement is none other than the group of drunks writing the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and these little regular this work that they’re doing with one another. And so that is the doctor’s opinion, and he’s the again Silkworth the leading expert of his day, in the leading Hospital of his day really telling people look this is why I’m writing these letters, this is why when the authors of Alcoholics Anonymous come to me and they ask me, hey can you write a couple letters for our book. He’s like yes I’ll do it, he’s overjoyed to do it. So that’s really again right there’s been 20 minutes two paragraphs, so we go it’s a bit of a slower pace but we’re going kind of in depth with this stuff. So real quick before I go, if you haven’t signed up for this contest, we’re giving away a free study edition big book; you can see the plastic still on it. It’s a copy of the book that I use, this thing is awesome, it’s got lines for notes and I’m giving one away every month and last month the winner was Gabby Cooney of Austin Texas.

There’s only like I think 25 people signed up for the contest the last time I checked, and so there’ll be a link in the description below if you are interested in signing up for that. Also if you want to support me on Patreon you get this awesome bookmark, I’ve made a bunch of these they’ve got the nine step promises on the front and a bunch of other promises on the back. It’s $5 a month that’s the equivalent of like a dollar a week, some people have been asking me how can I throw a dollar in the basket so to speak and that’s the way that I’ve chosen to set that up. Shout out to all my supporters’ thank you very much, if your name is on this list you’re dear to my heart.

And if you or someone needs help, probably the most important announcement I have feel free to reach out to me, you can find me on social media, you can sign up for my mailing list on and reply to any of the emails that I send and reach out for help that way. Okay, and with that thank you for attending, I’m glad you’re here, I’ll stick around a little bit after I hit the stop button and chat with the people that are still on, but I’m going to end the recording now so with that have a great week and god bless.

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