I am an alcoholic. I took my first drink at Old Nassau, where my drinking progressed rapidly and affected me abnormally. By the time I graduated, I had punched out the wall of an eating club and was briefly hospitalized at McCosh. Somehow I received my degree, but my drinking problems did not end with Princeton.
Decades later I learned I had a physical addiction and allergy to alcohol. I eventually recovered, but perhaps if I had known about alcoholism earlier, I might have saved myself and many others a great deal of pain.
Could Princeton have done anything to help? In my case, the only thing it could have done was lead me to real help for my condition.
We must recognize the difference between antics and alcoholism. If a non-alcoholic student binges a few times, then scoldings, hangovers, and perhaps a code of honor may be enough to put him on the straight and narrow. But if he’s a real alcoholic like me, suffering from an alcohol craving beyond his mental control, little would be accomplished by an honor-code policy (Notebook, Jan. 28). He needs real help.
The great Princeton alumnus, Dr. William Silkworth 1896, much revered by the alcoholic community, wrote a section of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. He acknowledged that there was no medical cure and sup-ported efforts of alcoholics who banded together in support groups. Silkworth provided medical credibility to Twelve-Step programs that now span the world.
To date there exists neither a medical nor a psychological cure for alcoholism. The best solution we have is to send problem drinkers to AA or some similar program. It’s not 100 percent effective, but it’s the best we can do — give the alcoholic a genuine chance to recognize his condition and realize a solution.
Editor’s note: As requested, the name of the writer, a member of the Class of 1985, has been withheld to observe the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition of anonymity.