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Exploring the Spiritual Experience in the 12-step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous Spiritus Contra Spiritum.

Exploring the spiritual experience in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous Spiritus contra spiritum by Sandoz, J. (2004) Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press. [Hardbound, ISBN# 0-7734-6465-4].

Since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, there have been several publications written on its multifarious aspects. The present book focuses on spiritual experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous. The book is organized into three parts. The first part has five chapters and is entitled, "Book: Alcoholics Anonymous." The second part has five chapters and is entitled, "Booze, Bottle, and Brain." The final part has a solitary chapter and is entitled, "Beyond."

The first five chapters deal with the book, Alcoholics Anonymous also called the Big Book. The first chapter deals with the history of Alcoholics Anonymous by exploring the experience of the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson. Information in this chapter also includes the development of the 12-step program in AA and the development of the Big Book. The second chapter is about the key aspects of the Big Book. It delineates the goals of the book, process of the book, and types of AA meetings. Chapter three is entitled, "The Spiritual Experience in AA," and explains how alcohol addiction is a misguided search for God. Views about spiritual experiences of alcohol by Vernon Johnson, author of I'll Quit Tomorrow; Blaise Pascal, French monk, philosopher and mathematician; Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist; William James, psychology professor at Harvard; and Bill Wilson, cofounder of AA are succinctly presented in this chapter. Chapter four is entitled, "The Book Revisited," and refocuses on the Big Book. Specifically, the chapter examines Chapter three of the Big Book, "More About Alcoholism" in which Bill Wilson describes the insanity of alcoholism. Alcoholism is presented as a two-fold disease: a mental obsession and a physical allergy with the problem being one of lack of power. Chapter four of the Big Book, "We Agnostics" is also discussed in this chapter, in which the importance of having belief and then faith is emphasized. The final chapter in the first part is entitled, "A final look at the Big Book." It begins by discussing the solution to the problem of alcoholism, which entails fellowship supports and spiritual experience that changes with a resultant power. The advantages of the 12-step program are presented along with emphasizing the message that recovering alcoholics have an important responsibility to help others who suffer from the same disease.

The second part of the book has five chapters that elaborate on how the family is affected by alcoholics' behavior and how the brain is affected by alcoholism. Chapter six is entitled, "Alcoholic family patterns, development & spirituality" and discusses how life becomes unmanageable because of alcohol and how it affects social, physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual spheres. Erikson's psychosocial theory is also presented in the chapter along with the effect of the 12-step program on measures of differentiation of self. Chapter seven is entitled, "Alcoholism parallels in mythic patterns" and examines truths about the process of alcoholism and recovery. The "truths" are presented by popular mythic examples such as Prometheus the Titan from Greek mythology and Luke and Yoda from the Star Wars movie, "The Empire Strikes Back." Chapter eight is entitled, "Bottling up the Emotions & the Effects of the 12-step Program," and it discusses how emotions contribute to alcoholism and how they present barriers in recovery. The importance of letting go and forgiveness is emphasized. Chapter nine is entitled, "Understanding the Brain" and includes descriptions of brain imaging procedures, comparison of the reptilian brain, mammalian brain, and the human brain. Chapter ten discusses the effect of alcohol on the brain. The various theories of addiction are discussed. It also examines the case study of a newly recovering alcoholic who struggled with comprehension of the Big Book, and how his comprehension improved in AA meeting in the circle that read the book.

The final part of the book has only one chapter and is entitled, "Neuro-spirituality: Uniting the brain with the spiritual experience in Alcoholics Anonymous." The chapter examines the spiritual experiences in alcoholism recovery and tries to synthesize ideas from Eastern and Western views of spirituality.

The book is a useful addition to the several books written about Alcoholics Anonymous. The writing style of the book makes it more appropriate for researchers rather than lay people. It would be of particular interest to researchers studying spirituality and alcoholism. The book is presented well in a hardbound cover with several plates that depict the various parts of the brain.

Manoj Sharma, University of Cincinnati
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Author:Sharma, Manoj
Publication:Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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