Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bill Manville’s Booze Book

A “professional bar fly” who flirted with death and Helen Gurley Brown.

"From the drinking man's classic, Saloon Society, back in the Sixties, to his sadder but wiser Cool, Hip and Sober, Bill Manville has consistently provided an honest, insightful first-person account of where alcoholism begins--and where it ends.”  So said the respected Keith Humphreys of Stanford University’s School of Medicine, when Manville’s account of beating booze was published some years ago. What makes his book unique in the annals of addiction books, so far as I know, is the additional blurb on Cool, Hip and Sober from none other than Cosmopolitan Magazine founder and Sex and the Single Girl author Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote: “I never read anything like this and am thrilled to recommend the book to anybody with the problem himself or with a suffering family member.”

That represents a pretty wide spectrum of opinion makers, so I took a look—and had fun with it. Written in a breezy, question-and-answer style based on his call-in radio show in Sonora, California, Manville represents an older generation of addicts whose distilled experience is as timely now as ever. Novelist, newspaper journalist, radio host, and a self-confessed “professional bar fly” on the New York City circuit who has been sober now for more than twenty years, Manville has been in the game long enough as a professional writer and practicing alcoholic to have seen a thing or two. “Those were the days when I was living on the Five-Martini Diet—writing for Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan Magazine by day, and passing out before dinner more nights than I like to remember,” Manville wrote in a recent piece for

“Addictions and Answers,” the widely-read column he currently co-authors for the New York Daily News, takes personal questions and gives out useful, straightforward, evidence-based advice. So does his book. Some excerpts follow:

--“Take an alcoholic or drug addict without a penny in his pocket. Deposit him, friendless and alone, in a bluenose town. Dump him there at 6AM Sunday morning, broke and hungover, the bars and liquor stores closed.  He’ll find a way to get high before noon. That’s will power.”

--"In vino veritas?  No. ‘In vino bullshit,’ says John A. Mac Dougall, D. Min., a United Methodist Minister who is also Manager of Spiritual Guidance for Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota.”

-- “‘Each time your addiction brings you smack up against trouble or grief,’ says Brian Halstead, a Program Director at the Caron Foundation, ‘you are being presented with a choice. Do you want this to be your bottom, or do you want to be hit harder?’”

--“Sobriety makes you a more competent player; it does not guarantee you will be a winner. You’re still a dress size too large, and your husband is going bald. Your wife doesn’t understand you, and you’re in a dead end job. You’ll be able to address these problems with a cool, sober brain, yes… with a bit of detachment, yes… but they are still there. You’ve discovered that even glorious sobriety has realistic limits. The pink cloud begins to float down, closer to earth. Very dangerous time.”

--“The essence of addiction is: it SPEEDS up. That’s why it’s called progressive.

--"The phrase I like is that the genetic type of alcoholic was born two drinks behind."

--“Says Scott Munson, Executive Director, Sundown M Ranch, one of the top rehabs in the country, ‘I think it is important for psychologists and psychiatrists to understand the mistrust of those professions by many people in AA. Chemical dependency is a primary illness, not the result of another disorder.’" 

 --“There are pharmaceuticals, like insulin, that correct a deficiency in the body's mechanism. When the patient takes them, he does not get high… any diabetes sufferer will tell you that is a small price. And if taking a daily pill will end your enthrallment to addiction, that's not a high price either."

--Let me end with this, a kind of self-test I heard during a lecture when I was a facilitator at Scripps McDonald: Do you remember your first drink?  How did it make you feel? If you reply, ‘For the first time in my life it made me feel normal, like other people’--take it as a warning bell. In the UC Berkeley "Alcohol & Drug Abuse Studies" catalog, it estimates "that more than one half of clients in alcohol and drug treatment have coexisting psychiatric disorders."

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Linda vernon said...

This guy is an egotistical maniac who is still living on what he did in the 50's. He's pathetic

Anonymous said...

Most people I meet are egotistical maniacs. It's a full time job and actually, I like them(usually.)

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