History of Alcoholism

Talk Recovery Radio

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Guest 1

Drunks: An American History of Alcoholism

A social history of alcoholism in the United States, from the seventeenth century to the present day

Today, millions of Americans are struggling with alcoholism, but millions are also in long-term recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and a growing number of recovery organizations are providing support for alcoholics who will face the danger of relapse for the rest of their lives.

We have finally come to understand alcoholism as a treatable illness, rather than a moral failure. Today’s advocates can draw inspiration from the victories of sober drunks throughout American history.


Christopher Finnane, executive director at the National Coalition Against Censorship and author of his new book drunks an American history. It begins with Native American people and then travels all the way to Obamacare. My goal was to show the history of recovery is more then 1935 with Alcoholics Anonymous. There were well organized efforts from the late 18th century and they didn’t all succeed but they each of them contributed.

I’m in recovery myself, I wanted to also explain how we’ve come to the point that we have today and that recovery is much more widespread than it’s ever been in history. I wanted to show people why there’s every reason to hope that we’re going to continue to get better and better at getting people sober and straight.

The movement started with a Seneca First Nations man, in the late 18th century. He was on the point of death in 1799 when he had a religious awakening, he saw four messengers from the Great Creator standing outside his door as he lay taking almost his last breaths, the message brought to him was: the great creator wanted him to lead a religious revival among his people, to work to restore the traditions that had fallen away. The principal cornerstone of the religion was Natives couldn’t drink and total abstinence was the only way to honor the great Creator to undertake this revival. He recovers and began to walk from one reservation to another persuading other’s to follow in his footsteps. He brought significant recovery to not only the Seneca but the other tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy his last 15 years of life. This is our first sustained recovery movement.

Caucasian recovery really started about 25 years later with the Washingtonians, they didn’t know about the Iroquois, Handsome Lake or Native recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous started, there’s almost no hope of recovery and most of the recovery efforts of the past have been buried with prohibition. There wasn’t a lot of attention paid to history at all. First Nations recovery and Caucasian recovery moved in different paths.

Today there are 12-step models and there’s more focus on pharmaceutical solutions. So are we getting away from what the original thoughts were. In America the number of addicts and alcoholics is approximately 22 million.

Guest 2

Personal Addiction Recovery Story

Followed by Personal Story with Ronnie I, Ronnie shares his addiction recovery story, a former Veteran who overcame PSTD and Addiction with Recovery


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Talk Recovery airs live every Thursday at noon on 100.5 FM, Vancouver Coop Radio. The Last Door produces this weekly radio show discussing the many pathways to addiction recovery. To end stigma we must continue to talk about recovery. Talk Recovery is in its 7th Season, Hundreds of guests, thousands of listeners, thank you. Show ideas? Email community@lastdoor.org

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