‘A Personal Tribute: Ernie Kurtz, 1935 – 2015’ by Bill White

EK Photo 2008‘Ernest Kurtz, who made landmark contributions to the study of addiction recovery, died January 19, 2015 of pancreatic cancer. Following publication of Not-God:  A History of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1979, Kurtz focused his studies on the growing varieties of recovery experience, the healing of shame and guilt, and the role of spirituality in addiction recovery.

 
Ernest Kurtz was born in Rochester, New York, September 9, 1935 – only two months after the meeting of two desperate alcoholics in Akron, Ohio marked the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Kurtz attended St. Bernard’s Seminary and College and was then ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1961.

Following five years of parish work, he began his graduate studies at Harvard University where he completed an M.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization. His Ph.D dissertation on the history of A.A. marked a turning point in the scholarly study of A.A. and the larger arenas of addiction recovery and recovery mutual aid societies, both legitimizing such studies and setting a benchmark by which future studies would be evaluated.

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A great loss: RIP Ernie Kurtz

ernie_kurtz_egyptI was saddened to recently hear that Ernie Kurtz passed away on 19th January. Ernie was a brilliant and inquisitive man who helped very large numbers of people better understand AA and spirituality. Bill White recently described Ernie in the following way:

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

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The Recovery Scholarship of Ernie Kurtz

Ernie GLAATC InterviewHere’s some great reading for you, from one great scholar and storyteller about another. Bill White starts the New Year with this excellent posting on his blog. Enjoy!

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

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Ernie Kurtz: A Reverence for History

In this short interview Ernie Kurtz, renowned A.A. Historian and author of Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, discusses his thoughts about the topic of history in general, and reveals some fascinating insights into A.A.’s history in particular.

The video was shown for the first time as the keynote address at the inaugural A.A. History Conference held February 21 — 23 in Sedona, Arizona.

Ernie Kurtz on Researching AA History

Excellent film clip about the history of AA. Ernie’s book Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous is a great read. Why not check it out?

‘Spirituality and recovery’ by djmac

Wisdom-300x199‘Spirituality and recovery – do they go together? Hang on a second; what is spirituality and why are scientific articles on the place of spirituality in recovery falling into my inbox on a regular basis? Yes, I’m calling them scientific articles because they appear in peer-reviewed journals.

I was at a graduate art show last night and got talking to a hospital chaplain about the nature of spirituality. I don’t come across hospital chaplains too much in my day-to-day life, but oddly enough, I’d been listening to one on Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’ slot only a day or two before.

I was quite surprised by the lack of religious content to the job. The minister on the radio was much more focused on supporting people as they faced challenges, on helping them get through and on finding meaning in the difficulties they were experiencing.

Last night’s chaplain explained that in the ‘old days’ the hospital chaplain was expected to be ‘a witness for Christ’.

Now the focus was on helping ill people and their families find spiritual health and address social and practical need too. It’s about holistic health. I talked about the growing evidence of the link between spirituality and recovery and began to realise as we talked that spirituality can be part of building recovery capital.

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‘The Resilience of Alcoholics Anonymous’ by Bill White and Ernie Kurtz

AA_Newspaper_Image3Here is a seminal article describing what it takes to impact successfully on addiction and facilitate recovery. It helps us understand what underlies the success of AA.

‘Attacking Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and 12-step oriented addiction treatment has become a specialized industry with its own genre of literature, celebrity authors and speakers, single-focus websites, and promoted alternatives.  Collectively, these critics suggest that A.A. is an anachronism whose effectiveness has been exaggerated and whose time in the sun has passed. 

A.A.’s institutional response to these  criticisms has been a consistent pattern of private self-reflection (e.g., Bill Wilson’s “Our Critics can be Our Benefactors”) and public silence (e.g., no opinion on outside controversial issues, personal anonymity at level of press, and public relations based on attraction rather than promotion – as dictated by A.A.’s Traditions).

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’12-Step Programmes Help Thousands, but Are Outdated and Sexist’ by Jessica Smith

Geological wonders: picture three‘Addiction is everywhere. The drug of choice may be alcohol, or it may be food, sex, romance, gambling or shopping, but the basic problem is the same; the inner void created by a culture that sells us the empty promise that reaching for external things will make us happy.

When all that striving for money and possessions, and for status through jobs and relationships, still leaves a gaping hole inside us, many of us reach for the bottle, the chocolates or the credit card – and the cycle is complete.

In an article in the Guardian on May 30, Damian Thompson argued against the disease model for addiction, as developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. The roots of addiction, he wrote, lie in environmental factors, in the fact that “contemporary capitalism is ruthlessly targeting our mental reward circuits.”

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Research on Spirituality and Recovery From Addiction

Robert Weathers PhD of California Southern University summarises two recent and authoritative research studies (from Harvard University and the University of Michigan) which focus on the crucial contribution of spiritual resources in the process of recovery from addiction, for example, in 12-Step programs.

I found this video to be very interesting. Robert also mentions the Buddhist Recovery network website which contains a number of resources and is well worth a look. This network was co-founded by the late G. Alan Marlatt, one of the all-time great researchers and clinicians in the addiction recovery field.

“What is Recovery” according to Stephanie Brown (Part 4)

P1010092In my last blog focusing on Stephanie Brown’s book A Place Called Self, I described two myths about recovery.  In this blog, we look at the second myth: dependence is bad and recovery means you are no longer dependent.

“… many women think recovery is moving from dependence to self-sufficiency. But there is no such thing as total self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is a partial condition.” So what does Stephanie mean by this?

All of us are dependent in some way or other. We need other other people on whom we can depend. “No man (or woman) is an island.”

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‘Reflections on my AA experiences’ by Maddie

P1010174_3At my very first AA meeting, I was carried in by strangers who found me crying, shaking and rocking in the doorway. And I promise I am not exaggerating. Gosh, I had forgotten about that, an event that took place four or five years ago. 

I would pop in and out of AA for years before I was really desperate enough to let the rooms help me. I used to have to have a drink to get in the door, and I used to go with vodka in my bag. However, I just keep going back.

It’s hard to explain, but you are carried and held when you are in the rooms in those early days. Without AA and the people I have met there I would have busted on Friday night on my nine months birthday. I have been experiencing incredible stress because of the very long hours I have been working, the intensity of a new project, and a boss who is trying to make my project fail! At times, it’s been too much.

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Peer Support Groups

This page provides links to the home pages of a number of key peer support groups, e.g. AA, SMART Recovery. Learn why peer support is important.

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Brad’s Recovery Story: “A life beyond my wildest dreams’

Following a life of crime, fighting and drinking, Brad started his recovery journey after  a spiritual awakening and being told that alcohol wasn’t his problem – it was him.

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‘The astonishing power of example’ by Peapod

P1010948This blog appeared on WITR in April 2009.

‘Astonishment. That’s what I felt the first time I was taken to a mutual aid group meeting.

I was in treatment at the time in a residential centre. I was also neck deep in trouble. I had lost my job through my using. As part of the fallout from my own million megaton addiction detonation, I’d caused someone else to lose their job. The police were on my tail and I was massively in debt.

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‘About AA and Step 9’ from Don in London

Michael Scott sent me this link a few hours ago and I was really impressed by what Don in London had to say and how he said it. I then realised that there was a YouTube channel full of Don’s videos.

I got a good feeling about Don and he left me in a reflective state of mind. Thanks, Don.

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