With a Lot of Help
from Our Friends
Nancy Olson, With a Lot of Help from Our Friends: The Politics of Alcoholism,
March 2003, ISBN 0-595-27037-9, xxxiv + 534 pp., $30.95.
This book tells the inside story of government attempts to deal with the American alcohol problem
from 1970 to 1980, the most important decade in the history of alcohol legislation since Prohibition,
with the famous Hughes Act as its centerpiece. We meet the friends and supporters of Harold
Hughes, the charismatic senator and former governor from Iowa, and Marty Mann, the beloved
"first lady of Alcoholics Anonymous."
The author, herself a major participant in these events, describes the struggles and triumphs of this
small band of recovered alcoholics and their friends as they bared their souls before congressional
hearings and succeeded in convincing a Congress and three reluctant Presidents to support this
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Prologue: The End of this Congress Was Near and the Clock Moved On
PART ONE. SENATOR HAROLD HUGHES BEGINS THE BATTLE
1. Hughes as Governor
2. The Man From Ida Grove
3. Fighting in the War Against Poverty
4. Where the Sick Get Thrown in Jail
5. Senate Hearing or A.A. Meeting?
6. An Emancipation Proclamation for Alcoholics
7. Clash of the Titans
8. The Nixon Boys Have a Go At It
9. Convincing the Committee and the Senate
10. Problems in the House
11. Getting the Nixon Boys on the Beam
12. An Institute Is Born
13. Dark Clouds Threaten the New Institute
14. Native American, Minority and Poverty Programs
15. A Dove Among the Hawks
16. Twelfth Stepping the Military
17. Alcoholics with Gold Braid
The Lackland-Long Beach Model of alcoholism treatment was first developed at Lackland
Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in 1953-1961 by William E. Swegan and psychiatrist
Dr. Louis Jolyon ("Jolly") West.
Nancy Olson goes on to describe the further development of this type of AA-related alcoholism
treatment program by psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Zuska and Navy Commander Dick Jewell at the
Long Beach Naval Station in California in the years 1965 and following.
See also The Lackland-Long Beach Model, the article on "Lackland: the Fully Developed
Treatment Program" by William E. Swegan, and his book The Psychology of Alcoholism
18. For the Sake of the Next Generation: The Drug Abuse Education Act
The hearings before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on alcoholism and drug abuse in the U.S.
military in 1970. Also more on Joe Zuska and the Navy alcoholism treatment program which
he developed at Long Beach.
19. Help for Veterans
20. A Glance in the Rear View Mirror
21. Chronology & Assessment: The Chafetz Report 1970-75
PART TWO. SENATORS HATHAWAY AND WILLIAMS TAKE UP THE TASK
22. Sabbatical in the House
23. A New Chairman Replaces Hughes
24. Protecting Alcoholics Under the Rehabilitation Act
25. A New Administration Brings Changes
26. The Presidentís Commission on Mental Health
27. The Controlled Drinking Controversy
28. The Klerman Controversies
29. Review of Grants to National Organizations
30. The Formula Grant Controversy
31. The Needs of Women Alcoholics
32. Third Special Report to Congress Creates New Controversy
33. The Califano Initiatives
34. A Second Look in the Rear View Mirror
PART THREE. SENATOR RIEGLE AND THE END OF THE DECADE
35. A New Chairman Takes Charge
36. Riegle Hears from the Alcoholism Constituency
37. Riegle Continues His Hearings on Alcoholism
38. Hughes Appears as a Witness
39. Senate Passage Brings Surprise
40. Up Amendment No. 128: Can Prayer Confound a Senate?
41. Trying to Save Warning Labels
42. Riegle Holds Promised Hearings on Warning Labels
43. Riegle Alcoholism Bill Becomes Law (Without Warning Labels)
44. National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Alcohol-Related Problems
45. Third Look in the Rear View Mirror
Praised by the experts in the field
Photo from the book: Senator Harold
Hughes and Mrs. Marty Mann
Nancy Olson offers us a unique behind-the-scenes view of the alcoholism legislation that
changed America during the 1970s. Both those interested in alcoholism and those intrigued
by the legislative process will find this book fascinating. Well-documented and clearly
written, this book tells a story that has long needed telling.
Ernest Kurtz, author of Not-God:
A History of Alcoholics Anonymous
Written in an engaging style, the book includes vivid accounts of incidents and exchanges,
with a cast list including members of Congress and their staffs, federal administrators, scientists,
and representatives of the alcoholism movement and of the alcohol industries. The book is
essential reading for anyone interested in the modern development of thinking and action
about alcoholism and alcohol issues in the U.S.
Robin Room, Professor and Director of the Centre for Social Research
on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University, Sweden
This is a remarkably lucid, scholarly and interesting book that chronicles the birth of the federal
alcoholism movement and the events that followed. Nancy Olson, herself a witness and active
participant in this movement, presents an objective and a well-documented book, where her
fairness and passion are clearly evident. It is a must read for those interested in alcoholism during
a critical juncture in its history.
Ernest P. Noble, Ph.D, M.D., Director of the UCLA Alcohol Center and
former Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Photo from the book: Nancy Olson and Senator Williams
This book is a blockbuster. Olson has a fine sense for storytelling. The research is breathtaking,
as is her gift in weaving it all together and engaging the reader with dramatic insider eyewitness
accounts. Harold Hughes would be proud of what she's done.
Sally and David R. Brown, authors of The Biography of
Mrs. Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous
With a Lot of Help from Our Friends is the engaging story of how a grassroots movement of
recovering people and their families and allies changed the way America views alcoholism and
the alcoholic and created a national network of local alcoholism prevention and treatment
programs. While passage of the Hughes Act has long been lauded as the ignition point of the
modern alcoholism treatment movement, little has been known about the details of this
achievement until now. This book is must reading for anyone wanting to understand the modern
history of alcoholism treatment and recovery in America and the processes that go into changing
public opinion and public policies.
William L. White, author of Slaying the Dragon: The History
of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America
Olson is a superb historian in the classic mold. Those interested in the history of A.A. will get
their money's worth. They will see Mrs. Marty Mann in action, hear Bill Wilson's historic
congressional testimony. They will hear Senator Harold Hughes tell of his descent into alcoholism
and his redemption, and a host of other real-life A.A. stories about people of all sorts and types,
some famous and some obscure, but all brought vividly alive and made unforgettable by the
author's story-telling skill. This true tale of Washington politics manages to come out inspiring
and uplifting instead of merely cynical and despairing.
Glenn F. Chesnut, Professor of History, Indiana University, author of The
Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program: For Believers & Non-Believers
Photo from the book: Nancy Olson and Senator Harold Hughes
What are you interested in? History? Politics? Civics? Personalities? Alcoholism? You can find
them all here. If we do not learn from the past, we will make mistakes in the future. Ms. Olson's
laborious collection of historical data has provided us with valuable insights that can guide us in
Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., founder and medical director of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center
in Pittsburgh, and author of the best-selling Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception
Nancy Olson has written a clear account of the political struggle to accept alcoholism as a disease
and to provide treatment to those affected and their families. It is the story of a historic twelfth step
on the entire country.
Joseph Zuska, M.D. founder of the Navy's first alcoholism treatment center at
Long Beach, California, later made famous by Betty Ford, wife of President Ford
Shortly before his death in 1996, former Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa asked Nancy Olson to write this book, telling the story of what they and their friends had done to try to help the plight of alcoholics in the United States. Olson, like Hughes a recovered alcoholic, had been involved in the alcoholism field since 1965. In 1969, he appointed her to the staff of the newly created Special Subcommittee on Alcoholism and Narcotics and she served on Hughes' staff until he left the Senate in 1975. During this period the epoch-making "Hughes Act" became law.
Because of the many alcoholics and their families who contacted Hughes' office for help, she and the Senator in effect ran the first, albeit informal, Employee Assistance Program for Members of Congress, their families, and their staffs. They also counseled many high-ranking government and military personnel, and on numerous occasions even strangers who walked in off the street.
In 1975 Olson was re-appointed to the staff by Senator Harrison A. Williams of New Jersey, and thus also was involved in drafting the 1976 and 1979 amendments to the Hughes Act. During this period she also had primary staff responsibility for congressional oversight of the activities of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
She resigned from the Senate staff in 1980, after which she briefly served as a part- time Washington representative for the Hazelden Foundation, while preparing to enter a monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary. In 1982, for health reasons, she returned to secular life in Washington where she worked as a legislative analyst and lobbyist until her retirement in 1995.
During the latter part of her life she was a popular speaker on alcoholism both nationally and internationally. In addition to writing this book, as another of her retirement projects, in March of 2000, she began a web group called the AA History Lovers which served as a clearing house for dependable information on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous for people all over the world.
She enlisted the aid of some of the best historians and archivists in the field to help her answer questions on a wide variety of topics. By 2005 there were well over a thousand members of the group, from a wide number of countries including the United States, Canada, India, Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.
+ In Memoriam +
September 18, 1929 - March 25, 2005
Frazer A. Lang, review in the Addiction Professional (January 2004), "Letter from the Publisher."
The book With a Lot of Help from Our Friends: The Politics of Alcoholism . . . is a compelling history of the time in the 1970s and '80s when much of the federal government involvement in addiction treatment and prevention took root. The book is authored by Nancy Olson, who served on the staffs of US Senators Harold Hughes of Iowa and Harrison Williams of New Jersey and was immersed in the effort to enlist government interest in alcoholism and drug dependence.
This book is full of detail but remains thoroughly readable. Those involved in today's fight can learn much from past efforts.
Notable for me in this book were the frequent references to Jay Lewis, editor of The Alcoholism Report, which for a time was published by Manisses and gave birth to our Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly. Jay was the primary journalist for the field and deserves great credit for providing the communications vehicle that made advocacy and organizational efforts succeed.
Frazer A. Lang
Linda Farris Kurtz, Eastern Michigan University, review for Amazon April 10, 2003.
As a person who teaches policy to students who are not very interested in it, I greatly appreciate Nancy Olson's interesting and readable account of public policy development for the alcoholism treatment field during the latter half of the last century. Most of the public policy for this field in our country has focused on law enforcement rather than humane and sensible responses to addiction. Ms. Olson's book also reminds us that sweeping policy change like the 1970 Hughes Act, which is the centerpiece of this book, actually begins decades earlier and reverberates for years to come. This one act, amazingly ushered into existence by a one term Senator, was a stunning victory for those who care about really solving the alcohol addiction problem in our country.
I worked in the field when this legislation passed. I can really appreciate the perspective of someone who was making things happen in Washington at the same time that I was working with the OEO program in our community developing community resources and getting people into AA, which was all the real help there was at the time. It was facinating to see that side of the action and to remember those promising days.
Linda Farris Kurtz, ACSW, DPA
Professor, Eastern Michigan University