The Psychology of Alcoholism

William E. Swegan

with Glenn F. Chesnut, Ph.D.

William E. Swegan with Glenn F. Chesnut, Ph.D., The Psychology of Alcoholism, December 2011, ISBN 978-1-4502-8598-8, ebook ISBN 978-1-4502-8599-5, x + 324 pp., $19.95 U.S.
Orig. pub. in 2003 as On the Military Firing Line in the Alcoholism
Treatment Program
, by Sgt. Bill S. with Glenn F. Chesnut
William E. Swegan ("Sgt. Bill") was the major spokesman for the psychological wing of early Alcoholics Anonymous -- that group within the newborn A.A. movement of the 1930's, 40's and 50's which stressed the psychotherapeutic side of the twelve step program instead of the spiritual side. This book is Swegan's major work, in which he lays out the psychiatric theories which formed the foundation of that variety of A.A. thought. He also talks about his association with Mrs. Marty Mann, Yev Gardner, E. M. Jellinek at the Yale School of Alcohol Studies, Bill Dotson (A.A. No. 3) and Searcy Whaley, in addition to recording his memories of the year he spent observing Sister Ignatia at work at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron.

In 1953 Sgt. Bill teamed up with famous American psychiatrist Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to develop a method of alcoholism treatment (given further development in the mid 1960s by Dr. Joseph J. Zuska and Dick Jewell at Long Beach Naval Station) called the Lackland-Long Beach Model. It became one of the three basic types of A.A.-oriented alcoholism treatment program, along with the Minnesota Model and Sister Ignatia's more spiritually oriented approach.

Sgt. Bill does not just talk psychiatric theories in this book. He uses his own life story to show how traumatic loss, poverty, inadequate self-esteem, envy, self-pity and rage can drive children and youths into isolationism, rebellion, self-sabotage, and ultimately the descent into uncontrollable alcoholism or drug addiction. But in his humanistic understanding of the twelve step program he also shows us how to make use of the healing power of the spirit of Love and Service to our fellow human beings to restore ourselves to new life.

Sgt. Bill's devotion to good old-time A.A. principles obtained an astounding but thoroughly documented 50% success rate for people going through the program the first time (in other words, up there with early Akron A.A.) even in the hostile environment of a hard-drinking military base.


Click on the chapter titles in red in order to read that chapter on your computer.

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Childhood in Niles, Ohio

Chapter 3. From Lindbergh to the Depression Years

Chapter 4. High School Years

Chapter 5. Discovering Alcohol

Chapter 6. Joining the Army Air Corps

Chapter 7. The Attack on Pearl Harbor

Chapter 8. Sabotaging Every Success

Chapter 9. First Tragic Marriage

Chapter 10. My First Encounter with A.A.

Chapter 11. The Blonde in the Merry Circle

Chapter 12. Getting Sober: July 5, 1948

Chapter 13. The Road to Maturity

Chapter 14. Beginning the First Military Alcoholism Treatment Program

Chapter 15. The Effects of Alcohol on Our Emotional Development
Swegan's central theory of the relationship between conscious and subconscious pressures in the active alcoholic.
Chapter 16. Kent State University and Sister Ignatia
His detailed description of Sister Ignatia's alcoholic ward at St. Thomas hospital in Akron, as he observed it in 1951.

(The three basic types of AA-related alcoholism treatment programs developed during that early period were Sister Ignatia's, the Lackland-Long Beach Model, and the Minnesota Model.)
Chapter 17. Lackland: the Fully Developed Treatment Program
The Lackland-Long Beach Model of alcoholism treatment, as first developed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in 1953-1961 by William E. Swegan and famous psychiatrist Dr. Louis Jolyon ("Jolly") West.

Nancy Olson describes 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 in two chapters of her book on the era of the Hughes Act:

Twelfth Stepping the Military, Chapter 16 in Nancy Olson, With a Lot of Help from Our Friends: The Politics of Alcoholism (Hindsfoot Foundation, 2003).

Alcoholics with Gold Braid, excerpted from Chapter 17 in Nancy Olson, With a Lot of Help from Our Friends: The Politics of Alcoholism, Hindsfoot Foundation (2003).
Chapter 18. Recovery through the Twelve Steps
A nontheistic / atheistic way of working the twelve steps , an article by Glenn F. Chesnut in which he explains how Sgt. Bill Swegan successfully worked the steps from the standpoint of a dedicated ethical humanism. Swegan thought of his Higher Power in terms of the laws of nature and the healing forces within nature which could return our minds to sanity and reason, in combination with the rationalist's faith that truth and honesty would always ultimately triumph over error and ignorance. We needed to develop a whole lot more faith and trust -- not in some childish idea of a personal God who would magically rescue us from everything if we just spoke the right words -- but faith and trust in ourselves. We needed to replace the compulsion to carry out continual self-sabotage with a new spirit of self-confidence and resolution.
Chapter 19. Another Generation and Another War

Chapter 20. The Silver Dollar