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In the title of her book, Girlfriend of Bill, author Karen Nagy riffs on the time-honored public code for mutual AA recognition: “Are you a friend of [AA co-founder] Bill?
” Nagy says she was unable to find any material written “specifically for someone who is new to such a relationship or who is thinking about dating someone in recovery.” So she wrote one, and the publishing arm of Hazelden brought it out.
While the controversial disease model of addiction continues to provoke heated debate, Nagy discovered that “knowing addiction is a disease has helped me to confront and get over my past prejudices about alcoholics and drug addicts, and to better understand why they might think, act, and react the way they do.” “Change is tough for all of us,” says Nagy, “but it can be especially hard for an addict” because of the strong tendency to rationalize and resist needed change.
Addicts, she adds, “are also known for ‘wanting it now,’ a trait that could be related to their brain chemistry and addictive cravings.” (Or, as non-practicing addict Carrie Fisher memorably put it, “instant gratification takes too long.”) Her summation of the notion behind the AA/NA concept of a higher power is a common one these days: “Some might call their Higher Power God; others might define it as nature, the positive energy of their group, or an unnamed sense of spirit.” While that may sound naïve to some, what the addict must grasp is that white-knuckle notions of triumph through personal will may have to be abandoned along the way, if we are talking about chronic, active addiction.
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“Try as we might—we can’t control whether or not the PIR uses them.” And non-addicts who are dating them might usefully be forewarned about such things, Nagy believes.
And she correctly points out that the AA Big Book is “written in an old-fashioned style that hearkens back to the 1930s,” when the amateur self-help group known as AA was founded.