A deeply humane but also thoroughly depressing inquiry into the puzzle of what prevents perpetually addicted men from choosing recovery and sobriety. As a staff psychologist for the Southeastern Connecticut Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Singer helped counselors to cope with addicts' psychological predispositions. To deepen his own understanding and to develop better treatment strategies on behalf of the council, he also chose to conduct two- to three-hour interviews with 31 residents of Lebanon Pines, a long-term facility for chronic addicts. Among those from that interview pool who are featured here are a gay black man; a one-time millionaire who went from rags to riches to rags again; a former major-league baseball player; and a veteran of the Vietnam War. Singer, who lets the men tell their bleak stories mostly in their own words, presents each interview within the framework of a larger contextual discussion considering how the individual story confirms Singer's theories of addiction and identity formation. Finding the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program—and the very concept of addiction as a disease—too narrow and prescriptive to account for the full complexity of addiction, Singer instead views chronic addicts as severely impaired in their ability to form an identity and find meaning in their lives. Their consequent despair can lead to such defensive behaviors as surrender, denial, and self-destruction. For these alienated men ever to recover, he concludes, they must first regain a sense of connectedness to the sober world and confidence about their place in it. To do so, he urges, they require our trust and faithful assistance. While Singer would prefer that his insights reach and touch a broad reading public, his professional terminology (e.g., ``embeddedness,'' ``generativity'') will make this slow going for anyone not trained as a counselor or a therapist.
Read full book review >