Memory Jumble

 Posted by on 29 March 2002 at 3:54 pm  Uncategorized
Mar 292002

As I was writing my review of Heavy Drinking (posted below), I most unpleasantly realized that certain clear, distinct, and consistent memories of Herbert Fingarette’s article “Alcoholism and Self-Deception” were, in fact, entirely wrong.

I read “Alcoholism and Self-Deception” in January, just a few months ago. Although my reading of the article was rushed, it was of sufficient interest that I ordered Fingarette’s book on alcoholism shortly thereafter. I remembered the article as arguing against the disease concept of alcoholism and the view that problem drinkers experience a loss of control over their drinking. Instead, Fingarette argued that the central feature of alcoholism is self-deception. I even vividly remembered the story of the man who, in full knowledge of the horrible consequences of his drinking, proceeded to deceive himself into drinking again by telling himself that if he put the shot of whiskey into a glass of milk, his full stomach would protect him. Then, since that whiskey didn’t affect him, he proceeded to have another. And so on. All of these recollections seemed perfectly clear and distinct.

Additionally, the summary of the article that I wrote on the title page read “discusses the medical model of alcoholism, claiming that the phenomena can be better understood in terms of self-deception rather than disease.” And my February 28th letter to Tim Lynch of Cato about the article involved the same interpretation. In that letter, I said “Fingarette’s analysis of problem drinking in terms of self-deception rather than ‘loss of control’ certainly fits well with my experience with alcoholics.”

All seemed well. So I wrote the following in my review of Heavy Drinking:

To my surprise, Heavy Drinking doesn’t argue, as the earlier “Alcoholism and Self-Deception” did, that self-deception is the central feature of problem drinking. Rather, in Heavy Drinking, Fingarette’s notion of drinking as a “central activity” takes center stage, while self-deception is not even mentioned.

At this point, I wanted discuss the role of self-deception in problem drinking, particularly citing the whiskey-in-milk story, so I quickly perused through the article looking for it. I couldn’t find it. I skimmed the article again, this time a bit more slowly. I noticed that Fingarette didn’t seem to advocate self-deception as a central feature of problem drinking. Reading the article again more slowly, I noticed that the introductory paragraph claimed that one of the purposes of the paper was “to show how the widely believed by unwarranted claim that alcoholism is a disease serves to encourage self-deception” (52). Oh dear. And, the whiskey-in-milk story was nowhere to be found. Oh oh dear dear. By the time I reached the end of the paper, I knew that my clear and distinct and consistent memories of both the central thesis of the paper and the particular whiskey-in-milk story were wrong. (When I googled for whiskey milk alcoholism self-deception, I found that the whiskey-in-milk story is from Chapter 3 of AA’s Big Book.)

I am very puzzled by this whole experience. I can (sort of) understand misreading the central thesis of “Alcoholism and Self-Deception” because I was so rushed to finish CU Boulder application at the time. But I have absolutely no idea where I might have read the whiskey-in-milk story recently. I am desperate to find out. I don’t remember reading any material on alcoholism, other than Fingarette’s article, around that time.

There is only one reasonable conclusion to draw: I must be going mad.

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