Dr. James West was a pioneer in the field of addiction. I had the privilege of working with him in the Intensive Outpatient Program at the Betty Ford Center. What I especially appreciated was his humble, graceful presence and his way of explaining things in terms that were understandable and accessible to the general public. His description of alcoholism in his book, The Betty Ford Center Book of Answers, is both nuanced and relatable:
"Alcoholism is a disease of extremes, of disappointments, of depression, of exhiliration, of dishonesty, of denial, of wrecked relationships. Common to all those who suffer from this disease are a low frustration tolerance, an exquisite sensitivity, a diminished sense of one's own worth, and feelings of isolation..."
Dr. West frequently reminded me as a counselor working with clients to "Keep it simple, Mary." He was right. People can become bogged down and distracted with technical definitions and analysis, remaining stuck in their head, instead of focused on their heart.I try to remember the power of simplicity and bring this into my everyday practice when I work with individuals and families in recovery.
The Betty Ford Center Book of Answers: Help for Those Struggling with Substance Abuse and for the People Who Love Them, by James W. West, Pocket Books, 1997, pp. 2