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I felt sadness and recognition when I read the article on Glenn Beck in the NYT magazine (Oct. 3). When I was a kid, 1959 or 60, I went with a road crew selling encyclopedias door to door. Our crew boss was a guy who had held forth on right wing radio as a talk show host down in Florida, in the 50s. He was also recovering and fell off the wagon while we were on the road.
His behavior was very similar to that of another recovering alcoholic I encountered in a similar situation 25 years later. He was my mentor selling insurance. Much the same behavior, only he was fascinated that I had been a psychotherapist and certified alcoholism counselor and pumped me for my “insights”.
Both men, similar to Beck, seemed adrift, as if they didn’t know what they really believed and as if no one could be trusted. They would nudge me and say, “Do you think that couple over there is talking about me? I know they aren’t, but I just feel so strongly that they are.” “Do you think that guy knows I’m an alkie?” and so on.
Paranoia, distrust, guilt, confusion…… most of all, confusion. And enthusiasm, huge amounts of enthusiasm that made you wonder about a manic-depressive/bipolar disorder. But they were very easily bored…. so anxious to know about ancient China (You studied Chinese history? No shit! What do you think they…….?), but after a little conversation, they would look away and change the subject.
Some might say their brain cells were fried and they just couldn’t track. That’s entirely possible. But I think it is a search, searching for something that will fill them and when they don’t feel the “magic”, they look elsewhere. The booze always did the trick. As AA says, the friend that never fails you until it kills you.
Very, very sad. I would hazard a guess that these are people who were failed immensely as children, missing love. That’s why religion promises them so much, the love they’re missing. Whether it delivers is, I think, not so much up to the religion but up to the recovering person’s ability to let it work.
I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on this. Look at Beck and listen to him and watch the wild swings, emotional and ideational.

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