What Could Donald Trump Possibly Learn from Alcoholics Anonymous?

What Could Donald Trump Possibly Learn from Alcoholics Anonymous?

By John S. Tamerin, M.D. — August 26, 2016

The title of this article seems like an absurd question because it is well known that Donald Trump does not touch a drop of alcohol since his beloved older brother died of alcoholism.

Unfortunately for Trump, he accepted the necessity of not drinking, but never explored the deeper issues associated with the personality and behavior of the alcoholic. Anyone who understands alcoholism and looks at his repeatedly observed public behavior will see so many traits observed in alcoholics such as:

- Loud outbursts and inappropriate comments.

- High levels of impulsivity and excitement seeking and a tendency to engage in high-risk behaviors.

 - Increased aggression.

- Social disinhibition: Losing control and not knowing how far one could or should go in a social situation.

- Impaired or poor judgment.

- Self-centered, egotistical behavior.

- The denial of any problem and tendency to blame others, i.e. unwillingness to take personal responsibility.

- Euphoria: excessive talking and showing off.

Telling lies and believing them is a frequent characteristic of alcoholics.

“Humility, as a word and as an ideal, has a very bad time of it in our world. Not only is the idea misunderstood, the word itself is often intensely disliked. Many people haven’t even a nodding acquaintance with humility as a way of life. Much of the everyday talk we hear, and a great deal of what we read, highlights man’s pride in his own achievements."

Alcoholics Anonymous

Step Seven of Twelve Steps

- Suspiciousness and distrust of others.

In the parlance of AA one might even call Trump a “dry drunk” since everything he stands for are the traits that create havoc in the lives of alcoholics: aggression, lying, self-deception, paranoia, impulsivity, and most obviously, egomania.

I am obviously not making a diagnosis, but merely offering a perspective. Attaining meaningful sobriety involves far more than merely not drinking, but adopting and living by a code of ethical behavior that truly transforms the individual. These are the issues which Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) seeks to address.

The core principle of Alcoholics Anonymous is stringent self-honesty. Simple sobriety is not enough.

To truly achieve sobriety, the program mandates trustworthiness in thought and action, a willingness to admit wrongdoing, fairness in all dealings with others, humility (i.e. freedom from false pride and arrogance) and a willingness to forgive others, make amends for statements or actions that may have caused harm, and also genuine service which is selfless not self-serving. Indeed it is often said that “Intelligent unselfish service is the lifeblood of the AA fellowship.”

Contrast this with Donald Trump’s repeatedly observed behavior. Perhaps if he had committed to more than just abstinence but to living the core principles of true sobriety, the dark side of his persona would be less problematic. Clearly, traits like contrition, humility, and honesty would not be so exciting and appealing to many of Trump’s devoted followers.

On the other hand, they would certainly have made him a far more attractive candidate for many of us who still would wish to look up rather than down on our president!

Not that he would ever humble himself this way, but my advice to Mr. Trump would be that he start adopting the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Perhaps instead of hearing his hollow, superficial, disingenuous and meaningless apology written by someone else, he himself would sincerely apologize to the Khan family, to Megyn Kelly, to John McCain and to his fellow Republicans who he repeatedly insulted during the primaries. Also, instead of repeatedly pandering to the lowest common denominator by calling Secretary Clinton “Crooked Hillary” perhaps he would choose to spell out in detail why he sincerely believes that his policies will better serve most Americans.

It’s time for him to show some respect for the intelligence of his fellow Americans rather than merely appealing to their basest emotions. We are not a stupid people. We did after all create the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and we are a loving and forgiving people who accept the concept of repentance and redemption which is at the core of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Obviously, it is a total pipe dream for me to wish that instead of doubling down on all of his negative traits Mr. Trump might find the spiritual wisdom and humility to change.

From my point of view I would have far more respect for him if he sincerely adopted the values of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dr. Tamerin lives and practices psychiatry in Greenwich, Ct. He has worked in the field of alcoholism and mood disorders for over 40 years and has written numerous articles about the principles and values of support groups in these areas. He also serves as Clinical Associate Professor at the Weill/Cornell School of Medicine.