With a Lot of Help
from Our Friends

Nancy Olson

Nancy Olson, With a Lot of Help from Our Friends: The Politics of Alcoholism, March 2003, ISBN 0-595-27037-9, xxxiv + 534 pp., $30.95.

This book tells the inside story of government attempts to deal with the American alcohol problem from 1970 to 1980, the most important decade in the history of alcohol legislation since Prohibition, with the famous Hughes Act as its centerpiece. We meet the friends and supporters of Harold Hughes, the charismatic senator and former governor from Iowa, and Marty Mann, the beloved "first lady of Alcoholics Anonymous."

The author, herself a major participant in these events, describes the struggles and triumphs of this small band of recovered alcoholics and their friends as they bared their souls before congressional hearings and succeeded in convincing a Congress and three reluctant Presidents to support this effort.
Click here to order online direct. Also available through all major online bookstores or by phoning 877 823-9235 (toll free).

Your local bookstore may order from Ingram or Baker & Taylor book wholesalers or (at a better discount) by phoning iUniverse directly at 877 823-9235 (toll free). International orders: Email us at custservice@iuniverse.com or call 001-402-323-7800 (#3)

Table of Contents

Click on the chapter titles in red in order to read that chapter on your computer.

Prologue: The End of this Congress Was Near and the Clock Moved On



1. Hughes as Governor

2. The Man From Ida Grove

3. Fighting in the War Against Poverty

4. Where the Sick Get Thrown in Jail

5. Senate Hearing or A.A. Meeting?

6. An Emancipation Proclamation for Alcoholics

7. Clash of the Titans

8. The Nixon Boys Have a Go At It

9. Convincing the Committee and the Senate

10. Problems in the House

11. Getting the Nixon Boys on the Beam

12. An Institute Is Born

13. Dark Clouds Threaten the New Institute

14. Native American, Minority and Poverty Programs

15. A Dove Among the Hawks

16. Twelfth Stepping the Military
The Lackland-Long Beach Model of alcoholism treatment was first developed at Lackland
Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in 1953-1961 by William E. Swegan and psychiatrist
Dr. Louis Jolyon ("Jolly") West.

Nancy Olson goes on to describe the further development of this type of AA-related alcoholism
treatment program by psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Zuska and Navy Commander Dick Jewell at the
Long Beach Naval Station in California in the years 1965 and following.

See also The Lackland-Long Beach Model, the article on "Lackland: the Fully Developed
Treatment Program"
by William E. Swegan, and his book The Psychology of Alcoholism
17. Alcoholics with Gold Braid
The hearings before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on alcoholism and drug abuse in the U.S.
military in 1970. Also more on Joe Zuska and the Navy alcoholism treatment program which
he developed at Long Beach.
18. For the Sake of the Next Generation: The Drug Abuse Education Act

19. Help for Veterans

20. A Glance in the Rear View Mirror

21. Chronology & Assessment: The Chafetz Report 1970-75


22. Sabbatical in the House

23. A New Chairman Replaces Hughes

24. Protecting Alcoholics Under the Rehabilitation Act

25. A New Administration Brings Changes

26. The Presidentís Commission on Mental Health

27. The Controlled Drinking Controversy

28. The Klerman Controversies

29. Review of Grants to National Organizations

30. The Formula Grant Controversy

31. The Needs of Women Alcoholics

32. Third Special Report to Congress Creates New Controversy

33. The Califano Initiatives

34. A Second Look in the Rear View Mirror


35. A New Chairman Takes Charge

36. Riegle Hears from the Alcoholism Constituency

37. Riegle Continues His Hearings on Alcoholism

38. Hughes Appears as a Witness

39. Senate Passage Brings Surprise

40. Up Amendment No. 128: Can Prayer Confound a Senate?

41. Trying to Save Warning Labels

42. Riegle Holds Promised Hearings on Warning Labels

43. Riegle Alcoholism Bill Becomes Law (Without Warning Labels)

44. National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Alcohol-Related Problems

45. Third Look in the Rear View Mirror


Praised by the experts in the field

Photo from the book: Senator Harold
Hughes and Mrs. Marty Mann

Nancy Olson offers us a unique behind-the-scenes view of the alcoholism legislation that changed America during the 1970s. Both those interested in alcoholism and those intrigued by the legislative process will find this book fascinating. Well-documented and clearly written, this book tells a story that has long needed telling.

Ernest Kurtz, author of Not-God:
A History of Alcoholics Anonymous

Written in an engaging style, the book includes vivid accounts of incidents and exchanges, with a cast list including members of Congress and their staffs, federal administrators, scientists, and representatives of the alcoholism movement and of the alcohol industries. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the modern development of thinking and action about alcoholism and alcohol issues in the U.S.

Robin Room, Professor and Director of the Centre for Social Research
on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University, Sweden

This is a remarkably lucid, scholarly and interesting book that chronicles the birth of the federal alcoholism movement and the events that followed. Nancy Olson, herself a witness and active participant in this movement, presents an objective and a well-documented book, where her fairness and passion are clearly evident. It is a must read for those interested in alcoholism during a critical juncture in its history.

Ernest P. Noble, Ph.D, M.D., Director of the UCLA Alcohol Center and
former Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Photo from the book: Nancy Olson and Senator Williams

This book is a blockbuster. Olson has a fine sense for storytelling. The research is breathtaking, as is her gift in weaving it all together and engaging the reader with dramatic insider eyewitness accounts. Harold Hughes would be proud of what she's done.

Sally and David R. Brown, authors of The Biography of
Mrs. Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous

With a Lot of Help from Our Friends is the engaging story of how a grassroots movement of recovering people and their families and allies changed the way America views alcoholism and the alcoholic and created a national network of local alcoholism prevention and treatment programs. While passage of the Hughes Act has long been lauded as the ignition point of the modern alcoholism treatment movement, little has been known about the details of this achievement until now. This book is must reading for anyone wanting to understand the modern history of alcoholism treatment and recovery in America and the processes that go into changing public opinion and public policies.

William L. White, author of Slaying the Dragon: The History
of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America

Olson is a superb historian in the classic mold. Those interested in the history of A.A. will get their money's worth. They will see Mrs. Marty Mann in action, hear Bill Wilson's historic congressional testimony. They will hear Senator Harold Hughes tell of his descent into alcoholism and his redemption, and a host of other real-life A.A. stories about people of all sorts and types, some famous and some obscure, but all brought vividly alive and made unforgettable by the author's story-telling skill. This true tale of Washington politics manages to come out inspiring and uplifting instead of merely cynical and despairing.

Glenn F. Chesnut, Professor of History, Indiana University, author of The
Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program: For Believers & Non-Believers

Photo from the book: Nancy Olson and Senator Harold Hughes

What are you interested in? History? Politics? Civics? Personalities? Alcoholism? You can find them all here. If we do not learn from the past, we will make mistakes in the future. Ms. Olson's laborious collection of historical data has provided us with valuable insights that can guide us in the future.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., founder and medical director of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center
in Pittsburgh, and author of the best-selling Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception

Nancy Olson has written a clear account of the political struggle to accept alcoholism as a disease and to provide treatment to those affected and their families. It is the story of a historic twelfth step on the entire country.

Joseph Zuska, M.D. founder of the Navy's first alcoholism treatment center at
Long Beach, California, later made famous by Betty Ford, wife of President Ford

About the Author

Shortly before his death in 1996, former Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa asked Nancy Olson to write this book, telling the story of what they and their friends had done to try to help the plight of alcoholics in the United States. Olson, like Hughes a recovered alcoholic, had been involved in the alcoholism field since 1965. In 1969, he appointed her to the staff of the newly created Special Subcommittee on Alcoholism and Narcotics and she served on Hughes' staff until he left the Senate in 1975. During this period the epoch-making "Hughes Act" became law.

Because of the many alcoholics and their families who contacted Hughes' office for help, she and the Senator in effect ran the first, albeit informal, Employee Assistance Program for Members of Congress, their families, and their staffs. They also counseled many high-ranking government and military personnel, and on numerous occasions even strangers who walked in off the street.

In 1975 Olson was re-appointed to the staff by Senator Harrison A. Williams of New Jersey, and thus also was involved in drafting the 1976 and 1979 amendments to the Hughes Act. During this period she also had primary staff responsibility for congressional oversight of the activities of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

She resigned from the Senate staff in 1980, after which she briefly served as a part- time Washington representative for the Hazelden Foundation, while preparing to enter a monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary. In 1982, for health reasons, she returned to secular life in Washington where she worked as a legislative analyst and lobbyist until her retirement in 1995.

During the latter part of her life she was a popular speaker on alcoholism both nationally and internationally. In addition to writing this book, as another of her retirement projects, in March of 2000, she began a web group called the AA History Lovers which served as a clearing house for dependable information on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous for people all over the world.

She enlisted the aid of some of the best historians and archivists in the field to help her answer questions on a wide variety of topics. By 2005 there were well over a thousand members of the group, from a wide number of countries including the United States, Canada, India, Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.

+  In Memoriam  +

September 18, 1929 - March 25, 2005

Click here for more on Nancy Olson's life

Published Reviews

Frazer A. Lang, review in the Addiction Professional (January 2004), "Letter from the Publisher."

The book With a Lot of Help from Our Friends: The Politics of Alcoholism . . . is a compelling history of the time in the 1970s and '80s when much of the federal government involvement in addiction treatment and prevention took root. The book is authored by Nancy Olson, who served on the staffs of US Senators Harold Hughes of Iowa and Harrison Williams of New Jersey and was immersed in the effort to enlist government interest in alcoholism and drug dependence.

This book is full of detail but remains thoroughly readable. Those involved in today's fight can learn much from past efforts.

Notable for me in this book were the frequent references to Jay Lewis, editor of The Alcoholism Report, which for a time was published by Manisses and gave birth to our Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly. Jay was the primary journalist for the field and deserves great credit for providing the communications vehicle that made advocacy and organizational efforts succeed.

Frazer A. Lang

Linda Farris Kurtz, Eastern Michigan University, review for Amazon April 10, 2003.

As a person who teaches policy to students who are not very interested in it, I greatly appreciate Nancy Olson's interesting and readable account of public policy development for the alcoholism treatment field during the latter half of the last century. Most of the public policy for this field in our country has focused on law enforcement rather than humane and sensible responses to addiction. Ms. Olson's book also reminds us that sweeping policy change like the 1970 Hughes Act, which is the centerpiece of this book, actually begins decades earlier and reverberates for years to come. This one act, amazingly ushered into existence by a one term Senator, was a stunning victory for those who care about really solving the alcohol addiction problem in our country.

I worked in the field when this legislation passed. I can really appreciate the perspective of someone who was making things happen in Washington at the same time that I was working with the OEO program in our community developing community resources and getting people into AA, which was all the real help there was at the time. It was facinating to see that side of the action and to remember those promising days.

Linda Farris Kurtz, ACSW, DPA
Professor, Eastern Michigan University