Transforming Addiction and Suffering with Philosophy, with Prof. Peg O'Connor

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From quite early in her life, Peg O’Connor felt a “double dose of shame” - from her lesbian identity on one hand, and her struggles with alcohol on the other. Her drinking problems almost got her expelled from high school, but instead she was able to stop. In her view, philosophy helped her immensely to get and stay sober, especially considering how she was not fully on board with traditional religious views or with Alcoholics Anonymous.

Peg eventually became a philosophy professor, studying Wittgenstein, ethics, and feminist philosophy, and for decades she remained abstinent from alcohol. But then, 19 years into her recovery, searching for “something more,” she got more curious about 12-step recovery. At the same time, she turned her academic focus to face addiction more directly, and since then she has been writing about some of the most challenging ideas about recovery, such as surrender, powerlessness, spirituality, and “higher powers.”
For this episode of Flourishing After Addiction, I was excited to speak with Peg about her most recent book, Higher and Friendly Powers, a compulsively readable, clear, and humane exploration of the notion of “Higher Powers,” using the philosopher and psychologist William James as a guide. It’s great fun. I hope you enjoy.
Peg O'Connor is Professor of Philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Higher and Friendly Powers: Transforming Addiction and Suffering (Wildhouse Publications) and Life on the Rocks: Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery (Central Recovery Press, 2016). A recovering alcoholic, she believes philosophy has much to offer people who struggle. You can find her at her faculty page and her author website (<-- you can pre-order her book there!).
In this episode:
- The book Writing the Big Book (re: Hank Parkhurst)
- Ralph Waldo Emerson on nature, morality, and transcendence
- Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime
- "The First Lady" on Showtime- review
- {not for the faint of heart!] The Dave Robicheaux murder mysteries.
- the quote from my book, from the director of a treatment center in 1988: “Patients ask how important it is that they go to AA after they’re through here. I say, ‘I can give you a guarantee. When you leave here, if you don’t go to AA, you won’t make it.’” (page 249)
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