Flowers for Algernon By Daniel Keyes

January 16, 2014

20140116-011301.jpgA Book Review
By Terence T. Gorski, Author
January 15, 2014

A friend of mine gave me the book entitled Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. She asked me to read it and tell her what I thought.

The main character was a severely retarded young man named Charlie Gordon, who becomes the first human subject in the trial of an experimental drug for treating mental retardation.

Algernon was one of a large group of rats that were bred to be retarded in order to test the new drug. All the rats developed and maintained long-term dramatic improvements. All of them except Algernon were sacrificed and dissected to confirm the success of the drug with no side effects.

Charlie became the first human subject to use the new drug. The researchers let Charlie build a relationship Algernon and teach him new skills. Charlie fell in love with Algernon.

Charlie kept a daily journal as part of the experiment and the book is written as if it were developed from Charlie’s journals. The book presents Charlie’s first person account of his life as a retarded (severely cognitively impaired) person. Then described his growing self and environmental awareness as he progressively developed above average cognition.

Charlie was functioning well and the researchers thought they had found a cure. Suddenly, Algernon, who aged far more rapidly than humans, regressed. Charlie knew it would happen to him also. He applied his knew-found genius to figuring out what caused Algernon’s regression.

He couldn’t figure out what went wrong. His journal reflects his descent back into severe dementia. Algernon dies Just before Charlie regressed back into severe intractable retardation. Charlie asks the researcher to get FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and put them on his grave.

When I asked my friend why she wanted me to read the book, she said: “Terry, I think you already know!” And she was right. I did know. I thought of my father who disappeared before my eyes, a victim of progressive and untreatable dementia.

Flowers For Algernon gave me insight into what people suffering from progressive dementia must experience. It was a realistic sensitive and compelling look at a serious and far too common condition plaguing humanity.


Addiction Symptoms, PAW, and The Circle Of Denial

December 2, 2013

By Terence T. Gorski

imagesAlcohol and drug addiction has progressive symptoms that are readily observable. There are the SUBSTANCE-BASED SYMPTOMS, which occur while the addict is actively using with a high blood level of the drug. Then there are the ABSTINENCE/WITHDRAWAL-BASED SYMPTOMS, which come into play when an alcoholic/addict tried to stop using. This includes an acute withdrawal syndrome, known and recognized for decades. It also includes the symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal (PAW).

PAW, an Abstinence-based group of symptoms, shows up in the following ways:

(1) Problems in thinking clearly and solving usually simple problems;

(2) Problems managing feelings and emotions which results in alternating episodes of emotional over-reaction or emotional numbness;

(3) Problems with storing short-term memory into long-term memory which makes people forgetful;

(4) Sleep disorders marked by the inability to sleep restfully until exhaustion imposes a sleeping marathon of 20 hours or longer;

(5) Problems with psychomotor coordination making people stumble, drop things, or knock things over (the origin of the term “dry drunk);

(6) Problems with managing stress marked by the tendency of the previous five symptoms getting dramatically worse when tired, fatigued, or under pressure.

The incredible thing is that all of these symptoms, both SUBSTANCE-BASED SYMPTOMS and ABSTINENCE/WITHDRAWAL-BASED SYMPTOMS, are very noticeable. They are not at all funny although there is a tendency to laugh about them. It is what is called dark humor, gallows humor, or a cold joke. But then again, humor is more about pain than anything else. We rarely laugh at people who are doing healthy functional things. We laugh at the things that hurt so bad we need some comic relief to get away even for a little while.

So how are these readily observable symptoms so easily accepted in the real world, enabled by people close to the addict, and denied by the alcoholics themselves, and usually no diagnosed by trained physicians, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals?  It is liked a circular closed loop of denial:

“I deny! à My friends & family deny! à The world denies à Start again.




%d bloggers like this: