Allen Carr—he of Easy Way to Stop Smoking fame—published a book in 2004 called The Easy Way to Control Alcohol. There have been later editions but since he died in 2006 if the text has been rewritten it would have been by someone else.

Easy Way to Stop Smoking, in spite of its shortcomings—I describe these in a review that can be seen at—has undoubtedly helped people to quit the evil weed, but let’s see what he has to say in the original version of his book on alcohol.

It’s a book of pop psychology. And if you didn’t know it was written by the same Allen Carr one might suspect plagiarism, since large chunks of the text are taken right out of the aforementioned book on smoking.

But he hasn’t always made the necessary changes. For example, in the very first paragraph headed ‘The Easy Way to Control Alcohol’, the word smoker(s) occurs four times and nary a word about alcohol. The book in many places seems to be more about smoking than drinking, which must be rather confusing for a non-smoking alcoholic.

There are many stylistic infelicities. For example, the book is sprinkled with redundant adjectives:

one notable exception; powerful poison; highly addictive; no advantages whatsoever; exact opposite; complete opposite; complete idiot; exactly the same; complete control; completely unnatural; completely different; completely dependent; completely irrelevant; completely dominated; gross distortion; ridiculous excuse; so imperceptible; immense pleasure; infinitely more confusing; basic common sense; a poison that does nothing whatsoever for anyone…etc.

There is grammatical carelessness: ‘But if AA are correct…(and on the next page)…and is AA implying that…’ He has a poor grasp of English idioms: ‘You are out of the frying pan and back [sic] into the fire.’ And he can’t resist vulgarity: ‘A smoky atmosphere is about as popular as a fart in a lift.’

Much use is made of  exaggeration:

Alcoholics…tend to be a menace to society…[Alcohol is] a powerful poison and will shorten your life considerably. It is also highly addictive, will debilitate your immune system and impede your concentration. It will systematically destroy your nervous system, your confidence, your courage and your ability to relax…90 percent of intelligent Western society is already hooked on it…Alcohol is a very powerful poison…Nine out of ten people that you know, including you, are dependent upon alcohol…The only difference between the alcohol trade and the heroin trade is that one is legal and the other isn’t….[Alcohol] makes us feel suicidal…Alcohol is the No 1 cause of unhappiness in our society.’

Simplistic reasoning abounds:

You don’t satisfy your thirst by having a drink. On the contrary, you create a little monster inside your body that has an insatiable thirst…The real evil is the Big Monster.’

And how about this:

Wine is alcohol is diluted with water and other additives to sweeten it and make it taste good. 

The author shows poor understanding of biology:

Your lungs continue to breathe in oxygen, and your heart continues to pump that oxygen and other chemicals through the circulatory system to the parts of the body that require them…pushing a hypodermic syringe into a vein.  (This would be impossible—perhaps he means a hypodermic needle.)

It’s over-long, repetitive and contain too much autobiographical detail. I’m not really interested in Allen Carr’s escapades playing golf or what he gets up to at his bowls club, nor do I wish to know about his personal medical problems: ‘As a youngster I regularly suffered from constipation, which in turn developed into haemorrhoids.’

Mr Carr seems to have got carried away with the expression ‘The drinking wasn’t so bad. It was the bits in between that were tough.’ (p131). This is repeated six times on the next two pages:

Those miserable in-between bits…During the bits in between the drinking…during these in-between bits…the misery of the bits in between the drinking…the misery of the bits in between…the misery of the bits in between.

He shows no real understanding of the mechanism of alcohol addiction and lumps all drinkers together as actual or potential alcoholics: ‘There are no advantages whatsoever to taking alcohol.’ Then he says: ‘I could drink a lot without it even affecting me.’ Well, there’s a difference for a start, between actual or potential alcoholics and normal drinkers who, according to Mr Carr, do not exist.

The home-spun philosophy and pep-talk approach might help some people, but the underlying theory seems to be abolitionist. That should solve the problem!

Text © Gabriel Symonds