Prospective clients always ask how we can help them overcome their alcohol abuse, alcoholism, or simply the misuse of alcohol in only 5 days. It’s a question we are happy to answer since that will not only reassure you, but it also makes solid sense, and it exposes many of the harmful myths that the “treatment industry” has conned most of us into believing at one time or another.
Let’s start with the fact that there is no magic in the 30, 60, or 90 day “formula” – it’s a number, plucked out of the air, initially because it’s what insurance companies could be persuaded to pay for. The number of days stuck because it is also about the amount of time it takes to brainwash a vulnerable, frightened client into a cult. After all, that is what traditional treatment is all about: degrading and demeaning you until you succumb to initiation into the AA/12 Step cult – and then keeping you isolated and frightened enough to never leave.
And that’s the best outcome they have to offer.
If you examine the actual offerings of any of these traditional alcoholism programs, however, you will discover that, as Dr. Mark Willenbring, former head of the U.S. National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse noted, all you’re doing is “spending $30,000 (or more) to attend 3 AA meetings a day for 30 days.” A process with a successful outcome rate of less than 5%.
So what are you doing besides “Working the Steps” for all of those days?
Mostly you are being fed a bunch of “filler” that has nothing to do with solving your drinking problems. This is understandable since they do have to occupy you 24/7. Yes, they have fancy names for the filler: equine therapy; canine therapy (we do have Scruffy, we admit); ropes courses; helicopter-therapy; and maybe even some “brain imaging,” the new phrenology. It can all be fun and engaging but it isn’t really therapeutic and there’s nothing that actually has anything to do with you and your specific problem.
We refer to this as the “all filler, no substance approach” to alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment. In the course of your expensive 30 days or more you might receive an hour a week of individual counseling, but this will usually be delivered by a para-professional alcohol counselor whose only qualification will be that they are “in recovery” but probably still abusing drugs and/or alcohol. If the counselors can’t stay sober in an environment of continuous treatment, how well do think it’s apt to work for you? Remember, frequently the only follow-up and coping tool or follow-up you leave with is: “Don’t drink, Go to AA.”
So much for long term residential treatment or rehab.
We, the alternative to AA and 12 Step based treatment programs, offer you the “all substance, no filler” model.
In contrast to the rehab model of an hour a week of counseling we offer 15 hours of our time — that’s 15 hours of Dr. Barnes’ time plus 15 hours of Dr. Wilson’s time — over the 5 days. Plus you get an additional hour or more a week for the following 3 months, more if you want it. That adds up to a minimum of 42 hours of experienced professional time with staff who are both trained and experienced in whatever you’re going through and all of the potential problems you will be facing.
Traditional rehab always talks about magic: the magic of the palms, the vortex, the surf, the sunset, the sunrise, or the beach. Guess what. There is no magic. None.
There are real “tools” that actually work. Approaches based on 50 years of research and readily available to skilled professionals and their clients. These include: brief interventions; CBT; medical support (Naltrexone, primarily); assertiveness training; diet and exercise factors; motivational enhancement and maintenance; social and recreational options; vocational and educational evaluation and opportunities; and couples’ considerations.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) AA and 12 Step based treatments don’t even make the top 30 approaches when it comes to effectiveness. We work with you using all of the most effective components, and we do it in a mix or “mosaic” that is custom built for you!
That’s right. Custom tailored to you, your situation, your strengths, interests, and circumstances. We can do this because we work only with you.
We do absolutely no group work. Not ever! You will not be wasting time sitting around with people with whom you have nothing in common beyond occupying uncomfortable chairs during a depressing and futile exercise. The only “group” here will be the two of us and you, plus anyone else you elect to include. This not only insures that you are receiving the individual focus and attention you and your problem deserve, but that you confidentiality is not compromised.
Again, no one else can even begin to maintain you privacy. Remember, if you are in a group treatment setting, or a residential treatment program, you do not have privacy or confidentiality.
For a moment let’s return to what we referred to above: working with your strengths, interests, abilities and so on. Our treatment methods are based on the research that shows that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are choices, not diseases, and that you can “un-choose” these behaviors and implement alternatives. Basically, substituting long term solutions for short term self-medication.
Imagine that. Growing rather than shrinking. Enhancing you life, not reducing it. Becoming more of a participant in your own life and less of a spectator. Empowered, not powerless. Mindful, not mindless. Self-aware, not unconscious.
That’s what happens when you grow into your life, not shrink into a cult.
“But can I do it?” you ask, quite reasonably.
“Yes, you can,” we reply. Quite confidently. Why are we confident? Because the people who can’t, those who make up the 5% who really do need to join a cult, aren’t reading this.
That’s right. By virtue of looking for alternatives, by reading our materials, by finding yourself thinking, “Finally! Something that makes sense!” you have moved yourself out of the cult category and into the world where competent adults find real solutions to understandable problems.
Again, another myth needs to fall by the wayside. You didn’t develop alcohol problems because you are diseased or immoral or weak or crazy. You over use alcohol because it works and eases any number of conditions from anxiety to loneliness to boredom, overprescribed thyroid meds, peri-menopause, fear, pain, and personal losses and tragedies. You fell victim to circumstances and alcohol worked, short- term.
Now it’s time to extricate yourself, not by degrading yourself into an even more alcohol focused life, but by developing a better life than you’ve ever had. A life where alcohol abuse is simply another of the activities we have moved into the “been there, done that” category we all have for things that no longer hold our interest.
Traditional 12 Step based rehab insists that you are in denial and that they know best. We suggest that you know best, but need some short term help to get to where you want to be. Rehab demands that you live in a 12 year old’s world for the rest of your life dependent on your AA peer group for support.
As my uncles put it 60 years ago, “AA? The Peter Pan Society for all the little boys who don’t want to grow up.”
Turns out that they were right and that brings us to another difference. We suggest that you stop regressing with alcohol and instead grow into a happier and more fulfilling life, increased intimacy, decreased conflict, better mental and physical health.
Finally, most “programs” sell you the luxury of their setting and staff and food and accommodations – none of which fix anything, but it is a very nice point to make for what is essentially a cushy jail.
We, on the other hand, being intensive outpatient, suggest you are old enough to select whatever level of amenities you want and can afford. It can be the quite nice Best Western on Pacific Coast Highway or the upscale Portofino, both in Redondo Beach, the typical Double Tree or Marriott in Torrance, or the very upscale Terranea Resort here on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, or a dozen other options.
Yes, you are adult who can decide for yourself. We’re glad to advise, but we never ever dictate. Never!
All of this said, what do you want for yourself? Whatever it is, we’re ready to help you find it, define it, and achieve it.
Remember, giving up your alcohol habit should be about improving your life, not diminishing it.
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