Who are the women who come to us from across the country? And why to they come here – not just from the U.S., but also from Canada and sometimes from around the world?
These women include physicians, college professors, artists, actresses, lawyers, politicians, business owners, flight crew, managers, teachers, executives, writers, housewives and yes, even a mortician.
Why? Frankly, they come because we offer the only program that views women’s alcohol abuse for what it is – a coping mechanism gone awry, not a disease they are powerless over. Women work with us because we offer research based solutions that are private, effective and affordable and which allow them to put alcohol abuse behind them. Permanently.
In other words, we use methodology that empowers women, not male focused formats that only reinforce the underlying problems and continued – and usually escalating – alcohol abuse.
Any review of most current treatment programs shows that they all ignore the fact that women’s alcohol use and abuse differs from men’s. The programs throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia virtually all use the same 12-Step/AA based model for women that they use for men. To make matters even worse, none of these programs are effective, not even for 95% of the men for whom they were supposedly designed! So, as a woman who wants to get over her alcohol abuse, what can you do?
First, forget about it being a “disease.” There isn’t any evidence to support that idea, and plenty to refute it. Alcohol abuse is a behavior, a short term coping mechanism that’s interfered with long term solutions. But as a learned behavior, not a “disease” it can be “unlearned,” and doesn’t require a life time of “treatment” and “being in recovery.”
While you’re at it, forget being “powerless,” too. Many women who abuse alcohol already feel powerless in their relationships. You certainly don’t need to be told that you must now further incorporate powerlessness into your belief system or you will never be able to quit drinking. You’re drinking because you feel powerless. Being coerced into believing that you are powerless won’t help you stop drinking, it will make you want to drink even more!
Once you get past these common myths, you will want to consider what you’re using alcohol for.
In many cases, alcohol use is related to loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and other conditions where it provides effective short-term relief, but prevents you from finding long term solutions.
Additionally, alcohol abuse is often related to unavoidable life events including children leaving home, divorce, the death of a spouse, or other changes where it fills empty time, and/or soothes difficult emotions. In some instances, where women have already been using alcohol to self-medicate, a difficult peri-menopause or menopause can push them over the edge into alcohol abuse.
In working with women we frequently find that alcohol abuse reflects imbalances in the relationship. Whenever one person is feeling disempowered, or without an equal voice, alcohol becomes the passive-aggressive weapon of choice. Of course this makes the inequality even worse which leads to an even greater reliance on drinking.
While all of these events and issues are understandable, too often the alcohol use prevents the creation of a better and healthier life through the development of new interests and activities and a newly empowered sense of self.
That brings us back to the original question. What’s the best way to address your misuse of alcohol and correct whatever is causing it?
The simple – though not easy – answer is that you replace your inactive and passive or even passive-aggressive life with an active and assertive one.
That probably leads you to wonder exactly what an “active and assertive” life looks like, since that’s not obvious – particularly not to many women. For example, we often hear, “But I am doing something! I’ve been going to therapy for years!”
In our experience, “going to therapy for years” isn’t doing something – at its best, it’s getting ready to do something. At its worst, it’s a way of avoiding doing anything.
In the process of change, most therapy falls within the “Contemplation Stage”, and, again, many women stay in what we call “contemplation hell” for years waiting for something to happen.
“The Action Stage,” begins when you quit waiting and start doing. This is when, and how, your alcohol abuse will subside. As you become increasingly involved with your own life, and as it feels more under your control, you will find that there are fewer hours for alcohol to fill, and more reason to feel and be at your best.
Yes, change can be frightening. It can also be exciting, freeing, interesting, and surprising. Successfully eliminating alcohol’s destructive effects is a challenge and competent short term coaching can make the difference.
When you decide that it’s time to start living, select help with care. Do not fall for programs that reinforce helplessness and “life-long recovery” or any of the other stereotypical traps that women so easily fall prey to. You’re looking for a solution, not even more limitations and labels.
Do look for counselors who will look at your life from an inclusive perspective and help you design and implement active alternatives to drinking. Good programs will include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and assertiveness training. The best will see you though the changes without turning you into a long term client, or referring you to 12 Step groups or on-line chat rooms.
It won’t be easy to find help, but it is available. We’re always available for free consultations and referrals so don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions.
Remember, alcohol abuse is a behavior, not a disease, and behaviors can be changed and left behind. You’re not powerless and you do not need to live a diminished life “in recovery.”
As one client recently noted, “I got a grip, got a life, and moved my alcohol abuse into the ‘been there, done that’ file and closed the drawer.”
You can too.