I appreciate the opportunity to give someone else this space to say what I believe to be true about the work Mary Ellen and I are doing, have done, and can do for you. Ed, I have been thinking about this for a while and it reminded me that I once heard that every drama has a villain, a victim, and a vindicator. In this drama the villain is alcohol and the personal choice is to be either the victim or vindicator.
Okay, Halloween and the World Series or over… …and the Super Bowl is a long ways away. In between we have Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and other assorted holidays. Do you suppose that for this year you might consider giving yourself, and everyone who cares about you, holidays unblemished by excessive alcohol use? Now there’s a novel idea.
Unbalanced Personal & Professional Relationships With numerous headlines reporting varying types and degrees of sexual assault, harassment, misconduct, and other crimes and misdemeanors, it’s not difficult to see that unbalanced relationships exist all over the place. What may be less obvious is that the sexual variety is only one variation on all of the power differentials that also underlay much of alcohol abuse. Because we work with individuals and couples we see the domestic side of the abuse of power more often than the professional side. We also see a lot of you after you have been victimized in AA or in AA based treatment programs.
First, a Thank You to All of You Who Saved Me From “Blank Page Disease”! I do appreciate that several of you wrote expressing your status regarding alcohol use, parts of what we do your found especially helpful, what you’d like more information on, and other suggestions. Sure beats writing in the dark. That said, I will start with the most commonly expressed “help” you took away from your work here: that the misuse of alcohol is a symptom, not an incurable progressive disease. I couldn’t agree more – it was certainly the foundation of my own escape from vodka swilling some 35 years ago, as well as my decision that I could safely return to modest drinking a dozen years ago.
What to Write? It’s early Monday morning which is when I usually sit down to write the next Newsletter. Frequently I don’t know what I’m going to write about until I follow Hemingway’s dictum, “Writing is a matter of application. Applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Having done that, something usually occurs to me. Not this morning. Sigh.
Leaving AA & the 12 Steps Behind Increasingly we are helping people leave AA, Steps, Meetings, and the other life denying, demeaning, and diminishing aspects of “in recovery” behind. This came about almost accidentally. We have always made deprogramming from the AA mythology which pervades our culture, and hence our thinking, a part of our work with you. It’s necessary to dispel the false notions which lead to anxiety about what giving up the misuse of alcohol really means.
Our Program Even after 12 years we sometimes forget that our program model is unique and often difficult to understand, as are you. Therefore, I thought it was long overdue that I attempt to give you a comprehensive program description. First, we need to consider and clear away the ideas we all have been taught about therapy, counseling, rehab, and the usual forms of assistance we have considered or at tempted.
Sabotaging Spouses (and others) When you stop drinking there are things neither you nor your spouse are prepared for. But let’s start with expectations. Almost without exception, spouses and other family members think that nothing is going to change. Everything will go along just like “before” except you won’t be drinking. Guess again. To whatever degree you drinking has impacted others, not drinking will affect them as much, or even more.
Depression! Among the things we frequently self-medicate is depression. This is a particularly insidious condition when mixed with Alcohol. Why? Drinking is essentially a two stage activity. Initially there is the “buzz” which, briefly, offsets the depression. But alcohol is itself a depressant so the greater effect is to exacerbate and prolong our depression.
Semantics We frequently discuss with clients the necessity of being very careful about how we talk to ourselves, about ourselves, and our misuse of alcohol. Along these lines we recommend that you purge “alcoholic,” “alcoholism,” “in recovery,” and “relapse” from your working vocabulary. Why? These are all loaded terms with expectations that are counter-productive and do vastly more harm than good. In fact, they do no good at all.