For the Vast Majority of People, Joining AA is a Detour into a Swamp that is More Difficult to Escape than Alcohol. In working with clients who are attempting to find their way out of AA and other 12 Step based programs, we have noted that their time in AA has made ceasing self-medication more difficult than ever. Why?
Recovered, Not “In Recovery” Many people are unwilling to give up an alcohol-focused life, whether they continue to drink or not. These are the people who refer to themselves as being “in recovery.” It’s one of the biggest upsides to AA – you continue to use alcohol (yes, or drugs) in the form of “meetings” as an escape from responsibility and as a passive (or actively) aggressive punishment against those around you. Except now it’s even better than active drinking because no one gets to complain since you “are working your program” not to mention that you are powerless over your “disease” should you periodically return to active drinking. Talk about a win, win, win for yourself and a stick to beat everyone else with.
With The Pandemic Seemingly Easing… Looking at the “usual suspects” when it comes to self-medication, it’s easy to see why alcohol consumption has grown – at least at home - over the past 16 months: Loneliness – not a lot of time with anyone outside of one’s household, and the concurrent recognition that one can be lonely at home too Boredom – how many jigsaw puzzles and loaves of sourdough bread can you stomach?
Incongruity and You I often write about, and work with clients to correct, lives that have gotten out of balance. And there are a lot of ways to develop an unbalanced life. These include obvious externally exhibited problems of the “all work and no play” variety, along with the reverse – a bugaboo in retirement. Additionally, there are unproductive lacks in social and recreational activities, as we’ve all learned over the past 14 months. However, and less obvious, are the internal incongruities we all suffer from to a degree. These are the areas where our beliefs, values, behaviors, and voices do not match up with and reinforce each other. Again, a common example is the admonition to “do as I say, not as I do.”
Thank you! A number of you responded to my plea for an “Idea Transfusion” and I am grateful for comments, suggestions, and reminders that the Newsletter is important to many of you. Writing in a vacuum is difficult at times and the response helps me remember why I continue to do this. And, if I needing reminding as to why we do this work with you, another reader wrote: “Thank you both. Your kindness, decency and concern are probably the only reason I'm alive… You did your best and I am grateful!”
Trauma and Alcohol – It’s Complicated If you have lived long enough, or grew up in the “wrong” family, you will have undoubtedly have experienced a series of traumatic events. No, trauma isn’t just a massive event, though it can be, but is also an accumulation of small events which add up to significant impacts. More surprisingly, trauma isn’t all bad. And, as with most life events, “it depends.”
Hemingway Ken Burns, with PBS, recently did a three part, six hour documentary on the life of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s was not an easy life, most especially, it seems, because he kept trying to live the life of the image he’d created of himself and which was impossible to do. Part of that image was his hard drinking and hard living, with big game hunting and abusing women thrown in. Indeed, he created a disastrous prototype “writer” that all too many would-be writers would attempt to replicate to their doom.
When Readers Write I always get a trickle of emails from former clients with a few thrown in from those we’ve never seen. Critical, and downright nasty, messages come from non-clients who, over the past year, have gone from drinking alcohol to drinking the Jim Jones flavor of Kool Aid. These threats and invective are fairly easily dismissed, amounting to a handful a year where they used to occur several times weekly when we first opened up 15+ years ago.
“Understandable” Self-Medication With Alcohol? I hesitate to keep reminding you that many of us have found ourselves over-indulging with alcohol for perfectly good reasons. I will start with myself and branch out from there. In 1979 my 5 year old daughter was kidnapped by my former wife who had disappeared from our lives three years earlier. My daughter was missing for five years and I had neither help nor recourse. In those days, child kidnapping by non-custodial mothers was not a criminal matter. Are you surprised to learn that after a couple of years of futile efforts to locate her I turned to alcohol for solace and escape?
Leaving AA Many readers are stuck in that purgatory – still too tied to AA and its mythology to escape to a normal life, but too dissatisfied with that same mythology to fully join the cult. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be, as many of you know. Truthfully, no matter how long one lives with the stigma or “alcoholism,” “AA,” or “in recovery,” we can never fully escape the massive presence of Stepper inroads into all forms of media, as well as what others believe. Most of society is brainwashed to the extent that Stepper mentality has become the norm.