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.
The real letters from clients past and present are always unique but many resemble the following one from a Colorado woman who worked with us within the pandemic:
“Dear Mary Ellen and Ed,
I can’t thank you enough for your help and guidance during a very dark period of my life. Most people did not know my issues. As we dug deep things came out and we addressed. Or I should say Ed addressed with my husband. And boy did that change my marriage!
Ed told it like it was. My husband listened and now things are back to where they should be. Happy! Of course we have to work every day on our marriage, work, friendships, family etc… But overall we are happy.
There are no words to thank you enough.
Often change is not as direct or profound as the writer says, but change does ripple through a person’s life and does affect many aspects and people. Which leads me to an observation that can’t be over stressed.
Your drinking affects those around you and all of your relationships as well as your work, self-esteem, depression and other aspects of your life. Under the bogus AA model, the problem is drinking, and the only thing that needs to change is for you to stop.
Would that it was that simple.
Yes, occasionally it seems to work that way as I note in “AA: Who it Helps, Harms, Kills & Why” under the “Who it Helps” section. These are the people who simply substitute meetings for bars, keep the same drunken friends, engage in the same passive- and active-aggressive behaviors and, for the most part, keep on drinking, now freed from responsibility because they are “powerless.”
But for 90+%? When you actually stop medicating whatever conditions have become intolerable, then not only do you begin to lead an increasingly assertive life, but those around you must also learn to adapt to a “new” spouse, parent, child, friend and so on. Most make that transition as happened to the writer above and her husband. A few resist wanting the old AA rules – nothing changes except you don’t drink. You know, as we do, how that’s going to turn out.
So! Fix yourself with the confidence that you can manage – especially when you stop sabotaging yourself with alcohol. Need short term support and deprogramming? We do that. Have a spouse who needs to wake up? Obviously we do that too. Need to bring your unique life, circumstances and options into focus? Yes, we do that too.
Yes – unique.
12 Steppers insist that everyone falls into one of two categories: alcoholics, and alcoholics-in- denial. Everyone. Whether you drink or not.
As obviously ridiculous as this is, many of us do fail to recognize that we really aren’t like anyone else. Your circumstances, interests, abilities, history, and dozens of other conditions and attributes are unmatched by anyone else.
Given that reality, what does it mean with regard to making significant life changes?
It means that real change requires you to marshal all of your individuality in service to supporting whatever change you have decided to make. It also means, if you want help, you need help that supports you in ways that take advantage of your particular circumstances, wishes, abilities and options.
As a few of you know, I was originally trained as a geologist. If you’ve ever taken an Earth Science course you know that rocks are divided into igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. When, in my 40s, I shifted to psychology, some of my geologist’s training came along with me.
Specifically, I noticed that I assessed clients, among other ways, as igneous (angry and only open to aggression as the solution), sedimentary (permanently stuck and happy to stay that way), and metamorphic (ready to make actual change under the pressures life had applied).
It also became apparent that the “metamorphics” were the only clients I cared to work with.
It’s difficult to do much with the angry igneous clients who only want to aggressively make everyone else, and the world, change.
Though most therapists count on the sedimentaries to pay the bills – they will stay around forever with the clinician as a paid friend – I wasn’t interested in long-term, no change clients. Boring!
Ah, but the metamorphic ones? Change fueled by trauma, drama, ability, and circumstances that made risk-taking not just necessary but also desirable. And, an added benefit for both clients and me, it doesn’t take all that long. After 35 years I feel safe in saying, if you want to make progress towards a better life, and you aren’t making recognizable progress after 12 weeks, you need to seek a new route, therapist, and/or method.
Remember the 12 week rule. It will rarely let you down.