Change, Not as Easy as Advertised in Malibu, Palm Desert, Center City, or most everywhere else…
If you read the web page copy, or talk to the various intake “counselors,” you’ll get the impression that leaving your alcohol problems is as simple as writing a big check and sitting back and relaxing for 30, 60, or 90 days.
Somehow, the magic of the palms, beach, vortex, cirque, horses, wolves, or cult initiation will result in an effortless and painless transition to an alcohol free life.
What do you think the chances are? Really.
Ex-smokers know better and they are the best guides to the process since we mostly managed it on our own, didn’t sit around church basements inventing smoke-alogues, and came out the other side of a habit far more difficult to break than drinking.
But notice that ex-smokers expected it to be tough. Expected to be uncomfortable for a while. Expected to miss it. But expected to succeed anyway – without counting days, collecting medallions, hanging out with losers, labeling and demeaning themselves, claiming powerlessness, being forever “in recovery,” or even mentioning that we used to smoke.
It would be difficult to come up with a more diametrically opposed model of how to end a bad habit – even the word says it. Smokers refer to smoking as a “habit,” not an “addiction.”
So now the reality check.
Your drinking is a habit and a choice. It’s not a disease, you aren’t powerless, and you certainly don’t want to handicap yourself with a lot of 12 Step mythology. Consequently, we offer the following:
Fact: Alcohol itself is relatively easy to give up. The associated behavior patterns – habits – are not.
Fact: You are going to be uncomfortable for a while, but not forever, and the discomfort eases fairly quickly if you are actively managing your life and avoiding “meetings” and other purveyors of doom and gloom.
Fact: You will “recover” completely and drinking will not be an issue that intrudes into your life again – unless you choose to invite it back.
Fact: No one, for any amount of money, can “do it” to you or for you, though we can do it with you for the brief period of time it takes to create your “new normal.”
Fact: It doesn’t help to focus on your drinking. It does help to focus on the present and what needs to change in order to create a happier future.
Fact: Loneliness, boredom, anxiety and depression are your biggest problems, not alcohol. Address these and the drinking will recede and eventually either return to normal or disappear altogether.
We could continue, of course, but it’s enough for you to use this as the starting point for changing your thinking about both your drinking and about stopping. Let the deprogramming begin, leave the brainwashing behind, and then decide if you want us to help facilitate a better, happier, and more contented “normal” than the one you are currently suffering with.
Last Sunday a reader wrote to add that another big benefit of not drinking is vastly improved sleep. This is especially important to those of you who are using alcohol as a sleep aid. As with everything else, this short-term benefit leads to long term costs, which in this case is sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
While I was considering G.’s comment, I reflected on a few of the other overlooked side effects of excessive drinking. These include malnutrition, dehydration, early onset perimenopause, premature aging, joint pain, and an array of exacerbated ills – all avoidable and mostly reversible.
Consider the main difference between the benefits of drinking and the benefits of stopping.
As a fast “cure” for loneliness, anxiety, and boredom, as well as a short range passive-aggressive missile, alcohol is hard to beat. It’s fast, effective, legal, cheap, readily available, and socially promoted.
But it also prevents any of the underlying real problems from being acknowledged, addressed, and corrected.
That’s the benefit of quitting, at least for a while. You get to actually fix whatever conglomerate of issues you are currently medicating. And fixing problems means that they actually go away instead of reappearing tomorrow morning as an accent to your hangover.
Additionally, you get to feel a whole lot better about yourself as alcohol and circumstantial depression ease and self-esteem returns. What’s not to like about that?
Is it all a little scary? Of course. The unknown always is. But, really, if you experiment a bit, and then decide to, you can always return to drinking. But it will be an informed decision, not an unconscious response to old habits and unresolved resentments and conditions.?