Tony Bennett explained how one day he just decided to drop cocaine:
“The manager of (comedian) Lenny Bruce told me he sinned against his talent with his drug habit. That sentence changed my life. I’ve been given this gift. I know how to sing and perform. I’m sinning against this gift and I thought, ‘I am not going to do that anymore’, and I just stopped. I had to, because I thought I was going to lose everything. It was said at the right moment, at the right time.”
Most of us don’t have quite such a “road to Damascus” moment, but we can still relate to the comment. After all, how much are we too sinning against, or, if you prefer the secular, pissing on, our talents?
How much are we wasting whatever finite time we have when we could be doing something with our talents? Energy? Intelligence? Assets? Ideas? And…..
Instead we drink away the time either because we don’t think we have anything worth giving, or because we selfishly refuse to share with others?
You, like most of our readers, are long past the age where, like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison you go out in a blaze of youthfully mistaken immortality. We hope we’re not yet in the Robin Williams’ camp of saying, “I don’t like how this is going to turn out so I will take care of it myself.”
Instead, you are in that decision zone – old enough to accurately evaluate yourself and your options, your strengths and interests and abilities, and come to a decision as to whether or not to re-engage in life.
Few of us will impact the world, in the words of suicidal folk singer Phil Ochs, “outside of a small circle of friends.” But impacts still have ripple effects and there is no telling where the effects will end, if they ever do.
Remembering that alcohol abuse is a form of slow suicide, killing our energy, motivation, relationships, and productivity before actually killing us physically, we might all want to consider our options while we still have some.
Most of you are the equivalent of a powerful vehicle – perhaps a Ferrari or a Jaguar or a Corvette – sitting up on blocks in the garage with the motor idling while you sit in the driver’s seat anesthetizing yourself with the carbon monoxide of alcohol.
But neither you, nor the car, were designed to sit up on blocks, idling, and rotting away.
You were meant to be doing stuff – just what is up to you. But how about venturing out of the garage long enough to find out?
Several of you wrote to ask if we’d seen the above article in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend. Mary Ellen had, I hadn’t, and in any case we appreciate the link (click on the headline) and the idea for an article.
The article refers to a South Dakota experiment in alternative approaches to sentencing those convicted of DUI. Instead of the typical fines, revoked driving privileges, and automatic jail time, offenders are ordered to check in twice a day for breathalyzer tests while they continue to drive as always.
Pass the test, you keep on driving with no further penalties. Flunk and you go straight to jail for a day or two, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
It will come as no surprise that this approach works far better that the traditional punitive approaches – but it does confound the AA zealots because it refutes virtually all of their beloved myths.
Notably, modest interventions do change behaviors. Powerless? Sorry, but no.
12 Step rehab is “the only way”? Nope – it’s not only NOT the only way, it isn’t even an effective way – at least 3 dozen non-punitive approaches, that actually address underlying conditions, work far better.
Stigma doesn’t help, really. Standing up multiple times a week and declaring yourself to be an alcoholic or addict – and you can’t do either without stigmatizing yourself to yourself – simply guarantees that that is what you will become. And it’s a great excuse to keep on using and abusing while avoiding taking any responsibility for your choice to become one.
Yes, changing your life to achieve a new normal which does not involve alcohol abuse does take more effort and attention than simply complying with a DUI program where most of the participants don’t actually have a drinking problem to begin with.
But it does demonstrate that you don’t need either draconian methods, residential rehab mills, or AA to address and overcome your problems.
What you do need is to be deprogrammed from all of the 12 Step mythology that pervades our culture. Then, having cleared away the barriers to your complete recovery, use a bit of short term help to acquire the coping mechanisms, self-awareness, and confidence to manage your life without resorting to cults, cranks, or foundering.
If that appeals, you might want to reread:
Ending Alcohol Abuse: What Works,
And then see if
Our Expanded Program Description
Might be the right way back for you?