What is it that we do with you to alleviate your self-medication problem?
The question comes up from perspective clients and their spouses or other concerned family members, friends, employers, and so on. If you don’t “do” AA, and you don’t require abstinence, what do you do?”
We like to say that we offer safe, enhancing – and, yes, empowering – alternatives to self-medication which are based on 3 decades of research on what works. That’s the “elevator presentation.” And it is a generality.
You’d like some specifics?
In that case, first of all we grant absolution for whatever past indiscretions may have prompted you to seek our help. And, no, we don’t need you to confess first.
Second, we are interested in your current circumstances and future hopes. Again, that is the focus, not the past beyond what informs your current circumstances. We aren’t interested in embarrassing, demeaning, humiliating, and/or diminishing you. You’ve already done enough of that.
Third, we assess how you compare to your chronologic peers. Are you more or less mature or about the same, and does this affect your alcohol usage?
Next, we work with you to come up with the benefits you get from drinking – benefits you will need to replace, or replicate in other ways, if you are going to successfully change an ingrained behavior.
We also help you look at the people in your life and how they affect your drinking, for better or worse, and how to use that information to your advantage.
Then there is acquiring new skills, whether CBT, assertiveness, motivation, physical and dietary and/or medical support.
All of this is done and built around you. Your strengths, preferences, needs, attitudes, beliefs and circumstances.
Notice the use of the word “yours.” Not “ours.”
We trust you to know what’s in your own best interest and that you can make the best decisions. We are not arrogant enough to believe that “we know best” what is right for you. But we can facilitate you in getting from wherever you are to where you’d like to be with a minimum of time wasted stumbling around with no one to lend a helping hand.
That pretty much covers it. We provide information, skills, greater self-awareness, permission, perspectives, options, and possibilities along with a healthy dose of deprogramming from the cultural mythology surrounding self-medicating with alcohol.
“Are You Having Fun Yet?”
Mary Ellen and I both know people who can be characterized as “happy drunks.” They aren’t going to change and we wouldn’t even try to suggest that they need to – just, please, stay off the roads, thank you.
But that’s category does not include you – if it did, as I often note, you wouldn’t be reading this.
So if your drinking isn’t fun, and you are in fact, generally miserable, guilty, sick, and tired, why do you keep doing it?
There is the obvious short answer: “because it’s what I do – what I’ve always done.” That’s called habit and we do love our habits whether we learned them from our family, friends, culture, or any combination thereof.
Then there is fear. “This is bad, but change is going to be worse!”
This is neither illogical nor ill-founded if you still adhere to the “AA is the only way” illusion, or the off-putting, “I’ll never be able to take a drink again! Not even at my daughter’s wedding reception!” (We’ve heard the latter from any number of women even though, upon inquiry, we discover their daughter is 5 – and we note that we’ve neither said nor implied that you can’t drink a toast, or, in many cases, return to normal social drinking.)
As I note in the Guide’s chapter on Who AA Harms, one way harm is caused is by promoting irrational fears that scare people out of seeking appropriate short term help and finding palatable, life-enhancing, solutions.
In response to your “NOT!” reply to “Are you having fun yet?” isn’t it time to start? There’s more fun, intimacy, relaxation, and health – both mental and physical – nearer at hand than you currently imagine.
Yes, you will have to invest in yourself, make some effort, endure some temporary discomfort, and accept some-short term hand-holding, coaching, and suggestions.
How terrible does that sound?