What we aren’t… Or, Aversives? – Not!
The one item on the top 10 list of Ending Alcohol Abuse: What Works we don’t use are the so-called “aversives.” The best known example of these is done at Schick Shadel Hospital in Seattle and the process is pretty simple: load you up with nausea inducing ipecac and your drink of choice and keep you retching for 10 days.
If you’ve ever had food poisoning you know that this gag reflex and other results can keep you away from the offending food for a while and sometimes permanently. Yes, this aversive “treatment” does “work” for some people, just as everything does.
But do you really want to do that to yourself? Maybe as a last resort, but……..
Of course most rehab programs also use aversive approaches that aren’t included in the “effective” list. These are more accurately labeled punitive rather than aversive and they are popular with many clients’ families who are more interested in punishing you than allowing you to fix the problem.
Again, “punitive?” – Not!
To be clear, punitive includes things like isolating you – no cell phones, computers, or other communication devices, no books of your own, nothing that would interrupt your stay in solitary confinement.
Additionally it means regimentation, banning any questioning, discussion, challenging, or deviation from the regimen.
The object? To regress you – through isolation, fear, intimidation, ridicule, demeaning and humiliating treatment – to the equivalent of a 4 year old, then slowly raise you to the level of a thoroughly brainwashed 10 year old and freeze your maturation process at that level forever.
What this accomplishes, on the rare occasions when it actually works, is to induct you into the AA/ 12 Step cult which, as the research shows, mostly “works” for people who never made it past a middle-school mentality.
For the rest of you, it simply leaves you terrified, demeaned, confused, angry, and feeling trapped and – shockingly – badly in need of a drink, or ten.
And, since you are understandably pissed at whoever pushed you into this crazy making prison, you get back at them by drinking more than ever. You didn’t learn to be assertive but, by god, you sure did sharpen up your passive-aggressive and manipulative skills!
So, no, we don’t do aversive or punitive or disempowering.
We do assertive, mindful, healthy, motivating, and, by far the most important, life-enhancing! You will become more yourself, not less. More empowered, not powerless. More in control, not controlled or manipulated.
So! What’s your choice?
Now On to Diet and Exercise – Why Bother?
Escaping from the habit of abusing alcohol involves a mosaic of changes. The changes are necessary because: 1) you eliminate an old habit by replacing it with a new one, and 2) the new one needs to combat at least some of the problems you were medicating. Two of the routine recommendations we make are that you start paying attention to what you’re eating – or not – and what sort of exercise you’re getting.
The basic reasons for this are straightforward: managing your diet equals managing your blood sugar levels which means you aren’t going to be troubled by your body’s demands for sugar which you misinterpret as a craving for alcohol.
It helps to remember that your body considers alcohol to be just pre-digested sugar. That also explains why, when you stop drinking, you will soon begin craving things like ice cream.
But if you manage your diet and stay away from the blood sugar “spike and crash” cycles you will soon discover that this component of your alcohol/sugar cravings goes away as do mood and energy swings.
Think about that and see how it factors into various times in your life. We suspect you’ll be able to discern patterns that match the model.
Then there is the question of exercise. Groan.
The groan is justified if you only see being active as doing something you don’t want to do with no particular benefit. That is how we pop a cork rather than taking a walk.
Or we think about all the hard-body, meat-market gyms and how we’re not about to expose ourselves to that.
So, having chosen two stereotypes that reinforce our preference for alcohol, we settle back for another episode of the intoxicated life.
That also means that we avoid considering the cost/benefit analysis of “doing stuff” which include:
Lifting depression (especially when we aren’t swallowing massive amounts of a depressant);
Improving muscle strength, balance, posture;
Over-riding the drinking habit patterns with a better alternative;
Enjoying the modest social benefits that come with pursuing any interest;
So, expand your definition of exercise, maybe throw in a dog if you’re lonely and isolated and want an easy way to meet people while rescuing a deserving dog who will, in turn, help rescue you.
Or join a hiking group or an organization that offers organized activities – organizations like REI, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, or a hundred others.
An added benefit? Doing things you enjoy, which are incompatible with drinking, with people who have no idea you ever had an alcohol problem. That’s what’s called a real support group.
Calling yourself an “alcoholic” is a great way to continue to drink, but moving alcohol abuse into your “been there, done that” file, as ex-smokers do, is how you actually end the problem, create a better life, and walk away from that part of your past – as you undoubtedly have – from other activities that no longer serve you well.
But if you’d prefer to be dehumanized, degraded, demeaned, and duped, be our guest – but don’t pay for it at some 12 Step rehab. Just mosey on down to an AA meeting near you, where you can be disempowered. For free!