Calls are picking up
As we expected, as the vaccine gets distributed and an end to the pandemic may be almost in sight, those of us who have survived are beginning to take stock of what condition we’re in. That means that lots of you are beginning to wonder if it might not be worth ramping down the drinking that’s expanded to fill the available space Covid created in our lives.
Yes, overwhelmed health care professionals who’ve been using alcohol to come down after 18 hour adrenaline fueled shifts are wondering how to get back to some semblance of “normal” – whatever that is.
Those who have been using alcohol to create a protective bubble of privacy in lives we can’t physically escape from.
The ones who use alcohol to shorten long days.
Or ease the anxiety around vulnerability to the disease or economic disaster caused by the disease.
Yes, the usual alcohol fix for loneliness, boredom, anxiety, depression, strained relationships, passive aggressive responses to controlling family, and all the other things where alcohol offers a fast, legal, socially promoted, cheap and effective weapon or escape.
What’s not to like about an alcohol buffered pandemic?
Not much, in point of fact.
But the pandemic seems to be coming to an end. Not just the Covid one, but maybe even some of the worst of the political one.
What to do?
The typical illusion is that we’ll just go back to what we did before. For a few, that may even be true. But for most, this has gone on so long we have created a “new normal” that isn’t a very healthy one. But it is a new set of habits to be “kicked” and replaced and a little help can go a long way.
Consider that that is what we do – provide short term support, insight, and accountability. Those really are the three things you need to effectively change old habits to new realities. No need to muck around in your childhood, or join a losers’ cult, saddle yourself with labels, or endure endless humiliation and degradation.
Need a bit of absolution too? We’ll throw that in at no extra charge.
Stages of Change
In Prochaska, Norcross & DiClemente’s ground breaking Changing For Good, they examine the way we progress through various “Stages” to accomplish change.
These include, in order:
Precontemplation is what’s more commonly known as denial. “I don’t have a problem. Hell, I know lots of people who drink more than I do.” Or “I only drink beer and you can’t have a problem if you only drink beer,” said a woman consuming 36 cans a day including the two before she got out of bed in the morning. And my favorite, “My wine merchant said you can’t have a problem if you only drink good wine,” his definition of “good” being $200 a bottle.
Contemplation begins with questioning ones actual situation and beginning to research the question
Preparation is doing real research into what the possibilities are. “Do I need help?” “What help is available?” This includes reading real research such as Gabrielle Glaser’s Her Best-Kept Secret, Lance Dodes’ The Sober Truth, or my own AA: Who it Helps, Who it Harms, Who it Kills & Why.
Action means just that. Making the effort to institute the change, with or without help, and continuing until the change is in place. It may take weeks, or months or more and isn’t a straight-line progression.
Maintenance means keeping the changes in place whether it’s not smoking, staying 30 lbs lighter, or managing one’s alcohol consumption.
All of these apply regardless of the change. They applied when I was learning to smoke, and when I quit; when I was learning to drink and when I moderated back from dangerous to normal; when I got used to my damaged left knee and now when I am doing the P.T. to get its functionality back.
About the latter – this is all good practice for aging. As my physical Therapist noted, much of what I am doing will need to be continued for the rest of my life if I want to remain as mobile as possible. I was not thrilled by that bit of reality but also recognized that at 75 she was undoubtedly right.
A final note: regardless of the issue, most of us spend a lot of time in “contemplation hell,” never progressing to preparation or action. Half of smokers and a third of drinkers will die there. Don’t be among them