There is no getting around the fact that alcohol is the very best anti-anxiety drug ever discovered. Given that it is also fast acting, cheap, legal, readily available, and socially promoted, well, what’s not to like about that?
The main “what’s not to like?” is that, in the long run it not only prevents us from learning to cope with, and reduce, anxiety in better ways, it actually increases our anxiety as we worry more and more about the effects of excessive drinking. And the effects aren’t minor.
Consider the negative effects alcohol abuse has on your health, relationships, professional life, depression levels, self-esteem, and, eventually, legal problems.
Think about where you currently stand with regard to any or all of these issues. Do you have some reason for a certain amount of legitimate anxiety that can’t be rationalized away? Of course you do.
Is alcohol’s quick fix providing any long term relief? Obviously not – in fact it prevents any resolution of whatever underlying factors are driving you to abuse alcohol in the first place.
Worse yet, your loss of standing, caused by being a “drunk,” makes it extremely difficult to begin to work your way back out of the hole you’ve dug yourself into. Motivation? That too is soluble in alcohol.
Yet you can dig yourself back out, and exceed whatever life you had before the crumbling. You can also recreate it a lot faster than you tore down. But you have to be willing to put in the effort and defer the gratification just a bit.
Ah, yes. Putting in the effort. Avoidance is, after all, what got you into your current state. And there are alternatives.
Anxious? We can manage that with CBT and exercise, for the most part. The same is true for non-clinical depression.
Under-employed? Education in the sense of acquiring the “paper” that matches your abilities and experience can solve that one – I should know as someone who, at 45, was frustrated by getting $50/hour explaining research to university, military, and corporate muckity-mucks who were getting anywhere for $500 to $5000 an hour and didn’t understand their own data.
The list, for all of us, goes on. Pick a condition you are medicating and decide to address it instead. No, Dorothy, it isn’t rocket science. It’s making the effort, sustaining it, and giving yourself just a bit of time to benefit from the process.
That’s where we come in. We’ll help identify, prioritize, systematize, monitor, tweak, motivate, celebrate, and so on.
Your part? You already did the research and read this Newsletter, now it’s just making that first call.
Loneliness and Isolation
In addition to anxiety, most of our clients suffer from loneliness that results from isolation – a condition exacerbated by alcohol abuse and whose causes are poorly understood by most of our readers and clients.
Put as simply as possible, most of you are “too old for your age” as indicated by Dr. Jane Loevinger’s Washington University Sentence Completion Test, the accepted measure and model of emotional and psychological maturity.
Stated another way, you don’t fit in and most of you never have. That would be bad enough in and of itself, but it’s made worse by your increased ability to have, and need for, emotionally intimate relationships.
The trouble is, only about 5% of the general population has that same ability and need.
Many of you have unconsciously compensated for the loneliness by successfully devoting yourself to your professional pursuits. That has worked – up to a point. But what happens with success? Retirement? Disintegration of your various roles, obligations, and diversions?
You’re 55 and the career has plateaued, the kids have left, you’re looking at a spouse you have nothing in common with, and all of the distractions and diversions have evaporated.
Many of you, men as well as women, have developed an intimate relationship with alcohol as your “go to” guy or girl in lieu of a real and mutual relationship with another equally capable person. That’s easy to understand because finding that person and developing that relationship takes effort.
To complicate matters even more, alcohol, as we frequently note, is both a depressant and a regressant. The depressant part kills our motivation to seek and pursue intimacy while the regressant effect allows us to find temporary solace in superficial relationships with inappropriate partners.
What’s to be done? It helps to understand your standing in the world which is why we use the Sentence Completion Test with every client as well as any significant “others” in their lives. While understanding doesn’t fix the problem, it does allow us to help you construct a road map to an actual solution.
The alternatives? Keep on drinking or join AA and resign yourself to making do with relationships so superficial as to be transparent – relationships which you will only be able to tolerate if you keep on drinking.
Why take the time to explore life enhancing possibilities? You can, obviously, always return to alcohol if you find that preferable. Still, isn’t making an informed decision better than wondering?
“Don’t die wondering.” Katherine Hepburn’s mother’s advice on life.