Alcohol Use Will Expand to Fill the Available Space
We see a lot of people who have recently retired, are facing retirement, or suddenly find themselves no longer needing employment. Additionally we also work with a number of women whose roles as “stay at home moms” evaporated when the last child went off to college.
These people’s ages and circumstances vary widely – from professional athletes whose careers end in their 20s, or earlier, to physicians who have worked into their 70s and beyond. Others made dramatic gains in stock offerings, some inherited wealth, and others were very frugal or enjoyed excellent pension plans.
What none had was an answer to the “Now what do I do?” question. Nor were they prepared for all of the non-monetary losses that retirement, planned or forced, was going to bring. The women have frequently also faced the added complications that menopause brings to many (see Menopause and Alcohol Abuse).
For the people we see, alcohol had almost always played some role in their lives whether as social lubricant, an adjunct to dining, a part of their self-image, or just as a habit. Frequently it hadn’t really been a problem. Until…..
Until life has dealt you a hand full of vacancies.
Suddenly your daily life has no imposed structure, whether one dictated by employment or children, patients or fans, clients or other routine and predictable demands.
Nor are you receiving the rewards you are so used to getting that you forgot how important they were to you whether its money, appreciation, doing something very well, or the applause and boos of the fans. Attention has dwindled.
Your role may also have disappeared. You’re still a mother, but acting as “mom” is gone. Your name still ends with hard earned initials like M.D., Ph.D., M.F.T., M.F.A., C.P.A., Professor Emeritus, or a logo such as Yankee, Giant, Olympian, and so on. But now those all have “former” implied if not stated and that’s not exactly the same thing.
The result is that you have a lot of work to do to recreate a new identity, structure, routine, and, yes, meaning. Frankly it’s a lot easier to do what a client, a musician, said, “I’m just drinking to pass the time waiting to die.”
And his career had been longer, more successful, and more rewarding than most in the music industry – not to mention that he was still highly regarded and involved. But there was never going to be another big………
For the athletes there was never going to be another World Series, Super Bowl, or Olympics.
Fortunately, most of us have more modest lives to rejuvenate and redirect.
But it’s still easier to drink and alcohol is more than happy to expand to fill whatever space you allot it.
If you’d like to reduce that space, get your life back into proportion, find new and different meanings, we’re happy to help. Free consultations are always available in person or by phone.
How Do You Talk To and About Yourself?
Part of changing any aspect of your life is easier if you pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. We all have these internal dialogues and, frankly, we aren’t usually very nice to ourselves. In fact, most of us talk about ourselves in ways we’d never let someone talk about anyone we cared about.
So why are we so demeaning when it comes to the standards we set for ourselves?
Part of it is our minds negative bias – the tendency to reinforce negative feelings or events by winnowing through our life history collecting every memory that supports feeling depressed, sad, defeated, lonely, or to reinforce any failure, real or imagined.
But when we’re happy or succeeding? We stay right in the moment with no need to chase down “supportive” history.
Consequently, when we are changing a behavior we no longer want we’ll tend to concentrate on the setbacks rather than the successes. It’s just like what we do with children, paying attention to the misbehaviors and ignoring the appropriate, even exemplary, ones.
With alcohol abuse it’s even worse. Too often we start off labeling ourselves as “alcoholics” when there isn’t any actual evidence to support that label. Even if there is, it’s still counterproductive since as soon as you affix that scarlet A to your forehead you automatically add all of the AA nonsense about “diseased” and “powerless” and “doomed,” none of which have any validity outside of the Steppers’ alternative reality.
Changing behavior patterns, habits, does take paying attention, modifying activities and associations, creating new ways of dealing with whatever you’ve been avoiding by drinking (or meetings or on-line chat rooms – both of which are ways of pretending you’re doing something to get out of actually doing something).
Need some help internalizing new dialogues and the CBT and motivational skills needed? Or the assertiveness required, both with yourself and others? Just give us a call. That is what we do – help you create and maintain real change, not just illusions.