Somewhere back in time, the idea appeared that “support groups” were not just desirable, but necessary. There are instances where these groups can be helpful for a short period of time following a health crisis, a death, divorce, or other calamity.
The operative word here is “short.”
Most significant changes in our lives, good or bad, require a year of adjustment. In some cases, support can ease the transition from one set of life circumstances to another as engaged people may help you to more effectively create a “new normal.”
Unhappily, in the case of alcohol abuse exactly the opposite usually happens. As we previously wrote in The Bucket of Crabs, or Why AA and Alanon are Bad For Your Health, these groups demand that you never adjust to your altered life style by creating a satisfying “normal” that does not involve alcohol abuse.
Instead, they demand that:
- You be “in recovery” forever;
- You never leave “the group;”
- You avoid “normies;”
- You assume “alcoholic” as your primary self-image;
- You place “the group” ahead of your spouse, children, family, friends, and everyone else;
- You “work the Steps;”
- You accept 100% abstinence is the only measure of “success;”
- You agree that “Old Timers” know best;
- You espouse that “The Program” works for everyone.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s enough to let you clearly see the difference between 12 Step groups and real support groups. But if the differences remain a bit obscure, here are a few examples of real support:
- You will “outgrow” the need for the support group;
- You will be encouraged to grow and create your own “new normal;”
- You will be supported in expanding your social and recreational groups;
- You will be aided in creating your own unique self-identity;
- You will be encouraged to deepen your intimate relationship(s);
- You will be assisted in moving old destructive behaviors into the “been there, done that” file;
- You will be provided with the “tools” (i.e., CBT, assertiveness training, and so on) that will free you from repeating past behavior patterns;
- You will leave any fixation on the past behind in favor of the present and future.
Again, the list is hardly exhaustive, but the benefits are considerable.
And the best part is that you can get the same results from a really tiny and completely private “support group” made up of you, us, and Scruffy, our office dog.
Anxiety, depression, diet, exercise, and other interrelated aspects of changing your life.
Alcohol is absolutely the very best anti-anxiety drug mankind has ever discovered. Add in that it’s legal, readily available, fast acting, cheap, and socially promoted, well, it’s a wonder that more people don’t have trouble with it.
No, you don’t need to come up with a phony “disease” and “powerlessness” to excuse your history of abusing alcohol. Nor are you stupid or immoral, or an “alcoholic,”whatever that is.
You’re simply someone who fell into using an effective drug for any of a number of conditions, then generalized that to other situations, until alcohol became your “go to friend” for just about every discomfort in life.
Add in that anything we routinely “go to” becomes a self-reinforcing habit and pretty soon we’re having trouble getting off the roller-coaster our life has devolved into.
Is alcohol hard to give up? Yes, but the associated and ingrained habit patterns are both harder to give up, tougher to modify, and most apt to lead us back to drinking once again.
Any of us with a problematic behavior understand, when we analyze the situation, realize that all of our familiar activities follow pretty standard patterns that we have developed over time. Most of these are either beneficial or routine and keep us from wasting time, energy, and thought that are better directed elsewhere.
Think, for example, about the difference between the amount of focus, effort, and concentration you put into driving a car now compared to the first time you ever got behind the wheel.
The same reduction in mental processing has also overtaken your drinking. Now you’re just on automatic pilot.
Changing all this is a matter of becoming aware, creating alternatives, acting, and maintaining. That’s the process we go through with you over the course of 12 weeks or so until your course towards your custom designed “normal” is well grounded and on its way to becoming your new auto-pilot.
Now all you have to decide is when you want to start.