Planning Your Escape
Regardless of what habit you decide to escape – whether self-medication, AA, abusive relationships and/or any condition or cult that is negatively affecting your life – the process is much the same.
First, obviously, is acknowledging that it is time to make a change, or changes, and defining what you want to change and what outcome you aspire to.
Second is realizing that you can accomplish real change – no, you are NOT powerless nor do you need to turn your fate over to a cult, a door knob or a dime (flipism – yes, a “real” ism).
Third, give yourself some respite. I suggested to a recent caller that, after detox, instead of rehab she spend 30 days at a non-alcohol spa. Being vulnerable she shouldn’t subject herself to the myths, degradation, abuse, humiliation and brainwashing that is the regimen at 95% of “rehabs.”
Digging into that suggestion a little deeper, 30 days – of what used to be called “drying out” – gives a person’s mind and body an opportunity to begin recovering from the depression and regression that are a part of over-consuming alcohol, as well as feeling trapped in oppressive and abusive relationships, whether personal, familial, social or professional. We all deserve some protected time to sort out what to do.
“Sorting” also means realistically assessing one’s circumstances medically, financially and legally. Everyone needs to know these things but few of us do. Men frequently know legal and financial details but are intentionally clueless about their medical condition. Women know their medical circumstances but tend to be clueless about financial and legal matters.
(Yes, I know I am invoking gender stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean they’re inaccurate and I do assume you are smart enough to reject what doesn’t apply to you personally).
The fourth consideration is recognizing your vulnerable state and protecting yourself from the usual predators who look for vulnerable victims to exploit – in AA they are called “sponsors” and in traditional “rehab” they are called owners and staff.
Managing your life is a bit like maintaining your car. There’s routine maintenance, repairs, and knowing what you can do yourself and when you need a short term specialist. The key is SHORT TERM. People no longer have a mechanic riding shotgun though that was common before 1925 and in race cars for longer.
It is interesting that when it comes to change the research is pretty clear on what “works”: individual; deprogramming; short term; medically supported; includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT); motivational enhancement; assertiveness training.
My favorite example remains ex-smokers (of which I am one) who do not sit around in groups whining and waiting for some imaginary “power” to rescue them from their habit. Instead they suck it up, put up with a few weeks of misery, and “kick the habit”!
The key is, they expect a certain amount of discomfort, even misery, and also know that this too will end.
This is the case with any habit change. Creating a “new normal” will always involve dis-ease, but not “disease.”
Yes, short term assistance makes the transition easier and success more certain. Naltrexone helps many ex-drinkers lessen cravings just as Chantix does smokers. Short term counseling helps with deprogramming and the development of new coping skills – especially CBT and assertiveness training.
Finally, any good counseling will be CONFIDENTIAL – which means no labels, no insurance, no groups.
When I went to college in 1963 I had already declared a major: Geology. This was based on several summers of exploring and mapping “wild” caves in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania. I really wanted to be a Speleologist but such a specialty didn’t exist back then.
When I graduated in 1967 I wasn’t able to go to graduate school and I got diverted to my second interest, Alaska.
Eventually my fourth interest – after creative writing – psychology took over for 30+ years.
Yet Geology never really left my consciousness and enhanced ever part of my life. That was not only personal but also professional.
As I counselor I found myself dividing perspective clients into: Sedimentary (neurotics who simply wanted to whine about their situations for years on end); Igneous (psychopaths who only wanted to justify their anger and aggression); and Metamorphics (those who wanted to speed up the process of transformation). I’m sure you aren’t surprised to learn that I rejected the first and second and have happily aided and abetted the third for some 40 years now.
Yes, I still have time for a few more.