We do hope that the holiday finds you well, enjoying some much needed time off, and celebrating in ways that will not taint the rest of the weekend with loneliness, guilt, regrets, hurt feelings, and injured relationships.
But should any or all of the problems associated with the misuse of alcohol, which, as you know, the holidays all exacerbate, then we’d like to suggest that it may be time to escape the purgatory we refer to as:
Contemplation Purgatory – Women’s Waiting Room
We recently sat down with a researcher from the mid-west to discuss why women who abuse alcohol weren’t getting the help they need and deserve. Her premise was because the services offered, usually AA based, were derived from male referenced approaches. Even when they weren’t, such as Women for Sobriety, they were still largely based on many of the same myths: powerlessness, life-long recovery, isolation in cult-like groups, and a fear of “getting a life.”
And you can add to that, a “success” rate of under 5%.
She’s right in those particulars when women actively seek help.
But for most women, that isn’t the problem.
As a concrete example, Gabrielle Glaser’s 2013 best seller, Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control, has sold over 35,000 copies to date and is still selling well. It contains references, as does her website, to the best evidence based resources for women. And, yes, it contains an in-depth look at our work.
Additionally, the book was very favorably reviewed in the Friday Edition of the Wall Street Journal on June 21, 2013, again with extensive references to our work.
Think about it for a minute. It seems reasonable to assume that most of the book buyers were women, like you, with concerns about their alcohol use. As readers of the book and/or the Wall Street Journal, it seems reasonable to think that they, again like you, are also smart, well educated, accomplished, and very, very private.
In support of this assertion, we can add that over the past two and a half years we have seen, possibly, as many as 30 out of the 35,000+ readers. Only 30?
And it isn’t because you are going elsewhere, at least not for the most part.
Consider a parallel example from a recent client. Her drinking was clearly a way to escape her extremely abusive husband. When asked what she was doing about the abuse she said, “I’ve been seeing a therapist for 5 years who specializes in spousal abuse.”
Restating the question simply resulted in a blank look and a repetition of, “I’ve been…”
We think you see the problem. She wasn’t, in fact doing anything about the abuse. She was simply talking about doing something without ever acting. Her therapist served the same function as her vodka – keeping her from ever addressing the actual problem, while making it look like she was.
As you know, this preference for talking and ruminating pervades far too many women’s programs and problems. It’s even the basis for AlAnon. “Talk,” don’t “do.”
And so another book gets bought, article read, and your chair in contemplation purgatory remains occupied as you sip yet another glass.
What happened to taking action?
Usually you sit because you fear the uncertainty and unpredictability of change, or you know exactly what the change will precipitate which if sometimes a divorce if your drinking is the only thing that makes your marriage/partnership even minimally tolerable.
But we also scare ourselves by imagining that a sober future will be devoid of fun, glamor, friends, social activities, sex and everything we enjoy. And that too is a myth, even more paralyzing than the AA ones.
To all of this we say, why not try it for 6 months or a year? If you really don’t like living life, engaging in life, you can always go back to drinking. At least that will be an informed decision, not an ongoing and nagging question that you know needs addressed.
Contemplation Purgatory: Men’s Waiting Room
Men also avoid addressing the real issues they are escaping with alcohol but they do it differently. While women sit, sip their chardonnay, ruminate and talk, men run around doing all manner of things that make no sense.
You drink at the club, on the boat, in the bar, at the lodge, at the game and, almost always, with the guys. You dash about claiming you having fun because you’re doing what the culture and TV tells you adds up to fun.
There is also the mad hunt for someone, anyone, who drinks more than you do. The refrain, “I don’t have a problem. Just look at Joe, now there’s someone who has a problem!” is immensely popular if only slightly comforting.
It’s interesting that with you, the prescription is exactly the opposite of what helps most women.
For you the hard part is getting you to sit down long enough to figure out what it is you’re actually running away from.
And what you could be doing that makes sense.
If it’s any comfort, yours is usually slightly easier to address when you swallow enough pseudo-pride in your role of Mister-Fix-It, and his brother, I Can Do It Myself, to actually allow for some short term help.
That is the irony – woman seek help to avoid taking action; you need to accept a bit of help to stop taking counterproductive actions.
It’s only 5 days and you too are always free to make the choice to go back to drinking and being a spectator in life. Aren’t even a little curious to find out what actually living would feel like?