Awhile Back I got a Call…
As happens now and then, I answered the phone with my usual greeting, “Good morning, this is Dr. Wilson, how may I help you today?”
“You’re killing people,” an angry male voice screamed.
Over the years I have heard this in various forms from both men and women. It comes down to our work threatening them because they “know” that AA and the Steps are the only things that “work.”
Usually after they rant for awhile they slam down the receiver, usually with idle threats of one sort or another. That’s usually the end of it.
This man concluded his harangue with a question, “And how many years of sobriety do you have?”
To which I replied, honestly, “I don’t know, but at least 65 or so.”
“Damn,” he said, “you must have started awfully young,” and hung up.
I wish he’d waited a minute longer – long enough for me to say, “No, not young, but they all count, and I have over 65 years when alcohol, whether I drank or not, wasn’t a problem.”
While I think counting years is silly, I think it may be useful if you count them all, as I reported. There is a world of difference between the person who started drinking to get drunk at 14 and who has continued that pattern for 40 years, and the person who started over medicating a few years ago following a divorce, death or other trauma.
The first person has no self-reference history, no memory of life without alcohol’s effects, and quite possibly no belief that one can lead a satisfactory life without drinking.
The latter person has experience to draw on in a reassuring manner. They also have a better chance of being able to moderate back to pre-problem levels as I did.
That doesn’t mean that the person in the first example is doomed – just that it’s going to be, for a while, more uncomfortable and that they are probably going to need to address more issues and make more changes and acquire more new coping skills, activities and friends.
However, the long term results come out about the same – 20% abstain; 20% normal non-problem use; 20% more than recommended but less than dependent (a harm reduction desired outcome); 20% unchanged (because they haven’t done anything); and 20% unknown.
The only other thing that is known is the good help hastens the process significantly and AA based “help” prevents positive outcomes.
As usual, if you want to fix the problem(s) to eliminate the symptom, get good, individual, research and outcome based professional help and invest in yourself. If you want to pretend and placate, go to AA and/or 12 Step based rehab.
A Favor, Please?
As we are in the midst on changing our model – at least the delivery parts – for 2020, it would be helpful if you would give us your suggestions.
- How would you be most comfortable receiving services (in person, via distance delivery, on the phone?);
- What services do you think you would find most helpful (CBT? Assertiveness Training? Habit change? Motivational Enhancement? Other?);
- What is preventing you from changing your drinking habits?
- What might motivate you to begin changing?
- What else would you like to learn that I can address through these Newsletters?
For those of you who have been clients in the past:
- What was/is most helpful?
- What else could we have added that you would have found helpful?
I see that many of you were clients recently, a few years ago, long ago. Would you take a few minutes and write an evaluation of you work with us? This would help us as we institute changes but also allow us to reassure potential clients that what we do does work for the vast majority of those who come to see us.
Please, it’s not only potential clients who are finding change necessary, but us as well, as we seek to serve an aging population (currently 45 and older for the most part) and to do so more efficiently, effectively and affordably.
A challenge for us, and we too are growing older, is to provide answers for the fastest growing demographic in escalating alcohol consumption and concurrent health problems: women over 55 and men over 65.
Please help us to help all who find themselves ambivalent about change, or resigned to medicating themselves to death.