We frequently discuss with clients the necessity of being very careful about how we talk to ourselves, about ourselves, and our misuse of alcohol.

Along these lines we recommend that you purge “alcoholic,” “alcoholism,” “in recovery,” and “relapse” from your working vocabulary.


These are all loaded terms with expectations that are counter-productive and do vastly more harm than good. In fact, they do no good at all.

Consider “alcoholic” and “alcoholism.” What do they even mean? There isn’t any definition beyond it’s someone who drinks more than I do, or more than I think they should, or it’s a slur used to defame someone whether they drink or not.

If you’re using these terms to describe yourself then you are automatically degrading yourself and most likely also falling into the trap that AA has perpetrated upon all of us – namely that you are the powerless victim of a life-long progressive disease.

This is, of course, nonsense. Particularly so when you are misusing but not dependent on alcohol which is usually the case. Even if you are dependent, telling yourself you’re “powerless” is the opposite of what helps.

There is an exception.

If you want to keep on drinking but don’t want to assume any responsibility for it, and don’t want to address it and correct it, then we suggest you trot on down to your AA meeting where you will be reinforced to continue.

That is what “in recovery” means – I don’t want to recover, I want to pretend I am doing something about the problem, and I want to placate those around me who insist I DO SOMETHING. I’ll also learn to manipulate those same people and blackmail them with “you’re interfering with me working my program so it’ll be your fault if I relapse.”


“Relapse” is just another excuse for continuing the same old behaviors and a passive-aggressive FU directed at anyone who suggests you’re just a con artist unwilling to grow up, get a grip, and a life.

Chances are, since you read this Newsletter, that you already know better than to swallow the 12 Step party line.

That being the case, why not head back to being normal, or better that normal, which is what happens when you defeat any powerful adversary whether it’s your alcohol abuse, cigarettes, or any of the behaviors we have acquired to mask our loneliness, anxiety, wretched relationships, and/or whatever else is driving you to drink?

Remember, you are not powerless, you are not diseased, you are not sub-normal, and you aren’t doomed. Stop talking and acting like you are. Let us help you to change your working vocabulary and add the real tools, not Steps, which will free you.

There Was a Time…

Long ago, and in a place far, far away, I crawled into a vodka bottle after suffering a number of personal and family tragedies. I had also “rounded up the usual suspects” – loneliness, depression, a career that ended, and a wildly unbalanced life.

I had also noted, as a number of you have, that if my only choices were AA or being a drunk, I’d opt for drunk. I’m not, and you probably aren’t cult material. Too smart, too mature, too successful in any number of areas, and way too independent (even when we don’t feel like it).

Having decided to pick “Door #3” – neither a drunk nor a Stepper be – I set out to figure out what would actually work for me. Personal research which was, of course, of personal interest and help with the motivation which wasn’t always what I might have hoped for.

It took a few years. Severing some relationships and activities. A geographic change. Honing some new professional skills. Learning to add new habits that replaced old ones. Managing my diet a bit, getting more active.

And somewhere along the way I figured out that it shouldn’t have taken me a few years to sort all of this out. A few weeks with the right help would have done the trick.

I also decided that you shouldn’t have to spend years figuring out your solution either.

But I also knew that what I had figured out for myself wasn’t necessarily what would help you. So I went off to graduate school at the old age of 45 to see what else I could learn. Turned out, quite a bit. Things like CBT, assertiveness training, motivational enhancement, and more.

I also designed a structure that insured confidentiality, individuality, and focused on strengths, interests, and abilities. Not bogus “diseases” and “powerlessness.”

And I discovered all of this worked best when I had a partner to balance out my own blind spots and also eliminated the triangulation that renders most couples work useless.

Only took me a decade to find Dr. Barnes. But for a dozen years we have been helping people discover their own way back to health.

Kinda be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of all of that, wouldn’t it?