Better Bad Choices

Some years back we traded suggestions with a diet doctor in Texas. One of the perspectives we gained from the exchange was his concept of “Better Bad Choices”. In his work this amounts to gradually changing your diet over the course of a year or so in what we would probably label “harm reduction.”

An example from his work with clients could be as follows: eating steak and baked potatoes 7 nights a week? Try 5 nights a week and half a baked potato, and skip the sour cream, for 2 months. On the other nights try chicken or fish or something reasonably healthy. At the end of the two months, as you are getting comfortable with that new regimen, reduce steak from 5 nights down to 3, and add… This process to continue over a year or eighteen months until you have changed your eating habits and the excess weight has begun to melt away.

In our work with you we are happy to offer a similar process program if that’s what you want and if you are able to undertake the considerable amount of effort such” backing yourself” out of alcohol abuse takes.

Before presenting more detail, I’d like to note that obesity and alcohol abuse do differ in one important way – you do have to eat, but you don’t have to drink. Those who wish to lose weight have to learn to moderate – you don’t. You can abstain with no worse consequence than some short term discomfort.

But self-medicating, whether with food or alcohol, remains symptomatic of other unresolved problems. This is indicated by the number of clients we have seen over the years whose gastric bypass surgery lead directly to alcohol abuse. Following their work with us nearly all of them lamented that, had they come to us first, they could have skipped the surgery.

Here too the lesson is clear – you can fix the underlying problems or you can simply exchange one form of medication for another.

Since that really is the case, most of the time for most of us, it would seem logical to reduce the harm you are doing to yourself while also addressing the issues that underlay the drinking. How do you do that?

That begins with a clear understanding the drinking, or the weight, are the symptom, not the actual problem(s). Most of us have absorbed, by osmosis, the notion that it’s the drinking or the weight that’s the problem. That generally false premise keeps most of us from actually fixing the cause or, as Thoreau put it, “a thousand hacking at the branches for every one cutting at the roots.”

Worse yet, perhaps, most “programs” aren’t doing either, but simply justifying a hope-destroying excursion back to where you started. The vast majority of those who lose weight surgically gain it back, and more, and add new problems to their distress. Those who join AA drink more after joining than they did before – the same with 12 Step “rehab.”

Even when they “work” you end up with a life more diminished by being “fixed” than you were by the presenting problems. And for this you are paying $30,000-$200,000?

Talk about selling hope and producing “worse bad choices” as the predictable outcome.

As we have noted in our article into the research, Ending Alcohol Abuse: What Works, the effective process includes relieving the anxiety, depression, loneliness, boredom, pain, and other sufferings with coping skills rather than self-medication, while also pursuing better choices over the three months to a year it takes to achieve a new healthier “normal.”

Yes, that takes effort and paying attention. Developing ‘mindfulness” in the current jargon. That’s why we hang in there for as long as it takes to get you stabilized at home in your day-to-day life. Another of those critical supports that no one else offers. We also, at your request, assist your spouse or other significant people in your life, to adjust to the changes and learn to be supportive.

So once again it’s your decision, a series of: 1) good choices; 2) better bad choices; or 3) worse bad choices. We can help with either #2 or #2.

For #3, see The Business of Recovery.

Yes, the Holidays Are Coming

I see that the first Sunday in October has shown up again this year. Imagine that? And with its arrival I will also subject you to my annual, “you don’t really want to wait until after the holidays to fix this, do you?” diatribe.

That noted, and admitted to, it remains true that our clients who see us in October, November, and, yes, even December, report that they are always relieved that they didn’t wait until after….

Note the “until after” – the bugaboo of all of us who procrastinate. “I’ll fix the drinking (or stop smoking, or lose weight) after Halloween which morphs into after Thanksgiving, then after Christmas, followed by after New Years, and, predictably, then after the Super Bowl.”

Pretty much the same delaying tactic we used in high school when it came to breaking up with the boy or girl friend – except in high school we could count on graduation to do the job for us.

But we’re no longer in high school folks.

After the Super Bowl we’ll move along to after tax time, after my birthday, anniversary, Memorial Day, summer vacation, and Labor Day until once again, it’s October.

As I mentioned earlier, clients who come and work with us between now and New Years always report, usually in January, that they are thrilled that they came out when they did. Why? Because they discovered that they got through the dreaded holidays far more easily than they imagined and they are relieved that they hadn’t spent months anticipating how “awful it’s going to be.” That’s right – it was not only easier than they ever imagined, but the holidays were better too!

Think about it for a moment.

Remember when Halloween was actually a children’s holiday rather than a day when “adults” engaged in drunken childishness?

Remember when Thanksgiving was about enjoying the company of family and/or friends, not drunken football bashes?

So, when was the last holiday you remember fondly, and how much of that memory involved binges, accidents, blackouts, bickering, hurt feeling, and, not least, ruining the childhood memories of everyone under the age of 10?
Exactly what are your real priorities? Obviously they have been drinking. If you want to keep that focus, why are you reading this? If you don’t, why aren’t you doing more than reading?

Yes, we are aware that reading our newsletter can have the same effect that buying diet books does for those of us who need to lose weight. It’s a way of pretending we’re doing something about a problem without actually doing anything.

But isn’t it time to move out of “contemplation hell” and actually do something?

Isn’t it time to have holidays that you not only remember, but remember happily?

Isn’t this the perfect time to set an example, substitute a different sort of holiday “spirit,” and let us assist you to get the full benefit of our services as we work with you through January, February or March?

That’s what we thought.

So, friends, here’s to happier holidays. May they be yours, too.