Every once in awhile someone asks me, “Ed, how many years of sobriety do you have?” These days I usually say, “I don’t know, but I suppose it must be getting up around 60.”

That usually elicits a stare and a long pause (though one groggy individual did once say, “Damn! You musta started awful young!”)

It’s called reframing and if you want to leave your alcohol problems behind you’ll find the process a lot easier if you phrase and interpret things accurately.

“Years of sobriety” is one of those loaded terms 12-Step programs use to keep you trapped and feeling bad about yourself while also pretending that everyone ‘s situation is the same. It’s not.

There is a world of difference between:

* someone who started drinking abusively a year or two ago in response to some personal disaster;
* someone who hasn’t really been sober since they took that first drink at 14;
* a person whose alcohol abuse has been creeping up over the years due to loneliness, boredom, anxiety, or other common – and fixable – conditions that tend to lead to misusing alcohol.

Where are you? It’s easy enough to find out – just add up all of the years you’ve lived when alcohol wasn’t a problem. And, yes, you get to include all the years when you drank “normally.”

You’re probably going to start feeling a lot better about yourself when you see that you have managed alcohol just fine for many years, and gotten along without for many more.

Remember, they all count, and they all matter.

And obviously, you aren’t powerless and you aren’t diseased and you do have the power to end your alcohol abuse.

Oh, and yes, we’re here to help.

Antabuse, Naltrexone & Campral

There’s a lot of interest these days in “abstinence assisting medications” and their use with people seeking to modify or end their alcohol use, abuse, or dependence. There is also a lot of confusion, much of it intentional.

The oldest FDA approved medication is Antabuse which makes most people violently ill after ingesting even trace amounts of alcohol. Most treatment programs have embraced it because it’s a punitive, aversive drug. Needless to say, we rarely recommend its use.

Naltrexone, on the other hand, which is an anti-craving aid, is something that most of our clients use for three to six months. It has minor and rare side-effects, is useful both for clients seeking to abstain and those looking to moderate their drinking.

Campral, which many physicians believe to be of help to patients efforts to abstain, is of no use whatsoever for this purpose, and of dubious use for anything else.

All of this would be confusing enough but problems are further compounded by the intentional mislabeling. In reading through a current compendium of articles on integrating pharmacotherapy into current practice, every article referred to the use of medications with “alcohol dependent” clients.

“So what?” you ask.

The “so what” is that 85% of people seeking treatment aren’t “alcohol dependent” but are, rather, abusing alcohol. The difference is – to continue with a medical model – like the one between a benign and a cancerous tumor.

Can you imagine your doctor telling you that it doesn’t matter, we treat all tumors the same? That it’s too much trouble to bother differentiating? And that it can’t be cured in any case?

That’s exactly what all 12-Step and other “disease” based programs do. That’s over 98% of all of programs available in the U.S. and Canada .

Please remember, you’re not an “alcoholic” and you don’t have a “disease,” but the AA/12-Step model is so pervasive, and so politically powerful, that they can still control how even the best research is presented.

Combine that with drug companies’ resources and your chances of being accurately and appropriately assessed and treated are close to zero.

The good news is that we aren’t part of that model and, now, neither are you.

Tools From Our Shelf

There simply isn’t any better alcohol information resource on the web than Alcohol Problems and Solutions – the State University of New York site available through our Alcoholism Research link.

Reviled by the AA/12-Steppers for daring to publicize the actual research, the site is always informative, even-handed, entertaining, and thoughtful. We recommend that you sign up for their newsletter which gives frequent updates on news you won’t get anywhere else (except from us since we read it for items to pass along to you).

Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who want to make positive lifestyle changes without abstaining.

Both Mary Ellen and Ed are “preferred providers” listed on the MM website. You’ll find a link to them at:

Alcohol Treatment: Organizations and Resources.

Please, always feel free to call – for information or just to talk. One of us answers the phone personally from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time, Monday – Thursday, unless we are with clients, or from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.