Valentines Day?

This year, why not give yourself a loving Valentine’s gift that will also be a long term present to those you love and who love you in return? Here’s how to start –

Control, Influence, Acceptance, and Successful Behavior Change

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
-Reinhold Niebuhr

AA has made Niebuhr’s plea a familiar one to all of us and its message is worth considering. What can we change? What can we influence? And what should we simply accept?

This week we’d like to take a look at changing what we can.

A good place to begin is with how we talk to ourselves. For example, label yourself a “powerless alcoholic” and what do you suppose you’ll become? (This is also a great example of “accepting” something you could change, but using that acceptance as an excuse to stay stuck.)

Instead, we can modify many of our behaviors when we believe we can, get real support, and leave all of the trappings of alcohol abuse behind. This includes replacing drinking with alternative activities.

Mostly we drink to quell loneliness, boredom, and anxiety. We can, however, address these problems and fix them instead of just medicating them. This does, however, require effort and a willingness to leave alcohol and all of its short term benefits behind.

Change also requires us to tolerate not knowing exactly how “things” will turn out. That’s a major stumbling block for most of us. We do tend to prefer the predictable, no matter how awful, to the unknown, no matter how much better it would probably be.

As we’ve said for over 20 years, we do tend to “prefer the security of familiar miseries.”

Remember, please, that alcohol abuse is a choice, not a “disease” and it’s a choice you can unmake anytime you decide to. Contrary to popular mythology, you are not “powerless”, and you deserve to actually fix the problem, not just substitute one form of alcohol focused self-medication – drinking – for another – AA.

Consider that “working your program” or being “in recovery” are just excuses for not leaving alcohol behind and actually building a life.

That too is your choice – do you want a life, or do you want “the program?” If you want a life, as most of people do, we’re here to help you how to make that happen.


Dear Mary Ellen and Ed,

I really enjoy reading your Non 12 Step News. Thank you for sending them to me. My family has its share of alcoholics. Your point of view helps me understand.

What I appreciate is that “your” alcoholic has strength, they begin at a position of power whereas “their” alcoholic starts from a position of powerlessness and weakness. This is a very different perspective. It’s almost like a parent that keeps telling a child they can’t do something, they couldn’t possibly do it, how could they even think they could do it and then expect the child to do just the thing they’ve been saying they couldn’t do all along.

Thanks again.
C. G.

Dear Ms. G,

Thank you for the comments. Over the years we’ve noted that the research is clear – believe in yourself and your abilities and you will leave behind whatever behaviors you choose. Of course if your goal is merely to justify your continued drinking, while getting everyone off your back, what better excuse than a “disease” over which you are “powerless,” but for which you are “working your program,” which merely makes it easier to continue your alcohol focused life?

Mary Ellen and Ed

Bits and Pieces

An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.
– Dylan Thomas

Odds and Ends

Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Sent My Brother Off To Rehab is Mary Ellen’s popular article on what she learned the hard way ten years ago about the treatment industry – and how it hasn’t changed since then, except possibly for the worse.

The Real “Steps” to Overcoming Alcohol Abuse – what will actually work for you and any other competent person.

Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism, and 12 Step Programs That Can’t Tell the Difference
, don’t care, and will gladly burden you with an inappropriate and damaging label that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Women and Alcohol – What To Consider In Treatment and why women need and deserve services built around women’s needs, not just another recycled (and failed) men’s program – which is all anyone else has to offer.


If you’re a new subscriber, or if you’re wondering about something you read in a previous Newsletter, most of the newsletters are archived on the website under the tab labeled – you guessed it – “Newsletters”!