Those of you who were reading the newsletter in December know about the adoption of Sophie-The-Bat-Eared-Dog from the shelter. At 9 she was “too old,” and she was black, and she had epilepsy. But we took her home anyway. In fact, those very characteristics that made her undesirable to others, we appreciated.

She was and is about 95% perfect. And we hired some help with the other 5%. That assistance – a trainer – came with 7 pages of suggestions that sounded a lot like some suggestions we’ve made to clients (and ourselves).

“Be consistent.”
“Reward the behaviors you want.”
“Ignore the behaviors you don’t.”
“Get plenty of sleep and exercise.”
“Affection is good.”
“Make it on your terms.”

AND, “It’s going to change the life of everyone around you!”

That’s why we do out-patient, involve everyone we can, work together, and continue with real support for twelve weeks. It’s not like getting over a disease and going home when it’s cured and everything is now fixed. Hardly. It’s about creating a better life, as we have with Sophie, but that involves a lot of adjustment – not all of it foreseeable.

And isn’t it interesting that many of the same things that are good for our dogs are good for us too?

When you’re feeling like you could use a distraction, and don’t have a dog handy, skip the drink and try a dog story. Head for the library or the “Young Adult” section of your bookstore. There’s the new Marley and Me of course, and the classics: Where the Red Fern Grows; Lassie; Big Red; The Voice of Bugle Ann; Beautiful Joe; Bob Son of Battle; Old Yeller; Savage Sam; and a dozen others.

Then write about the dog(s) in your life – or think about adding one. Visit your local shelter.

Few friends will provide so much comfort and companionship as a dog. And he, or she, won’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done. They’ll just be glad you’re home.

What is a Support Group?

This probably seems like a question with an obvious answer: a support group is a collection of people with a common problem who help each other overcome the problem. Most people with an alcohol problem immediately think of AA as the most common example.

Except AA isn’t really a support group. Quite the opposite.

Frankly, a support group should be made up of people and activities that make a return to your alcohol abuse less likely, less attractive, and less tempting. In this regard, AA/12 Step groups do just the opposite.

How’s that? In every case, these groups keep your life focused on alcohol, teach you to think of yourself as a powerless victim, and reward you with extra attention whenever you do drink. How does that fit with overcoming the problem?

One of the many unique features of our work with clients has been developing an effective alternative concept of a support group. To us, and to our clients, it is any activity which lessens our focus on alcohol while replacing drinking with healthy activities and relationships.

Examples? The gym. The Audubon Society. Habitat for Humanity. And any other activity based organization that appeals to you.

Here’s why this works. You need to replace your alcohol abuse and dependence with other social, recreational, and coping activities. Engaging in an activity you enjoy, or might enjoy, where no one knows, or cares, about you former alcohol problems gives you a fresh start. Continuing the activity motivates you to stay sober since drinking will interfere with this new activity, new friends, and new view of yourself.

If you choose carefully, the activity will also improve your mental, physical, and emotional health. Imagine that. You will have wide ranging improvements without being dragged down. You will be affirming a positive picture of yourself while you leave the old destructive behaviors and images behind.

How much sense does that make? A lot, in our view and in that of our clients.

When you’re looking for alternatives to your drinking, look for ones that reinforce that you are a competent, capable, resourceful, and valuable person. Don’t settle for being in that crab pot we wrote about earlier where the other crabs will drag you back down whenever you begin to make progress back towards a full life.

Leaving alcohol abuse behind shouldn’t be about simply refocusing on a different form of alcohol use. It should be about replacing destructive behaviors with productive ones. Do that and you’ll find alcohol squeezed out of your life in all of its forms.

When you invest in yourself and you future, alcohol will become just another of those things you used to do, not the defining element of your life.

Tools We Use

Our Cost Benefit Analysis; Long Term Goal Planner; and Weekly Planner are all available at:

Resources For You!

You can find many other helpful sites at:

Alcohol Treatment: Organizations and Resources.

And a final resource – you can call us!! One of us answers the phone personally 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., California time, Monday – Thursday, unless we are with clients.

Even on the weekends, Friday – Sunday, we’re normally available from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pacific time.

We think you deserve our personal and professional attention so we don’t use answering services, volunteers, or other intermediaries. If we don’t answer, please leave a message. One of us will usually be able to get back to you within an hour.

Toll Free: 888-541-6350

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst is to do nothing.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt