About 6 months ago a client sat across the table from Mary Ellen and me and said, suspiciously, “You don’t do 12 Steps, you do 3 Steps! Get a grip. Get a life. Get outta here.”

She was pretty much right.

What do we mean by “get a grip?” Mostly you need to grasp the realities of your current situation and your real options. That means dumping the myths and hogwash that pass for 98% of alcohol”treatment.”

Grip the facts instead:

You can change your drinking behaviors; you don’t need lifelong “recovery” (which is more apt to send you back to the bottle than keep you away from it);

You do deserve some decent help at a reasonable price (but that’s not what you’ll find at 12 Step based treatment programs);

You can manage it privately, confidentially, and permanently.

“Get a life?” Pretty much follows after the first. Substitute active long term benefits for alcohol’s passive short term ones and you won’t be tempted to go back to drinking very often. Even when you’re tempted it’ll be fairly easy to resist.

If you do lapse (no, we don’t use the loaded term “relapse”) you’ll see it as a learning opportunity, not a disaster, or an excuse to go back to drinking. As we noted to a physician client last week, don’t confuse a behavioral pimple with melanoma.

Getting a life means creating activities to replace alcohol, boredom, loneliness, anxiety, and whatever else you’re currently self-medicating for.


Join a gym and actually go regularly and keep track of your progress;

Learn a new language;

Learn something else you’ve always wanted to learn how to do (Dance? Golf? Bridge? Car restoration?

And, “Get outta here!” We don’t want you coming back, except to visit occasionally over lunch or dinner. We expect you to quickly out grow your need for our help. Recovered, NOT “in recovery.”

That really makes us different – almost all other programs are designed to maximize the chance that you will, in their terms,”relapse” (their first requirement, for example, is that you agree you are “powerless” – which is also the best predictor of relapsing) and that will supposedly justify round after round of ever more
expensive treatment.

But that’s the “powerless” and “disease” model, which is after all, a marketing model – and a con game – not an actual treatment model.

We, on the other hand, believe you want to be cured, not mined for cash then dumped onto AA which, when it does work for someone, is free and voluntary.

What do you want and need?

Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Edward Wilson
Call Toll Free 888-541-6350
(In Los Angeles or From Alaska: 760-580-5758 )

Weight Loss – A Follow-up on Last Week’s Lap Band Article

First, thanks to those of you who wrote to express your thanks for the topic. Also, thanks to a former client who told us that her research of the older gastric bypass option had shown a 66% rate of subsequent alcohol abuse.

So, in addition to the perils of surgical weight loss, what does real weight loss have to do with alcohol abuse? Mostly it gives you a good and realistic model.

First, ending alcohol abuse means changing other things in your life – just as losing weight does.

Second, keeping weight off, like avoiding alcohol abuse in the future, means developing satisfactory and rewarding behaviors which discourage a return to overeating, or drinking.

Third, and this one is very important, do not fall into the “relapse” trap! If you are steadily losing weight, say 24 pounds, and the holidays come along and you gain 2 or 3, well you’ve still lost 21 or 22.

But, according to the AA/12 Step mythology, if you’ve been sober for 2 or 3 or 6 months, or years, and you happen to have a few drinks, well damn, you’re all the way back to square (and Step) #1.

How counter-productive, as well as depressing, is that?

And that’s how those programs keep you hooked. Hooked on their negative, life-denying model instead of on you getting, having, and enjoying your life.

Remember, please, their purpose is to drag you down, and back for another round of costly (financially, emotionally, and physically)”treatment.”

Remember the “Bucket of Crabs” and where that leads! If we wanted to add a “Fourth Step” it’d be “Don’t Go There!”

Don’t be conned into throwing away progress. Better is better, all successes count, learn from lapses, and continue building on all of the success you’ve already achieved.


“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – you can blame anyone, but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s ALWAYS your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it?” – Katherine Hepburn

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

Tools From Our Shelf

This week we’d like to recommend GoodTherapy.Org as a site you might want to explore. Of course we’re prejudiced because we write a regular column for readers there.

However, we were invited to write because we offer a “nonpathologizing” approach which is in keeping with Good Therapy’s underlying philosophy.

So please click on the following link, check them out, and discover that there are health based services available for all manner of problems.

Alcohol Treatment: Organizations and Resources.

As always, you’re welcome to download our free: Cost Benefit Analysis tool; Long Term Goal Planner; and Weekly Planner. All three are available at:

Resources For You!

All three work best when you refer to them frequently; update them often; and focus on positives.

Remember – please 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.

Toll Free From the Lower 48 or Canada: 888-541-6350

In Los Angeles, or from Alaska: 760-580-5758