Just after sending out last week’s Newsletter, we received the following letter from a former client. It followed so nicely with last week’s “Smart Women and Alcohol” material we thought we’d reprint it in its entirety.

Hi Mary Ellen and Ed,

I wanted to write this letter to express my gratitude and appreciation for the non-12 step program you have put together and also for how professionally and caringly you execute it.  The best part for me is that it really works!

I have re-written this letter many times because I wanted it to be exactly right, but I am throwing in the towel because I’m not sure I can convey in words how thankful I am for the profound changes in my life that were made possible by attending your outpatient program and utilizing your ongoing support after I went back home (which lasted much longer than the 90 days promised I might add).

I have not had a drink in the six months since I attended your program.  I am 51 years old and I cannot actually remember a time since I was 16 when I have not had a drink for six months.  I tried to quit the first time when I was 23.  My mom had just gotten out of a 12 step rehab and I jumped right on the bandwagon because I already knew I was not a “normal” drinker and 12 step programs were the only thing around.  It lasted about a week.  After listening to some of the people at the meetings, I decided my drinking was normal compared to theirs!

I quit a number of times over the next 27 years.  The longest was for 3 months and it was tough.  I tried attending AA meetings but they were just not for me.  I couldn’t relate to the people, I thought the steps were ridiculous and after talking about drinking so much at the meetings, I couldn’t wait to get home to have one.  That first step really got me – I could never admit I was powerless over alcohol.  Many times I certainly felt powerless, but I always knew the ability to change was inside myself somewhere.  I just didn’t have the right tools.

Over the years, my drinking got heavier and my resolve to quit got weaker.  I could never find a substitute for the fast-acting stress reliever and fear eliminator that alcohol was to me.   I drank a large bottle of chardonnay (or more) every single night.  The good thing was I could compartmentalize my drinking so well that no one outside of my family would have guessed I had a problem.  However, it was also the bad thing because even though no one could see the effects the alcohol was having, I could feel them – mentally, spiritually and physically.

At 50 I had a midlife crisis and decided to leave my job of many years and started a business with a partner.  I found I drank even more then, and I felt I was not able to pull my weight because I was either drinking or recovering from drinking.  Every morning when I woke up feeling sick I would swear to myself I wasn’t going to drink again.  But by 5p.m., I forgot all about those promises and couldn’t wait for my first glass of wine.  I had pretty much lost interest in any activities that did not involve drinking and lost much of my motivation to exercise my body and my mind.

I finally came to the realization that I could not fix this on my own and I knew I needed to find some help before I got really sick.  A 12 step program was not going to be the answer for me.  I also could not see myself “going away” for 30 or more days for a residential program.  No one except those closest to me even knew I had a problem and I didn’t want them to find out.  So, I started looking for other options.  I did lots of research using the Internet and found your web site.  Everything there made sense to me and for the first time in a very long time, I felt a glimmer of hope that there might be a way out.  I printed out a number of the materials available on the web site, reviewed them and thought about it for a few days.  I was too scared to make the phone call but on a day when I was so hung over I was shaking, I dialed the number.  I was relieved to get a machine but then all of a sudden, Ed came on the phone.  And I started talking a mile a minute.  I ended up speaking with him at length and then with Mary Ellen a few days later.  You were both easy to confide in, you understood what I was talking about and I really liked the fact that your program included a combination of anti-craving medication, cognitive therapy and meditation.  I reserved my week before I chickened out and sent a deposit before I even told my husband.

I was absolutely terrified the first day I arrived at your office.  I was also hung over since I felt it necessary to down my last bottle of chardonnay the night before.  I felt ashamed and disgusted that I had let myself get to such a point and it was hard to have to face it and talk about it.  But you both have a very calming manner and after speaking with you for about an hour, my panic subsided somewhat.  When Ed took me to the doctor I was shaking so badly you could see it.  But the doctor was matter of fact, non-judgmental and was truly interested in helping me.  He saw how scared I was and reassured me that I was a good candidate for success.  He explained about the Naltrexone and also gave me a small amount of an anti-anxiety medicine, which was really a lifesaver for me that first week.

After the appointment, we talked for a few hours, had lunch and then you sent me home with lots of material to read.  I tried to dive right in but honestly, I was so exhausted from the worry and panic, and I felt so relieved after the meetings that I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until dinner time.  I walked to one of the nearby restaurants, got take-out and did start to read.  And it wasn’t that hard not to drink.

The second day, we reviewed some of the materials and I told you I had gone into a panic when I saw all of the work I was supposed to do regarding setting goals.  I have never been very good at that – I typically operated in a fly by the seat of your pants mode.  You told me not to worry about it and not to do anything with it at all until I was ready.  We talked for several hours and you sent me on my way with more homework and a meditation CD.  I found the CD to be incredibly helpful and centering.  I had done meditation before, but the CD put me in a meditative state faster than I could get there with traditional methods.  It really helped me focus.  I got through another day with no chardonnay.

By Wednesday, I was starting to feel better – a combination of the Naltrexone, the anti-anxiety medicine, the meditation and the fact that I hadn’t had a drink for two days.  We again reviewed the material and tried to look at some of the underlying reasons for my drinking.  In the midst of this, you also gave me a lot of good material regarding starting a new business and marketing it.  I went back to the hotel after our meetings and looked at some of the business material.  I took a walk, listened to the meditation CD and voila – I had an epiphany.  My head felt so clear and I began working on all of my goals.  They just poured out of me.  All of the things I wanted to accomplish that had been stifled by my drinking and subsequent de-motivation.  I was so excited and I had almost no desire to drink.  I was starting to formulate my plan for the future.

The next day and a half flew by and it was time to leave.  I was a little worried but this time I had a whole box full of tools to help me and I had a plan.  Quitting drinking using a fly by night methodology hadn’t worked but I thought that doing so using a plan would work.  And it did.

Has it been easy?  No.  Has it been a big struggle?  No.  I just followed the plan.  I worked on refining my goals when I got home and tried to prioritize them.  I knew I would need to do something in the evening hours when I used to drink so I focused a lot on the to-do list I had for the house.  I painted, I sewed, and yes, I did spend some money purchasing items for my redecorating efforts but I figured I was saving a lot on chardonnay.  I didn’t focus on the not drinking.  When I thought about it, I just let it go and worked on my plan.  I meditated often and at first, I just didn’t put myself into any positions that would make it harder for me.  I talked to Mary Ellen every week and it really helped.  I could discuss all of the issues I was having and talk about what to do when difficult and/or new situations presented themselves. The support was key factor for me but it wasn’t obtrusive.  I got to decide how often to talk and what I needed.  It was so good to be able to talk about things – I got to vent, I got good advice and got lots of positive reinforcement.  I needed someone in my corner who understood and who didn’t think it was weird that I was totally focused on myself.  And I was.  I thought about what was good for me and didn’t worry too much about anyone else.  I knew I needed to be selfish for a while to make this work.

I took the Naltrexone religiously and I truly believe it had a huge effect on reducing my cravings, because in all honesty, they weren’t that bad.  The hardest part was facing each new situation and trying to deal with it in a new way.  Going out to eat, going on vacation, going out with friends, boating, parties – even watching movies.  That was why the phone calls with Mary Ellen were invaluable.  And each situation I made it through made me stronger and more confident and less dreading of the new situations to come. I kept myself busy, but not by going to AA meetings to talk about my sickness or powerlessness.  I did things that made me feel powerful.  I had just started martial arts before attending your program and I couldn’t even do one pushup.  When I got back home, I did have a hard time motivating myself to go to class, and I missed a number of them.  But I kept pushing and now I go three times a week.  I can do 100 pushups and an hour and a half class just flies by.  I have lost 15 pounds, I just got my yellow belt and I have even starting running again (well, more like jogging) for the first time in a lot of years.  I started working with a nutritionist and am working on a healthier me.

What is most amazing to me is that I no longer have a big desire to drink, I am no longer depressed, I sleep great and my head is so clear.  I am stronger and feel more empowered and happy.  I see so many opportunities for the future.  I don’t feel disgusted with myself anymore.  I would be lying if I said I never think about drinking but whenever I want a drink, I think of how wonderful it feels to wake up every morning feeling good instead of waking up wishing I had not downed another large bottle of Chardonnay, and that is enough to convince me not to do it.  Amazingly enough, a surprise to me, there are lots of people around who don’t drink.  I see them everywhere now.  And most of the time, I am happy to be one of them.  I don’t really ever see myself drinking again.  I don’t want to lose this good feeling and opportunity to make a difference in my life.
I owe this all to you both and your program.  I could not and would not have been able to do this without your help.  The program works.  It’s not rocket science and it’s hard to believe there aren’t more programs out there that follow these principles.  I am so thankful I found this program and would recommend it to anyone!

Our client came from North Eastern U.S., but she could have come from anywhere – as our clients do – and, yes, “she” could have been a “he”. And yes, next week’s edition is a review of What’s New For Men.

For Our Women Readers, Here’s An Opportunity To Help With The Research Into What The Real Story of Women and Alcohol Is…

Gabrielle Glaser is a journalist and author who is researching a book on women’s changing relationship with alcohol over the past several decades. The book (as yet untitled) will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2011, and examines the full range of recent trends, from binge-drinking 20-somethings to successful women in their 40s and 50s who deal with suburban angst, changing roles, unequal power sharing, college applications, aging parents and the pressures of work by drinking more wine and vodka than they feel they should.

Glaser is determined to probe beneath the cliches and stereotypes. She has spent time interviewing us, and is looking to interview self-aware women willing to share their experiences with alcohol. These conversations will inform her thinking and writing about this sensitive subject and will be kept confidential. Glaser has written for years about delicate  issues like teen sex and egg donation and she has always protected the identity of anyone who choses to speak anonymously.

Glaser’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Economist, Glamour Magazine, and ScientificAmerican.com. She covered social trends as a columnist for the Westchester County section of the New York Times, and as a staff writer for her hometown newspaper, the Oregonian of Portland, Oregon. She is the author of “The Nose: A Profile of Sex, Beauty, and Survival,” and “Strangers to the Tribe: Portraits of Interfaith Marriage.” She can be reached at americauncorked@gmail.com.

If you’d like more information about Ms. Glaser before contacting her directly, please call and talk to one of us.

Odds and Ends:

This past week our webmaster, Ms. Tanya Beaudoin, completed updating our website and adding new material. You might find the following of interest:

Our new Homepage;

Our new Women’s Page;

As always, the following links are very popular sources of information:

Last week’s review of the Smart Women and Alcohol Abuse;

If you missed our Comparison Shopping issue it’s available here;

Click the link for an expanded description of our Five Day Full Recovery Program;

Mary Ellen’s Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Sent My Brother Off To Rehab;

And old Newsletters are archived on our website under, you guessed it, Newsletters!