This past week I sent off a draft of my brief guide, “AA – Who It Helps, Who It Harms, Who It Kill, & Why” to a couple of readers who responded to the usual writer’s plea for help. In this case I am lucky to have excellent help. Gabrielle Glaser, author of the best-selling “Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink – and How They Can Regain Control” and Dr. Tom Horvath, founder of SMART Recovery and Practical Recovery, both long-time friends, colleagues and collaborators, who agreed to read and comment.

As a writer of some 50 years standing and across many areas in both fiction and non-fiction, including over 1,000 of these Newsletter articles, I can tell you that it’s an occupation that has led many of us down the road to drink. There may be a lonelier and more isolating line of work, but I don’t know what it would be, except maybe lighthouse keeper or fire tower lookout.

So what, you reasonably ask.

My own problem with self-medication, which started roughly 40 years ago and lasted about 5 years, was brought on by a combination of family tragedy and the isolation I was living with as a writer. Fixing it meant coping with the disaster and, for a while, giving up the writing. It also meant knowing I was going to have to figure out my own solution.

And I did figure it out – but it took a lot of false starts, marginal results, and about 3 years.

The good news, I suppose, is that I avoided the usual pitfalls including AA, traditional rehab, and all of the usual brainwashing that permeated self-medication both then and now, as well as the erroneous and lifelong “alcoholic” label..

The other benefit is that I saw how most people can, with some short term, deprogramming, CBT, assertiveness training, option awareness, medical support, and other assistance, accomplish, what took me several years, in a few months.

That wasn’t the end, however, and the work we do didn’t arise overnight like a magic mushroom.

I spent several years in grad school – not what I’d planned for age 45-50 – and did the research on how to effectively help people achieve whatever outcomes they wanted. I also affirmed my belief that it took a team and that co-therapist needed to be my opposite in many ways, and that groups were usually counter-productive.

Grad school over, I worked in other areas while maintaining a small, specialized, private practice. First in Kodiak, Alaska, then in southern California – all while looking for the person I needed to complete the program I knew was needed.

15 years ago that person wandered into my office in the private school I was operating inside a locked adolescent psych hospital.

Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes was a very smart therapist who understood the need for eclectic, personalized approaches to drug and alcohol problems. Though never afflicted with excessive substance use, she was affected by her brother’s and the fact that no appropriate help for him existed in 2000.

There were many ways in which we complimented each other as a team – a team working with individuals. A concept which not only works, but which is unique.

Again, you may reasonably ask, if it works so well, why aren’t other’s following the same model?

The reasons are depressingly simple: good help isn’t cheap and high success rates hurt the revolving door process which most “treatment centers” count on to keep the coffers full.

We, on the other hand, didn’t need droves of bodies, and masses of cheap and poorly trained former-client staff members to keep the recycling going.

So, we see enough clients to meet our modest financial requirements, while providing services to people who actually want to recover.

And I get to work with colleagues and clients to offset the isolation while still allowing me to maintain my admittedly introvert preferences.

That’s what we can help you to accomplish in an efficient and effective manner. As one reader noted, “you offer pragmatic assistance.” She’s quite right. No smoke, mirrors, magic, or hocus-pocus.