I’m Sure You’ve Heard the Story…

The story of the man who traveled the globe in search of the answer to the question, “What’s the meaning of life?”

Broke, exhausted, and completely discouraged, he had just enough inner resources left to crawl up to a cave in the Himalayas where he’d heard a wise old guru lived and that he knew the answer.

Struggling up to the cave’s entrance he uttered a weak plea, “Oh wise man, what is the meaning of life?”

The annoyed old man came out of the cave, looked at the desperate pilgrim, and said, “Doing stuff.”

Seeing the look of incredulity on the man’s face, he added, “As opposed to death, which is not doing stuff.”

The point is that, as I’m sure you’re wondering, the misuse of alcohol is a very popular form of “not doing stuff” without having to die. Yet.

If we use the correct definition of alcohol abuse as a symptom, rather than the obviously false “disease” model, and if we again note that it’s a choice and not an affliction, a lot of things begin to make sense.

No, you didn’t “choose” to have alcohol problems, but you did choose to self-medicate rather than resolve issues. Because drinking offered temporary respite from all manner of unpleasant conditions we began to avoid rather than deal with.

Really, alcohol does offer a viable short-term solution to loneliness, anxiety, boredom, depression, unbalanced lives, trauma, pain both emotional and physical, and so on. It’s also easy, cheap, readily available, socially promoted, legal, and ubiquitous. What’s not to like?

What’s not to like, which is what has you reading this Newsletter, is that alcohol’s “solutions” are very temporary, exacerbate the conditions you are medicating, and prevent you from fixing any of the conditions it seems to relieve.

You’ve traded short term relief for long term resolution.

You’ve traded “not doing stuff” for “doing stuff.” You’ve traded an early artificial “death” for a real life.

And no, AA isn’t the answer. Cults are just another form of choosing death over life, conformity over individuality, “rules” over choices, and mindlessness over mindfulness.

Long ago a client snorted, and said, “You’ve got a 2 Step program here. Get a grip, get a life.”

We think that’s a pretty accurate summation and we suggest you might want to follow her example and get that unique, “doing stuff” life you have earned. What do you think?

Retirement – Alcohol Abuses Best Friend

Retirement comes in many forms and at many ages. If you’re an Olympian gymnast – especially a woman – it can strike at 18. For other professional athletes it can hit at anywhere from 20 to 35 for the most part. Successful professionals may find themselves out to pasture, by choice or not – in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond. Mothers may find an “empty nest” retirement forced on them in their 40’s or 50’s.

Though the age may vary from 16 to 86, the results too often don’t – alcohol use expanding to fill the voids and available space.

No matter what activity, profession, skill, or obsession has engaged your life, the change, sometimes swift and unexpected, creates a loss of identity, structure, recognition, associations, peers, colleagues, and rewards.

Few of us are adequately prepared for the dramatic shift in our day-to-day lives, nor the effects on those around us.

As a colleague reminded her husband, “I married you for better or worse but not for lunch!”

Or as Dr. Barnes has noted about many of her women friends, “the first thing they do when their husbands retire is go and get a job.”

The humor reflects realities, however.

Many of us will never retire because we are aware that we depend on the work to keep us engaged, structured, and stimulated. Others do have a vast array of interests they have been preparing to pursue for years. In neither case is trouble looming on the horizon.

But for the rest, indeed, the majority?

It’s easy as one client noted, “I found I was drinking to put in the time waiting to die.” And he was still actively involved in what had, by most anyone’s standards, been a highly successful if devolving career.

Others who have been doing the 70+ hours a week as physicians or attorneys are totally bereft. So are the athletes who will never again hear the roar of the fans, fend off the autograph seekers, or regain their only identity. Stay at home parents don’t fare much better.

Along comes alcohol, the friend that comforts, eases, fills the time, and whose use accelerates as you decline into depression and inactivity and isolation.

That’s not the only option. Why not at least explore the others available to you? All that takes is a phone call. Do you actually have anything better to do? We didn’t think so.