Upper or Downer – What Are You Using Alcohol For?

As a bit of an extension on last week’s Newsletter regarding physicians, nurses and first responders, I wanted to elaborate a bit on critical differences between what we use alcohol to accomplish and how that affects correcting problems with self-medication.

Over the years, Mary Ellen and I have treated many physicians, lawyers, and other professionals in demanding work. We have noted that the physicians have tended to be E.R. doctors and surgeons. The lawyers, criminal defense attorneys and litigators. The commonality? High stress, adrenaline driven occupations.

What’s changed over the past year?

Now all medical professionals and first responders are in intensely adrenaline driven environments all day every day, isolated, exposed to a deadly virus, immersed in deaths, and with their pleas to isolate, wear masks, keep your distance, ignored by half the population.

But the added stress also comes from not being able to talk to anyone about it. Mention that you are finding yourself drinking a bit more than you were before the pandemic and BINGO you will soon find yourself trapped in the maze I described last week, but it’s a maze with no way out.


Damn few.

There are a few providers who offer actual help which is confidential and will not put you at risk for being labeled and extorted. Here on the West Coast I know of exactly 3.

Of these, we are the only one offering 100% Zoom based individual services which involve you working with both Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes and myself. We deliver outcome based services which are research driven. That means, CBT, Assertiveness training, possible Naltrexone medical support, and other components assembled in the unique mosaic of solutions that are tailored to your equally unique mosaic of needs.

As an added note, this process doesn’t just apply to those in the medical field – it applies to anyone who is finding their alcohol consumption troubling but who doesn’t wish to be labeled, blackmailed, demeaned, diminished, or exploited.

As a long ago client noted, “You offer 3 ‘Steps: Get a grip, learn the skills and coping mechanisms, get your life back!”

The Vaccine is Still Months Away in Any Practical Terms

There’s been an upsurge in gatherings, travel, and ignoring public health recommendations due to the announced development of effective vaccines.


People don’t seem to be able to process that a vaccine will take months and months to be distributed and for the effects to be widespread. Incredibly, many seem to believe that it means the pandemic is over and we can all go back to “normal” immediately.

I mention this because it is a form of “non-thinking” that infests those who struggle with alcohol and think some magic will transform their circumstances with no effort or thought on their part. Whether its AA’s mythical “higher power,” AA0-90 day stay at a luxury spa, or Sinclair’s magic Naltrexone cure, the bottom line is, “I don’t have to change or invest any effort, magic will take care of it for me!”

Of course that is what 95% of rehabs, inpatient or outpatient, sell – magic.
No, the vaccine did not “fix” things this holiday season, and, no, magic will not cure you alcohol choices with zero effort or change.

But – making real changes can result in improvements in your life that more than offset the effort involved. It’s making that initial investment – effort paid up front – that’s the sticking point. That tipping point when you move from contemplation hell to action.

At this point I will proffer an admission. I suffer from this indecision just as much as most of you do. I “should” be doing more walking now that my knee says I can and should; I “should” be doing more writing now that my schedule has plenty of open space. But I put off making the effort to create new habits for no better reason than just because I do.

Like most of us, I too want the results, but I don’t want to go through the process – even when the process isn’t some overwhelming ordeal.

Happily I do know that historically I nudge myself into action. No more cigarettes, vodka, motorcycles, rock climbing, or other activities I’ve aged out of. I do read and listen to others perspectives which don’t exactly inspire me, but do nudge me in the direction I want to go. The following link leads to a talk by Louise Penny, one of my favorite mystery writers, who’s hade her share of difficulties. She entertaining as well as informative, sympathetic, and, well yes, inspiring. Take an hour to be helped along with whatever decision you have made but not yet implemented.