Ruminating – A Woman’s Factor in Alcohol Abuse

Women, more often than men, find themselves in a downward spiral fueled by “if only” perseverating. If only this hadn’t happened, or if only I had, or hadn’t, if only, if only, if only.

While some men fall into this depressing trap, they are more inclined to do something, for better or worse, and even doing the wrong thing is less problematic than doing nothing but going around in mental circles asking why, why, why?

As we noted in our article on the Stages of Change, it’s easy to get stuck between recognizing a problem and taking action to correct the matter. More often than men, women will sign up to see a therapist who will reinforce this dwelling on the past, or current miseries, without ever getting around to taking action steps to alleviate the condition.

Yes, understanding a problem is a good thing, but it doesn’t fix it. In terms of physical injuries and illnesses, we understand this. But with emotional and psychological stress we tend to believe that “processing” will fix it. It won’t.

There is the additional problem of our mind’s negative bias. This means that when we are feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, or any of a number of “negative” emotions, our minds will winnow out every negative event in our lives to reinforce this feeling. The result is that we become embroiled in a self-fueling downward spiral, seemingly unable to extricate ourselves.

Of course this is when self-medication rears its counter-productive head.

Alcohol is a very popular drug because it effectively medicates a wide range of conditions – anxiety, loneliness, boredom, depression, and physical and emotional pain, among others. For many of us it also puts those ruminating hamsters in our heads to sleep. Those are a lot of benefits!

The trouble, we all know, is that these benefits are very short term and they make all of the conditions we are medicating worse!

The solution, while easily understood, is hard to implement because it takes effort – not something alcohol requires.

But solutions last, alcohol induced respite does not.

One brief example should suffice to illustrate: CBT and exercise will alleviate depression better than anything else. But they take some learning, some physical effort, some time and energy. But they also break the ruminating habit and patterns, replacing them with a productive focus.

Interestingly, you can institute a positive spiral, reversing the negative one that has you reading this.

It’s also the reason that AA/12Step programs won’t work for you – they reinforce the negative thoughts and patterns that got you into this problem in the first place. Labeled? Powerless? Isolated? Diseased? Sub-human?Reinforced daily? Plus being assaulted by predators of every kind?

And you think that will help?

I didn’t think so.


Periodically we like to review the importance of help being confidential and how that can be achieved.

First we note that at some level you already know this. This is indicated by the fact that 90% or more of you have never accurately reported you alcohol usage to your personal physician. Yes, that’s partially embarrassment, but also partially being self-protective. You don’t want a label that takes on a life of its own and overshadows everything else.

The same is true of therapists and counselors who can’t see past the drinking to the underlying and motivating conditions.

All will say some variation on “you have to fix the drinking before we can address the other factors,” which is exactly the opposite of what actually works. The misuse of alcohol is a symptom! Not a disease.

Given that you are a smart, competent, and creative individual, you can readily appreciate that you do want to fix the problem and you want to do it quickly, efficiently, effectively, affordably, and QUIETLY! No need to jeopardize licenses, credentials, security clearances, reputations, or to have your parenting questioned.

That means you cannot afford to have any association with AA even if it “worked,” which it doesn’t. Nor can you be involved with groups, pay with insurance, disappear for a month or more, or reveal yourself to unprofessional staff. That cuts down your options to a scant few.

You can go to a private therapist but that’s likely to be too little and too long and is apt to find you in the “go to AA and fix the drinking” trap. That may get you “quietly,” but hardly effectively, quickly, and efficiently. And you’re most likely, particularly those of you who are women, falling into the” pretending to do something” rather than actually doing something about it – a snare many therapists are prone to use, knowingly or otherwise.

Please, carefully consider your options and both the short term possibilities and long term consequences. Don’t just trade your alcohol problems for even worse ones.

For more about privacy considerations, see our article on the topic.