It’s Not Magic! Nor Rocket Science….

Clients, and other readers, sometimes report that they often seem to be “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Welcome to the club.

After weeks or months of reasonably steady progress, folks collapse into a binge or other replay of old drinking patterns. “Oh, god! I’ve relapsed!” they wail, falling back into AA mentality and mythology which has no basis in reality.

No, Virginia, neither the “devil” nor “the disease,” made you do it.

So what happened?

Usually the problem arises from something virtually all “programs” and rehabs and therapists totally neglect – the benefits you are getting from your drinking. Instead, they focus on enumerating the costs, negative consequences, and harm, abusing alcohol is doing to you, and accentuating the benefits of quitting.

Like you needed reminding?

What is important, however, is the benefits you get, or got, from drinking – and there are many benefits or we: 1) wouldn’t have gotten into trouble in the first place; and 2) quitting would be easy.

The common benefits are easily listed:

  • near instant – if temporary – relief from loneliness, boredom, anxiety, depression, and pain, both physical and emotional;
  • insulation from intolerable conditions at home or work;
  • a passive-aggressive “gesture” directed at a controlling spouse or partner;
  • quieting the hamsters in our heads so we can sleep.

These problems also tend to respond well to a mix of CBT, Assertiveness Training, diet, exercise, meditation, various social and recreational activities, and other additions to your life.

So far, so good.

Except one “benefit” wasn’t included in the foregoing list – getting to “stay stuck.”

Truth is, we all like our predictable routines with their known outcomes. Even when the results are negative! We call that phenomena the “security of familiar miseries,” and the old saying, “better the devil you know then the one you don’t” lets us know it’s not a modern tendency.

Trouble is, both adages assume that you are choosing between two negative outcomes. Where’d that come from?

Of course, that’s the “reassurance” we need to avoid making an effort to improve our lives and the lives of those we care about. After all, we tell ourselves, it won’t matter – I’m doomed to be miserable so I might as well keep on drinking.

Depressing? Yes. Exacerbated by downing massive amounts of a depressant? Right, again. Any basis in reality? No.

So why not see for yourself whether or not it’s simply a matter of trading old miseries for new? As we often note, you really can, always, go back to drinking if you find it preferable. And just maybe, you might discover a happier outcome. Imagine that.

Cheryl Strayed

It sounds like a statement rather than a name, but Ms. Strayed has made a name for herself through her book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” and the Reese Witherspoon movie of the same name. Both encompass her hike away from addiction, among other things, during the course of her 3 year trek.

Talk about an emphatic refutation of 12 Step “powerlessness” and the demand that your only hope lies in joining the mindless herd….

Adding to that, I’d like to quote the following from Ms. Strayed’s book of advice, “Brave Enough”:

“Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do….It’s hard to know what to do when you have a conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it’s not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it’s hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do – have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep tolerating someone who treats you terribly. There isn’t a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself, the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing.”

I will note that I like her notes, reminders, and thoughts. Especially when I am feeling a bit sorry for myself and a lifetime accumulation of psychic, emotional, and physical aches, pains, and scars. It’s all good late evening comfort food for the mind.

It’s also a good reminder that there are many ways to overcome almost everything and that yours doesn’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, look like anyone else’s. And you shouldn’t let anyone sell you theirs either.

Perhaps the aspect of Ms. Strayed’s “recovery” we echo, and you might want to consider as well, is that it’s accomplished by doing stuff.

No, you needn’t hike the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails – but you might want to trust yourself when it comes to figuring out what your particular exit route could and should be.

And we’re more than happy to help you plan your real escape from, not just temporary medication of, the real problems you are suffering. And we won’t suggest you go hide in a cult, either. Promise.