Time is Your Only Finite Resource

As those of you who are long-time readers will remember, I have occasionally referred to a former client who had noted that he came to see us when he realized his drinking was just “putting in time waiting to die.”

He and I are about the same age, and I always remember his assessment when my birthday rolls around, which happens to be tomorrow.

A lot of us have, at times, found ourselves putting in time waiting. Whether it’s death, “things” or others to change, or any number of other considerations, we are burning up our allotment of time, however unknowable the amount.

Given the unknowable, what can we do to actively live rather than passively succumb?

As we often say, you always need to know where you stand financially, medically, and legally. Without those bits of information none of us can make an informed decision about much of anything.

In addition to those “big three” pieces of information – and I’m willing to bet that very few know more than one, and nobody more than two – you need to know something about yourself that I will also bet you have avoided paying attention to. That is the reality that “free time is not your friend.”

This doesn’t mean that you need to be engaged every moment when you aren’t asleep. It means that you don’t leave big blocks of empty hours you’ve set aside for drinking – or other forms of trouble. Believe me, even at my advanced age, I can still find trouble to get into, or time to waste waiting, and drinking hasn’t been my problem for over three decades.

Change is facilitated by awareness and awareness comes from paying attention. Want to lose weight? Keep a food diary. Want to increase strength? Keep a workout log. Want to really evaluate your drinking? Keep a drinking journal: what, when, where, who, how much, and how much time and money do you spend on it. Another bet – I bet you have been careful not to know.

Neither free time nor ignorance are your friends. How about starting to manage the first and erase the second?

What Works For Replacing Self-Medication?

It’s easy to point out that AA works for very few people who are looking to escape their reliance on self-medication as their coping mechanism of choice. It is less easy to provide the complicated answers involved for individuals who really want to put an alcohol fixated life behind them – or, as I say, perhaps too often, move excessive drinking into one’s “been there, done that” category.

The reason that the answers to countering anesthetizing ourselves is difficult is that there isn’t any “answer.” Indeed, one of AA’s appeals is that it provides “The Answer,” and we all like that sort of simplicity.

Most of us, however, do not find that avenue to be an acceptable one.

So, on to the complicated, multi-faceted, “answer.”

First, it’s individual. Your circumstances, history, traits, strengths, interests, and medicated conditions do not match anyone else’s.

Next, your personal list of ‘benefits from drinking” don’t exactly match anyone else’s either.

Then there are you own personal and private circumstances which you may be reluctant to acknowledge as well as the understanding of what actually motivates you to change.

That all sounds more formidable and daunting than it is – if you get the proper sort of short term help that will allow you to combine the elements of change into a set of new coping skills.

Put another way, replacing an avoidant set of behaviors with an engaging set of skills. This might sound like a new idea, but it’s not. In 1989 Hester and Miller put out the third edition of their “Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches” (Third Edition 2003) which clearly showed “what works.”

Their work has been superseded a bit by research, some of it our own, over the intervening years, but much also remains relevant including: Brief, Motivational Enhancement, Naltrexone, Cognitive Therapy, Behavioral and Social Skills Training, and Marital Therapy. Added in are Assertiveness Training, Diet (blood sugar) and Exercise Management, and Deprogramming from the cultural mythology surrounding over-medication, including self-image impediments.

And, yes, all of that is “do-able’ in a relatively brief period of time given you invest a reasonable amount of effort and patience.

That’s the real stumbling block. You need to invest time and effort and endure some discomfort during this process of change. Sitting out on the lawn in Malibu luxury, protected from whatever drives you to drink, is not going to effortlessly deliver you from your current distress. Like going to the spa for thirty days to lose weight, soon enough you will return to the same circumstances without any new skills to get you through, or change, those circumstances, and your own practiced responses, comfort foods, or protective bubbles.

Consider doing some research into yourself. It’s what we do with you. And, yet again, we’re here, like any good trainer, to help you learn, absorb, change, and replace. We do grant absolution, if needed, well as compassion, humor, insight, and perspective.