A Strange Phone Call

I recently received one of those strange phone calls that appear every couple of weeks. The opening lines are similar and go something like this:

“What is the address of your Atlanta (substitute Boston, Toronto, Manhattan, Seattle, Minneapolis, etc.) office?” or “Who can you refer me to who does exactly what you do, but is here in….?” Or, most astonishing, “I really like your program! Who does the same thing but cheaper?”

These people are always shocked that we aren’t a franchise business and/or that there aren’t local offices who do exactly what we do, but cheaper. Some are downright angry that we aren’t as ubiquitous as AA meetings, we aren’t free, and we aren’t providing the magic fix like all those 12 Step programs claim to.

Imagine that?

The problem starts with the mistaken idea that treatment is treatment and that the only two options are residential and out-patient. Beyond that?

Mostly it’s the cultural mythology we’ve all been exposed to.

“Alcohol abuse is a disease!” “AA is the only way!” “AA works!” “You must be ‘in recovery’ for the rest of your life!” “You can never take another drink!” “It’s progressive!” “12 Step treatment works!” “You must go away to rehab!”

Yes, they all come with exclamation points and they are all myths.

The actual counter-points?

“Alcohol abuse is a habit.” “AA works for a few immature people and the predators who prey on them.” “At least two dozen approaches work better for most people than AA.” “You don’t need to recover for more than six months to a year, if that.” “A third of alcohol abusers can eventually return to normal social drinking.” “Facilitated 12 Step – the euphemism for AA based rehab – doesn’t work any better than AA.” “Outpatient works much better for most people than ‘going away for 30+ days.’”

Make whatever choices you want, of course, but at least make them on the basis of the research, not some huckster’s snake oil.

What Can You Do to Optimize the Chances You Will Leave Alcohol Behind?

Failure is hard, painful and often, lonely.

In contrast, success is fun, rewarding, fulfilling, and much less lonely. But how can we increase the odds in our favor?

No, there aren’t any guarantees – bad things do happen to good people just as good things happen to bad people, but we can dramatically affect our chances with some basic considerations:

  • We live in a logical world with predictable outcomes – manage your diet and exercise and you’ll tend to be healthier and happier than those who don’t.
  • Planning and goal setting work better than letting things “just happen” – you’d be astonished by the overwhelmingly positive reports we get from people who follow our advice to schedule their sex lives.
  • Positive, proactive goals beat spontaneous “in the moment” every time. Long-lasting success rarely happens by accident.
  • Discipline beats drama. Some people crave drama, anxiety and adrenaline, but successful people tend to live very organized, structured, predictable lives. They avoid chaos and are rarely surprised.
  • “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” – this is one of the points that explains why AA is a failure for over 95% of the people who try it. You don’t get over anything by hanging out with losers and failures. You do it by emulating, and joining, the people whose success you’d like to be yours. Whether in person, the media, or the neighborhood, pick your friends and associates with care.
  • Be extremely careful in how you talk to and about yourself! Socrates observed that, “We become what we think about all day long.” Stand up numerous times a week and proclaim, “Hi, I’m —, and I’m an alcoholic,” and what do you think you’ll be? Instead, try, to yourself, “Hi, I’m — and I put drinking, like a lot of other things, into my ‘been there, done that’ file. Which do you suppose supports the successful outcome?
  • Look for the solutions, not at the problems. Eliminate “I can’t” and “I should” and “I must.” As in sports psychology, imagine success, not failure! No one ever won a medal by picturing themselves falling off the apparatus, dropping the ball, or crashing into the wall (also known as “relapsing”).

No, it’s not all easy – but with a little time, effort, planning and execution you can put your drinking problems, and us, into your own personal “been there, done that” file and shred it, along with other habits that no longer serve you well.