Jim’s Legacy

Many of you wrote expressing your condolences and sympathy after reading Mary Ellen’s article on the death of her brother Jim. There is a bit more to the story and we’d like to take this opportunity to complete the picture of his last 20 years.

A very successful and respected attorney, Jim threw away his practice and his life in a downward plunge into drugs. The family recruited Mary Ellen to save him.

That proved to be an impossible task when she discovered that appropriate services really weren’t available anywhere. (See Mary Ellen’s article:Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Sent My Brother Off To Rehab; )

Desperate, they did eventually hire an interventionist and Jim was packed off to a program in Utah for 30 days. The program insisted that it wasn’t 12 Step based, something Mary Ellen knew Jim would never tolerate.

Of course it was all AA based and they justified their lying on the basis that “AA and the 12 Steps are the only things that work and if we have to lie to save people’s lives then that’s the right thing to do.”

But since we know that that’s not even close to the truth (see Ending Alcohol Abuse: What Works) you can guess how this played out.

Jim came back from Utah and turned into a hermit, existing with his cats and with some financial help from his parents – this too is a familiar story in many families. Happily he had left the hard drugs behind, but he still didn’t have much of a life. All he had done was quit using, but he never addressed the reasons that drove him so deeply into drugs in the first place.

Then the unexpected happened. Mary Ellen and I met through the course of our respective work and she learned that I had many years of work in AA alternative rehab and research.

After many conversations a plan was developed with Jim’s family and put into action. The details don’t matter but the results do. Jim returned to financial independence, took up kayaking and made a few friends, and even began working for a few old clients.

It wasn’t a lot, but it was the beginnings of a return to life. Sadly, at 59, he was diagnosed with stage IV Sarcoma and died 5 months later.

Though he never said much about the plan or process, when Mary Ellen and I opened this practice he donated all of the legal work as a silent “thank you.” We appreciated it a great deal.

So – Jim’s legacy?

Perhaps if Jim hadn’t needed help, Mary Ellen and I would never have met and built this practice for clients like him – smart, successful, creative, people derailed for whatever reasons. And all our clients, their spouses, and families, friends and colleagues, would still be looking in vain for the help he got a little too late.

But you can still benefit from what he helped create and establish. It’s not too late for you.

Call and talk to one of us personally from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pacific time any day of the year.

No receptionists, clients, flunkies, marketers, or other gate keepers.

Couples, AA Alternatives That Work

“Relationships are like a dance, with visible energy racing back and forth between partners. Some relationships are the slow, dark dance of death.” –  Colette Dowling

AA, Alanon, and 12 Step based treatment programs have failed even more miserably for couples than they have for individuals. The reasons are obvious, of course. AA demands that members emotionally separate from spouses and join the group, and Alanon demands that spouses sit and complain about the drinking rather than actually doing something about it.

The problem is even worse when couples seek counseling.

As anyone who has been to couple’s counseling knows, the process usually degenerates into a two on one blame session and the “one” generally storms out on a huff. At best, the counselor will suggest that nothing can be done until the “problem spouse” stops drinking and sends the two of you off to AA and Alanon with the predictable results already described.

Those of us who have developed AA Alternative research based approaches recognize that in each of these cases the real problem is a failure to recognize that the couple is engaged in a “dance” which they have developed over time with alcohol as the third partner. If the drinking is going to end, then both spouses are going to be affected and both will have to change.

This is where the big myth of the AA based treatment industry comes in – the myth that the drinker will go off to 30, 60, or 90 days of treatment, come home sober, and stay that way while no one else is affected. Put another way, life will go on for everyone else just the way it was, except the “problem” will be eliminated.

It never works that way. Individuals return angry, humiliated, demeaned, isolated, and told they can never again lead a normal life or be around normal people. They are told to avoid their spouses and rely on AA for all of their intimate needs.

It’s no surprise that within hours, or weeks, the drinker is back to the bottle, usually with their spouse’s encouragement.

Over the years, couples develop a very complex dance where each derives benefits from the drinking. This may amount to passive-aggressiveness by the drinker against a controlling spouse or the dominating spouse may use the drinker’s irresponsibility as a reason for canceling their votes in family decision making. AA Alternatives addresses these realities without needing magical cures.

These are only obvious, but common, examples and other benefits are usually uncovered and explain why drinkers return to the bottle and/or why spouses sabotage treatment.

Even when couple are willing and able to address the complex role alcohol plays in their lives, it’s difficult to avoid the traditional two on one couple’s counseling problem described above.

Again, however, we have developed the 12 Step alternatives model which takes this into account. We work as a team with you as a couple.

Helping in this, Dr. Wilson had an alcohol problem himself, and discovered there was no real help available, and Dr. Barnes was the family member designated to find help for her brother, as described above, and discovered there was none available – at least none that had any possibility of helping a smart, successful, professional, and one for whom confidentiality was of the utmost importance.

The result is that each of you has an ally with your perspective, someone of the same gender, and four way sessions that do not degenerate into the usual triangle, bashings, and storming out that are the hallmark of couples counseling regardless of the issues, but particularly when drinking is involved.

So, if you want to continue the alcohol waltz, keep doing what you’re doing, or make it even worse by joining AA and Alanon and insuring that you will never develop the functional, loving, and intimate relationship you want. Or consider the alternative to AA which means actually letting us help you create a new, functional, fun, and intimate relationship to replace the one that now exists.

Ready to trade the alcohol dance, and the AA dance, for the real alternative? A dance of life, not death?