A woman I have worked with off and on recently asked me for a proposal for continuing work to address other aspects of her life – specifically enhancing her life now that she’s in her 50’s.

I also realized Labor Day weekend was roling around again, beginning the annual I’ll fix “it” after Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, the Super Bowl and so on until next September. Rather than reiterating my annual plea to fix it now as a holiday gift to yourself and everyone around you, I thought I’d skip the obvious and move along to what a proposed course of action could look like regardless of the condition(s) being addressed.

Assessment: 90% of treatment programs have no assessment beyond “you’re here therefore you’re an alcoholic and need to be brainwashed into the 12 Step cult.” Real assessments include not only problem identification but also your strengths, outcome preferences and so on. Preferences, options, and resources beyond the financial as well as contributing factors such as trauma, medical conditions, age, and comparisons to chronologic peers.

Deprogramming:  next one needs to root out whatever cherished myths keep us from changing. With alcohol it’s all of the AA nonsense but other conditions have their own recurring illusions. As an ex-smoker I can say that “It’s too late to make any difference” was always a favorite. Some 22 years after my last cigarette, lungs fully recovered, I can say I’m glad I eventually stopped listening to that excuse. So, what are you telling yourself and how do you refute that?

CBT: CBT is a coping skill to be learned. Summed up, the basis is that we create our emotions through our thoughts and behaviors. Most people believe that their emotions drive their thoughts and behaviors and to a certain extent they will until you learn to reverse that dynamic.

Motivation: What motivates you – not what is supposed to, but what really does. An example I use all of the time: I quit smoking when I was in my early 50s, not for health or financial reasons, but because I was single and not smoking increased to number of women who might consider dating me. The lesson? Unless you know what actually propels you, you can’t call up the associated strengths to get through occasional rough patches.

Associations: We are, it’s said, the average of the ten people closest to us. Whether or not it’s true, picking your friends with care is important. Hang out with Steppers and you too will become a powerless alcoholic even though you aren’t one.

Assertiveness. Learn to say no. And to say it without apology or explanation. The fastest way to go back to seeking respite and refuge in a bottle is to exceed your carrying capacity by pleasing everyone but yourself.

Plan: Figure out what you are going to do with and for yourself now that you are no longer using alcohol to fill the available space. Free time is not your friend! Nor do you need to “keep busy” – naps and reading are not “free time.” Need a Guide? See my Goal Setting handout.

More questions? Just write or call. My bad leg doesn’t interfere with talking and does give me a lot of  time to fill.