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Words of Wisdom

Choice   Self-Acceptance    Social Situations and Abstinance

Self Control   Think-Anon   Relationships

Insomnia   Doing It For Yourself   Cravings

Independence vs. Needing    The Three A's     Why Aren't You Drinking 

Practicing Moderation    How Did You Know You Had Problem




I think, perhaps, that the single greatest thing given to me by the MM (as I struggle for a word life? thought?) "world" has been Choice.

See, back in AA, I had no choices. Or so I was told. I was either a dry drunk, a drunk drunk, or a sober drunk. But I was always a drunk. If I felt the urge to drink, it meant I was being a drunk and that I would always BE a drunk...and that there was no end. Caught in this horrible state of futility and the idea of "This never ends". And perhaps, that single thing alone, is the one reason I could never fully wrap my head around AA as hard as I tried. Why I struggled and fought with what came so easy to so many. Don't tell me I don't have choices, because you can bet, like Captain Kirk from the Star Trek movies, I will spend the next however long trying to find a way to cheat death itself.

I've noticed over the last few weeks, with rising stress at work, that the thought has jumped into the back of my head, about how nice it would be to just get plastered. Do shots of tequila, laugh it up with some friends, and get mind numbingly stupid drunk. Not worry about our servers and hackers. Not worry about the credit card encryptions. Not worry period, for a few hours and just relax, get smashed, and have fun..

Of course, following those thoughts are things that have always followed it. "But you can't do that! So and so would see, and think about how you are a drunk!" "If you do that, Xxxx will get really mad at you!" "You'll hate yourself if you do it that way!"

And I don't drink.

Which is rather amazing to me, on a slight aside. Because as I said, all those thoughts about other people in my life and how much I would be disappointed in myself have *always* been there, even in AA, when I felt the need to drink. So what is different now that makes me not drink, that *wasn't* there before when I DID drink?


It's the only thing I can see. I've grown up enough in my own life with regards to my drinking that I can actually see that it's something that I *choose* to do. Taken enough responsibility in my own life that I can see the outcomes from either angle in my life, and make a decision from there.

I'm not just a dry drunk, sober drunk, or drunk drunk.

I'm a person today, that has the ability to choose. "You want a beer? Ok. Have it." "You want to get blind staggering drunk? Ok. Do it." "You think maybe not having one or 30 today would be a good idea? Ok. Do it."

I've crossed a line where I no longer see myself as a drunk. Just a person with choices.

And I've chosen not to get drunk.

It's such a small thing, choice. But sometimes, like today, I think it's the single most important thing in the world.

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Low [contingent] self esteem[ing] -- I'm beating myself up for (fill in the blank).

>I struggle with lofty goals and dreams -- that I >don't feel good enough for but I feel worthless without.

This last is a sneaky trap in itself. Let's say everyone (at least, I tell myself *everyone*) at work has a gold Rolex except me. So, inside, I join what Ellis calls the sh*thood -- more politely, the wormhood. Ok, I save up to buy a gold Rolex. Maybe I feel a bit better temporarily but it's an outside job rather than an inside job and I'm left with that <groan> if they only knew how I *really* felt about myself feeling. Plus, if my self-worth is dependent on having the Rolex, now I have the additional anxiety of worrying that I might lose the Rolex. Same thing happens when I depend on others for acceptance and approval. Better is to *physically* give yourself pats on the back.

How to achieve Unconditional Self-Acceptance rather than highly conditional self-esteem

As a person, you were born and reared with two strong tendencies: to rate or evaluate your acts, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, to determine whether they are "good" or "effective"; and to rate or measure your "self," your "being," your "essence," your "totality." In RET (Rational Emotive Therapy), we encourage you to continue the first of these tendencies -- performance ratings -- but to be most cautious about the second tendency -- self-ratings. After giving much thought to the problem of self-evaluation, RET has come up with two fairly good though still imperfect solutions. The first is difficult but still do-able: Decide not to rate your "self," your "being," at all. If you want to assume that you have a "self" or an "essence," okay -- even though you will have some difficulty, as scholars have had for ages, in clearly defining it. Anyway, stubbornly refuse to rate, measure, or evaluate this "self." Only -- yes, only -- rate what you do (so that you can discover how to do better and how to enjoy yourself more) and not what you are. If you want to label yourself as you, then acknowledge that you are responsible for what you do, and that you act irresponsibly when you do poorly (e.g., lie to yourself or others). But still don't rate your youness or self.
This is probably the most elegant RET solution to the problem of self-worth and will get you in practically no trouble. As a less elegant, but still viable option, you can rate your self or being but only in terms of some general, safe concept, which is never likely to change, at least during your lifetime, or can only change by your deciding to change it. Thus, you can say, "I am a good person because I exist, because I am alive." You then can't be "bad" or "no good" until you are dead! Or you can say, "I am good because I am a fallible, imperfect human" -- and then you can be pretty sure that this will, as long as you live, always be true! Or you can say, "I am good because God (or the Devil) exists and always loves you." Either of these solutions to the problem of self-worth will work. Take your choice. For rating your "self" is a choice, not a necessity. You can choose to rate or not rate your "self," as long as you (for practical purposes) rate your (and others') performances. And if you choose to be a "good" person, you can strongly convince yourself, "I am good because I choose to see myself as good; and I choose to see myself as good whether or not I perform well and whether or not others approve of me. Now that I have decided this, how can I more effectively continue to live, to enjoy myself, and continue to aid the social milieu in which I choose to live.
As one of the main rational self-help methods, you can strongly decide to accept yourself unconditionally, no matter what you do or don't do. You can, as we have just shown, choose to do this and learn it as a habit if you work with determination to do so.

- from _Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol - When AA Doesn't Work for You_, by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. and Emmett Velten, Ph.D., (c) 1992, Barricade Books, 61 4th Avenue, N.Y., N.Y. 10003, $14.95.
[reprinted with permission by David C. Hester, Denver]

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Social Situations and Abstinance

As I imagine you're keenly noticing, changes of the kind you're undertaking usually *feel* worse before they *feel* better. I emphasize the word feel to make the point that you are likely getting better though it doesn't feel like it in the short run. Good time to look to the far horizon and take the long view on life.

I *do* appreciate your diligent search for what works for you to produce a result you value. In fact, you seem to have found ways to handle 5 of 7 days of the week. Now, that's progress! Anyone else on the list relate to those *pesky* weekends?

With your kind indulgence (I hope), I'll take the opportunity of your well-defined stick in the path to introduce a technique known as *referenting* to the list. Don't think I've posted this one before. An illustrative story first --

I like to ski and often ask others if they want to go ski together sometime. Then, I listen and look for their refferents (what their brain references and brings to mind when they consider going skiing).

Person A: "Geez, when traffic wasn't so bad a few years ago, I skied often. But, now it's bumper to bumper and terrifies me. Besides, it's just a fashion show now. Nobody really goes to ski; they just want to parade their $500 parka's and designer skis. And, the cost! It's outrageous ... (awful, awful, awful, ad nauseum). Uh, yeah, why don't you call me the morning you're going and maybe I'll go."

Person B: [smiles large when invited to ski, holds imaginary poles, bends knees ... does a quick imaginary series of stem christies holding upper body still as hips and knees weight shift, pops out to long, wide carved turns ...]
These two peeps have extremely divergent internal referents at the suggestion that they may be on the slopes. Who do you think will go, *enjoy,* and be enjoyable to be with skiing? Who would you like to go with?

Ok. Here's an exercise that will bring present referents re overdrinking and moderating (drinking and abstaining -- for those doing 30's or with the end goal of abstaining) clearly into focus. And, it will call forth useful (possibly new) referents that will support your goal.

How to Gain a Realistic View of Drinking and Abstinence
[ Adapted from Alcohol: How To Give It Up And Be Glad You Did, A Sensible Approach, ? 1993 Rational Self-Help Press, $14.95, by Philip Tate, Ph.D. ]

This worksheet uses a technique called referenting. When you think of an act, you have thoughts that you associate with the act. For instance, when you think of drinking (or drugging, etc.), you may have pleasant thoughts associated with it, such as relaxation, friends, and good times. And, when you think of quitting, you may have unpleasant thoughts related to it, such as boredom and less fun. Focusing on the beliefs you have about both drinking and abstinence can help you see why you continue to drink. If you change these associations, you can have a different view of drinking and quitting. Read the questions and think carefully about your answers. Then, write your answers, think about them, and set them aside for awhile. Frequently return to the worksheet, add to it, and study it.

When I think of moderating drinking, what am I thinking that makes moderating seem bad?

[ space for answers condensed for email purposes]
[ for abstainers, change questions to "When I think of quitting drinking ..." etc.]

When I think of moderating drinking, what do I think of moderating that makes moderating seem good?

Now, when I want to moderate drinking, what can I think of moderating that makes moderating seem good?

Now, when I seriously think about moderating drinking, what can I think of moderating that makes drinking seem bad?

== end exercise ==

This ain't *fooling* mother nature. It's working with her. : )

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Self Control

To expand on this self-control theme a bit, we might consider what would happen to people who use alcohol, food, work, even exercise, to cope with unpleasant feelings. Let's think of these unpleasant feelings as generally arising from what we tell ourselves about frustrations life gives us all. One way of changing these feelings -- at least, temporarily -- is to eat, drink, enrage ourselves, ... whatever. We are quickly distracted from focusing on the frustrations and even change our body chemistry to feel better. This reinforces the behavior (drinking, ...) that lessens the unpleasant feelings.

With time and practice, we *teach* ourselves -- through repeated reinforcement -- to have low tolerance for frustration. Bad day? Drink. Boring TV show? Eat. Relationship problems? Work. And, so on. There are few generalizations I make about people who drink problematically but one is that they tend toward Low Frustration Tolerance, or Can't-Stand-It-Itis as Albert Ellis, PhD calls it. Whether we started out more vulnerable to frustration because of genes seems to be beside the point when we understand that we have the ability to turn things around and develop *High* Frustration Tolerance.

So, how can we work to do this? As Fred mentioned, awareness is key. Become aware of unpleasant feelings, the thinking that generates them, and the behaviors that follow. With over-drinking and over-eating, instant gratification is just swallows away. The downside comes much later and it's the immediate reinforcers rather than these delayed problems like a hangover that have the most reinforcing effects. Ok, enough of the model.

A friend of mine who had been working on moderating emotional reactivity and the drinking that usually followed was flying home though LA. As he waited to board, his and about seven other names were announced as being bumped from the flight. Rather than becoming self-righteously angry and then make his way to the bar for a drink, he took a deep breath, calmed himself, remained seated and watched as the other seven people took turns *awfulizing* and chewing angrily on the airline agents -- upsetting themselves beyond reason, elevating their collective blood pressures and risk for strokes and gastric distress, and generally behaving like rageful two-year olds.

When they had finished and dispersed, my friend walked up to the counter and said, calmly, that he was one of the bumped passengers and asked what they could do for him to get him home. Jaws dropped at this *atypical* behavior! The agents were floored by the absence of damning, awfulizing, and demandingness to address some imagined can't-stand-it-itis as all the others had done. When they absorbed their amazement, they told him when the next flight was and, in appreciation, awarded him some thousands of frequent flyer miles for his courtesy. Later, they gave him a ride to another concourse and gave him even more frequent flyer miles for inconveniencing him further with the concourse change. My friend's anger at the initial frustration may have spiked briefly but was, within seconds, back to normal. And, he skipped the bar.

Ellis suggests identifying frustrating situations. Then, decide if they are dangerous. If so, by all means get to safety. Otherwise, consider the situation an opportunity to practice raising your tolerance to frustration. You'd be amazed how calmly I can stand in a grocery line and keep myself pleasantly entertained people watching as I relax and lower my pulse and blood pressure.

Sometimes, when it's my turn to check out, I offer my spot to the next person and move to the back of the *longest* line I can find -- just to show off and enjoy myself ! In moderation, of course.

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It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone - "to relax," I told myself - but I knew it wasn't true.

Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"

Things weren't going so great at home either. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, " I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job."

This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver.

"You think as much as college professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently, and she began to cry. I'd had enough. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors... they didn't open.

The library was closed. As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting.

At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's."

Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

Taken with permission from:

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My take is somewhere in between. I am accountable for my behaviors and the consequences they cause in my life. I am also responsible for inappropriate behaviors I do to others or in my life, that cause harmful consequences to others. I can say I am sorry a thousand times.....if I mean it, I will change my behavior to mend the "torn" spot in my relationships. If my drinking is the cause of my inappropriate behaviors, behaviors that are unacceptable to me, that violate my value system of right and wrong for me, I need to take a look at that. At this point.....I consider moderate drinking. If I am unable to moderate.....maybe I need to consider stopping.

I haven't been in a relationship yet where I wasn't responsible for half the problems we had. Today...if I were in a relationship and someone was doing behaviors that are destructive to me and to them and they were unwilling/able to change that behavior...I would leave. I deserve a relationship where my partner is not being destructive to me or to others. My partner deserves this also. I don't expect my partner to be perfect by any means....and have no intention of becoming perfect. :O) I do expect myself and my partner to be accountable for our actions. When I am A woman....I walk with pride and dignity....when I am not accountable, I feel like a little kid, a little girl...making excuses, feeling ashamed and embarassed. I like being able to meet myself in the eyes in the mirror each morning and the eyes of other's around me.

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I have problems sleeping. If it's a day I drink then I fall asleep early >but am awake 5 hours later

Yep. With alcohol dependence, some drinkers put a bottle by the bed and when they wake up, take a big swig and go back to sleep. What's happening is a rebound effect from the sedative effects of alcohol. Drinking takes you down; when those effects wear off, there's a rebound *agitation* phase that wakes you up.

Similarly, in the other direction, caffine takes you up, then it wears off and there's a rebound *lethargic* phase. In sum, no free lunch.

Sleep patterns are one of the last symptoms to resolve when one quits drinking or significantly reduces alcohol consumption. Time helps. Also, there are medications that can help. Some people find over-the-counter antihistamines are useful (a pharmacist can help you pick one -- say it's for sleep). Personally, I find antihistamines leave me fuzzy-headed in the morning but that may be an individual idiosyncracy (though it is advised that you not operate heavy machinery, etc.)

Trazedone is frequently prescribed for sleep, especially for people who have a history of overdoing alcohol or other drugs as it is said to be non-addictive. Whether your doctor or psychiatrist will prescribe this depends in part whether s/he has bought into Absolute Abstinence philosophy, confidence in your using the drug as prescribed, and personal experience, personal philosophy, and, in some cases, program philosophy. My opinion (not a medical one) is that relatively short-term trazedone use can be extremely helpful in the overall scheme of quitting or reducing alcohol consumption to moderate levels.

If a drug costs much, hmo's and ppo's don't think you need it -- they frequently recommend 12-step participation (and, sometimes consider you non-compliant and cut you off if you don't participate in 12-steps) -- which costs them nothing.

>If it's a day I don't drink....I can't get to sleep for a longgggg time and >then wake up every few hours.....know anything about this, or what to do
Again, attaining satisfying sleep patterns is one of the last symptoms to resolve after a significant decrease in alcohol consumption.

> I'm new to the group and still have lots of ?s and confessions

Questions are great! Become informed. As to confessions, I am not aware of any correlation between volume or depth of negative self-disclosure and improved outcome with regard to over-drinking. Through church and 12-step philosophy, we are led to believe in a therapeutic value of baring the soul, but I see this as often ill-advised and potentially harmful. Especially, on-line. Better, I think, are reasonable and protective boundaries.

Not to say that looking at personal difficulties *realistically,* talking about them with, especially, *some* selected significant others or professional helpers is not helpful.

Following is a post on sleep I've put on the list before. This topic comes up with some frequency on the mm list.

Summary of Sleep Habits

1. Reduce excessive noise; wear earplugs if necessary.
2. Keep the room temperature between sixty and sixty-five degrees.
3. Exercise during the afternoon or early evening.
4. Engage in sexual activity, but only if satisfying.
5. Refrain from caffeine within six hours of sleep.
6. Abstain from cigarettes.
7. Do not drink alcoholic beverages after dinner.
8. Have a light snack before retiring. Avoid MSG.
9. Drink a cup of warm milk or Ovaltine just before going to bed.
10. Awake at the same time every day and go to bed only when you're sleepy. Avoid naps.
11. Avoid stimulating or intense mental activity during the hour before you go to sleep. Immediately before retiring, set aside fifteen minutes for some quiet relaxation.
12. Do not remain in bed for longer than fifteen minutes unless you are asleep or having sex. If you cannot fall asleep in fifteen minutes, leave the bedroom, relax, and return to bed only when you're sleepy.

*** Three important notions ***

Instead of applying all of these at once, begin by implementing a single habit for several days.

Knowing these habits is one thing; cultivating them is another.

Practice them daily. Consistency and patience will pay off.

1. Firm commitment of time
2. Effort
3. Patience

Once you are prepared to "go it alone," you have made the first major commitment. When you assume responsibility for your own care, you also acquire a new freedom. Because you can overcome insomnia by yourself, you are no longer dependent on others for a solution. That does not mean that you should shun all available support and assistance the more the better. But look on that additional help as a bonus, not as a necessity. By conquering insomnia on your own you become its master and not its victim and that is freedom.

from: A Good Night's Sleep, by Jerrold S. Maxmen, M.D., 1981.

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Doing It For Yourself

This "only if you want to do it for yourself" notion has stuck in my craw for years. I think it has been popularized and accepted as gospel by many in our American culture via AA philosophy ... and, likely has origins pre-dating AA that I am unaware of. And, I think it's a notion needing a home in a museum of curious anachronisms.

My take is that the reasons we do *anything* is multi-causal.

Why do we go to lunch at a more or less particular time? Usually, I think, it is some *combination* of reasons from the list below and rarely, I think, because we *only want to do it for ourselves.* And, it seems, accomplishing it in the way I suggest (from multi-causal motivation) is dang near 100% successful.

An extremely abbreviated list of reasons we go to lunch:

it's around the habituated time of noon
cultural norm - when the restaurants expect people for lunch
cultural norm - when people expect restaurants to have lunch ready
someone asks, "Wanna go to lunch?"
you remember a new restaurant you've been meaning to try
it looks like the weather will worsen if you don't go soon
you decide to go early (or, late) to avoid the crowd
your boss wants to go to lunch with you and <gasp> you want to please
your anyone else wants your company and you want to please him/her
the gang's all going and you feel peer pressure to conform
you've skipped breakfast and your mother's voice in your head is nagging
you've been stranded on a desert island for months and, when you are
hauled on board the rescuing ship, you are escorted past the ship's
galley on the way to the infirmery for a check up and you smell a
wonderful aroma you'd almost forgotten existed, and so on ...

and, <grudgingly> I suppose it's because you want to do it *only* for yourself -- although I'd expect to find at least one or two of the above lurking along.

Ok, no earthshaking fireworks so far, I expect. So, here's my real gripe with your contention above. In saying --

>If you want to change your drinking habits, that fine...but only if you want >to do it for yourself. Trying to change to please someone else [...]> probably >won't be successful long term ...

... I think you have set up a self-fulfilling prophecy that will likely get in the way of someone successfully changing. How many times do we hear people say they have children and want to decrease their drinking to make a better life for them? Or, say that drinking is interferring with their work -- that their boss is not pleased with their performance. Or, that the next DUI will mean jail time or worse and they want to avoid the wrath of (rather, they want to please) a judge, probation officer, spouse, etc.
Could it be that *most* beginnings of behavior change owe a lot to the opinions of others, especially in the short term? And, to address your stated view, that the maintenance of these improvements for the *long term* also owes much to forces other than "... only if you want to do it for yourself."

When people (often apologetically and often after AA or AA-influenced counseling) tell me, "I know I shouldn't be doing this for my kids ... I should be doing this for myself," I give them one of the most what-the-hell-is-your-nutty-brain-telling-you-now looks that my face can muster, and follow up with, "Where in the world did you *ever* get *THAT* idea?"

Once a single piece of this sort of what I see as less than useful thinking has been pried loose, big waters often flow from the dam.

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Cravings are normal, learned behaviors, that unfortunately, will never go away completely. They are actually learned in the same way you learned to ride a bicycle (more or less)--through lots of practice ;-)! Think about it--how many times have you bent your elbow with a beer/wine/whiskey in your hand in your lifetime? How many times have you done so in similar settings--i.e. your favorite chair in front of the TV, at your favorite bar with friends, at parties....posting to MM (:-))? Just as you never> completely forget how to ride a bicycle you never completely lose the memories you've generated through lots of practice. That's the bad news. The good news is that no one every died, went crazy or had any other bad things happen to them because they had a craving! Just like thoughts that are unspoken, cravings un-acted upon are harmless. And they are relatively easy to overcome (though hard to eliminate)--you simply have to be aware of what they are, that they will subside--like an ocean wave, peaking then disappearing over time--and that the key is having a plan for what to do while you wait out the cresting and disappearance of the wave. Consider it like "urge surfing"--what you do when the wave appears is to ride it out! One good way to do this is, rather than worrying about the craving and obsessing over whether or not it will get too strong to resist (they never do, BTW--we only give in!), checking out the craving--examining it, understanding it for what it is--a thought/feeling that is a result of years of learning, not some irresistable force that must be heeded!

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Independence vs. Needing

Your words capture the dilemma posed in many posts on this thread (e.g., "being independent vs. needing"). Another way of sorting this out may (or, may not) offer a fresh perspective to this thread.

When we are born, we are, indeed, dependent. Dependent for our very survival. As we grow, learn to walk, begin to get a sense of our selves, we start to exercise our counter-dependence -- the terrible two's, saying *no!*, and, the rebellion of teenage years. We move back and forth along a continuum, sometimes at one pole (can I use the car tonight?), sometimes at the other (child asks parent to be let out of the car two blocks from school to walk *independently* to meet friends), and, mostly somewhere in between.
Like this...


While we may label our counter-dependent behaviors as independence (and, certainly some of what we do is, indeed, independent behavior), much of what we do can be seen as operating from the continuum above. As adults, we don't generally like to think of ourselves as dependent. Well, perhaps we are not so dependent as we sometimes think we are. Consider that as we mature we naturally gravitate toward choosing to abandon the above continuum as a paradigm for living and adopt a new one.

independence <-------------------------> inter-dependence

Having moved in this direction, do we mistakenly label healthy independent behavior counter-dependence (rebellion) and feel guilty? And, do we mistakenly label healthy inter-dependent behavior as being dependent and feel weak or resentful?

When the choices are thought to be independence vs. dependence, a statement like, "I refused to date because I felt it was a lack of independence" (therefore, dependence) makes sense. But, how does it hold up to living on a continuum of interdependence/inter-dependence?

Does a heightened appreciation of the value of inter-dependence (I'll wash if you'll dry) cast a different light on "I want to be a stay-at-home-mom but I want to be self-supportive?" Inter-dependence, it seems, makes possible the accomplishment of two vitally important tasks in a family -- raising children and providing for the family -- by two parents who, not being able to be in two places at once, become competent specialists in their own areas.

Granted, the competencies gained (generally) by the wife in such an arrangement are undervalued in our culture compared to (generally) the bread-winner husband. The undervaluing is even more striking with a stay-at-home-dad and bread-winner mom. Yet, this division of labor, this focused specialization, is of immense practical value to the family as a whole, though not always appreciated by all.

In my forties, I resentfully asked my father why he didn't do such-and-such when I was a child living at home. He paused and thought and then said, "Oh. When your mother and I got married we divided the responsibilities for the family between ourselves. Everything outside the house was my responsibility; everything inside was hers. What you're talking about was inside the house."

As to independence, Francis Bakewell, SJ, in _You, Me and We_ writes about reciprocal growing, "The more unique we each become, the more we can bring to, contribute to, our sharing, the more unique we each become," and ...

"Yesterday we followed two small streams down the mountainside. Though I didn't verbalize it as we walked along, these two streams reminded me somehow of you and me. Of our life together. Both were alive and constantly changing; both, side by side, were moving in the same direction. Each brook, for a while, would run in its own course; then the two would join and blend; then one or the other would pull away again. I don't want to make too much of the comparison. Unlike us, these two, when they merged, would lose their respective identities. And, unlike us, obviously, neither, when flowing alone, 'indwelled' in, was conscious of, the other. But still, the similarity struck me. Their alternating separateness and togetherness, their rhythm in coming together and drawing apart - in this wholesome and beautiful pattern, I clearly saw us."

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The Three A's

A while back we were talking about "the key", as in what is the key that turned the tide for those who have learned to control their drinking?
"The key" to what Xxx called "visceral desire", a keen desire to change deep in our innards that leads to a keen will and commitment to change that propels us towards our goal. We talked about how "the key" is individual for each person and must be found within. Finding the key is a process. It isn't an "a-ha" moment, although it can seem that way when you finally "get it".

I want to share some of my experience since coming to MM last March, and illustrate how one person went about finding her key, and show how the 3 A's Xxxx mentions have manifested for me over time (and do all of this at once!):


The first step to finding my key required brutal honesty with myself about where I was and where I'd been. I did NOT do this during my first 30, in fact I didn't do it until several months later, after slipping back into previous patterns (I went to Ireland for three weeks after my first 30, that really helped! <G>). I came back to the list after being off for a while, and admitted my "failure" to date, and stubbornly, but honestly announced that I saw no real reason to change, and had no intention of following this program, but just wanted a place to talk about my drinking! (Of course the fact that I came back was evidence that I was searching). Being totally honest, even if my thoughts ran contrary to the party line, was essential for me at this time.

I wrote a personal history of the part drinking had played in my life, starting with childhood influences and touching on the parts of my life that I thought had contributed in some way to my drinking becoming a problem. I learned alot from this excercise about my reasons for drinking, but it also had another purpose. I absolutely didn't want to, but I forced myself to post it to the list so that I couldn't hide from it anymore, so that I could "put it on the table". Very frightening, but necessary for me personally to make progress.

I spun my wheels on this history for a while, trying to figure out what caused what -- did drinking cause problem X or Y, or did problem X or Y cause drinking? I saw myself doing this circular reasoning thing, and decided that it was impossible to analyze the human heart and behavior like some math problem, and that ultimately, it was beside the point.

I started focusing closely on some of the underlying reasons I had uncovered for my increased drinking -- unresolved grief, social dislocation and alienation, feelings of abandonment and neglect going back to childhood. And yes, a subtle but insidious touch of self-hatred. I put these emotional triggers to drink into my consciousness -- gave them "names and faces", so to speak. It became ridiculously obvious at this point that drinking was NOT a good solution to these problems, it just masked them so that they were unresolvable.

I also had some serious talks with myself about my life. I saw where I was headed if I didn't change, affirmed that I didn't want to waste my life or leave this planet with any regrets, any thoughts that I didn't make the effort to become the person I was meant to be. That life is short, and precious, that "time is the final currency". So, if each day is a gift, then what and who do I want to be? It was time to look at values and priorities and goals. For this year, five years from now -- and what that suggested I needed to change today and tommorrow. I did this internally, but anything is more powerful, I think, if you write it down or speak it outloud (as in affirmations) -- something to get it outside of your head so it talks back to you.


I then realized the necessity to accept the parts of my self and my life that I didn't like, to forgive myself totally for my bad decisions and wrong turns. In my view, this has been THE MOST IMPORTANT part of my process, although it's not something people talk about too much here. When you're in a shame mode, you just can't progress, in fact, it will always cause you to subvert your own self-interest.

Taking this further, I saw that I had to make a commitment to really loving myself inside, and that means daily work on this, focusing on how beautiful and wonderful I am as a person, on what it is that I deserve and owe myself given this love for myself. It also means going easy on yourself when you decide in the moment to take a step backward (and we all do). While it's not necessary for everyone, I saw all of the above in a spiritual context. I reaffirmed my commitment to my spiritual beliefs as the larger framework for every aspect of my life, and this has given me greater strength and purpose.


At this point, a lightbulb above my head seemd to ignite. It was like I'd drawn a line in the sand and that was that. I did a second thirty days of abstinence a couple of months ago. I continued working on the emotions, I spent as much time as I could spare on my inner self, writing, reading, reflecting. This was not selfish, it was for a good cause. Drinking had kept all my long-standing pain regurgitating endlessly. Slowly, I saw that I was starting to let go of that pain. I started making changes in many areas of my outer life as well. And working on "installing the new programming" around drinking.

Today, I am still learning to moderate. My drinking is about 1/10th of what it was at my worst point a few years ago, but I do not consider "the problem" licked. I abstain about 5 out of 7 days on average. Drinking is now a special, sometime thing, and I don't feel deprived by that at all. Drinking to excess alone was how I got into trouble, so initially I cut that out completely. Now I find I can have one drink by myself if I feel like it. Because I seem to have gotten the alone thing worked out, the social thing now appears to be an issue, because I don't always feel as in control as I'd like when I'm out socializing. And I still have the occasional desire to blow off steam by diving into oblivion. When I slip now, it's really OK, I know it's part of the process and I don't catastrophize at all. See, since the basic programming is now installed, I can just run the utilities and repair the corrupt files. I'm hoping this year will bring less and less of these malfunctions.

For me, it's beginning to look like the estimate recently given of a year to a year and a half to change a bad habit is right on the money. But who knows. I could have a serious setback. I could decide
I don't like drinking at all and cut it out. I take nothing for granted, and do not worry or make predictions. All I know is I am alot more confident about all this than I used to be. Without question, I am ALOT happier and productive than before I came here.

There is not one part of this process, not even the "failures", that has not been both NECESSARY to improve my life and my drinking habits, and necessary FOR ME (not for everyone else). I give credit to the MM program and the list for being my "power tools".

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Why Aren't You Drinking

When someone asks "why aren't you drinking?" you have a few options.

1. Explain the whole MM concept and that you're doing your 30. A bit complicated.
2. Just say you got a bit concerned about your drinking so you're taking some time without it.
3. Tell them its none of their damn business.
4. You're trying to lose weight and alcohol has a lot of empty calories.
5. Anything else you can think of.

Some people will be threatened by what you're doing. I found most to be supportive, as long as I didn't make them feel that I was judging them by not drinking. In fact, I had people coming up to me and saying "I ought to quit for a while."

I've only been in moderation for a couple of months, but the "ease" of maintaining it comes from developing new habits that don't involve alcohol, and from being much more conscious about how much you're drinking when you drink. If you're like me, and always closed down the bar, you have to be very clear in your mind that the evening is over (or at least you'll stop drinking) when you reach your limit. Better yet, of course, is to avoid bars altogether, IMO.


For the artists out there -

One of my biggest lies I told myself was that I was more creative when I was drinking. That somehow I could only produce quality work when I was drunk. A larger lie I could not even begin to describe. And all I need do is look at the stack of poorly typed, incoherent pages with brown stains on them (knocked over glass of Guiness, if I remember correctly), and wonder how I could ever have thought I was more "artistic" when I was drunk. Not to mention the fact that I was productive for, what? an hour, before I was too drunk to concentrate on anything, and the next day, hung over, there's another lot of hours wasted to the booze that could have been my hands flying across the keyboard.

There's a shred of truth in the idea that artists are frequent abusers of substances. But it's not because it makes them more creative, productive, or good at what they do.

I don't drink today so I *can* voice my art. Not have it drowning inside a bottle of Gin.


My favorites right now are needlepoint, reading, journal writing and working out at the gym, especially that last one. I guess I haven't found the real answer to the question, "Why aren't you drinking?" or I would *not* be drinking. But I do know that if I am going to find the answer, it will have to be when I am away from the drink. It is one situation that you cannot analyze when you are sitting too close... So I am distancing myself, and doing a lot of thinking (that's where the journal writing comes into it for me - I am writing every day and drawing my themes from the list - like today I thought about that 5 o'clock witching hour).


Well, for people who can't exercise in the morning, its great to plan some activity that you really love for the evening. This is obviously easier for people who don't have children. But I have joined some book clubs, where we have to actually discuss what we read!! I also go to adult dance and yoga classes which are beyond beautiful, but are not necessarily available to people who are not in major metropolitan areas. Additionally, at one time I went to tai chi. This is a wonderful way to get centered. I would still go, except dance is my true love and there are only so many leisure hours in a week.

So, the home Yoga and tai chi tapes, and book clubs are, IMO, available to just about everyone where ever they live. The Yoga and Tai Chi tapes are for me, individual things. A friend and her husband are doing the Tai Bo tapes together. For group things, you can start your own book clubs. You just read the book section of the Sunday papers, or there's Oprah's selections, you pick a book, you call some friends, you set a date for the discussion. These have proved to be lots of fun.


1. reclaiming the morning
2. not having to take a nap midway through the day (if I'm home) or not wanting a nap more than anything on the earth while I'm at work 3. being able to go to the gym, even at 9:30pm- if I have a couple of drinks,> it is highly unlikely I'll go
4. not having beer bottles all over the kitchen that need to be taken back for the redemption (is that what you guys were calling it?)
5. so much more TIME. I even started cleaning out my basement
6. I offered to babysit my nieces tonight- that wouldn't have occurred to me if I was fighting to keep my eyes open
7. my irritability is DEFINITELY LESSENING. Even a moderate (or semi-moderate) amount of alcohol seems to make me irritable.
8. anxiety is at bearable levels
9. I lost some weight. Not willing to get on a scale and get caught up in it, but it is nice to take pants out of the dryer and not feel like a sausage in them.
10. I'm a better mom to my dog. We have taken a long walk almost every day. Yesterday she even got a bath.
11. I take pride in the fact that I can handle uncomfortable mental states without running to the liquor store (be they anger, lonliness, melancholy, anxiety) and it is wonderful to know that I am HELPING MYSELF IN A BIG WAY, because alcohol only makes these moods worse (later).
12. I have hope that I can be a NEW person. I don't have to follow the footsteps of my family.


1) I have learned alternative healthy coping mechanisms for my major triggers -- stress, boredom, and *habit*
2) I have started many new activities -- oil painting, meditation, taking classes at the local college, etc.
3) I wake up each day feeling an overwhelming lightness -- the *absence* of the guilt and stigma of having this chain around my neck.
4) It feels great to know I can pass my 'litmus test' -- I don't have to lie to the doctor anymore about how much I drink or hang my head in shame. I can fill out the forms at the doctors office and feel like a *normal* person now! I can go into surgery without lying about how much I drink because I am too ashamed.
5) I can *be here now* -- enjoying the process of life was a precious core value to me before -- but since my H's diagnosis, it has escalated to the top of the list. I want to savor every precious moment we have together and make each moment *really* count -- I don't want to dull the present with too much alcohol. I can never recapture today -- but I can have clarity and precious memories.
6) I love to read again! My hundreds of books waiting to be read are finally getting some attention.
7) I've grown so much closer to my children in the last year by being focused and being more available to them.
8) I have renewed my quest for learning -- there's so much out there just waiting for me to discover!
9) My senses are much more aware and sharpened; I enjoy an inner peace now that was illusive when I was drinking.
10) I feel a sense of personal power now that I am in control...I've jumped off the hamster wheel and feel so free!

These are the ones that immediately come to mind......this has been such an important journey for me at a most significant turning point in my H's and my lives (which I hadn't seen coming a year ago when I started this journey). Coincidence? No. I don't believe in coincidences.

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Practicing Moderation

While reading about moderation techniques, etc. is extremely helpful, it is only by practicing these techniques (over & over, and then over again!!!) that you will begin to experience real change. If you wanted to learn to play chess, you would first probably read some books on the subject in order to learn the rules, how the pieces move, etc. You might even spend some time watching others play. But eventually you would need to actually play before you would really grasp the way the game can be played. And just as each chess player has his own style & level of mastery, so too do we have our own personal ways of approaching moderation. To further the analogy, the chess player does not play a few games & then suddenly say "Aha! I've got it!" He spends a lifetime perfecting his skill. You may decide you don't want to spend the effort it takes to learn how to moderate. There is nothing that says you must drink moderately or play chess either!
So, spend some time thinking about what you really want & what you are willing to do to achieve your goal. If you still want to moderate, then keep working on the things that have worked for you, scrap the things that haven't & try new approaches. Above all, give yourself time!!! It probably took a long time to develop your drinking will take some time to unlearn your habit.

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How Did You Know You Had  Problem


for me, drinking was a problem because it was taking up way too much time, energy and money. I was drinking EVERY night and needed to get control of it. I had a life to live.


I was drunk in the evenings so I couldn't/didn't work on housework and community projects.

My hours from early morning til 5 p.m. were not as productive since I was "hung over."


I was motivated to go to the liquor store or grocery store for wine but didn't feel like working on my priorities in life.


I was spending several thousand dollars a year that I wanted to "redirect" toward more useful expenditures.

In summary, I did have some problematic behaviors that were "growing" every day. LOL. My husband and I would argue while drunk and feelings would carry over the next day even though I wasn't drunk (hungover and upset). Also, I saw my tolerance rising. Logically I knew I didn't want to go down the road of drinking any further than I was.


1. Not remembering what happened the night before.

2. Being annoyed rather than pleased when friends ask us to dinner, because I can't just sit in my "spot" and drink as much as I want.

3. Hoping the clerk at the liquor store isn't the same one as yesterday.

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