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Friday, October 6th, 2006

Demystifying My Way Out

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

We get a lot of mail (and message board posts) asking about the My Way Out program and how it works. The book explaining it is available as a free download while we get the blog off the ground. It outlines the approach pretty well but I’ll provide an overview here.

I developed My Way Out after twenty years of excessive drinking and failed attempts to gain control. I’d tried counseling, medication, vitamins, herbs, amino acids, exercise, and anything else I felt offered some modicum of hope. All of it helped a little, but not for very long; I always reverted back to drinking. It wasn’t until I combined a number of therapies that I realized I could actually change the way my body and brain responded to alcohol. The multiple strategies I adopted – concurrently – included a self-administered program of hypnotherapy, an anti-craving drug, nutritional supplementation and a reasonable exercise program. I also made some modifications to my diet. I created a program that was easy to follow and I did it privately, without the support of my doctor (at the time) but in partnership with a close friend who also battled alcohol dependence. It completely changed both of our lives.

The following year I wrote a book about it and began working with an MD and other medical professionals to share information about My Way Out. A message board followed so people from all over the world could support one another as they began the program. It grows in membership each week and according to Google Analytics, we currently get about 11,000 page views per day.

Dr. Linda Garcia, MD, the internist and addiction specialist with whom I work closely, compares alcoholism to diseases like hypertension and diabetes, for which she sees many patients. I couldn’t agree more. If left unchecked those progressive conditions can kill. They require a lifetime of medication, nutritional modifications and changes in behavior. But they are absolutely treatable.

I believe the integrative nature of treatment is critical. A diabetic who takes his medicine but ignores dietary recommendations is unlikely to benefit for very long. Same for a drinker. I know this because I took anti-craving medication back when I was naive enough to think that a simple pill (Naltrexone at the time) would fix me.

It’s also one of the reasons I’m concerned with the overemphasis of medication by some people who start this program. The old magic bullet approach. I wish it were that easy, but unfortunately it’s not. Alcohol addiction is not like a urinary tract infection or a headache. A pill simply cannot, over the long term, address the complex factors – genetic, environmental, emotional or otherwise – that result in such self destructive behavior.

That’s why My Way Out adopts multiple therapies to improve both physical and emotional well being. Imagine a full scale attack on mid-brain craving receptors, subconscious feelings, metabolic processes within the body, and overall mental health. All of them are required help someone overcome an addiction.

My Way Out is different from traditional approaches to treatment for a number of other reasons:

* Individuals determine for themselves if they wish to abstain from drinking completely or simply reduce the amount they drink. A period of abstinence is recommended regardless of the path chosen. And that path may change if a drinker feels s/he is unable to sustain the original goal. Many people in our program adopt abstinence after determining moderation is unrealistic for them. Other who are unable or unwilling to eliminate alcohol from their lives completely agree there is much value in a harm reduction approach and they are successfully able to reduce and controll their consumption.

* Fellowship based meetings are not required, although many people find them helpful and, if so, are encouraged to participate. Most patients in our program, frankly, do not wish to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or other face to face gatherings and much prefer the anonymous camaraderie and support they find on our message board. Some participate in other online communities, as well, like such Moderation Management or Women for Sobriety.

* The program includes medication. New anti-craving meds have begun to transform the recovery landscape. Topamax, Campral, Naltrexone and others have become powerful and legitimate weapons in helping balance an addicted brain. An excellent story in The Wall Street Journal reports on this fundamental shift in alcoholism treatment.

* Hypnotherapy, typically self administered, is recommended to address underlying emotional issues that may lead to drinking. It promotes positive change at the deepest levels of behavior and incorporates a multi-faceted approach highly customized to drinkers.

Other aspects of the program (nutritional supplementation, dietary changes and exercise) are considered somewhat standard treatment.

So that’s the program. And I’m very encouraged by the consistent feedback I get from people who, after suffering in silence for so long, say they’ve finally found something that works. Of course they realize, as I do, that it’s not necessarily easy every day. Some days it’s damn tough. But for the first time it is doable.

And for someone who’s tried everything else and failed, that’s really what counts in the end.

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