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Archive for the 'This ‘n that' Category

Six Ways to Avoid Holiday Booze Blunders

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

Newsweek reporter Temma Ehrendfeld shares tips about how to make it through the holidays. We’re proud that My Way Out was mentioned as a resource to help those in need of support. They’ll find it in our anonymous online forum.

Six Ways to Avoid Holiday Booze Blunders

‘Tis the season for uncomfortable moments if you don’t drink alcohol or are hosting someone who doesn’t. Here are our tips on teetotaler etiquette.

You’ve made a resolution and you’re starting now. Or maybe you or one of your guests made a no-alcohol pledge years ago. Either way, you plan to be merry with the best of them—but without the mulled wine, spiked eggnog or champagne punch. Happily, in these health-conscious times toasting the New Year with a fizzy cider or an alcohol-free wine is more acceptable than ever before, abstainers say. Still, the rules of festive sobriety aren’t always obvious. READ MORE…

What the Wiki??

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

I love the Wikipedia concept: an online encyclopedia developed as a collaborative effort, editable by any and all Internet users. Because of its large number of volunteer editors and rather stringent policies, Wikipedia is generally considered as accurate an encyclopedia as any other. One of the benefits of this ‘living’ encyclopedia is that new information can be added continuously. Or so I thought. As it turns out, I had an opportunity to see the Wiki sausage being made and I’ve got to tell you, it was not very pretty. Here’s what happened:

Several months ago, I submitted an article explaining My Way Out to Wikipedia. I wanted to supplement existing entries about alcohol recovery treatment, most of which described traditional, mainstream programs like 12-step and inpatient care. I figured it made sense to add information about ours, as it is now considered a valid, stand-alone therapeutic approach. By this time, thousands of people around the world had adopted it. Many clinicians within the medical community had embraced it. We were finishing up work on a utility patent for the program. And last year, one of the largest media conglomerates on the planet attempted to acquire rights to our book because of their interest in the unique nature of our approach. I’m not bragging, I’m simply stating why I felt there was adequate interest and justification in placing a simple article in Wikipedia about this new alcohol recovery option. So I wrote and posted an overview, attempting to match in style and tone entries on similar topics.

A few weeks later I checked in and noted my entry had been deleted. I was new to Wikipedia but soon learned that because My Way Out might be considered controversial or commercial, someone (a “competitor” or an individual opposed to the approach) may have lobbied an editor to have it removed.

Commercial I could almost understand–we do have an online store; it’s our primary means of selling and distributing our book. But anyone familiar with our program knows we have always urged individuals to purchase products from whatever source they wish–to find the highest quality goods at the best price possible. I had certainly not promoted the health store in my article; in fact, I had taken painstaking efforts to write the piece in the most objective manner. The point in explaining the program was to encourage alcohol dependent individuals to consider a multi-faceted approach because it had not been formally introduced prior to our program. In a nutshell, we promote a blended therapy that includes a specific regimen of nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbs); anti-craving medication if appropriate; self-administered hypnotherapy; light exercise; and a change in diet. It’s a powerful, comprehensive system and it tackles alcoholism much like you do diabetes, with medicine, nutrition, and behavior modification. In addition, we believe support is important–it can take place in face-to-face meetings or online, whichever an individual prefers. The program is highly customizable and that’s one of the things that makes it very popular. Some drinkers adopt My Way Out to achieve total abstinence while others seek moderated drinking.

So I had tried to explain the program, but perhaps I hadn’t done so with proper objectivity. Or I hadn’t adequately addressed the controversial aspects. However, isn’t that the nature of much new science? Our program is founded on the work of some of today’s most respected specialists in addiction research; men and women whose work has been published in prestigious medical journals. Didn’t we deserve an opportunity to share this? Were other innovative medical treatments excluded from books of learning or was ours somehow different because of the stigma associated with alcoholism?

This seemed the ultimate irony to me. This was the public’s encyclopedia, yet our voice was not to be heard. Nor was I allowed to share a program with those who most needed help–those who had suffered for so long but could not find help and would not find help if Wikipedia had anything to say about it.

So I started over. I assumed I must have done something wrong and that it was simply too difficult for me to be objective. Perhaps I was not able to describe without passion a program for which I felt so passionately. I decided I must hire an expert. I searched until I found a writer and designer (yes, you “design” the articles) who were well versed in–of all things–writing for Wikipedia. They told me, that indeed, Wikipedia had become a fickle task master but they were confident given the legitimacy and success of our program we’d have no problem.

Several days later, after much back and forth, the writer presented me with a brilliant article. It was Wiki dry, objective, and rife in citations, sources, and references–many more than my original–plus a design to match that of the respectable Alcoholics Anonymous entry that had clearly gained immediate access upon entry. I could not have been more pleased. The designer went to work and submitted our article the following day.

The next morning I receive her email. “You won’t be happy to hear this,” she wrote. “The Wikipedia editor deleted the article. They consider it spam.”

Just like that.

I have come to believe that Wikipedia has made its redress process so incredibly cumbersome and painful to an average user that they understand you will simply give up and go away when your article is rejected. But I had to know why this had happened. Again. Why?

Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions, but it seemed fairly easy to figure out. I looked at the name of the editor who so quickly dismissed the article and read his bio. As luck would have it, our submission landed on the virtual desk of an editor who happens to be–of all things–a physician from the UK. (He boasted, as well, about his status as a bureaucrat.) But when I learned he was a doctor I thought of the many dozens of messages and emails I’d read from members of our online community posting from the British Isles. Patients excited about the prospect of overcoming their drinking problem with My Way Out, but who had left their doctors’ offices in despair. They were not given anti-craving medication upon requesting it; they were often told the program was without foundation; they were provided little to nothing in terms of help or support. This happens all over the world, of course, and I know there are many caring, compassionate and enlightened British physicians. But I have noted what appears to be a disproportionate number of patients in the UK who are simply unable to find help. There, where alcoholism rates continue to soar. I have even heard from some who tell me they have actually lied to their doctors, claiming to suffer from migraine headaches, so desperate are they to receive an off-label prescription for the anti-craving medication, Topamax.

So what to do. Wikipedia encourages authors to contact individual editors in cases like this. So I did and I pled my case. Dr. Bureaucrat never wrote back. I emailed another editor, asking him to override the decision. Again, nothing. I wrote to a third requesting my article be temporarily re-instated so it could be reviewed by a supervisory team. It was not–instead I received an esoteric message in support of the original decision.

I have come to reassess my opinion of Wikipedia and must wonder how many other articles arrive DOA or are colored by the opinions of the selecting editors.

There is a silver lining to this story, however. As I looked around, I found a new resource called “Wiki How”. It’s unrelated to Wiki. The format is less formal and it presents itself as a “how-to” manual. Interestingly, some articles posted there are ranked even higher on a Google search, at least this week. Which means it may be easier for those who are looking for information about our program to find it.

So I decided I’d cut my losses and write yet another article. A number of entries already existed, including “How to Quit Drinking”, “How to Quit Drinking without AA” and “How to Get Sober with a 12 Step Program”, so I focused on “How to Quit Drinking Alcohol Using Anti Craving Medications“. I figured I could write about an important component of our program and one we are often asked about, while including many of the same citations I listed in the original article.

Do me a favor: go check it out and provide some feedback. I invite you to participate in the discussion, add links if you like–you may even edit the article if you have valid content to offer. By contributing, you honor the true collaborative concept upon which Wikipedia was founded–but to which it apparently no longer subscribes.

Be my virgin valentine

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

valentinesIf you’re planning a cozy evening with that special someone but are committed to keeping the night alcohol free, you’ll want to be sure and check out these recipes for fun and romantic beverages.

A selection of over 50 “mocktails”, including healthy iced drinks, smoothies, coffees and cocoas

31 non-alco beverages, with something that’s sure to please every palate

40 yummy recipes ranging from the White Fuzzy Navel to a Red Ruby Frost Punch

60 alcohol free drinks in an easy to read table format and recipes which follow.

Happy Valentines Day…what fun it will be to remember it in the morning. 🙂

The power of the pen

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

Write it downA friend of mine runs a wildly successful business that she and her husband worked tirelessly to develop for over 20 years. In fact, although it’s their flagship enterprise, it’s only one of several ventures she’s conceived, created, marketed and made money at. People say she’s got the golden touch – although I’m well aware of how hard this woman works and how brilliant her natural marketing ability.

But she shared with me several years ago a strategy she is absolutely convinced has helped her succeed in every aspect of her life. (She’s also a fabulous mother, enjoys a rewarding marriage, and is active in her community.)  It’s advice she dispenses to anyone who’ll listen, although she admits she is sometimes greeted with a condescending nod.

It’s simply this: when my friend wants something – really wants it – she writes it down on a piece of paper. Then she tucks it away somewhere. She writes it in very specific terms. Not the wanting of it, but the success of having achieved it.

As I struggled to self-publish my book, launch my online business, work three jobs, and overcome personal challenges, she told me more times than I can remember: write it down, make it happen. Frankly, it sounded a little Pollyanna to me at first. But she had begun doing this long before a book of the same name was published (which I have bought, read and recommend). She says to this day she often finds bits of paper in her bedrooms drawers and jean pockets with long forgotten goals since met. And she’s convinced it’s because she committed those goals to paper, confidently projecting them into the future, and then went about making them happen.

I was so moved by my friend’s passion and history of success that I ultimately incorporated the concept into the visualization exercises of my program – and the book itself – leaving spaces on the page for readers to jot down their goals and projected success. I even considered including a chapter with more detail about the “Write it down” concept but was rushed to publish and also hoped to present as streamlined an explanation of the overall program as possible.

These days, we are driven to be ever more productive, to get things done, to check things off our endlessly long to-do lists. And that’s not what this is about.  “Write it down, make it happen” is about clearing your head, figuring out what it is you really want out of life, and believing in that possibility. Results follow. Because believing it can happen becomes the most powerful force in creating your own destiny.

Now I’m the one who finds crumpled scraps of paper in unexpected places. They always bring a smile. And a reminder that my friend was absolutely right.

Terminally Addicted?

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

terminally addictedWell, it’s no surprise, I suppose, that those of us who got hooked on alcohol might later find ourselves spending excessive amounts of time getting wired in other ways. The research headlines this past month seem to confirm it: Internet addiction is widespread and those who suffer with it may be as clinically ill as alcoholics. The comparison is made repeatedly and I have to admit, it stings every time I read it. Some of the new data, including that from a recent Standford study, says that people are using the Net, just like booze, to self medicate.

So what happens when people in recovery become addicted to the Internet?

This is weighing heavily on me, largely because I’ve been at the forefront of creating an active online community – a message board – launched about two years ago. I’ve promoted the heck out of it hoping people who need help, not having found it in traditional recovery methods, will somehow stumble upon it. The site offers a number of web-based features and multiple forums. It’s now visited by thousands of people every day, some of whom are guests simply lurking; others registered members who frequently post. Overall, individuals in the community are exceptionally supportive of one another and particularly helpful to new visitors. I’m very proud of what we’ve built and the program upon which it is founded. I think one of the reasons people find themselves able to finally crawl out of their private drinking hell once they become a part of this virtual stomping ground is the relationships they form in this unique environment we’ve all come to call “the board.”

It makes me wonder, though: can we get too much of a good thing? Members often joke that the board has become an addiction in and of itself. But sometimes I don’t think they’re laughing. I suspect they may have just figured it out before the researchers did. In fact, we occasionally see messages from members who say they simply need to take a break, to get away from it for a while, they’re spending too much time there.

We may need to consider that given our vulnerability to addiction, we’re more likely to be drawn to the Internet and its assurance of instant gratification. Email, chat, discussion boards, surfing, and shopping abound. Maybe now is a good time to consider whether or not it’s become a problem or may become one in the future.

So here, from the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery is the Internet Addiction Test. It’s really quite good. And best: if you recognize you have a problem, you can go to the Internet, download an e-book and get some help. Perfect.

But seriously, like anything else, we need to find balance. I’ve been working hard to increase membership on our message board because I’ve seen how it can help people. I’ve witnessed the strength our members find in one another – and themselves – as they team up to wage war over their addiction.

I just don’t want them stuck with another one is all.

Here’s how to spend ex-drinking time

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

time spent drinkingOne of the most common topics we hear about on our message board has to do with making the adjustment to all those hours – typically evening  – no longer drinking. People are downright bored. And perplexed. They often don’t understand why they continue to have a powerful desire to engage in a behavior for which they’ve lost the physical craving. Because unfortunately, if not addressed, the psychological yearning remains. This is conditioning that resulted after many years of practice, after all. It takes some time to get past it. That’s why hypnotherapy, counseling, and support can be very useful.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s also why, given our predictably addictive personalities, it’s sometimes helpful to become a bit nuts about something completely new, at least early on in the recovery process. For example, when I first started out, I was a maniac for exercise – something that never really appealed to me earlier. But it kept me busy and out of trouble. I had other interests for which I became passionate – building the MWO community was one of them, of course, and it remains one of my most rewarding (and challenging) activities. But on a day to day level…when the witching hour hits and we’re left with a choice we know we shouldn’t make, what are we to do?  In the past I’ve recommended a number of strategies. Take a walk. Take a bath. Get a massage. Enroll in an evening class. Volunteer. Start a new hobby. Become a Big Brother or Sister. Visit an elderly person. Adopt a pet. Redecorate. Learn to mediate. Join a health club. And be sure to have a number of healthy non-alcoholic beverages on hand.    

To be honest, I’ve found another solution that has been very helpful to me although it probably sounds terribly simplistic. It’s this: watch a movie. Believe it or not, you may find it very helpful in a pinch. 

I’m not talking about the $12 theater ticket movies, either. I mean the NetFlix or Blockbuster CDs that you rent online and keep as long as you like. They include several episodes per disk. You can rent the shows you missed last season or you’ve heard your friends raving about. You’re sure to get hooked as you spend your evenings indulging in your new obsession. And it’ll give you something else to look forward to as you drive home from work. 

Over the last couple of years I have found myself hopelessly absorbed in a number of network and cable shows like Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, Lost (family favorite), Weeds (my favorite) The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and other fabulous shows. We’ve put our movie subscriptions to excellent use.

I don’t usually make a habit of encouraging couch potato activity. But this is different. If the choice is staying home and slugging down drinks or doing something else, I’d recommend popping open an L-Glutamine, throwing in a movie, and getting hooked on a whole lotta fun.

Finding a doctor who’ll help

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

A new member to our message board posted a question about how to approach the doctor now that s/he’s ready to seek help. “Am unsure what to expect,” says C, “are they generally sympathetic?”

It’s a valid question and significant concern for those who finally decide to take that first step. No matter what we say about treating alcohol dependence without stigma or shame, the thought of sharing this most painful secret is often terrifying. It’s why so many drinkers work around their doctor, buy anti-craving meds online and undergo a self-help program with only themselves available for help. They’ve heard about patients shunned by providers, unwilling to assist. “Go to a meeting,” they’re told. Thing is, if they wanted to attend a 12-step program or simply abstain from alcohol they’d have done it by now.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – and shouldn’t. C’s thoughtful questions about what to expect and how to prepare for that visit are often the beginning of a successful health partnership.

Here are some guidelines to help promote a positive experience:

* Identify which of your current doctors are most willing to consider an alternative treatment proposed by you. For example, some patients tell us they are able to work most effectively with their Ob-Gyn because of the long-term, trusting relationship already established.

 * Consult a DO, or Doctor of Osteopathy. These fully licensed physicians often embrace a more holistic approach to healing than traditional MDs.

* Many patients have reported success with a mental health practitioner. Doctors of psychiatry are usually more familiar with anti-craving medications or new treatment strategies than their counterparts. Their medical training requires specialization in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of addictive disorders.

* If you feel more comfortable with a new physician, look for an addiction specialists in your local Yellow Pages or search online. Look into one of the web based resources such as 4therapy.com, the US Substance Abuse Locator, or – if your goal is controlled drinking – Moderation Management. Instructions on how to use these resources are located in our online community’s FAQ.

* Prepare your doc! Download the May 2003 Lancet study if you’re interested in using Topamax. Print out information (for providers, not consumers) from Vivitrol and Campral’s website. If you plan to follow the My Way Out program, print out the articles from Newsweek Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and wired.com in which it is featured. Bundle the info together in an envelope and drop it off at your doctor’s office at least one week prior to your visit. Include a note on the outside stating your doctor wishes to read the material before your appointment.

* Become knowledgeable about tests you may be administered to assess your drinking problem. Popular screening surveys include:

The Cage Questionnaire in which a “yes” response to two of the four questions indicates a problem:

C: Have you ever felt you needed to CUT DOWN on your drinking?
A: Have people ANNOYED you by criticizing your drinking?
G: Have you ever felt GUILTY about drinking?
E: Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (EYE OPENER) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

(Our medical director, Dr. Linda Garcia, MD, also asks patients if they’ve received a DUI.)

The Short Alcohol Dependence Data (SADD) Questionnaire, a more sensitive diagnostic test than CAGE, which is available online here. It helps doctors distinguish between early alcohol dependence and heavy alcohol use.

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), developed by the World Health Organization. It has been validated by several countries and is recognized internationally. You’ll find it here.

The Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST), a tool used widely by courts to determine sentencing for those convicted of driving under the influence or other alcohol related offenses. It’s available online, as well.

A number of other survey instruments are listed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism here.

* Understand and prepare for your medical exam, which may include:

  • A physical examination in which the doctor palpates or taps various parts of your body and listens to sounds your body produces. Vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature will probably be taken.
  • A complete health assessment including information about your general and mental health, lifestyle, alcohol use, and family history of alcohol use and/or problems
  • A gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) blood chemistry test to evaluate liver function. Your blood may screened for anemia and electrolyte disturbances, such as low potassium, magnesium and calcium levels.
  • A carbohydrate deficient transferrin (CDT), a blood test some physicians feel is more sensitive than a GGT in identifying and monitoring problem drinkers
  • Signs of medical complications due to alcohol consumption, such as abdominal pain, heart problems, alcohol withdrawal or cirrhosis. Additional test may be ordered.
  • A referral for individual counseling to be undertaken in conjunction with therapy
  • A short-term prescription for a benzodiazepine such as Valium or Ativan to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms, if necessary. The physician should first screen for the presence of other medications to avoid interactions such as over-sedation

* When you meet with your doctor, be as truthful as you can about your alcohol consumption and medical history. Don’t withhold any information about medications you’re taking. If you are uncomfortable with what may appear on your chart, first ask your physician if you may talk off the record, but don’t consider it a guarantee that information won’t be noted.

* Assure the physician you’re committed to tackling your alcohol dependence within the context of a comprehensive program and you understand you will not be “cured” by a pill. Let him/her know that you intend to follow up. And do so.

* Tell your doctor about your plans to proactively seek support, whether at local 12-step meetings or an Internet-based forum. Point him/her to the MWO website if you plan to follow this program. Leave a copy of the book, or email us at provider@mywayout.org ahead of time and we’ll provide a complimentary copy.

* Ask questions. Prepare them ahead of time and refer to them at the end of your exam to make sure everything has been answered sufficiently

* If the physician refuses to honor your request for medication or medical services, insist on a referral to someone s/he believes will help you. Be vigilant and honest about your desire to find a provider. Let him/her know you plan to move forward regardless and that if you leave the visit without support your choices about how to proceed will be limited. It it the physician’s responsibility to help you–do not forget this!

* Do not be aggressive, but do not be meek. Remember that this change will benefit your health, your family, your relationships, your future. Prepare yourself mentally for this appointment beforehand. Meditate on it. “Visualize” your confidence and presentation and see yourself leaving the clinic with whatever it is you need to succeed.

We often don’t hear from the many patients who quietly seek help and leave their doctors’ offices filled with a renewed sense of hope and joy. It happens every day and it can happen for you. If not, you must simply resolve to keep trying until you get the help you need for this serious and progressive condition.

You’ve made the decision to get help, so don’t let anything – or anyone – get in your way. You’ve lived with this problem long enough.

It’s time to get better.

Letterman, Colbert and Leno on Foley

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

Colbert Report on Mark FoleyIt’s Friday…may as well lighten up.

I’d decided earlier not to weigh in on the Mark Foley scandal. It’s been overblogged this week as far as I’m concerned. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to whether or not Foley is a closet drinker and how he’s using it to explain his deplorable behavior.

So I defer instead to the late night comics:

“Earlier in the week, (ex-Rep. Mark) Foley checked himself into rehab. But according to the New York Times, many people question his alcoholism claim. That’s when you know things are bad in Washington. When a congressman can’t even be trusted to be a drunk.”
– Jay Leno

“Actually, this scandal with Foley has finally led to some bipartisan cooperation in Congress. For example, Republican leaders had to meet with Ted Kennedy to find out what’s the best rehab center.”
– Jay Leno

“Alcohol is an amazing thing. It turns completely normal politicians into perverts and completely normal actors into anti-Semites.”
-Jimmy Kimmel

 “The ex-congressman, if nothing else, is contrite. He says when he gets out of rehab, he wants a fresh start and to turn over a new page.”
-David Letterman

Funniest of all is Stephen Colbert. You can watch recent segments at YouTube. Be sure to check out both Part One and Two of his take on the scandal. As always, he’s hilarious.

I want to stop drinking

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

That, according to 258 people who posted their desire to do so on 43things.com, a social networking site that encourages subscribers to submit wish lists of personal goals. In addition to those who want to “stop drinking”, an additional 163 want to quit drinking, 25 wish to stop binge drinking, 9 hope to abstain from alcohol, 8 plan to go a month without alcohol, 4 want a week without alcohol; and 1 person each hopes to stop, limit, control alcohol or become less alcoholic.

Oh, and one joker wants to learn to become an alcoholic.

43 Things was reportedly launched 43 days prior to January 1, 2006 by a small Seattle firm but it’s been embroiled in controversy about its relationship with Amazon, who has invested heavily in the venture. According to Salon magazine, 43’s members are “whispering into the ear of the web’s biggest retailer.”

That may be true – and it’s probably grounds for considering whether or not you should plunk your email address into their database. But I still think it’s a fascinating study in human nature. Most of us have meaningful connections with people around us who share our interests, hobbies, vocations or genes. But what about our unmet wishes? It’s a whole new world out there. On 43things.com members admit wanting to get a tattoo, open a shoe store, learn Icelandic, talk less, sort their clothes, pray more, have kids, publish a book, go skydiving, lose 20 pounds or kiss in the rain.

And for those who plan to stop drinking, it’s a pretty cool way to find others who want the same.

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.