Online Discussion:
A Call for Help


Call our co-founder Lois Trimpey in Lotus, CA at (916) 621-2667 for info on RR. Their mailing address is Box 800, Lotus, CA 95651. You may also have some luck e-mailing them at rr@rational.org, but I'd call during business hours. You can also visit theier WEB Center at http://www.rational.org/recovery. AA scares us, too. That's why the Trimpeys started RR: for people who have a problem with the religious undertones (and a lot of other 12-step-group undertones).

RR teaches that, chances are, you don't really need any help quitting alcohol. So don't sweat it if you cannot find a group in your area. Regardless of whether you lock yourself up in one of those fancy, snappy, five-figure, 28-day "spin-dry" programs of the ex-First-Lady variety, or calmly decide in your own mind that you've had enough, one thing is for sure: You are the one who will end up doing all the work. All of it.

Remember this.

Everyone who ever quit drinking (or smoking or shooting heroin or smoking crack or whatever) did all the work. Many people, for religious reasons, give the credit to a god or some other supernatural figure, but the truth is that he or she did the work.

All I or anyone else can do for you is show you a few things. We can also let some of our enthusiasm for recovery and sobriety rub off on you, but that's about it. You do the rest yourself.

My Rational Recovery Self-Help Meetings flyer lists several good books. I recommend starting out with The Final Fix by Jack Trimpey; it shouold be in the stores by September of 1996or you can order it from Rational Recovery. Our other book, "The Small Book," is available in paperback almost everywhere.

It sounds like you need (1) to overcome the stigma of having a problem with alcohol and (2) to learn to demystify the alcohol problem itself. I never use the words "alcoholism" or "alcoholic" -- they only serve to make the problem appear much bigger and more insurmountable than it really is. An addiction is not magical -- and neither is the solution.

For the stigma, re-read the "Unconditional Self-Acceptance" section of the Rational Recovery Self-Help Meetings flyer. "The Small Book" dedicates a large fraction of its pages to dealing with the stigma and with how to put this phase in your past -- where it belongs. Truth is, though, the AA and NA members have been very busy for the past 50 years working on the stigma problem all substance abusers face in society. In fact, some of us think they've gone too far, and there is somewhat of a backlash. I personally don't think the stigma is any worse now than it was when AA was being formed.

The most important aspect of the stigma is what you think about your problem. Period. That's why we encourage people to stop using the words "alcoholic" and "alcoholism." Even though only certain people lose control of their drinking, most of us seriously doubt it's a bona fide disease. It doesn't matter: If it's a disease, you'd better quit; if it isn't, you'd still better quit. The solution is still the same. Quit. And don't go thinking you'll be walking down the street and suddenly get "struck loaded." It doesn't work that way.

Now, say to yourself, "My value as a human being is based entirely on the fact that I exist; loving myself feels much better and is more fun than thinking that I'm a no-good schmuck."

Alcoholics Anonymous and its allies have spent decades presenting AA's official understanding of the alcohol problem to the public -- but you need to go to an AA meeting to hear their "solution." AA talks big to the public about the problem but the public knows (and cares) very little about its "solution."

And AA knows this.

You seem to have mastered the "problem" half of the AA's game plan: the "powerlessness" yarn. "Alcoholics," they tell us, are out of control -- so much so that they cannot begin to grope their way out of this quagmire without a very special kind of "help."

The AA recovery program is quite simple. Elements of the Christian conversion experience are employed to induce what AA calls "vital spiritual experiences" or "huge emotional displacements" -- an idea derived from the experiments of Carl Jung on an early AA member. A prospect is confronted with the possibility that he or she is beyond hope, or "powerless." This allegedly breaks down the subject's inner defenses so that new inner strength can come forth At this point, AA stops being realistic.

Though it may seem drastic, this technique works in many severe cases. Thousands of AA and NA members are clean and sober today. More often than not, however, this plan backfires; many addicts readily accept the part about being hopeless but reject the likelihood of magical help from above. Here is where the Twelve Steps can do more harm than good: people walk out more convinced than ever that they will never change. The cornerstone of AA is the idea that no "alcoholic" can quit through sheer willpower; those who do not accept this idea will not get anywhere in AA.

Rational Recovery rejects the "powerlessness" notion just like we reject the idea of supernatural intervention. The two ideas go hand-in-hand; you can't have one without the other. If you reject the "God part" you'd better lose the "powerlessness" part as well, or you're in big trouble. Trouble is, it's the "powerless" notion that AA has successfully instilled on the mind set of the American public.

In one sense, we are similar (in my opinion): AA overstates the severity of the problem in order to help break you down and reach toward the heavens for help; RR, in a sense, oversimplifies (or demystifies) the problem so as to instill enough confidence to get busy and do the work necessary to recover.

Both programs work by altering your belief about your problem.

Rational Recovery teaches that the urge to drink (or use drugs) comes from your appetite center, just like hunger, thirst, the sex drive, and the need for oxygen. We teach that this appetite center is a simple, very primitive part of your brain and that humans usually make decisions using the much more complex brain functions. We use these complex functions to remember past experiences -- the results of certain behavior, for example -- and to predict, using logic, that repeating such behavior will likely result in similar consequences.

Animals learn to avoid certain circumstances, too, but Pavlov (the "Pavlov's Dog" experiment) demonstrated that much of an animal's "learning" is actually "conditioned" into the subconscious; Animals seldom, if ever, think abstractly -- logically, rationally -- like humans do.

RR's exercises get you to use these complex brain functions (abstract, rational, logical) to make a decision about your drug or alcohol use. When you spend time looking at your life and the role alcohol plays in your life, and if it is clear that drugs and alcohol causing a great deal of damage and that quitting will solve these problems, you are using complex brain functions to make these conclusions.

I call this the self -- "the real You."

The complex brain functions, in their entirety, are where "you" are assessing your situation and making your decisions.

The servile desires of the appetite center are only a very small aspect of your brain power.

But sometimes the appetite center screams real loud (especially when you're loaded or addicted). It is easy to confuse the messages from your appetite center (not really "you") with the messages from "the real you." Sometimes it seems as if "you" really want that drink, but it's just your appetite center.

The appetite center is very simple-minded: It thinks only in terms of, "Want food"; "Want water"; "Want sex"; "Start breathing"; "Gimme some drugs"; etc. It cannot predict the consequences of certain actions (that's a complex brain function). You cannot discuss or argue with it; it only wants one thing: drugs or alcohol. Simply recognize that these are not your own ideas, but are reflexive at best. If they seem like they are becoming too much for you, say (or shout) "No!" and "Stop!" when those urges hit, and rely on your previous decision to quit.

Meanwhile:

I hope this helps; e-mail me if you have any more questions.

Cliff Walker