Alcohol Alternatives: Anne Fletcher

First Aired: 04-15-2009 -- 18 comments | Add comment
Anne Fletcher

How can people recover from serious drinking problems? Are 12-step and Alcoholics Anonymous programs right for everyone?

Anne Fletcher, author of Sober for Good: New Solutions for Drinking Problems, discusses how people successfully overcome alcohol abuse and regain control of their lives.

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18 comments on “Alcohol Alternatives: Anne Fletcher

  1. I gave up drinking alcohol on World Mental Health Day 10/10/04 after 31 years of being a drinker. Being diagnosed as Bipolar in ’94 led me to be dependant on alcohol as a ‘ctutch’ to help me cope with things. In 2002 I met and fell in love with someone who identified themself as an ‘alcoholic’ and attended AA, which I attended with her and was amazed at the openness of people talking about their drinking.

    Even though I was attending AA with my partner, I was still drinking alcohol but simply through seeing other peoples example of living a full life without alcohol, particularly my partner, I decided to stop drinking alcohol through the same process as I had when starting to drink alcohol – it was simply my choice.

    Stopping drinking was a major lifesyle change that has helped me get my life back in order, it’s more manageable without alcohol. My only regret is I wish I had the courage and werewithal to do it sooner.

    Best ‘gift’ I ever gave myself and it was made possible by witnessing real people recover and realising the ‘choice’ was mine to take.


  2. From reading the comments above it seems to me that there is some confusion as to what AA is and what it is not. I’m no expert on the subject but from my experience AA and Alanon are simply groups of people who get together on a regular basis to discuss how alcohol has negatively affected their own lives or the lives of people close to them. There is no promotion of any ‘cure’ or medication at all other than the twelve steps which are always presented on a take it or leave it basis. One of the main ideas of AA is to be financially independent and not take money or donate money to any other organization including the medical establishment. Also the idea of alcoholism as a disease in AA is not a medical disease with a diagnosis and medical cure, it is presented as a social and family disease and that really the only cure is to quit drinking. I don’t think that AA is the problem. Perhaps the problem is when courts or hospitals force or coerce people into attending AA meetings, which pretty much defeats the whole intent and purpose of AA and creates resentment. Also, it does not work for everyone, it does work for a lot of people, but not everyone is the same. Good show and enjoyed the discussion!

  3. I didn’t really like this woman as a guest, this guest who wrote the alcohol book. She seems to me to be very permissive of the fundamentalist biological determinist worldviews people can be ensnared in. This blind faith in CBT bugged me too. It’s well established CBT is no better than any other ‘psychotherapy’… which in essence, is merely paying somebody to be your friend for an hour, someone who would never invite you over for dinner by the way, and wants you to get the hell out when you’re hour is u

  4. Thanks for keeping the convo in check, Will! I get a bit triggered when I feel I’m being misunderstood so thanks for reminding me to take a step back and see that that’s the nature of communication between humans, in general, but especially through the written word/Internet.
    No harm was meant in my response response; just really like a good debate/discuss

  5. (thedivinemsblue) I’m feeling a bit misunderstood judging from what you said about my “dry drunk” comment. You and I clearly disagree on what addiction actually is.. you seem to think it can only relate to substances.. I think it can relate to emotions and habits and thoughts, etc.
    Your comment seems to disagree with mine initially, but then you state exactly what I state in my “dry drunk” comment. Specifically surrounding the fact that those who are alcoholics have underlying issues that need to be dealt with, too, not just the dependency on alcohol. I was simply pointing out that the guest seemed not to believe the dry drunk theory was important or relevant and that it is merely an AA ploy to get you involved in their program. It may be true that AA people use it that way (Though, I’m not inclined to believe that all AA people are that devious and conniving!) but the concept itself is a very important one that should be investigated further, outside the context of AA or even alcoholism.
    It seems like your anti-AA mentality might have gotten in the way of your understanding of the comment.. I’m not pro-AA myself, but it seems that you are imposing that stance on my comment.

  6. the healthcare industry has based an entire sub-industry on the the promotion of alcoholism as a disease. this disease model has been legitimized by AA. and you’re right the rehab treatment industry profits big time. most of them use the 12-step AA model! so it is connected. and now, they’re trying to medicalize other things, like domestic violence. charging healthcare companies because DV is a psych issue, like alcoholism. where does this medicalization end?

    apparently it works for people. but i find that there are many people to whom this idea dis-impowers. AA claims that you have no power over your alcoholism. i come from a long and illustrious line of alcoholics, and i have struggled with drugs and alcohol at times. however, i have always believed that i have the ultimate power to control my addictive behavior. and it works for me. i’m not saying AA is bad or that it doesn’t work for people, but i do find the cultish AA mentality to be overwhelmingly scary.

    there are other ways. and other ways that do not subscribe to this disease model that work for people as well.

    as to the dry drunk concept, what makes an alcoholic an alcoholic then? everyone has problems, not everyone is an addict. people that have major substance issues generally have huge underlying problems. if they don’t get dealt with then there are just more problems: needing a drink, and huge underlying problems. there needs to be more of a focus on healing and recovery from those issues as well, not just the stopping substances. AA does not do that. it just continues to dis-impower people. “you are and always will be an alcoholic…” no, some people change. some people recover.

    someone once told this to me about my bipolar diagnosis. i did not believe her, because i believed that the meds and the docs were right, that they were working. but i gave them up, and i am no longer bipolar. it was an incorrect diagnosis. my point here is that we don’t have to subscribe to these diagnoses and disease models all the time. sometimes we might just be having “troubles with consensus reality” or “excessive drinking problems”. we might not have a disease after all. but if i didn’t question these ideas then i would still be on a litany of pills, and under this oppressive idea of my psyche being diseased.

  7. I wanted to comment on the guests comment that she does not necessarily buy into the “dry drunk” theory. I realize this may be used in AA as a way of maybe guilting people into the program or something of that nature, which is what the guest emphasized in her response to Will’s question on the subject, but it is a very important concept that should be thought about more deeply than that.
    Those who become addicted to any substance probably are using it to fill some sort of void within them, like the guest said. Taking away the substance is just the first step in a very serious, very long serious journey of self transformation that will last maybe a lifetime.
    I think many, if not most of us human beings, could be considered “dry drunks”. Think about it, most of us are addicted to something. (I would argue that all of us are addicted to something and that the goal in life is to become free from those addictions) Whether it’s relationships, sex, money, work, procrastination, interrupting, medications, always being right, beliefs/ideas/political affiliations, etc: These can all be addictions.
    So, AA didn’t just come up with the concept to coerce people into using their program, it is an important concept for those who are recovering from addiction to understand. They need to look at what the substance was used for in their life: Giving them confidence in social situations, hiding, giving up, dealing with trauma, etc. And they need to look at the habits and patterns they see in their life, before/during/after the substance abuse. The concept of the dry drunk is an important one that can help all of us understand our quirks, habits, and patterns more deeply and clearly and allow us to change our lives through deep self-inquiry and analysis.

  8. great show! i think people need to focus more on alternatives to AA, this disease model is just really flawed in many ways. it is a great way to further medicalize our bodies and psyches. it’s great for the health care industry! i think the disease or illness model of mental states is flawed as well, and i really appreciate your illuminating shows. they provide me with so much hope, and information! thank you so much for continuing to empower me!

    1. The health care industry doesn’t profit from anything AA does. AA is totally free to anyone and completely non-profit. Perhaps the rehab treatment industry profits but AA itself doesn’t.

    2. My kundalini experience is another story, but overwhelmed me what made so hopeless and led to suicidal tendencies. There is great literature on kundalini by transpersonal psychiatrists. But the shamanistic training was not dangerous, the danger I experienced was an unexpected spiritual emergency without a transpersonal psychiatrist in my country. If you like to hear more about it, ask me. That’s why I’m studying these things now, I think that an integral approach to psychology is the only hope for the future. I learned a lot from Stanislav Grof, Ken Wilber, John Weir Perry, Loren Mosher and Roberto Assagioli. Thanks for your great show!

  9. We’ll I did one session with a shaman in Belgium who was educated by a Siberian shaman. We have been chanting and drumming for about 90 minutes and afterwards everyone got in trance. It felt to my like the effect of the drug ecstasy, so full of bliss and love and in an expanded state of mind, and the shaman/teacher kept on saying: ‘Don’t forget to focus your attention on your body, don’t fly away or get spaced out’. Well afterwards I always use that when I get into an extrem state of mind. Following your breath is also a good trick, actuallu you don’t have to fear nothing at all once you learn to control these things. I also did courses in chakra awareness and meditated very long until i went through a spiritual emergency with kundalini through my body like a thousant volts of electricity. It’s not a path without danger because also went through a suicide attempt because there isn’t a lot of transpersonal guidance in my county, if you want to go that way, your on your own, but I survived and don’t think that I will be so psychotic again as in the past. Shamanism is a great tool for people in psychosis. An advanced teacher can offer a lot!

  10. Thanks for your comment, Will! I’ll check out the interview with Jay Joseph. My cure for bipolar was following shamanic exercises, meditations, yoga and I could stop the medications. I only use them rarely if I’m totally spaced out, but in shamanic trance I learned to keep the connection with my body within an altered state! Thanks for your comment!

  11. Hi everyone, just a reminder that I’ve noticed when sending emails or posting on forums that it is easy to miss each others’ meaning or to feel misunderstood or misrepresented. All we have are smilies 🙂 to express the non-verbal communication of feeling and tone that comes with actual face to face or even phone interaction. I really like the diversity of opinions and views here, positive towards AA, negative, and like my own views somewhere in between. Thanks for making this such a lively discussion –

  12. Hi there, i like this understanding of “dry drunk” and think sometimes it can be a useful idea. like you say, it puts attention on the feelings and experiences that are behind the reasons people use substances. So you remove the substance (or limit it), and those feelings and experiences are still there and might be driving patterns that are still not useful or are hurtful for the person. there is another way of looking at this from a process oriented psychology perspective. addictions are ways to get to a state or experience that the person genuinely needs, but they don’t know how to get them other than the substance. so for example, using cocaine as a way of having tremendous self-confidence and fearlessness; using alcohol to be comfortable socializing with others; or smoking cigarettes as a way to get to a meditative relaxed state. the substance will sometimes be appealing to the person until they can access that deeper need they have behind the substance. So can a cocaine user find a way without cocaine to get in touch with their self confidence and fearlessness, a person who smokes cigarettes a meditative state without cigarettes, etc. Sometimes giving the person what they need behind the substance reduces the need for the substance. it can also help understand what the motivation behind the substance is, so someone can see their deeper needs more clearly.

    1. so true, i feel tha same way. but it’s hard.


  13. wow would love to hear more about the shamanism, trances, and keeping connected with your body. connection with my body, and using meditation to focus on body sensations, has been one of the single most important tools I use to deal with my own altered and extreme states. – will

  14. Hey there kristo — not sure I really follow the genetic reasoning. There just isn’t any real science to back it up, it’s just prejudice in favor of genetic explanations. Check out the interview I did with Jay Joseph on genetics. The problem with genetic theories is they can lead to a defeatist attitude, that complete recovery isn’t possible, that we are sub-human or not normal physically or can’t escape our mental patient identity. They push people towards medications, put power in the hands of professionals, and narrow the possible realms people can explore to cope with and understand their experiences. Maybe there are genetic predispositions to sensitivity, creativity, psychic openness — but mental health problems are social and cultural. – will

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