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Programs that will help you stay on the wagon
the current hit film, Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh, actress
Marsha Mason portrays an alcoholic who spends her life's
savings for a 12-week "cure" at a sanitarium -
and falls off the wagon once she returns to the real world
of career, motherhood, and friends who drink even as they
try to keep her from doing so. If you know someone addicted
to alcohol, or are among the 10% of all social drinkers
who regularly become dependent on what counselors consider
a mood-altering drug, don't think that a hospital stay alone
provides a permanent solution. "Aftercare is every
bit as important as the in-patient treatment," says
Richard W. Easterly, executive director of the Chit Chat
Foundation, which has a rehabilitation program for alcoholics
in Wernersville, Pa.
While treatment as an in- patient can be expensive - the
Chit Chat program costs roughly $3,000 for 28 days of intensive
therapy and behavior modification sessions - you can expect
to pay nothing for aftercare to keep you sober. It is provided
by Alcoholics Anonymous, the 45-year old "fellowship
of men and women" with a record of success in helping
addicts refrain from drinking. It collects no fees, charges
no dues, and keeps no membership rolls - admitting anyone
who simply has a desire to stop drinking.
first visit to an A.A. meeting will probably surprise you.
Anonymity begins outside the meeting place, usually with
a small sign bearing an innocuous name - such as "Discussion
Group" - and no reference to A.A. Whether you have
been provided with a contact by a therapist or hospital,
urged to attend a meeting by an employer or family member,
or realized that your ability to function effectively at
home or work is being impaired by alcohol, you will be free
to use your full name, nickname, or a factious name. Because
groups meet in offices, schools, churches, lodges, and private
homes, your chances of encountering Skid Row types are nonexistent
if you drop in on one in your neighbourhood or near your
office. The people around you will include your peers. One-third
are likely to be female, and a few may be teenagers.
not expect anyone to rush toward you with a membership application
- there are none to fill out - and chances are that at a
meeting in a large metropolitan area, few A.A. members will
even glance your way. At an "open" meeting, which
can be attended by alcoholics and nonalcoholics alike, a
volunteer "leader" will begin by saying something
like, "Hello, I'm Robert, and I'm an alcoholic."
He may then introduce one or two A.A. members who will discuss
their own drinking experiences and relate what sobriety
has meant to them. Afterwards, others may note their similar
or dissimilar experiences.
objective," says a corporate executive who joined A.A.
two years ago, "is to help alcoholics continually remind
themselves that they have a disease that makes them different
from many other people. And yet you see that you are like
millions of others: so there is no need to drink because
you are alone."
A.A. group member can teach you how to "control"
your drinking, so that you can have a few beers on Sunday
or a glass of wine at lunch. Instead, you will learn that
others - with problems and pressures and a need for relaxation
every bit as great as yours - manage to avoid taking the
first drink in any 24- hour period. Unlike other groups
that employ the "shared experience" methods to
help people cut down on cigarettes, food, or whatever, A.A.
aims to help you completely eliminate alcohol from your
life on a day-to-day basis.
How quickly or slowly you manage to reach a continuous state
of sobriety depends entirely on you. There are no firm rules
on how many meetings you must attend. Some individuals find
that the more people met who have the same problem and the
more tales heard about members' experiences, the more their
own decision to steer clear of alcohol is reinforced. So
it is not uncommon for a new member to attend 90 meetings
in as many days.
can seek any member - someone whose sobriety you respect
- to become your "sponsor“ and be available to
talk with you by phone or in person on a daily basis if
need be. And you can change sponsors or have more than one
at any time if that makes you feel more comfortable.
prepared for laughs at meetings, too. One member, momentarily
fretting that his mother had told a neighbour that her son
had joined A.A., says: "I wasn't embarrassed to be
publicly drunk and get thrown out of fine restaurants for
years. It seems strange to have to keep my sobriety secret."
pamphlets on A.A. and information on meetings in your area,
write General Service Office of A.A., P.O. Box 459, Grand
Central Station, New York 10163. Or check your local phone
book under Alcoholics Anonymous.
BUSINESS WEEK: October 26, 1981)