By Jackie Rainford Corcoran
Explore Big Sky Health Columnist
Have you ever decided yous would go on a diet, quit drinking alcohol or stop eating sugar, and find yourself bingeing the night before you start? And then, when you’re done with “quitting,” you binge again? I call this the “binge-quit-binge” cycle and I’m prone to it as well.
With a long family history of substance-use disorders – the politically correct term for drug addiction and alcoholism – I’ve been fiercely warned against sliding down the slippery slope of alcohol dependence.
In response to this warning, I read a book called “The Easy Way to Stop Drinking” by Allen Carr. His solution is abstinence, the same solution offered by Alcoholics Anonymous.
My response to the book was binge-quit-binge.
During January of 2014, I took a break from drinking for the entire month – also known as “Janopause.” It taught me that I’m not dependent on alcohol; instead, I’m a habitual drinker. In other words, I didn’t have withdrawals, but I had to reprogram my 5 p.m. happy hour habit that I’ve practiced for more than 20 years.
However, once the month ended, I was back to drinking red wine at 5 p.m., but this time with more fervor. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate drinking is up to one glass of wine a day. My consumption exceeds that.
This January, I decided not to take the same route of abstinence but have still been struggling with whether or not I’m supposed to give up alcohol for good.
My mind was put to rest this week after reading an article in the April 2015 Atlantic magazine titled “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” by Gabrielle Glaser. She writes that AA takes a “one size fits all approach.”
It became clear to me that moderation is a viable solution and the concept of all or nothing is what trips up many drinkers, and keeps them in the cycle of binge-quite-binge. Perhaps this is why the success rate of AA is estimated at 5-8 percent, according to Lance Dodes, a retired Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor.
There are some drinkers who do have a serious chemical dependency on alcohol. For reasons yet unknown, their brains are wired a bit differently, and abstinence might be the best solution for them. But there is treatment beyond AA meetings.
Glaser discusses drugs that restrict alcohol cravings. She tried the inexpensive drug naltrexone on herself to test its effectiveness. It eliminated her desire to drink, without side effects. I wouldn’t take a drug unless it was absolutely necessary, but this is a healthy option for someone who feels like they can’t stay in control. As with most prescription drugs, there are side effects that should be considered.
There are other therapies that effectively teach behavior modification. Licensed counselors address triggers and offer practical strategies to help drink in moderation or abstain if a person chooses. The key is that they put the power back in the individuals’ hands rather than outside of themselves. It’s liberating.
If you’re prone to the binge-quit-binge cycle, try taking a good look at your pattern and what activates it. Do you need outside help? Is moderation a feasible option for you? Are there other solutions outside of what you’ve already considered? My goal is to stay inside of the moderate drinking range with ease and grace. We’ll see how it goes.
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, public speaker and health activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find more at thetahealth.org.