Quotes from recent clients
Others who could be helped
If you are considering whether to undertake the online therapy programme, you may like to read about some people who have participated in the programme already with our colleagues in the Netherlands.
Fiona (55), who works as a communications officer, has had drinking problems since she was twenty. Whenever she had a problem, she reached for the bottle. ‘I talked myself into believing I was a social drinker, but I was only shoving my problems under the carpet.'
This spring, her 25-year relationship came to an end. ‘I felt like I’d lost everything and started to drink a lot, at least a bottle of wine and a few beers a day. I felt awful that I didn’t have a grip on myself any more and I also knew it wasn’t good for my health.'
She’d never spoken to her GP about taking refuge in alcohol. ‘I kept telling myself it’s not that bad, and I can manage just fine myself.’ She read about the on-line therapy programme in an advertisement in a national newspaper. She signed up and started the programme immediately.
Fiona finished the programme in twelve weeks. ‘It’s still hard, almost every day, but I’m totally clean – that was also the goal I set for myself.'
Fiona had e-mail contact with her therapist twice a week. ‘He listened to my stories and picked the relevant bits out. He also came back to certain things. It was all highly structured.' The therapy was anything but digging into her past or her psyche. ‘I was given practical tips that fit my situation’. She got homework assignments, including to keep track of how much she drank every day, and to analyse those occasions. That gave her a few real eye-openers. 'I was confronted with patterns I hadn’t recognised before. What exactly were my reasons for drinking and what did I expect from it? That gave me a bit of a foothold and I could deal with particular circumstances differently, and choose solutions other than drinking.'
Staying away from alcohol is a question of self-management. One of the techniques Fiona learned is to stop and think when she feels like a drink. ‘And then I think of reasons why the alcohol really doesn’t solve anything. The craving for a drink doesn’t mean I really have to drink. You can make desires disappear or give them another form.’
Kate (56) is convinced of the value of the online therapy programme. 'It’s an excellent method; I reached my goal in five months. I used to drink on average 29 drinks a week, but now it’s only two glasses of wine on Saturday and Sunday.' Whiskey, sherry, wine, a shot of gin, beer – Kate drank everything, and for years. She’s married, had worked previously as a nurse, and the last few years at a crèche. ‘I thought that drinking wasn’t causing problems, but that was nonsense. I’d started forgetting things, was often tired and found all sorts of excuses to play down my drinking.’ She heard about the project on the radio and sent an e-mail. 'I was tired of drinking so much, and I’d already quit smoking using an on-line therapy programme.' Kate had never got very far on good intentions alone. ‘Sometimes I’d drink less, but I’d make up for it twice over the next week. You need structure to tackle something like this.'
Her GP was no help. ‘His only advice was “drink red wine in moderation, it’s good for you”.’
Kate says an important factor for success is that you yourself have to want to quit.
Quitting completely is not for her. ‘I’m not the Alcoholics Anonymous type. I still want to be able to enjoy it, but it can’t get out of hand.'
For Kate, the strength of the `lookatyourdrinking.com` method is that it’s like holding a mirror up to yourself. 'You have to fill out questionnaires and keep track of your alcohol consumption in a diary. The therapist asks you questions. You really can tell you’re being taken seriously and that it’s tailored to who you are. It’s not New Age-y but you don’t dig deep into your past either, it’s very practical. That gives you insight into what you’re doing and how you can change yourself. You get practical tips for doing that, like doing something else when you really get a craving.'
It wasn’t so important for Kate that the treatment was anonymous. ‘I’ve told my sons too, everybody can know that I drank more than was good for me.'
One big advantage of the `lookatyourdrinking.com` method for Kate was the high frequency (twice a week) of exchanging messages with a therapist and that she could send messages at any time that was convenient for her. ‘We live in a village, otherwise I’d have had to go find help in a big city. I wouldn’t have time for that.'
One of the tips that Kate is very enthusiastic about is pampering yourself if you don’t drink. ‘I spend the money I save by not drinking on new clothes. I’ve lost twenty-two pounds and I’m sleeping well again. I’ve really started a new life, I’ve started going to the gym and am taking a Spanish course.’ She smiles. ‘I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do in a few months. I’ve really begun a new life and I even wear short skirts again.'
Mark, a contractor, finished the programme a few weeks ago and still keeps track of his drinking with the alcohol log book (‘alcohol diary’). He says, ‘I describe the situations in which I find it difficult to resist the temptation to drink. It’s gone well up to now. There have been some tense moments at work and in my private life. Previously I would have said, “Forget it, I’m off to the pub” in these situations, but now I drink a glass of water. By keeping the logbook it’s got through to me that I can direct my life myself.'
The participants in the on-line therapy programme drink on average 50 to 60 drinks a week, with a few over 100. Mark’s 20 a week are a stark contrast. However, Mark feels he did have a problem: 'I drank at times when I was extra vulnerable, there was no question of it being social drinking. During the week, when I came home around five, tired from work, I always drank three beers before doing anything else. It’s not good if you need to drink to handle the switch from work to home life. I wasn’t coming into work hung over, but alcohol was playing an important part in my life. I didn’t have control over myself. My wife can enjoy the little things, but for me they’re never enough. In the past I’ve taken some crazy risks. I once left the pub and got into the car absolutely plastered. It’s a miracle I survived.'
Together with his therapist, Mark decided to cut his 20 drinks to a maximum of six. He did this with surprisingly little effort: 'I discovered I was quite capable of enjoying just one drink. The other day my wife and I had a port. I enjoyed that glass one grape at a time. I’ve now drunk no more than five drinks a week for a month. I only drink for the taste, and I’m not using the excuse that I’ve earned it.' Mark intends to keep up this sober habit at least until the end of the year. He’s worried about the Christmas holidays. 'I’m not ruling it out that I might let myself go just once then.'
Denise (45), care manager:
'For the last two years, I’ve drunk between six and ten glasses of wine a day. When I came home I’d open a bottle, and if there was an open bottle it had to be finished. If I was really stressed it’d be two bottles. I thought about drinking all day long. Not that I craved it in the mornings, but I had to think about preparations for later. When and where would I get it? How much will I drink tonight? Despite my drinking I had my life pretty well sorted; very few people knew that I drank. I didn’t show up at work with alcohol on my breath, at most I felt a bit dull-headed. I have a job with a lot of responsibility, with production targets I have to meet and for which I’m evaluated. My evaluations were always good. I was noticing, however, that I was less and less able to take it. When I’m drunk, I fall asleep, and then you’d better not wake me up or I get nasty. Once when my teenage daughter shook me awake anyway, I just exploded. And then I thought, “What am I doing?”'
The anonymity was also a reason for Denise to opt for on-line therapy. 'I’d wanted to do something about my drinking for years, but because I was in the care sector myself I didn’t see regular therapy as an option. It’s a small world and if anything like that got out it could be held against you when you apply for a job. I didn’t want to talk to my GP either. He’s businesslike, not somebody you could go to with anything emotional.'
Denise has also cut down quite a lot thanks to the programme. 'In the first few weeks of the programme I didn’t touch a drop. I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms, fortunately, because if you show up to work with shaky hands it’ll be obvious that you have a drinking problem. Now I don’t drink any more than ten a week. Since I’ve been drinking less I feel better, clearer. I’m also more active. Nowadays if I do have a bottle in the house I don’t have to empty it in one go. You can stick a vacuum cork in it, can’t you?'
Quotes from recent clients
Below are a few responses from clients who have participated in the on-line therapy programme (anonymised for reasons of confidentiality)
'You’re really helping me to increase my awareness and insight into my drinking, and to make good decisions. I feel very much supported by you, you’re always appreciative and never judgemental. Tonight I was looking over the progress over the last two months. I started the programme on 21 March, and I was having 25-26 drinks a week then. It’s scary to read that now; I almost can’t imagine that any more.'
F., age 52
'It’s crazy, but now I realise that I didn’t drink too much because I had problems, I had problems because I drank so very much.'
M., age 30
'It looked like an innocent couple of glasses of wine I had every day, but it took quite a lot of effort to quit and I’m going to do my level best to keep it up.'
J., age 41
'Now, after 6 weeks, I look back on it very positively. It helped a whole lot and it was fun to do!'
M., age 32
‘The fact alone that someone is there is a good thing. So you can talk to them. And someone who doesn’t judge: that’s also very good. And assignments that can really help. Thanks.'
F., age 49
'Id like to thank you personally for your hard work, understanding and personalised approach. We’ve actually got quite personal, I’ve been able to confide things to you that I haven’t dared to tell anyone else. In theory with this system you were always there, and that was hugely important for me.'
M.t, age 51
'I’ll probably lapse back again but not for so long, and I’m going to remember to work on the things we were involved with.'
H., age 59
‘It feels like a luxury to me to be changing my annoying drinking habit like this.'
L., age 24
'I experience this programme as very enjoyable, not at all threatening, I feel safe here and the communication with you feels good.'
S., age 36
‘But I’ll tell you honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without your help because I wasn’t able to alone. My sincere thanks.'
M., age 56
'You set a person on the right path by providing food for thought. Ultimately that person has to do it, and they have to want to do it, themselves. For me it’s really been very good. I recognise my pitfalls now, and I’m better able to solve my problems in other ways than by ‘drowning’ them. I’m standing on two much stronger legs now than a few months ago.'
C., age 41
'Thank you for your help with this. I really appreciated it. I’d been working on dealing with the problem for a long time but this programme has brought about a giant leap.'
C., age 58
'The approach is highly personal and I feel like what I write is being taken seriously. I can’t yet say whether it’s effective or not, because I know my weaknesses. But so far so good.'
J., age 51, halfway through the programme
'I no longer drink out of misery, sorrow, frustration, loneliness or fear. There are a lot of challenges on my path, but I haven’t grabbed the alcohol yet. What keeps me from grabbing it is the realisation that IT DOESN’T SOLVE ANYTHING. In a nutshell, that’s what I believe is and has been most instructive about your programme. WHY DO I FEEL THIS URGENCY? and WHERE DO I THINK IT WILL GET ME?'
I., age 36
'I feel good working in this way. It gives me a huge feeling of relief and happiness, that I can finally look so openly at my situation with someone.
I feel that you’re putting an awful lot of effort and energy into me.'
L., age 41
Others who could be helped
Julie, age 39.
Julie has been married for 11 years and has two children, ages 8 and 6.
She works 24 hours a week as a legal secretary.
Right now she’s not doing so well. It’s harder and harder to take the pressure at the office, and she notices that she’s curt and impatient with her children. Her marriage is in somewhat of a rut; her husband is busy setting up his own business.
About 10 o’clock in the evening, when the kids are in bed, she gets out a bottle of wine. She has the feeling that now she has a bit of time for herself. The wine helps her feel nice and relaxed, and everyone else can go get lost. For a while, all the tension is gone. She finishes the bottle.
A co-worker, who has become a friend, mentioned that she noticed Julie was coming late to work more often, more errors were creeping into her work, and that they weren’t able to have a laugh together as often.
Hans, age 28.
Hans is completely wrapped up in his career. He is a salesman for a large company, and hopes to become sales manager within two years. He’ll have to meet ambitious targets to do this. He works 6 days a week, sometimes until the early hours.
On Sundays, the only day he has to himself, he plays football with his old team. His enthusiasm for playing the game is waning, and the ‘third half’ is lasting longer and longer.
Yesterday driving home after practice he was stopped and had to take a breath test, and was over the limit for blood alcohol.
Hans is shocked; if he loses his driving licence he can forget his job too.
Dennis, age 18.
Dennis is training to become a contractor. He does odd jobs on weekends and evenings, and is saving up for getting his driving licence and a car. He has already started driving lessons.
At the weekends it’s time to go wild. He goes out clubbing with a big group of friends and one round follows another. He has a lot of fun and knows almost everyone there.
Last week something nasty happened. He knocked a glass over by accident, spilling beer on someone else, who got angry. Dennis responded with indignation, started lashing out and there was a fight. He woke the next morning with a torn lip. He felt miserable. He couldn’t see his scooter outside, and had no idea how he’d come home.
He calls a friend, who was also shocked by Dennis’ behaviour. He makes an agreement with his friend to drink less.
Karen, age 50.
Karen was divorced 15 years ago. She has raised her two children more or less on her own. Now they’ve left the nest and live in another town. They ring often but are mostly busy with their own lives.
Karen works 24 hours a week in a branch of a large clothing chain store. Her co-workers are mostly young girls.
She never developed many hobbies, since she was always busy with everything else. Now she often feels bored and lonely.
She feels alone and listless, and isn’t sleeping well.
To feel a bit better, she’s got used to having a glass of wine often in the daytime. She makes sure she doesn’t get drunk, but always ends up in a bit of a haze.
To disguise her habit she goes to shops in another neighbourhood more often. She waits until no one else is around to put the empty bottles in the recycling bin.
For her 50th birthday she bought a computer. More or less accidentally, she finds an Internet site about alcohol. She decides to fill out some questionnaires to see if she really is drinking too much.