I’m not an Alcoholic. That’s Why I Needed Alternatives.

wendy drinking champagneRecently I met a dynamic UCLA professor in the CNN green room. As we started chatting I learned that he also runs a moderate drinking management program in Beverly Hills called Alternatives. I had never heard of such a thing, but the words made me sit up straight and pay attention. If you know me well, you know I love my red wine. I have a glass or two every night with dinner. Every night. Like, for the past twenty-five years. (Note to pregnancy police: Except while with child.) I even do a “Wine with Dr. Wendy Google Hang Out” on Wednesdays. But I’m also a bit of a health nut. I eat a vegetable based diet that is organically grown and farmed close to the table. And the health benefits of alcohol have been well documented. One drink a day. Not two. Not three.

This wasn’t a goalI had ever been able to maintain. Not because I was an alcoholic, but because I had a behavioral habit. I wasn’t drinking my feelings away. Lord knows, I drained those for years in a therapy office. I was just accustomed to the taste of wine and food and I couldn’t eat dinner without a glass of wine. I certainly wasn’t a candidate for a twelve-step program. I just wanted to drink a little less. Not quit! And I like science more than the give-it-to-a-higher-power stuff.

Enter Dr. Adi Jaffe and Alternatives. The program is simple and scientific. Thirty days of abstinence with lots of support to separate the wheat from the chaff, the hard core drinkers from the social winos. Then the reintroduction of alcohol in a mindful way. Mindfulness is a big part of the program, as is Bio feedback. With your brain hooked up to a computer game, you can really see the function loss while drinking, Then there’s the drinking while blowing in a breathalyzer treatment so you can get a real feel for how your blood alcohol level rises while you drink.

Okay, I’ll admit it. The first thirty days were rough. Food tested weird. I missed the smell and the swirl of a chewy cabernet. But Dr. Jaffe helped me find substitutes: Who knew that unsweetened cranberry juice with a splash of grape juice tastes remarkably like wine? It’s been three months now and I drink a glass of wine about three times a week. Once in a while I have two. And I have four glorious nights sleep every week with my brain alcohol free, where I dream amazing dreams. Didn’t know that alcohol can suppress dreams. Clearly I’m not an alcoholic. But now I’m a mindful drinker.

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