Still, CRA has never been widely implemented because many substance-abuse counselors think it's dumb (and potentially dangerous) to let people with drug and alcohol problems use at all. They cite the Kishline case. They point to Mel Gibson.
Dr. Meyers acknowledges that "the world would be a better place if no one used drugs or alcohol at all." But he thinks that the reason 21 million drug and alcohol abusers in America are not getting help is that our culture tells them that their only hope of getting better is giving up the thing they can't imagine living without. And giving it up every day for the rest of their natural lives. "If a guy goes from drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels a day to drinking a couple of beers a day," Dr. Meyers says, "and in that process he does better at work and his relationship with his wife and kids improves, I think that's success."
Three weeks later, back at the Center for Motivation and Change, Dr. Kosanke and I barely talk about my drinking. She has me fill out another form—a Happiness Scale—and we strategize how to make my life more joyful. She coaches me to talk back to the "You suck!" voice in my head and to ask my husband and mother-in-law for more help with childcare. (They both say yes.) She wonders if I could buy more prepared food for dinner and asks where it is written that 6-year-olds need to be bathed every night.
I still crave Chardonnay and am drinking about three glasses, three or four nights a week. I complain that my therapy isn't working.
"You still haven't found something you like to do more than drink," Dr. Kosanke says.
"I have meaningful work and relationships. You think I need a hobby, too?"
"Yes," she says.
This is not a novel idea in addiction treatment. In fact, many studies have found that lab rats ignore food and water in order to gulp drug-laced solutions.
"I like watching TV," I tell Dr. Kosanke.
"Too passive," she says.
Over the next several weeks, I try furniture refinishing (a puke-green-paint disaster), Shakespeare and American musical theater (too expensive), opera (didn't get it), meditation (dullsville for me but surprisingly useful for my daughter), and sex (my husband began to appear frightened whenever I looked at him).
"I'm not a hobby person," I wail.
"You go to ballet," Dr. Kosanke says.
"So I don't get fat," I say.
"You make dinner," she says.
"Because I have to," I say.
Turns out a lot of people endure lives that are cages of sorts—they have grueling, mind-numbing work; they spend time with selfish relatives; they are lonesome. Me, I put myself in a cage by thinking task instead of pleasure.