Message of the day

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress. - Mahatma Gandhi

Tis’ the Season…Part One to Help you Handle the Holidays

Holidays Can Be Difficult

Tis’ the season for holiday parties. If you are trying to be alcohol free, the big question many of us will face is should we attend the parties or should we stay home and avoid the situation entirely? It really depends on how you are feeling. If you are a little shaky about being around alcohol and feel that you may drink, then it is better not to attend. However, with a good plan in mind you can be prepared for most unexpected situations you may encounter.

If you have numerous parties to attend, just concentrate on one at a time. There are many types of parties, as different guests will attend different functions, so each party may require you to prepare for each one individually.


Begin by imagining yourself at the first party. Picture the guests, the atmosphere, the crowds, the drinking, and the smells. Feel the excitement. Picture yourself having fun without alcohol. Allow the focus of your visualization to be about the fun. If you don’t know how to do that yet, picture everything but the alcohol; start there. In your mind, can you see anything that could trigger a craving for alcohol? Say for example that someone who you really don’t want to run into is at the party. Picture yourself handling that situation. See, that was easy. Using your imagination navigate through the entire evening.

Look Your Best

Now it’s time to dress up and look like a million bucks. Be proud of who you are and how great you look. There is nothing like sobriety to bring out rosy cheeks, sparkly eyes or a devilish grin. If you look good you will feel good and you will exude confidence. Even if you don’t feel confident–fake it. “Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you. To put it another way, fake it till you make it.”–Aaron Sorkin. If you look confident you might as well be confident.


So you decided to go and now you’re at the party, what to do? Mingle! Don’t hide in a corner. It’s a party! Try and open yourself up to allow people in. You may just meet your next best friend, or you may find someone with the same interests that you have. It may be easier to be a good listener, than to do the talking and this can offer positive results for both you and the other person. Take a step outside your safety zone, as you may realize it may not be so safe. Allow yourself to be interested in the people around you, you will start to relax and have more fun. If the party has planned activities such as a live auction or karaoke, help out or join in. Don’t forget to dance.

No is a Complete Sentence

No is a complete sentence. Have you ever noticed that people feel compelled to give more information than they’re asked? Here’s a classic example: Q: “Do you know what time it is”; A: “Yes, it’s almost 10 o’clock.” Clearly the question was answered after saying “yes”, and although in this scenario it might be considered rude to not give a more elaborate answer, I think you get the point. It would seem that our need to explain everything may stem from our rationalizing the guilt we harbor. Yet you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You can refuse a drink and leave it at that.

If you feel that you need to excuse why you are not drinking, plan what you are going to say in advance. This will help you from feeling awkward or embarrassed. Some people have no problem telling friends that they have quit drinking. Believe me that they will be happy for you. Here are a few suggestions that you can utilize should you feel the need to offer an answer. You may choose to say that you want to look after your health. Or you may choose something more flippant and say, “I got all my drinking done in the past 20 years.” Another position to take is one that will not only give you a suitable answer, but put you in a proactive position, “I’m designated driver tonight, so I’m going to skip the drink tonight.” Who knows you may force someone else to think twice before they get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Regardless of the tone you choose, playing out scenarios ahead will help you feel more comfortable and secure with yourself.

Be Prepared

Another tip, is when you step up to the bar to order a non-alcoholic beverage, know what you are going to order in advance. Order something that you enjoy and ask the bartender to make it look festive. I like ginger ale and cranberry with a twist of lime in a fancy glass. My husband enjoys virgin Caesars that are made with clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce and spices. So get creative!

Tips to Remember

Consider these points before you head out:

  • Don’t arrive at a party hungry, thirsty, tired or angry. Any of these circumstances can trigger a craving. Once a craving is activated it will change the way you think. Some people call it “stinking thinking”. It’s when the alcohol identity tries to tell you that this time it will be different, and that this time you can drink without consequences like everyone else.
  • Hydrate throughout the day. Try and drink at least 8 glasses of water.
  • Grab some quiet time, and try to get some rest at some point in the day before you head out. Give the body and the brain a chance to slow down.
  • Make sure you eat something nutritious to level out your blood sugars. This will keep your moods from becoming erratic.
  • Avoid feeling angry. I wouldn’t recommend going to the party at all. Anger is another mask for craving, only slyer and more creative. Anger can get you drunk so fast you won’t even know what hit you. Almost as bad as the getting drunk is the anger, as we tend to personify anger validating it as a credible scapegoat.
  • Have your own vehicle, or have a plan so that you leave the party when you want and on your terms. It’s all well and good to car pool, but if you are on shaky ground with alcohol, you really want to be able to leave when you start to feel agitated or uncomfortable.
  • Always keep enough cash on you for a cab or other emergency. (I also like to keep another set of house keys hidden as well.)

Get Support

If you are really having trouble staying clean and sober, you may need support. I watched on The Biggest Loser where a participant said that he knew what he needed to do to lose weight, but was unable to do it. Now that he had a trainer, he did so much better and in fact wouldn’t have succeeded without that support. Sometimes all a person really needs is someone in their corner to help them through. If you have had your moment of clarity and really need to stop drinking, then get some help. Moments of clarity come at the most unexpected times. Whether it is Christmas, New Years, Easter, summer holidays, or other occasions; if you want to stop drinking get a coach or support system. Start enjoying your special moments without alcohol. Start enjoying yourself, it may take learning some new perspectives, but you’re so worth it.

After all that–get going to your party and have fun!

Coping with Alcohol Withdrawal

Starting to Detox

Alcohol withdrawal typically starts 6 – 12 hours after the last drink. Usually it is minor. Withdrawal may last 3 to 7 days. If you are one of the lucky people and only have minor symptoms watch for behavior changes such as irritability, agitation or hostility; sleep disturbances like insomnia; or impaired cognitive function such as inability to concentrate or poor memory. You may also experience gastrointestinal problems and may have no appetite or have diarrhea. Muscular symptoms may include cramps, or trembling; autonomic imbalances may occur such as tachycardia or rapid heartbeat. You could experience fever or sweating. And I repeat, this is if you are lucky.

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

If you are not so lucky and experience acute alcohol withdrawal you should not be left untreated. Withdrawal could be lethal in certain people. In acute withdrawal there could be signs of body and hand tremors, elevated blood pressure, tachycardia, dilated pupils, increased body temperature, seizures, restlessness, hyperactivity, and agitation. Mental symptoms include anxiety, panic attacks, depression, paranoid delusions, illusions, disorientation, and visual hallucinations, inability to focus, OCD behavior. It is a scary thing.

First Hurdle to Sobriety

I think everyone at some time or other has experienced alcohol withdrawal. It is the first hurdle you need to cross when getting sober. In fact some people won’t stop drinking because they don’t want to go through the withdrawal phase. Many people just get too sick and they have to put alcohol back in their body. I have seen a friend who had to drink a glass of vodka first thing in the morning to stop shaking and he could hardly get the glass to his mouth. That was only 6 or 8 hours without alcohol. I have seen a friend go through the torment of withdrawal and nearly die; only to start drinking a few weeks later and have his liver fail. I, myself was left untreated during a withdrawal period and had a seizure.

Making Withdrawal Easier

There are ways to go through withdrawal that are much easier on the mind and body. At DebbietheCoach we provide our clients with clear choices and expert advice. Some clients may want to gradually stop drinking alcohol and avoid withdrawal altogether. This gradual method is possible using anti craving medications. Other clients want to stop drinking immediately and we assist them in either getting medical assistance or we can help with megavitamin therapy. Nutrient deficiencies are responsible for many of the withdrawal symptoms. For e.g. Magnesium deficiency is a major problem associated with symptoms of anxiety, depression, muscle spasm, chronic pain and tremors. The B vitamins are also depleted, especially B3 or Niacin.

People with an alcohol addiction are usually surprised when I tell them that they are probably malnourished. They don’t realize that the alcohol they drink stops the nutrients from being absorbed in the body. Often the pancreas is inflamed and food digestion is affected. They usually have sporadic meals and decreased appetites.

Each vitamin and mineral performs various functions in the body. Deficiencies affect your health and neither the body nor the mind functions properly. If you are afraid to stop drinking because of withdrawal symptoms, get medical help or get a plan in place where you can safely withdraw from alcohol. Don’t wait until your body is too damaged to recover.

Stress and Drinking are Self Defeating


Stress has been described as being “the greatest single contributor to illness in our time.” It has been estimated that up to two-thirds of all visits to family physicians are stress related. A person struggling with alcohol dependence is no stranger to stress or its affect on the body. Learning to manage stress-triggered drinking can be extremely beneficial.

Drinking Cycle

The drinking cycle of an alcohol dependent person may look like this:

Stress is self-defeating. It is usually shame based or fear based. Stress for an alcoholic leads to more drinking sprees and the merry-go-round can continue until death.

Letting Go

I’m sure you know or have heard of the “Serenity Prayer” – it says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” We sometimes think that if other people would just change, life would be good. Understanding what we can and can’t control can help us cope with the daily stress in our life. Sometimes we just have to let things go. Wayne Dyer a motivational speaker I’m familiar with once said, “Never underestimate your ability to change yourself and never overestimate your ability to change someone else.”

Things We can Control

Here are some things that are within our control: our own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel us. These things are part of our inner lives and as such, are directly under our influence. We always have a choice about what goes on in our inner lives.

Things We can’t Control

Outside our control, however, are such things as who are parents are, what color of skin we have, if we’re born rich or poor, our genetic makeup. These things are externals and are therefore not our concern. Trying to control or to change what we can’t only results in torment. Also, when we attempt to take on the affairs of others, we will always become frustrated and anxious.

Put Stresses into Categories

Here’s an exercise that you can do to help troubleshoot the stress in your life. Make a list of the sources of stress that affect your life. Separate them into 2 categories, The Stress I Can Change & The Stress I Can’t Change. Now keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your concern. Other people will behave as they do. Circumstances will often not meet our expectations. We get disappointed if we don’t get what we want. Our desires may be unreasonable. Stop worrying about the things that are outside your control. Work on the category with things that you can change.

Stress Plus Drinking

Second, acknowledge that drinking is not going to solve your stress problem. Acknowledging it is a step you choose when you’re frustrated and either can’t think of other options or are too frustrated to find other options. Drinking is going to increase the stress you feel and the vicious cycle will continue and accelerate. Acknowledge that better solutions are available to you right now; you simply need to be open to the possibility to try them.

Relieving Stress

You can find a quiet place to slow down and do some deep breathing. Keeping your mouth closed, breathe in through your nose and feel the air fill up your stomach, your lungs, hold it and then blow out through your mouth. Do this 4 or 5 times. Concentrate on each breath. This breathing exercise will help to lower your stress.

Keep breathing at a steady pace as this exercise isn’t meant to be rushed through. Rushing this along defeats the purpose and won’t help you achieve the calm state you need to de-stress. Once you are calmer, decide if what you are stressed about is really important. Does it really concern YOU? If it isn’t important – let it go and walk away. Ask yourself if you stay in this stressful situation, will it trigger a drinking spree? If it will, then definitely remove yourself from the situation. In the past, what would you have normally done? How can you change the pattern? Can you make a decision to do some self care? For e.g. can you call a friend, take a walk, talk things over with a co-worker or family member, confide in a coach?

Nurture Yourself

Each time you make the choice to nurture yourself rather than turning to alcohol, the Real Identity gets stronger and the Alcohol Identity weakens. Each time you can weaken the Alcohol Identity you are one step closer to getting alcohol out of your life and getting back to who you really are. Stress and how you choose to handle stress is actually an opportunity to get stronger and stronger. How good is that!

Anti Craving Meds used for Weight Loss

This may seem like an unlikely blog to talk about weight loss, but many people who are on anti craving medications such as Topamax (topiramate) are finding a surprise bonus. While using this medication to aide their efforts to either moderate or stop drinking, they are also losing weight!

Contrave: Awaiting FDA Approval

Another anti craving medication – Naltrexone – in combination with an anti depressant has just been approved by the FDA to assist in weight loss. The new drug Contrave is set for panel review in December 2010. This drug “targets behavior and reward pathways in the brain.” It combines an antidepressant Wellbutrin (buproprion) with Naltrexone, an opioid blocker used to treat alcoholism and opiate addiction. Contrave will address craving for food – it will also address craving for alcohol. Those using this weight loss drug will more than likely be inclined to drink less. Taking drinking out of the equation will lower their calorie count immediately because there are so many empty calories in alcohol.

Even though over eating and excessive drinking are both addictive behaviors, I think that the over eaters have it worse. No one can just stop eating, but it is very possible to stop drinking and to avoid people, places and things that trigger a relapse. Over eaters have to develop a relationship with food, and learn to live within moderate guidelines. Yet drinkers don’t have to have any relationship with alcohol in order to subsist. We can throw it out with the bathwater!

Read the full article here:
Weight Loss Drug Qnexa Rejected; Contrave Faces FDA Firing Squad Next

Gratitude Trumps Drinking

An Alcoholic’s Dream

I recently attended the “event of the year”. It was the annual Cancer Ball. Men were in black tie, women in ball gowns and fancy dresses. Bejeweled and bedazzled embellishments were everywhere. Champagne sparkled, beside martinis, red and white wine were set along side every imaginable drink and was all at an open bar. This really was an alcoholic’s dream.

Who Will Know

On entering the reception area, pixie teens in vintage gowns served the martinis aside the champagne in fancy fluted glasses, while servers in white gloves floated through the crowd with hors d’oeuvres. The thought had crossed my mind that I could reach out and grab one of those martinis. Look how happy everyone was that had a martini. I could be one of them. I could be festive and happy and drinking champagne and meeting new and charming people. It wouldn’t hurt just for one night. Who would know?

I told my husband that I was thirsty and asked him to get me a cranberry and ginger ale. He looked around, puzzled as to which way to go in the crowd. We had just met a great couple, and the woman offered to get “in line” with me at the bar. I told her I didn’t drink and she said, “Oh good. Neither do I.” I could have cried. Although she wasn’t an alcoholic like me; she was a social drinker who maybe enjoyed one drink. (While I can’t even imagine having just one drink in an evening, I mean what would be the point?) She was so happy that she had met someone at their table that wasn’t going to drink all night. We got in the line at the bar together and ordered a few soft drinks.

I started to feel a little better about being sober even though I was at the event of the season without a drink in my hand. (did I mention there was an open bar)? I decided to make the most of it. The food kept me entertained as they served a 6 course meal that was out of this world. A live band lead off the entertainment complete with a 20 piece orchestra and fantastic singers that encouraged all to join in on the dance floor. There they were, all those people who were drinking the champagne and the martinis, having so much fun on the dance floor. My husband and I danced a few times, but it really wasn’t that exciting. That’s not even nice to say, but I was really finding it difficult to have fun without drinking. So once again, I started feeling a little sorry for myself, but decided to get over it. I sought out the silent auction and the art gallery that the committee had set up.

The night was a success. The organizers raised a few million dollars for cancer research. I had met some really great people at our table and I didn’t have to drink any alcohol. There was one couple at our table that I hadn’t had a chance to really talk to. As the evening wound down, I decided to go and sit beside the woman and introduce myself. She asked me “So where are you from?” I told her. She asked me “So where is your husband’s business?” I told her. We talked about kids for a few minutes and as the first part of our conversation wrapped up, she asked me “So where are you from?” I told her again. She asked me “So where is your husband’s business?” I took a long hard look at her and realized that this woman was in a blackout. She seemed completely normal. Her words were slightly slurred as she finished off the bottle of red wine, but she really was sincere in asking me those same questions about 8 more times.

That’s the moment that I became grateful – grateful that I had made a choice and didn’t have to drink alcohol. If I had grabbed a martini as I entered the ballroom, I could have easily become that woman. I wouldn’t have even known if I was having fun. I wouldn’t even remember who I had met or who I had talked to or what I might have said. It’s true that for me, life isn’t as exciting as it once was with alcohol. Alcohol gave me such highs (and such lows), that ordinary now seems dull. But ordinary is a whole lot better than being deadened by alcohol or turning into my alter ego. In Canada, October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness month, but when we celebrate Thanksgiving. I am very thankful that I was able to support cancer research, and thankful that I did it sober.

Gene Discovered that may Help to Prevent Alcoholism

A gene has been detected that helps to metabolize or break down alcohol molecules in the brain.  This gene, found in about 12% of the population, makes a person sensitive to alcohol.  This is a good thing.  People who are sensitive to alcohol tend to drink less because alcohol makes the feel sick.  People without this gene tend to drink with abandon which may develop into alcoholism.  Dr. Kirk Wilhelmsen , reports this on a recent video on CNN.
Dr. Wilhelmsen also reports that there are medications that can help people with alcoholism.  One drug that was used in the past was antabuse or disulfiram.  I have always advocated that this is not a good choice.  There are better drugs out there.  Disulfiram does little to make people stop craving alcohol or stop drinking alcohol.  Dr. Wilhelmsen talks more about this drug on CNN.

The research article was printed in the Halstead Gazette:
“Tipsy’ alcohol gene ‘could help curb alcoholism’”, reads a BBC News headline. It said, “US researchers believe 10% to 20% of people have a version of the gene that may offer some protection against alcoholism.”
This story is based on a study in 238 college students and their siblings, investigating how a person’s genes might affect how well they can tolerate alcohol. It found that a region of DNA containing the CYP2E1 gene is linked with alcohol tolerance. These findings will need to be confirmed in other studies.
The researchers report that previous studies have suggested that people with high alcohol tolerance may also be more likely to develop alcoholism. However, as this study did not look at alcoholism itself, it is not possible to say whether this gene is also linked with alcoholism. It is too early to suggest that “people could be given CYP2E1-like drugs to make them more sensitive to alcohol…to put them off drinking to inebriation” as suggested in the news.

Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of North Carolina and other research centres in the US and Australia. It was funded by the State of California, the Veterans Affairs Research Service, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the CompassPoint Addiction Foundation, and the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The story was covered by BBC News, the Daily Mail, Metro, and the Daily Express. The newspapers generally report what was done in the study accurately. However, the possible practical applications of this study for alcoholism have been over-emphasised, with suggestions that the findings have direct implications for preventing or treating the condition.
What kind of research was this?
This was a genetic study in families, investigating how a person’s genes might affect how well they can tolerate alcohol.
The researchers say that one of the factors that affect a person’s likelihood of becoming an alcoholic is their early experiences with alcohol. Those who show a higher ‘tolerance’ during these first occurrences tend to drink greater amounts in the future. Here, they were interested in looking at what genes might affect a person’s response to alcohol (their alcohol tolerance).
The researchers had investigated this in two previous studies, one of which had suggested that a genetic region at the end of the long arm of chromosome 10 was associated with alcohol tolerance. This region contains the gene that produces the CYP2E1 protein, which is involved in breaking down alcohol as well as other chemicals. Variations in this gene could therefore potentially affect alcohol tolerance. This current study combined and re-analysed the samples that had been used in the two previous studies.

What did the research involve?
The researchers had initially enrolled 238 college students (aged 18 to 29 years old) and their siblings. All participants had reported having at least one alcohol-dependent parent, but were not alcohol-dependent themselves.
The researchers used a standard test and questionnaire to assess the participants’ alcohol tolerance. In the test, participants were asked to drink a standard amount of alcohol over an eight-minute period (0.75ml/kg for women and 0.9ml/kg for men using a 19% alcohol solution). Measurements of their breath alcohol levels, body swaying and questionnaire scores were taken before the alcohol was drunk. They were taken again at set times in the three hours afterwards. The researchers decided to use the response at one hour after drinking the alcohol as their indicator of alcohol tolerance.
The researchers examined 811 sites across the participants’ DNA, looking for any sites near genes that might be controlling alcohol tolerance. They were particularly interested in the region around the CYP2E1 gene. They used standard techniques to do this, which essentially involved looking for areas of DNA that are shared between siblings who have similar alcohol tolerance more often than would be expected by chance, and not shared between siblings with different alcohol tolerance. They also looked at 10 single ‘letter’ variations in and around the CYP2E1 gene to see if these were associated with alcohol tolerance.
Finally, they looked at the genetic code of the CYP2E1 gene in the 96 participants whose data showed the greatest evidence of a link between the CYP2E1 gene and alcohol tolerance, to see if they carried any variations that might affect the protein that the gene produced.

What were the basic results?
The results appeared to show that alcohol tolerance was linked to a genetic region at the end of the long arm of chromosome 10, which contains the CYP2E1 gene. This evidence was stronger once the researchers removed one family from their analysis whose alcohol tolerance results were thought to be unreliable. The genetic variation that showed the strongest link with alcohol tolerance could only explain 4.6% of the variability in people’s alcohol response questionnaire scores. These results suggested that none of the regions tested are likely to be the only regions affecting alcohol tolerance.
When the researchers looked at the families who showed the strongest evidence of a link between this gene and their alcohol tolerance, they could not find specific changes in the CYP2E1 gene sequence that would affect the protein that it produced, and therefore might affect alcohol tolerance. They suggested that this meant that variations in the nearby regions controlling the activity of the gene might be responsible instead of variations within the gene itself.

How did the researchers interpret the results?
The researchers conclude that genetic variations in or near the CYP2E1 gene “affect the level of response to alcohol providing a predictor of risk of alcoholism”. They say that the involvement of this gene “allows inferences to be made about how the brain perceives alcohol”.

This study has shown an association between the region containing the CYP2E1 gene and alcohol tolerance. These findings will need to be confirmed in other samples before any firm conclusions can be drawn. Importantly, the researchers could not identify any variations within the CYP2E1 gene that could potentially account for differences in alcohol tolerance. In addition, this region only appears to account for only a small amount of the variation in people’s alcohol tolerance. This suggests that the majority of a person’s tolerance is explained by other factors (possibly genetic and environmental).
It is also important to note that although the researchers suggest that alcohol tolerance may affect risk of alcoholism, this study did not directly look at people who were alcohol dependent. Therefore they cannot say whether the CYP2E1 gene is also linked to alcoholism. Without further research, the current findings do not provide ways to predict or treat alcoholism.
Contrary to what might be suggested by the newspapers, genes were already known to play a role in how a person deals with alcohol. People who have certain variations in the genes which produce the alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes that break down alcohol are less able to tolerate alcohol. It is likely that environmental factors, such as previous exposure to alcohol, also play a role in a person’s alcohol tolerance.

Webb A, Lind PA, Kalmijn J, et al. The investigation into CYP2E1 in relation to the level of response to alcohol through a combination of linkage and association analysis. Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 2010, Article first published online: October 19

New Hope for Alcohol Dependence

Debbie the Coach site is a resource for those wanting information and help for alcohol dependence.  This site offers innovative solutions for people who have tried quitting on their own, or for those who have tried traditional methods and were unable to stop their addictive behavior.

Older Treatment Methods

Many people experiencing dependence to alcohol are looking for new ways to manage treatment, and are doing so long before their dependence becomes a serious chronic illness. Older treatment methods such as alcohol treatment centers, 12 step programs and hospitalization are often not viable options for many sufferers, who are looking for new and effective methods to either stop or moderate their drinking.

Your first inclination might be to talk to your doctor. General practitioners usually have little or no training in treating addiction and refer their patients to a 12-step program or to a specialist such as a psychiatrist.

Some people assume that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the only way to treat alcohol dependence. They may think that if a person does not join a 12 step group they are doomed to failure. This is not correct; there are many ways to manage alcohol dependence. You may not be comfortable with AA’s approach. Even though AA has helped millions of people, the spiritual experience needed for recovery may be uncomfortable, or you may have tried AA and found it was not for you.

Treatment centers are another option. However, you may not be able to take the time off work to go into such a center. Also, you may not want to go to a treatment center if your drinking is still moderate and has not escalated to severe alcoholism.

Newer Treatment Methods

The good news is that there is help out there that is both effective and confidential.  I have designed a simple program that can be tailored to each person’s needs. This program can be done at your own pace, in your home, completely confidential, with your goals in mind. Using the latest research in anti-craving medications combined with my coaching techniques, clients are overcoming their alcohol addiction painlessly and without spending huge blocks of time.

Download my book “The Breakthrough Plan for Your Alcohol Addiction” FREE and find out the truth  about how current research and coaching techniques can help you.


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