KEY NOTE: With time and experience, you may not actually have to do all of the defenses in a progression; merely thinking consciously (or even sub-consciously) about them can achieve the same result. How your mind and body responds to any threat - including alcohol - is personalized to you, your particular situation, and your history - NOT some cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are four key elements to the disease of alcoholism:
The 13 Levels of The Conquer Program addresses each of these elements in a logical, intuitive, and useable way through methodically building up layers of defense that at the end will serve as a practical fortress to defend against the various ways alcohol can attack you. Indeed, upon completion of the program, not only will you be able to successfully resist alcohol, you may well be able to ignore alcohol.
uses this deep rooted foundation and begins building a new set of defenses on it, by taking the best of (often fragmented) existing approaches to achieving sobriety and integrating them together in a logical yet intuitive manner, building level-by-level a solid and united set of defenses against alcohol.
LEVEL 4 - Engage Friends and Family starts the building of your support network, by engaging trusted friends and family with your admission of alcoholism and the other first steps you've taken towards sobriety. Universally preached, but unevenly applied in most treatment programs. We focus on who to engage (you really don't want all your friends and family involved with this), what they should expect, and how and when you should engage them.
LEVEL 5 - Detox looks to inform you about the details of detoxification, separating the hype from the reality. The goal here is to learn how to make the most out of what will likely be a pretty unpleasant process.
LEVEL 6 - Rehab and Therapy comes next, areas that most people are aware of in concept and woefully ignorant in practice, particularly when it comes to alcoholism. We dive into the details of the benefits and tradeoffs of in-patient vs. out-patient rehabilitation, and discuss the myriad of potential therapy options that may or may not work for you and why.
With much of the "hard" stuff now under your belt, it's time to really start the rebuilding of your life and the accelerate the continuing building of your defenses against alcohol.
LEVEL 7 - Join A Community builds on Level 4 by having you join an "alcoholic" community, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Women For Sobriety (there are many to choose from). We do an in-depth analysis and critique of AA, since that is the 800 pound gorilla in the alcoholism treatment room.
You might even do more than one, or try variations with a given community. The important thing is to get out of yourself and link up with others who can understand what you have been through and what you face in the future. Along with your friends and family, this community support is critical your defenses - you can't do this alone!
The balance of Phase 2 is focused on "retraining" what you do in your day to day life. Do not think of this as a burden - quite the contrary it is a key part of building a happy new life and actually alot of fun! Since you are shaking up so much of your day-to-day by
But let's face facts. If you went through Phases 1 and 2 without success, you should strongly consider opening yourself up to the need for some degree of spirituality in your life and quest for sobriety. Some of you may be very resistant to introducing spirituality into your life - I certainly was! But at the end of the day not only can it not hurt, you may be very surprised as how it adds an extra layer of defense and support in resisting the temptations of alcohol.
LEVEL 11 - Make Yourself Sick of Alcohol. With the exception of traditional detox, Phases 1 and 2 and the VAST majority of other treatment programs focus almost exclusively on modifying how your mind thinks about alcohol. What they seem to forget is that the body has a huge role in your drinking, and not just as a receptacle for it. Phase 3 places a great deal of emphasis on using your body as a defense against alcohol.
Since the "helpful hints" your body has been providing you as described in the "Listen To Your Body" section have not been sufficient for you to stop abusing it, LEVEL 11 draws on the lessons of Aversion Therapy to club you over the head. It is specifically targeted at the triggers of the Smell and Taste of alcohol (and to a certain degree Proximity) - triggers for which other defenses may just not work for you. THIS LEVEL IS OPTIONAL.
LEVEL 12 - The LAST Detox is also optional, as it a more radical approach for those of us where "traditional" Detox just doesn't work, or work long-term. In this Level you detox while you are ill with something else, achieving several benefits while doing a kind of "killing two birds with one stone." This also works on the Aversion Therapy principle, where you transfer/blame all of your physical suffering onto alcohol. It can work!
In general Phase 3 places a great deal of emphasis on using your body as a defense against alcohol.
Very often there is time to rectify or improve many of these situations, given an awareness of them and appropriate medical or lifestyle responses in addition to giving up alcohol, but first you need to become fully aware of them - both what you are currently living with and what is headed straight at you.
This program places a great emphasis on understanding your physical health in general and as it relates to alcohol as you embark on the journey of sobriety. This consists of knowledge - the many ways that alcohol can screw you up physically - and diagnostics - an unbiased assessment of your physical situation by you AND your medical doctor.
How is this important beyond "just" being aware about how your body has been screwed up by alcohol? The most obvious one is getting on a medical course that will seek to correct or at least control the damage that alcohol has done. But it is also important to have this knowledge to be able to craft the right defenses against your triggers - those built in Phases 2 and 3 - that not only fight against those triggers but also help (or at least not hurt) your medical situation as well.
LEVEL 13 - Develop Your Defense Progressions is where all the individual defenses you have built up during the previous levels come together to create powerful combinations of defenses, that - in total - will be able to successfully defend against all alcohol attacks all of the time. If one defense fails in a circumstance, you have others ready to come to your aid. And don't consider that first defense a failure - it will have weakened the attack so that your subsequent defenses have an even stronger chance of succeeding than they would have by themselves.
LEVEL 1 - Admit You Have an Addiction to Alcohol. If the foundation of a fortress is weak, then whatever is built on top of it will eventually become worthless and crumble to the ground. The analogy is equally apt when trying to become sober. If you don't TRULY admit in your mind and heart that you are an alcoholic, anything else is just for show and eventually worthless. Too often is the alcoholic bludgeoned by external factors such as caring but misguided loved ones, and/or supposedly scientific "tests," to get the alcoholic to "admit" the addiction and shove them into rehab or other treatment program. This too often results in otherwise good treatment approaches going in one ear and out the other - I mean, if you truly don't think deep down that something applies to you, why listen? The Conquer Program looks to truly convince the alcoholic of the reality of their situation by a different sort of test that is not general, not subjective, but based on the person's real life experiences and behaviors.
LEVEL 2 - Know Your Triggers, meaning understanding deep-down what causes you to want to drink. The events, situations, and/or states of mind that make you want to drink or be particularly vulnerable to drinking opportunities are called "triggers." While most programs spend a significant amount of time on triggers, it is often not enough or does not get get the alcoholic to understand them in sufficient detail to be truly usable in guarding/defending against the temptations and cravings. For example, many alcoholics cite "Stress" as a major trigger. Well, that's great on the surface, but what does that really mean? There are of course many, many causes of stress, from job problems to money to a noisy neighbor to a bad commute and so on. Determining the specifics of those causes - the "root" level - is what this program emphasizes over and over.
NOTE AND DISCLAIMER: The physically-ill portions of in these Levels are "optional," as each person needs to determine if they are willing to do something so radical - and even physically risky. They were critical in achieving my own sobriety, but each person needs to decide if they are willing and able to deal with the physical risks involved. The activities involved are also optional in that if you choose to not do these physical parts the remainder of Phase 3 and certainly The Conquer Program as a whole may very well work for you without it.
looks to lay the rock-solid foundation for sobriety through a combination of self-admission (truly admitting you are an alcoholic), self-understanding (thoroughly understanding what causes you to drink), and physical assessment (determining the toll that alcohol is taking on your body). The first three Levels of the 13-Level Conquer program focus on developing this foundation.
eliminating drinking, why not use it to break old habits and do fun new things? It is time worth spent - and you will have time to spend now that alcohol isn't consuming up so much of your daily life!
LEVEL 8 - Break Bad Habits focuses on identifying and eliminating your bad habits that may have been caused by or made worse by drinking. Whether it is cutting down on swearing to leaving your house clean each day, these changes in your habits can have a profound impact on your overall living environment, how others relate to you, and overall attitude towards day-to-day life.
LEVEL 9 - Develop New Hobbies focuses on identifying new hobbies (or rediscovering old ones) that will allow you to enjoy that newly freed leisure time, and offer some level of predictability to that time that will prevent you from wandering back towards a drinking state of mind. These hobbies are not just meant to be fun, but to be key, active contributors to defense against the triggers you identified in Level 2.
Since there are literally thousands of hobbies, we help you identify the things you should look for as you consider possible hobbies beyond just being fun, but also how they can counteract, minimize, soothe, or even eliminate particular types of trigger attacks. Remember, drinking took up a huge part of your former "leisure time," it is essential that you replace it with other purposeful and/or entertaining activities - ones that help you defend against alcohol in the process.
The 13 Levels of The Conquer Program are organized into three Phases. The overall program emphasizes a building up of defenses against alcohol - its temptations, its mental and physical cravings for, even its "virtues." Most importantly, it is building up defenses against the reality that alcoholics have little or nothing in the way of defenses when it comes to "managing" drinking. The disease of alcoholism has destroyed those "normal" controls and mechanisms in our mind and body that allow most people to drink only occasionally, stop after a few drinks, or in general take-it or leave it. This program seeks to build a NEW set of defenses to replace those that have been damaged or destroyed by the disease of alcoholism.
The models above illustrate this Levels of defense concept, with the end result being an extremely strong, multi-level fortress built on a rock-solid foundation that together will enable you to defend against all the attacks that alcohol can throw at you, all of the time, and without it being a forever, never-ending process like many other treatment programs.
Sound a bit complicated? I'm sure some of you think so. But it can work! It's not easy for sure, but it is not rocket science, nor metaphysical magic or BS. It is instead a serious, logical AND emotional development of new tools and defenses that will replace those that were non-existent or destroyed by the disease of alcoholism. The end result is a new way of being able to think and act - without alcohol taking even a bit part in the play, let alone center stage.
I like to equate the end result as equating a can, glass or bottle of alcohol with a container of motor oil. Thinking about alcohol should become as insignificant to you as passing by a display of motor oil in a store. You will have taught your mind - with the help of ALL the layers of defenses you have built - to make your mind and body react to the thought of alcohol just as it would to the thought of opening, smelling, and drinking that can of motor oil... by turns disgusted, incredulous, contemptuous, and perhaps even a bit amused, but at the end irrelevant to your life now and forgotten by the time you get the next aisle! When you are finally able to reach this kind of state and everyday reaction to alcohol, you know your new defenses are complete, and as a whole you will have Conquered Your Alcoholism!
LEVEL 10 - Consider Spirituality. While this is "optional" (it is pointless to shove spirituality or religion down anyone's throat - it is totally counter-productive), developing some level of spiritual foundation with respect to sobriety can be very, very helpful for some people to achieve sobriety, and is strongly encouraged if indeed you need Phase 3. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have God and/or spirituality at the very core of nearly all of their 12 steps. But there are many ways to do this - spirituality does NOT have to be an all or nothing proposition - there are many ways to do Spirituality Lite!
The Conquer Program does not take a strong opinion on spirituality - indeed, spirituality and religion are both deliberately avoided in Phases 1 and 2, since for many people is it not only not needed it can actually be a deterrent to embracing a program. But at its most basic spirituality is just about expanding your contacts and community - just in a different way! And you cannot do this by yourself.
In addition, those triggers are often not "stand-alone," meaning they do not always occur by themselves. For example, Boredom and Loneliness are often tightly coupled when it comes to drinking triggers. Another example is how Relatives, Holidays, and Stress often go together during certain times of the year. Frustration often leads to Anger, and so on. In fact, using our "Trigger Wheel," we illustrate how almost every individual trigger can easily bring at least one other trigger along for the ride in certain circumstances.
Finally, not all triggers are created equal in terms of the ability of your natural willpower to deal with them. You may be able to handle the worst job stress that comes your way without blinking an eye, but any problems with your in-laws may have you eyeing a bottle instead. Truly understanding your triggers means understanding where your existing defenses need extra support which in turn enables you to intelligently and logically find ways to develop and enhance that support. Reinforcements!
Hopefully Phases 1 and 2 will serve to help many alcoholics to a life of sobriety through a well built-up set of defenses against alcohol and a general restructuring of their lives. But it may not be enough for some - more aggressive and unconventional methods may be be needed. Phase 3 takes the premise that "traditional" methods, no matter how well structured and integrated, may not be enough for some of you. It takes what can be called a combined mental, physical, and spiritual approach to achieving sobriety. This is not a standalone approach - Doing Phases 1 and 2 are absolutely critical for the success of Phase 3.
LEVEL 3 - Listen To Your Body! looks to fully understanding your current and likely physical health situation with respect to alcohol. Too often an alcoholic's health plays little or no role in his or her thinking about their alcoholism disease (which is very ironic if you think about it). When attention finally turns that way - often many years into the descent into alcoholism - they find a great deal of unpleasantness awaiting them. Some of this is obvious, such as major skin problems, while others are not, such as cirrhosis of the liver. But there are many, MANY health problems that alcohol can cause.
is non-traditional, unorthodox, perhaps even radical in some ways, as it looks to build those final layers of defense (e.g. looks to Complete Your Fortifications) needed for alcoholics who just haven't been able to "get over the hump" and get traditional methods of defense to succeed, no matter how well crafted and executed. It has the following elements:
There are several reasons why this program is different than other treatment programs and approaches to alcoholism. They include:
NOW is the time to:conquer your ALCOHOLISM
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