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Updated: December 21, 2010 11:00 IST

Recipes for lifestyle change

Prabha Appasamy
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This book, funded by the National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse, is a manual on recovery from alcoholism. It covers a wide set of issues related to the impediments to recovery caused by relapse. It focusses on the signals and coping mechanisms mediating relapse and on the practical aids that are available to the individual who has undergone treatment to maintain long-term recovery.

This complex of problems is treated by attending to the setbacks, pitfalls, temptations, social compulsions, and mental and emotional conditions that accompany the difficult transition from treatment to recovery. The book approaches its subject by dealing with these issues in a sequence of clearly articulated chapters. The topics covered include: coping with risk situations; trigger mechanisms; cravings; lapses; boredom; and negative feelings. The book highlights how seemingly innocuous decisions can affect the prospects of relapse and it also provides specific and pragmatic measures to aid the recovery process. What sets it apart is that it offers recipes for life-style change, which is essential for true and lasting recovery.

Complement

I Plan… & I Can is, in many ways, a natural and worthy extension of Vernon E. Johnson's early classic I'll Quit Tomorrow (Harper and Row, New York; 1973). Johnson's work examines the multidimensional approach needed to deal with alcoholism. This book nicely complements its reputed predecessor, by discussing the details of therapeutic strategy in the form of a daily practical guide to recovery.

A distinctive feature of the monograph is that it deploys a number of interesting examples and anecdotes in order to convey the import of various coping mechanisms. Another remarkable feature is that it steers clear of speaking down to the subject. It also avoids the mistake of alienation: a simple means adopted to this end is to systematically employ the inclusive ‘us' in place of the exclusive ‘you'.

Yet another virtue is that the book addresses a substantially broad-based constituency of readers, in terms of their socio-economic backgrounds; this makes sense, because alcoholism does not recognise class and other social divisions. However, there are one or two respects in which this enormously helpful book could have been made much more useful. Since this manual is likely to be used by professionals also, a short and select bibliography of the relevant literature could have been added. The chapter on ‘relaxation techniques', which is largely structured in the form of brief notings, would have benefited from the employment of a discursive style.

But these are but minor quibbles. The observations are intended not as criticism but as suggestions for possible improvement whenever a revised edition of the book is published.

Utility

What comes through with force and clarity is that this book has been written by people with a life-time of experience with, and knowledge of, the lives and travails of recovering alcoholics. It is informed by an intimate and profoundly pragmatic understanding of the subject it deals with. I Plan… & I Can deserves to be given the widest possible publicity because of its practical utility and step-by-step guidance to those on the road to recovery. The manual is meant not only for people directly affected by alcoholism and their families and friends, but also for all mental healthcare professionals and social workers who deal with, or come across, these patients in their line of work. I would strongly recommend that this book be translated, with some measure of urgency, into Tamil and other regional languages, and the copies made available through the vast network of public libraries and bookstalls across the country so that it attains the maximum possible reach and impact it deserves.

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