Anonymous Online Support Helps Get Drinkers Through Holidays and New Year

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Seasonal triggers sometimes result in relapse.

So they seek out a more private venue which is truly anonymous and in which they feel comfortable sharing information about their situation. It can be very therapeutic.

As reported in a December 20 Newsweek Web Exclusive, the holiday season is often a challenging time for drinkers. But new options, including anti-craving medication and online support, are now available. Specifically, the web-based forum http://www.mywayout.org was recommended. Alcoholics Anonymous was also suggested.

Roberta Jewell, author of the self-help recovery book, My Way Out, serves as administrator of the Internet support group at http://www.mywayout.org/community and says she sees a bump in traffic -- and relapse -- at the end of each year.

"A lot of people are struggling now," says Jewell. "they've often held the bottle at bay for a long time, but craving is a condition many individuals live with on a day to day basis. Holiday pressures can add to the stressors that serve as a trigger. Depression sometimes hits, too. So it's reassuring to know you can reach out from the comfort of your home, anytime, and find help."

Traffic at My Way Out's free forum is nearly four times that of the Alcoholics Anonymous website (source: http://www.alexa.com). But Jewell says many of her members attend local 12-step meetings and the two are not mutually exclusive.

"Still, the majority of individuals who visit us online are simply uncomfortable in a face-to-face environment, at least early on in their recovery," she says. "So they seek out a more private venue which is truly anonymous and in which they feel comfortable sharing information about their situation. It can be very therapeutic."

Dr. Linda Garcia, MD, addiction specialist and Medical Director of My Way Out, agrees that participation in a web forum can be immensely helpful. She says abstainers fall off the wagon disproportionally around the holidays and are sometimes frustrated by their inability to get in to see a doctor or therapist.

"It's important to prepare," she says. "There tends to be an increased workload for many physicians because they are dealing with more depression, suicide, coronary heart problems and other conditions now. Appointments are also hard to get because patients are trying to satisfy end of year deductibles."

To prevent relapsing Garcia recommends adopting good nutrition with limited sugar intake, amino acid supplementation in addition to vitamins and minerals, a regular exercise program, and some form of relaxation. She says anti-craving medication, hypnotherapy and counseling are also important options to consider.

Jewell agrees. She says developing a customized recovery program goes hand in hand with the support visitors find once they arrive at the My Way Out forum.

"It's a multi-faceted approach," says Jewell. "Support is a critical piece. We're able to provide excellent resources to help people work with their physicians and develop a plan that's appropriate. They also find friendship and fellowship along the way. We've seen a lot of success stories and we're really proud of that."

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