"Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins.” Chirlane McCray
I saw Bill de Blasio at the Park Slope YMCA this morning, early (he swore in police commissioner William Bratton later in the day). Bill smiled and said hello—I mean, he is a politician.
And we discussed his daughter's drug problem. The "we" was Gil, my AA friend at the Y, and me. My and Gil's discussion went something like this.
Me: I don't get why they brought this whole thing up. (De Blasio's transition team released a video by Chiara de Blasio with that sad public announcement music in the background last Tuesday, followed by a press conference in which the Mayor Elect said: “I’m not going to get into a lot of the specifics here. I think the video speaks for itself.”)
Gil: I guess they were afraid it would come out.
Me: What's going to come out? She's a 19-year-old who says she "smoked weed" and drank. She said she didn't miss classes. And she quit: "Removing substances from my life, it’s opened so many doors for me. I was actually able to participate in my dad’s campaign and that was the greatest thing ever.”
Gil: Well, she wanted to tell people to reach out and to get help.
Me: You know she didn't go to AA, Gil? She did some outpatient therapy with a psychologist and a group.
Gil: I mean, I wouldn't call her an alcoholic (Gil drank for many years and had children before he joined AA and quit).
Me: She gives a lecture in the video about alcoholism. She says that "a lot of people" (damn them!) fail to acknowledge that alcoholism and addiction are diseases that people are dying from. And she tells people, "Nobody can do sobriety on their own."
Gil: Well she didn't want her drinking to develop into alcoholism.
Me: You know, she describes a cognitive-behavioral approach to emotional problems—depression and anxiety—that drove her to drink and smoke: "I didn't really do the proper mental and emotional work—I thought all of my problems would go away." She said she felt insecure leaving home for college. "I'm doing better at school and really getting to explore things besides partying."
So, as Bill de Blasio is a trailblazer in progressive politics, he is spreading the same tired and untrue old wives' tales (Chiara de Blasio's video has a million views on YouTube)—ones that are less than helpful and that his daughter's description of her situation doesn't fit.
This morning, the New York Times featured an op-ed piece by Gabrielle Glaser, "Cold Turkey Isn't the Only Route." Glaser's book, Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink — and How They Can Regain Control, seems to be written for people like Chiara:
The cold-turkey approach is deeply rooted in the United States, embraced by doctors, the multibillion-dollar treatment industry and popular culture. For nearly 80 years, our approach to drinking problems has been inspired by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Developed in the 1930s by men who were “chronic inebriates,” the A.A. program offers a single path to recovery: abstinence, surrendering one’s ego and accepting one’s “powerlessness” over alcohol.
But it’s not the only way to change your drinking habits.
Disclosure: Gabrielle is a friend and a colleague of mine who wrote the following blurb for my forthcoming book, which also describes people like Chiara: "In Recover!, Stanton Peele and Ilse Thompson offer a blueprint to help addicts cope with their triggers, from loneliness and feeling unworthy, anxious, and overwhelmed."
Will Chiara de Blasio really never take another drink for the rest of her life?
Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program, to be released February 4, can be pre-ordered here.