A year ago, Dave* weighed 260 pounds, his blood pressure was 140/90, his cholesterol level was 300, he was depressed, had gastric reflux, insomnia and an enlarged prostate.
Today, he weighs 180 pounds. His blood pressure and cholesterol are normal and he’s no longer on medication. He sleeps through the night, all signs of prostate enlargement are gone, he’s no longer taking antidepressants and, he says, “My brain and memory function much better now.”
Dave credits these health improvements to changes he made in his drinking behavior as a result of what he learned in the MHealthy Alcohol Management Program (AMP).
The AMP is a brief, confidential health education program that helps people eliminate alcohol-related problems by reducing or stopping drinking. It is free for U-M employees and counts as one Mhealthy Rewards activity. The program also is open to the public.
When AMP Program Coordinator Teresa Herzog Mourad spoke with Dave at his nine-month follow-up, she asked him what he learned about himself in the process of the program. Dave responded, “That I could maintain light, occasional drinking. I also learned that without alcohol as a primary means of recreation I could become a much healthier and happier person.”
Asked what prompted him to contact the AMP, Dave says, “I was drinking enough alcohol every day that I could tell the next morning that I had drank. Not necessarily hung over, but not normal. I had tried several times on my own to moderate my alcohol consumption, but had never attained lasting results. I had various medical conditions that I was sure were a result of my sedentary lifestyle, which in turn was rooted in my alcohol consumption.”
Dave says he chose the AMP because it was “a program suited for me because it would allow me to attempt to moderate instead of having to commit to lifelong abstinence from the start.”
The AMP teaches abstinence as well as moderation skills, Herzog-Mourad says. “Clients choose which approach is right for them. The program is for people with mild to moderate alcohol problems, not for people who are severely dependent or alcoholic and require treatment services rather than health education.”
Moderation skills that Dave says he uses include “journaling, setting my limits on consumption and committing to those limits, planning ahead, and keeping in mind an analogy and a metaphor.”
The analogy is, “Alcohol is to my body as fertilizer is to a plant. A little can be a good thing, but too much can be lethal.”
He describes the metaphor this way, “Alcohol had me pushed into a little corner of the room and controlled my movements, but now I’ve cornered alcohol and control it.”
Dave says the program has taught him an important lesson about consumption. “I’ve realized that steaks, hot dogs, ice cream, candy and other treats are just like alcohol. They are fine to have, but must be consumed at a reasonable rate.”
Dave says others have noticed a positive change in him and he says he’s willing to share his experience and talk about the benefits he’s experienced from taking part in AMP.
For more information about the MHealthy Alcohol Management Program, go to www.mhealthy.umich.edu/alcohol. To schedule a free, confidential phone screening, call 734-998-2017.
*MHealthy is using only the client’s first name to protect his identity.
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