Going Sober

Sober for 16 years, Joe Schrank shares his views on how to quit drinking
February 16, 2014 Updated: February 16, 2014

Once you are addicted to alcohol it is hard to quit. But if you admit you have a problem and want to end the addiction, you have made recovery possible. 

Sober for 16 years, Joe Schrank has committed his career to developing the recovery culture in New York City. He works in all levels of addiction recovery from intervention and early recovery, to media awareness. He currently works with the abstinence-based recovery program Rebound Brooklyn and is co-founder of The Fix, a news project that reports on addiction and recovery issues. 

Schrank shared with the Epoch Times what to do when you decide to become sober. 


Epoch Times: What action steps do you suggest for a person who has just realized that they need to become sober?

Schrank: Recovery and sobriety are very individual things. There is no right or wrong way to get and stay sober.

I would strongly suggest a meeting with a medical doctor, be honest with them and let them know what is happening and what you are trying to do. Too often we forget that substance abuse is a medical and health issue. They may be able to refer you to a specialist. An assessment with a social worker who has a specialty in addiction is also a good idea—maybe even a few sessions to craft the best course of action. 

Mutual help groups are very helpful—and free. Go to a few meetings of AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] or SMART Recovery as an observer, don’t make any commitments, just see what it’s like, see if it feels like the right fit for you.

For many, an intensive outpatient program can be a good fit and a helpful way to get started. There are many around the city and most healthcare plans cover them. 

Again, check them out, go to a few, ask to meet the staff, ask about their basic philosophies, the credentials of the staff. Remember you are hiring professionals to help you with a problem, so do some due diligence.


Epoch Times: What obstacles would you caution people to watch out for?

Schrank: There is a lot of proselytizing about “right” and “wrong” sobriety.

Many people in the recovery community think the best way to recover is the way they did and that may be true for them, but it may not be true for you.

Also, be aware, this is a big change and may not go perfectly—so keep trying, keep at it. Very few people get worse at something the more they do it.


Epoch Times: Are there common misconceptions about overcoming alcoholism people should be aware of?

Schrank: I think people feel that quitting drinking is a decision, and it is, but it is a process. It takes time, effort, and diligence. 

There is also too much messaging in the recovery culture that relapse is failure. It’s not.

If someone drank 17 days of one month and 5 the next, that is pretty good and continuing to work at it will improve results. Many of us will get to “total abstinence” but maybe not as quickly as we would like.


Epoch Times: What can family and friends do to help their loved ones make the transition to sobriety? 

Schrank: Family and friends can learn about alcoholism, what it is and what it is not. They can be honest with their person and ask them what would help them.

Many well-meaning people stop ordering wine with dinner around a newly sober person, which may be intended to be helpful, but can also come off as patronizing.

Also, they can participate in their own process. Having a friend or family member who drinks is a problem separate from having a drinking problem yourself, and the solution to the feelings, worry, fear, and attempts to control may not be for the drinker to stop drinking, so family and friends can seek their own help and support.


Epoch Times: Are there programs in the city that you would recommend to help people through the initial detox phase? 

Schrank: Al-Anon is a great organization; there are many family workshops around town. We have an excellent family therapist at ReboundBrooklyn; the Caron foundation has a great one too. 

Detox should always be handled by a medical doctor. Many of the hospitals around town have detox units. On occasion people can do an outpatient detox, it is really up to a doctor.


Epoch Times: Anything else we should know?

Schrank: One day at a time!


Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol intake causes around 79,000 deaths per year in the United States.

One out of seven Americans are self-reported binge drinkers. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more for men. 

Men binge drink more than women. White people, people ages 18–34, and those whose households earn $75,000 or more per year, are most likely to binge drink.

Losses in workplace productivity due to binge drinking come to around $160 billion in the United States.

Cost of excessive alcohol intake is $720 per U.S. citizen (of all ages) and $1.90 per drink.

Alcohol is a carcinogen, responsible for an estimated 5 percent or more of all preventable cancers.