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“I don’t follow anyone!” some people will shout, and yet the fact that they speak English is proof that they learned that language by following other people’s speech patterns. It is inevitable that we follow other people’s lead in almost everything we do. Even a total recluse has learned his human ways and thus is following in the culture into which he was born. But the more fundamental question is whom should we choose to follow, and whom should we avoid following? What are the characteristics of leaders who will lead us to a better relationship with our world and especially with those people whom we encounter? And, conversely, what are the characteristics of those people who will lead us to a poorer way of relating to others and the world?

I have approached this conflict, this problem, from the perspective of Adverse Childhood Experiences of people versus Positive Childhood Experiences. It may seem strange at first encounter, but it’s the people with personal experience with problems who have the most emotional fire for coping with the problems. It is then obvious that they will be the people who will have devoted the most energy to coping with that particular type of problem. People who have encountered alcoholism will be the ones most concerned and therefore the most informed on the subject, so it is they and recovering alcoholics who will make the most vehement pronouncements about those problems. People who have had positive childhood experiences will never have encountered those particular problems, and thus will not be concerned with them, and will be very mild and objective when discussing them, and generally will have very little to say about them.

Returning to whom should we follow in general on a given subject? Should we follow the one with experience and fire, or should we follow someone limited to objective outside observation? With the alcohol problem this can be approached by comparing the 12 Step Program to The Grant Study. The 12 Step Program is an example of personal experience and vehemence for coping with a problem. It works as an after-the-damage-has-been-done method for returning most of the way to normal functioning. The Grant Study has little vehemence and suggests coping with alcoholism by foreseeing the problem decades before it arises. It too has methods for preventing alcohol abuse and alcoholism before they ever become a problem. It requires no vehemence and no commitment, and only an intellectual understanding of what the goals of drinking should be and what to avoid. It takes decades to destroy one’s life with alcohol, so it is easy to avoid, if one knows what thoughts and actions to avoid. Follow the 12 step leaders when trying to get out of a deep hole, but follow the Grant Study when intending to never fall into one.

Drink for pleasure, not for pain. Alcohol is not a medicine for curing problems, depression or pain. Nor is alcohol a regular sleeping aid. Yes it can be used for those things, but its routine use will start a positive feedback cycle, and a dependency and then a permanent problem. Once you are aware of those risks it becomes easier to avoid alcohol dependency and personal destruction.

You can cope with your problems better when you are sober.