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Staying Sober


The road to sobriety can be a long, challenging one. You know you want to follow it and you know you're not alone. But some alcoholics, in spite of how much they want to stay sober, fail. Repeatedly. The explanation often given is: they haven't hit bottom yet.

The road to sobriety can be a long, challenging one. You know you want to follow it and you know you're not alone. But some alcoholics, in spite of how much they want to stay sober, fail. Repeatedly. The explanation often given is: they haven't hit bottom yet. In other words, they haven't hurt enough; they're not ready to quit. Maybe. Maybe not.

Aside from alcoholism's well-known physical consequences, alcoholics know that the emotional and mental repercussions depression, paranoia, anxiety can be temporarily alleviated by alcohol. Yet this only perpetuates the cycle because alcohol destroys nutrients needed for mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Struggling With Recovery

When alcoholics stop drinking, they expect to feel better. For many that doesn't happen. A 10-year study conducted at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that the typical alcoholic experiences most of the following symptoms for years into recovery:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • hostility
  • feelings of inadequacy and inferiority
  • paranoia
  • psychosis (lack of contact with reality).

Given the grim outlook, it isn't surprising many alcoholics resume drinking it's human nature to seek relief from stress. A four-year study of 922 alcoholic men treated in seven hospitals revealed the extent of the relapse problem. Six months after treatment, only 28 percent refrained from drinking. One year after treatment, 21 percent remained abstinent. And four years after treatment, that number dwindled to only seven per cent.

Research published in the International Journal of Biosocial Research has established that many of the substances the brain uses to generate emotions amino acids, enzymes, essential fatty acids and neurotransmitters are diminished or destroyed by heavy use of alcohol or other drugs. To round out this bleak picture, consider this sobering statistic reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry: Among treated alcoholics, one of every four deaths is a suicide.

It doesn't have to be this way. The Health Recovery Center, a nutrition-based treatment program that addresses underlying biochemical abnormalities such as hypoglycemia, repeatedly demonstrates success rates of 74 percent or more, according to the results from a three-and-a-half year study of 100 patients that was published in the International Journal of Biosocial and Medical Research. Subsequent studies show a success rate of more than 80 percent.

Yet, in spite of conventional treatment's discouraging track record, employing nutrition in alcoholism treatment has only recently been accepted by some. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 251), reasons for the resistance are typical: greed, ignorance, pride or ego.

A Better Way

Joan Mathews Larson's son, Rob Mathews, was a well-adjusted teen. He earned good grades, acted in school plays, played on the football team and volunteered as a tutor. But after his father died, Rob's drinking and pot smoking became an addiction. Chemical-dependency counsellors theorized his habit was rooted in grief. He completed treatment and returned to school.

But Rob still experienced huge emotional peaks and valleys. Larson had him tested for hypoglycemia. The results: Rob's blood sugar was severely imbalanced.

"Rob's mood swings were incredible," Larson recalls. "He talked about how bad he felt that his dad was dead and how sorry he was that his drinking had caused so much trouble." A few hours later, Rob was found lying dead in the garage under the car's exhaust pipe.

Believing her son's depression had been linked to his hypoglycemia a condition the chemical-dependency unit was not designed to address Larson began searching for answers.

After confirming the alcoholism-hypoglycemia link, she designed a nutrition-based treatment program based on a new scientific understanding of alcoholism as a disruption to the body's biochemistry. Her approach to treatment is called biochemical restoration, and involves regular medical appointments, laboratory testing and nutritional counselling. In 1981, she launched the Health Recovery Center, one of the first such wholistic treatment programs in the United States. With facilities in Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas, her fourth facility recently opened in Stanford, Conn.

Larson earned her doctorate in nutrition in 1985 and, based on the success of the Health Recovery Center, she wrote Seven Weeks to Sobriety, published by Random House in 1992 and revised in 1997. The book explains the biochemical restoration protocols developed at the centre.

Joan Mathews Larson may not be able to get her son back, but she has dedicated her life to helping others turn their lives around. For more information, contact the Health Recovery Center:

3255 Hennepin Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN
55408 USA



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