Alcohol is one of the leading causes of divorce and can also be a symptom of underlying issues in a relationship. During this episode, we are joined by addiction and substance abuse expert, Dr. John Gilburt, who founded and runs Boulder Alcohol Education Centre. We cover what alcoholism is, the potential consequences of having an alcoholic or substance abusing parent, and explore some effective testing techniques.
We also discuss how you can protect your children if you’re going through a divorce and one of the parents has substance abuse issues, intervention, in-patient versus out-patient care, and whether or not rehabilitation can be effective. Tune in today to hear a new perspective on alcoholism and how best to navigate its effects during divorce.
Key Points From This Episode:
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Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.
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Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey Everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya
Amy Goscha (6s):
And. I'm Amy Goscha.
Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to the Divorce at Altitude A Podcast on Colorado Family Law.
Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me I. know Besides. being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a Divorce client. Whether,
Ryan Kalamaya (21s):
You are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney. listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to Divorce co parenting and Separation in Colorado. Welcome Back to another episode of Divorce at Altitude. This is Ryan Kalamaya Alcohol is one of the leading causes of Divorce. I get asked all the time about reasons for Divorce. And indeed Substance abuse is one of the highest causes. And it can also be a symptom of underlying issues in a Divorce. And if one reads or listens to the story of Eric and Melanie Wolf, our hypothetical Divorce clients, you will see that and or hear about the relationship of alcohol.
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 11s):
So in previous episodes, we have talked about Substance abuse and Divorce, specifically episode 44 on Substance abuse in parenting or custody, as well as episode 46 on experts involved in a parenting dispute. And This week, we are joined by John Gilburt. He is addiction or Substance abuse expert in Boulder. And let me tell you a little bit more about John before we get into the show. So John is a native New Yorker. He lived in Europe for six years in the late sixties and was a professional musician with a successful rock band. You can take from that where John landed and why he might be involved in Substance abuse.
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 58s):
But he gave up his music career to marry a Danish woman. Had two sons, began psychology in 1972. He moved to Boulder in 1975 to go to graduate school at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1976 to 1980. He worked on his master's in Substance abuse diagnosis and treatment. He opened the outpatient clinic, Boulder Alcohol Education Center in 1982 using DUI treatment as a basis. After that, he soon began his doctoral studies in 1984 in the neuroscience of alcohol tolerance and alcoholism.
Ryan Kalamaya (2m 39s):
You will hear us talk about high tolerance alcoholism in the following episode. And John, you know, really has a key or foundation in academia on that. Indeed, he did his dissertation in 1990 on alcohol tolerance and disinhibition. He is currently writing a book and it sounds like it's going to be published very soon. It's called 99 Bottles of Beer. And he discusses that later on in this episode. But he really wanted to instigate and investigate d n a research with the goal of normalizing unique characteristics of high tolerant response to alcohol.
Ryan Kalamaya (3m 22s):
So in this episode, we cover what is alcoholism and Substance abuse, the potential consequences of having an alcoholic or substance abusing parent. We get into some granular discussion on testing techniques, which I, I'm hopeful will be helpful for people to understand what the options are as of the recording and really how you can protect your children. If you're going through a Divorce and one of the parents has Substance abuse issue, we follow up and talk about what you should do. If you're concerned with a spouse who has an alcohol or drug problem, we cover interventions, inpatient versus outpatient treatment and whether or not rehabilitation can be effective.
Ryan Kalamaya (4m 6s):
We talk about AA and whole host of other issues in this episode. But before I go on, John, welcome to the show.
John Gilburt (4m 14s):
Thank You. So much happy to be here.
Ryan Kalamaya (4m 17s):
So John, let's start off with some definitions because when people talk about alcoholism and Substance abuse, it can mean different things to different people. So from your perspective throughout this episode, we're gonna be talking about some of those terms. What from your perspective is alcoholism and Substance abuse?
John Gilburt (4m 39s):
Well, Substance abuse is just the act of using substances in a unhealthy way and having them create problems for you. And that could be all kinds of substances. We know there's many, many drugs out there. Alcoholism, the best way that I can describe it makes the most sense to me is a progressive poisoning process. I don't like the word addiction is too confusing to me. Alcoholic usually represents the trail of destruction and devastation, which is left behind someone who is drinking excessively and is going to have a problem.
Ryan Kalamaya (5m 23s):
And, we talk about parenting and Divorce I'll reference to the best interest of the children, which is 14, 10, 1 24. And curiously, there is no term alcoholism or alcohol ick in the statutes when relating to Family Law. But what John Can, you talk to our Listeners a little bit about what the potential consequences of having an alcoholic or substance abusing parent would be. Yeah,
John Gilburt (5m 51s):
I'd probably wanna stick to alcohol because it is by far our biggest problem and the most common, bigger than all the other drugs put together. But one of the first and most important things that happen when someone is drinking more than a very small amount of alcohol is it is a central nervous system anesthetic. And so it begins to put the brain to sleep and it circulates from the outside in. So the first part of the brain, which is effective, which is very important, is our big frontal neocortex up here.
John Gilburt (6m 33s):
That's our intelligent thinking, that's our decision making, that's our understanding, that's our consideration, that's our deliberation, it's our empathy, it's all those complex thinking operations, which we do normally every day. And we don't even consider or think about, but it goes to sleep. So then an individual is now functioning from their lower brain centers, the limbic system, which is their emotional centers and also their impulse centers. So they're not really thinking about what they're saying, what they're doing or how, particularly how they are affecting others.
John Gilburt (7m 18s):
They're unable to do that and that is due to the purely chemical sedative effects of the alcohol.
Ryan Kalamaya (7m 28s):
Well, And I think Listeners can hear that and and they think about people slurring, not really making any sense, making very poor decisions and their voices raised. They have a hard time really controlling the volume of their voice. They might say things that they otherwise wouldn't. It's one of the reasons that I think alcohol as a drug is so popular is because it loosens, it's kind of the social lubricant And I think for you, is it fair to say that someone that drinks one or two, when you say small amounts of alcohol, what exactly do you mean by that? When you say someone may have a problem?
Ryan Kalamaya (8m 9s):
And really I think what we're trying to get into is when is it a problem and when is it just socially accepted or it's normal usage,
John Gilburt (8m 19s):
Just as you say, one or two drinks? Regular size drinks is usually very rarely a problem. Our bodies can handle that. We have enzymes to take care of that and it doesn't have gross physical effects on our brains and our body, the Bible mentions wine as the gift from God, the gladdens, the hearts of men. so we drink to have fun. And it is fun for most people because they are moderate drinkers. Some people are born with a different kind of response to alcohol, which is very strange.
John Gilburt (9m 1s):
And, we never really focused as much as we should on it, but that is a high tolerance. And those people, they actually get a better high, it's a more compelling euphoria from the alcohol and they drink far, far, far greater quantities and far more than what is healthy or what the body can easily deal with. So it begins to put the body through huge changes beginning in the brain and begins to really cause damage. The people who have this don't realize it.
John Gilburt (9m 42s):
It runs in families. There is always a family background in it. And any offspring of someone with an excessive drinking problem, which is a high tolerance, the amounts of alcohol are huge. People can get up to drinking easily a 12 pack of beer a day. I've had clients who drank a case a day or large quantities, pints or fifths, even quartz of hard liquor. And that is clearly poisoning. So the, the body is poisoned and it's amazing that we survive as well as we do, but we do not function normally or intelligently.
John Gilburt (10m 27s):
And as I mentioned, the outer part of our brain, which is our intelligence, really is in a state of anesthesia. So that is absent when we are dealing with the world. Therefore the thinking becomes much more primitive and our understanding and the way we relate to the world becomes much more primitive. And that's a real problem for the family and especially the children because the heavy drinker doesn't think that there's anything wrong because a moderate drinker, if they drank more than a couple of drinks, there's a good chance they would get sick and they might pass out and they would have a really banging hangover the next day.
John Gilburt (11m 16s):
So they experience the toxicity of the alcohol. The high tolerance drinker does not experience that kind of hangover or that kind of toxic effects. They just get high and they can keep going all evening and they can't see why there's any problem with it. But then they can't sense what is going on around them or what is going on with other people. so it limits their understanding of other people, especially the family. They then project that limited consciousness about the other people in the family and that becomes a real problem.
Ryan Kalamaya (12m 1s):
Well, I have some follow up questions on that. So when we're talking, when you say there's a limited number of people, do we know, I think that alcoholism affects roughly 10, 15% of the US population. In your mind is an alcoholic synonymous with high tolerance? Could you be high tolerant and an alcoholic or, there's certainly anecdotally I've heard of people that, you know, they have one drink and the wheels just completely fall off. They're really sloppy, drunk with a really low amount of alcohol. Can, you flesh that out a little bit more. And we think
John Gilburt (12m 40s):
Of as drunkenness as you described, that's a low tolerance person who drinks too much and their motor centers and many of their lower brain centers are affected. So they can't speak, right? They begin slurring their speech, the room begins rotating for them, they lose their coordination, they walk into things, they fall off the chairs. We think of that as drunkenness, a high tolerance drinker. The old understanding was that somehow that person resisted the intoxication from alcohol.
John Gilburt (13m 20s):
But we have seen very clearly that it's not a resistance, but it is a different type of drunkenness. It's more of a psychological, a mental drunkenness. And again, that's the effects on our frontal neocortex just shutting down and not working at all. But strangely enough, high tolerance drinkers, many of them maintain their motor functions. This creates, as you can imagine, a very dangerous situation. For instance, they're still able to drive a car and it's like painting the windshield black and then just going ahead and driving the car because their judgment and their reactions and their fine tuned intellectual functions are not working.
John Gilburt (14m 10s):
So they often speed, they make mistakes, they don't realize what they're doing. They're extremely dangerous. And actually the DUI arrest and a program is a very good net for high tolerance drinkers. I became interested in this largely because of the clients that I was seeing. And I was wondering how can they drink so much, you know, and think that it's fine and and really just enjoy it and don't realize what a problem it is while everyone around them sees it, they're always the last ones to know. And so that becomes a great challenge.
Ryan Kalamaya (14m 53s):
Yeah, this topic has been of interest to me. One I've referenced before, I was a prosecutor in Eagle County and so I handled hundreds, thousands of DUIs. And you would see as you do John, where the volume, you see these people, a lot of people, they make mistakes that, you know, there's kind of a common saying like everyone's driven drunk, they just, you know, not everyone's been caught, but you would also see these outliers that just were mind blowing. And I. Still remember a woman coming in for sentencing in the courtroom and the judge said, can I have counsel approach? And both the defense attorney and me walked up and the judge said, I'm getting a lot of alcohol, like the smell of alcohol from, you know, the client And I mean we were 15, 20 feet back at the table.
Ryan Kalamaya (15m 46s):
And sure enough, the judge had the bailiff where one of the sheriff's deputies give the woman a portable breath test and she was at something like a 0.3, which is I mean I, I don't think I would be standing, I would not be conscious. I mean that is a, like the 0.08 is the legal standard. She was at 0.3 and she was just sitting there walking around and it came out that she had woken up and kind of leaving Las Vegas style of like Nicholas Cage just downing pint after pint of vodka and just was walking around and you wouldn't be able to tell like she looked foggy like in terms of how she like looked at you, but she was just walking around normal.
Ryan Kalamaya (16m 32s):
and there is various stories, I'm sure you have various similar stories, but it is amazing what some of these people can take on in terms of alcohol and seemingly appear to not immediately have the normal effects of drunkenness, the slurred speech and other things that you would normally associate with someone at that level.
John Gilburt (16m 55s):
It is indeed a whole different ballgame. And alcohol is in fact essentially a different drug for those people. About 15% of all the people who drink drink 70% of the alcohol which is consumed. So I mean that's an alarming statistic. If you sat seven people around the table, each one being about 15% of the population put 10 beers on that table, one of those people is gonna drink seven of those beers. The other, you know, six people over time are gonna share the other six.
John Gilburt (17m 39s):
So their intoxication, once you know what it looks like, it sounds like you can tell very easily and you can also smell it, it smells very strong. And a 0.3 is a ridiculously high blood alcohol level, extremely dangerous physically. So alcohol is just doing a a lot of destruction at the same time. People who are just having a good time, they think, and it's fine for them to drink a fifth of gin or whatever and they're having fun and they can keep it going all night. They don't realize the damage that is taking place when they stop drinking, then immediately they go into withdrawals.
John Gilburt (18m 27s):
But it's a different type of withdrawal from a regular standard hangover. They don't get sick, they don't throw up, they don't have a pounding, pounding headache or their stomachs are, you know, just horrible agony. But they do go through a nervous system rebound, the nervous system overreacts in the opposite direction. Alcohol is a downer. So the withdrawal, we call it a rebound, the nervous system really goes crazy and becomes super hyperactive. And part of the reason for that is the body is trying to survive the onslaught of really a deadly toxic chemical Substance and a large quantity of it.
John Gilburt (19m 14s):
So the body doesn't know how much you're gonna drink or when you're gonna stop or if you're gonna stop at all. And so it goes through really an unbelievable sets of changes and a completely different type of functioning And. We begin humping out huge quantities of a specific enzyme. It's called alcohol dehydrogenase, which is responsible for beginning to break down the alcohol so we can get rid of it. Your liver, your body wants to get rid of that alcohol as fast as it can and heavy drinkers can produce as much as three times as much of this enzyme as normal social drinkers.
John Gilburt (20m 3s):
It's normal, it's a healthy response to get sick from a large quantity of alcohol and have a horrible hangover. So the high tolerance drinkers are the unusual response and what is also unusual is that it's inheritable and therefore we know it's genetically based.
Ryan Kalamaya (20m 24s):
Yeah, unfortunately my family has experience and has that inheritable trait. My sister, she unfortunately passed away as a result of alcohol withdrawal in her late thirties. So I think a lot of people have alcohol has touched on so many different families and you see it John too, because you see the people going through Divorce and having to do evaluations. We're gonna talk about that next. But it is one of the most common reasons for a Divorce is the problems associated with alcohol. In, in our story of Eric and Melanie Wolf, there's a a vignette about Eric finding Bottles of wine in the garage from Melanie and, and a lot of people you see at John, I'm sure where they have a dead marriage or they're their stress or an anxious, whatever the case may be, and they're numbing the, the pain of their marriage or the collapse of their marriage with alcohol.
Ryan Kalamaya (21m 28s):
And it can be both a cause but it can also be a symptom or at least you know, self-medication for some of the underlying issues in the marriage. It can be kind of a very vicious self-fulfilling prophecy or cycle that can result. So let's talk about how people going through a Divorce can protect children from a parent that may have a alcohol use disorder or is an alcoholic. What are the things that you see for people going through a Divorce and there's an alcohol use disorder or an alcoholic parent?
John Gilburt (22m 4s):
Well, the problem is that eventually the other adult often is gonna realize that the individual is drinking way too much and it is affecting them, changing their personality, changing their whole thinking process. And it becomes intolerable after a while because they have no consideration for that individual or for the children. The real danger is with the children because the children don't understand that something is going on with mom or dad and it's 50 50, you know, pretty much.
John Gilburt (22m 45s):
So they tend to relate in a normal way to to very sick ill functioning parents and the parents don't realize that they're not all right and that they are doing damage to the children. In the seventies and eighties, there were some wonderful books written about children of alcoholics and about the relationships between parents and the way parents projected distorted thinking onto their children, which can become a lifelong problem for the kids. I'd like to give you three names of women who wrote wonderful books.
Ryan Kalamaya (23m 25s):
John Gilburt (23m 25s):
Love it. Back then. One's name was Janice Weitz, W O I T I T Z, Sharon Weider was the other one. The third one was Claudia Black. and there was a big push around that time, the late seventies, early eighties with family therapy and understanding family pathology. And so they were able, those books are still so good. They could describe the different stereotypical personalities that would be given to the children by the intoxicated parent.
John Gilburt (24m 6s):
The intoxicated parent can't recognize subtleties or individual differences or unique qualities that the children has. so it gives them labels. Usually the oldest kid becomes the perfect one, the one who has to do everything right and get all As and be responsible. The second kid is often the clown. And the clown just keeps everybody laughing and keeps everybody amused. so it keeps the pressure away from them and keeps the parent from getting angry at them. The third is often what we call the disappearing child. And that's the one who just, you know, hides behind the drapes or just goes to the room.
John Gilburt (24m 50s):
They don't make a lot of noise, they don't make a fuss, they just don't make any trouble at all. And this is their way of surviving. And the fourth one is, we call them the rebel. They're the ones who take on all the anger and all the problems and they fight all the battles and protect all the other kids. And they're the ones who get smacked around and really abused and can become little criminals later on because they express their anger, they don't hold it in and doesn't turn into either anxiety or depression or some other form of self hatred, just as very dangerous for the children.
John Gilburt (25m 38s):
And really it is not all right to have an actively drinking heavy drinker. And again, I emphasize heavy drinker because it's the chemical itself and the quantity that does the damage.
Ryan Kalamaya (25m 53s):
Yeah, And, I can speak from a Divorce lawyer experience or perspective in that oftentimes Eric Wolf will come to me and say, I'm really concerned And, we have to walk through that, that scale of safety because really it's a safety issue for the children. and there is a motion to restrict and it gets into is Melanie, is she driving around with the children under the influence? It happens and that's probably one of the most frequent red flags that go up is in a Divorce or even before a Divorce. It could be kind of the, the impetus for the Divorce certainly have had cases where they were, Eric Wolf was just tolerant of it.
Ryan Kalamaya (26m 38s):
But then once Melanie got pulled over with the children, he was just, he realized how bad it had gotten. And some of the stories you hear are just really horrific, but it's a matter of, of a safety and how much is it going to impact the children. And so let's talk, John, let's kind of switch gears a little bit. If someone's in a Divorce and they've got a Substance abuse evaluation, we'll talk about that next. But I really want to talk about during kind of the Divorce process, temporary orders or even after a Divorce, Melanie Wolf, she's a really bad drinker.
Ryan Kalamaya (27m 18s):
What are the testing options? How can we ensure that Melanie is going to be sober when she has the children? What are the things that are out there Soberlink and, and other common tools or techniques that we could really use in, in Divorce? The
John Gilburt (27m 36s):
First, the first thing we need to do is evaluate Melanie I, hope she doesn't mind us using her name. Get a sense of how she sees her own drinking, if she realizes that it's a problem, or if she's still in complete denial and thinks it's fine and thinks that everybody else is just crazy and making a big deal out of anything. And so that will determine the degree of safety and the degree of damage which is being done. And so then based on that we develop a plan, a treatment plan. You're talking about court orders and, and court motions and kind of, you know, law and order types of things.
John Gilburt (28m 20s):
I'm a treatment person, so I'm always thinking about where is this person and how far are they from a real deep, genuine understanding of their own problem and that their problem creates danger much more so than just driving, although there are some really bad situations, but just living at home with a heavy drinking parent is very damaging. So there's a a wide variety of options where, first of all, I would want someone to be in treatment to be actively seeing an experienced knowledgeable therapist who could get a take on how are they doing?
John Gilburt (29m 3s):
Are they staying sober, are they willing to stay sober? Are they sneaking, you know, drinks? What means do we need to use in order to take the drinking out of the picture? And just taking it out of the picture while they're with the children is not enough because the period in between drinking episodes, which we call a rebound, is also as dysfunctional as the intoxication itself. So there are many tools that we use, but good counseling and good therapy and good people to people contact to me is number one.
John Gilburt (29m 45s):
And the most important, when I would have people come in to my office, I would stand in the doorway. So they had to walk right by me so I could smell if they'd been drinking. And that would tell me a lot. I would look at their blood alcohol levels if they had a DUI and that will tell me a lot about their tolerance. And then I'm, I'm gonna ask them a lot of questions, right? And their history, it's worth the time to do a very thorough and extensive exploration and evaluation. What's very popular today is Soberlink. Soberlink is is a little attachment that you plug into your phone and you could plug it into your cell phone now and then at a point of times or it will prompt you.
John Gilburt (30m 34s):
You have to blow in that machine and it takes a picture of you blowing registers your results and automatically sends them out to whomever is the person in authority or the person you know who's designated to be that person. Often that's a social worker, it can be a therapist, it can be anyone, it should not be the spouse. That's not a good arrangement, but that's unwieldy. Oftentimes people have to do it two, three times a day and it's difficult for them to keep up with that. And the sober link is not a perfect test by any means.
John Gilburt (31m 17s):
And oftentimes we will get false positives. So that becomes a real problem and it's not fair. If we're wondering about the results, then we may send someone in to a legitimate testing center and have them give a urine sample. And from that we look for a particular chemical, aylide, E T G, and that we get a three day window where we could tell if that person has anything to drink within the past three days. And it's a very, very strong test, can also test for other drugs at the same time.
John Gilburt (31m 58s):
The next step up from that is what we call The PEth test. And this is new, this is one lab in Illinois which has developed some of these sophisticated tests, but the difficulty with The PEth test is you need five drops of blood. So that needs to be performed clinically with rubber gloves and a little clicker like a diabetic might use to test their blood sugar. But you need to be able to get five drops out of that wound and then let it dry, send it in. And that will give you immediate results up to a month.
John Gilburt (32m 38s):
And the amount, the levels that we find with that will also tell you something about how much or how little the person has drunk in that time period. That's very new and that's still being worked out, but it seems to be very, very accurate. but let, we could have, we would ask someone to go into a Quest lab, for instance, to have 'em in the back of the Safeways in a number of places and have them do that test. So it's done in a medical facility and with all those precautions after that we have Hair and fingernail analysis.
John Gilburt (33m 20s):
For a long time we used hair and then we began, the lab began to realize that it's, it's not a particularly reliable test because different kinds of hair, different colors will yield different results and there are many, many products out there online where you can strip the proteins off your hair and adulterate the sample. so we don't do hair testing anymore because it's not accurate. Fingernails or toenails are much, much stronger tests because you cannot adulterate your fingernails or your toenails.
John Gilburt (34m 1s):
The chemicals get actually into the nails from the inside out and from the underside So you would have to like, you know, put your nails out to get rid of that. But people have to grow their nails cuz we need a hundred grams or maybe it's cento grams enough of a sample, toenails are the best. And the person comes in and they cut their own nails, we watch them and then we weigh it and then we package it, seal it up, send it out to the lab. And from that you can get at least three months, 90 days. So someone who is doing well, let's say, and is able to not drink and is going along with the program and is maintaining their sobriety, there's no need to do three times a day testing for that person or even twice or three times a week testing.
John Gilburt (34m 58s):
so we will have them do a once every three month test and that'll tell us if at any time during that three month period, if they drank any significant quantity. And if they have, okay, then we go to a more frequent test and more stringent controls. So, and in the meantime the person needs to be in therapy and discussing all of this with the therapist and processing it all so we can talk about what made you drink, what made you feel like you needed it, what made you feel like it would be okay. You know, so we go through many, many protocols and testing.
John Gilburt (35m 41s):
We do a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy is very popular, so we're using the person's own thought process and their own view of things. And so keeping that person sober is absolutely essential and it's the whole time, not just the time spent with the kids. Then the second part of that, and this is an important part of the therapy, is that when a person begins drinking significant quantities, and usually a high tolerance begins right away in, in teenage years when we first start drinking, then the problem shows up, the tolerance shows up right away.
John Gilburt (36m 26s):
But it blocks the normal learning of social skills, problem solving skills, decision making skills, sensitivity to others. Because remember again, it's that frontal cortex which has been affected and which is not working effectively. So when someone becomes sober, essentially most of the time we're dealing with an adolescent, a person with an adolescent state of mind and emotional status. So that we use, we do therapy with to help the person begin to develop their normal healthy coping everyday social and living skills.
John Gilburt (37m 9s):
And that takes a while. Sometimes we keep people up to a couple of years. But I'm a believer in outpatient therapy because I think it needs to be an incremental and a gradual process. This didn't happen overnight and it's not gonna get well overnight. In some cases we may need to send someone to an inpatient program or to detox if they're really having a problem because that will enforce a certain period of sobriety, which is a big help. But you can't really do much therapy and the person's not in good shape because they are going through withdrawals during that time period.
John Gilburt (37m 51s):
So just a regular outpatient therapy with good trained professionals is the most effective and the most economical. I can treat someone for over a year in my program and for what it would cost a week spent in inpatient program. So, you got a lot more bang for your book
Ryan Kalamaya (38m 15s):
And this kind of ties into what you just discussed. So I think one thing is really hard for people like Erica, Melanie who are going through a Divorce is, and Melanie may recognize that she has a problem and then she, if money is not the main factor, it's really kind of getting Melanie the, the help she needs. She may be reluctant to go to inpatient because then she's gonna be concerned about her custody, her her parenting rights. But you know, she could decide to go to inpatient and then when she gets out she's likely gonna go through an I O P and then intensive outpatient treatment. She's, it's not just gonna, most inpatient rehabilitation residential treatment centers are now just gonna, you know, put someone out on the curb and say, all right, face the world, it's a whole new world, good luck.
Ryan Kalamaya (39m 2s):
you know, with the rest of your life with sobriety there's a transition phase, at least most of the reputable inpatient and then they'll work with someone like you. But at least how I've seen it is whether someone goes through inpatient, the Divorce starts, they might be in an I O P or there might be an incident that really prompts everyone to say, we've got a problem. Melanie, at that point, as you said, reject the notion that she has a problem but she wants to see her children. And so we will kind of agree if I'm representing Melanie, I'll say, Melanie, there's a process, we can have an evaluation. If you don't have a problem, the evaluator will kind of vindicate you, but in the meantime Eric's is not gonna let you see the kids without assurance that you're sober.
Ryan Kalamaya (39m 48s):
So she'll do Soberlink three times a day. Sometimes you can augment and it's kind of a belt and suspenders approach and people can disagree on how much, if this is too much, but that she would do E T G testing Monday, Wednesday, Friday and that because you can still drink on Soberlink, you just can't drink during the time or you know, within the phase cuz it picks up on the blood alcohol level on your breath. And so she could do that for a period of time while someone like you does a formal S a E A Substance abuse evaluation. And then, you know, it really depends on what phase she's in. She's not gonna do that for 10 years, but it might be for the first three months, it might be for the six months and then if she relapses you could start the clock over again.
Ryan Kalamaya (40m 36s):
But originally, or like what we're really talking about is a process and what you were referencing earlier, And I just want Listeners to kind of understand the, so Melanie might have testing three days a week or three times per day rather every day with or without the kids. And the main focus is gonna be whether she is drinking or not. And the main focus is her sobriety. Then after a period of time she's gonna be testing only when she has the children and then it could go from three days or three times per day to once per day. And, and you know, there's this transition phase and eventually we can kind of either augment that sober link or we could just drop the sober link and use PEth testing or fingernail testing and that will eventually be phased out if she maintains sobriety for six months a year.
Ryan Kalamaya (41m 31s):
And it can vary, right John? Yeah, it
John Gilburt (41m 33s):
Varies a lot. And And I think again, you need the cooperation of the individual is absolutely crucial. Otherwise what we're talking about is imposing, you know, these means forcing her to do these tests. But unless we're working on her state of mind and her understanding and her desire, which most women in particular will choose the kids over the drinking men are, are more difficult in that sense. But that is, it's, it's a contingency system of rewards and, and call 'em punishments because they feel 'em as punishments, they feel they're prisoners and other people are controlling their days and their times.
John Gilburt (42m 22s):
We can also put a breathalyzer in their car. All DUI people right? Have a breathalyzer, an interlock device in their car, which the car won't drive if you don't blow in the machine when it wants you to. And if you have a significant level of which isn't very much of alcohol, the car just won't start or it'll just shut down. So we have a lot of control methods, but again, the really important aspect is getting the individuals to be a part of this and to own this problem. We also try whenever we can to send people to AA because there are, are lots of other people there and they understand this problem and they are dealing with it also.
John Gilburt (43m 14s):
So there's a huge amount of support but also kind of right the ship. Nobody will confront you faster than an AA member if they sense that you're going off in the wrong direction. I still believe that a person needs a professional therapist. And I think the family needs professional therapy also, and particularly the kids depending on the age of the kids and, and the spouse oftentimes needs their own therapist. But everyone needs those resources, the kids especially. So they can go to their counselor and speak confidently in private and talk about how they're doing and how they feel about, in this case, mom, we don't want the poor kids to have to be spying on mom all the time.
Ryan Kalamaya (44m 7s):
This episode is brought to you by our law firm, Kalamaya Goscha Amy And I describe our law firm as an innovative and ambitious trial team that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family, Law, personal injuries and criminal defense in Colorado. We currently have offices in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Edwards Denver, and Boulder. If you wanna find out more, visit our website Kalamaya dot law. Now back to the show.
John Gilburt (44m 37s):
Well we were, we were talking about different means of keeping someone sober and then thereby keeping the children safe and enabling that person to continue their relationship with the children. And I was saying that I think each person in the family needs to have the resource of their own therapist, especially the kids so they can have someone to go to who is safe, who will listen, who will understand them, and there will be no repercussions. And certainly the drinker needs to have a therapist And I think. Anyway, we have all these means really to help an individual remain sober.
John Gilburt (45m 24s):
And I count AA among some of the most valuable resources and the longest lasting. so we recommend Alcoholics Anonymous whenever we can, but we also recommend Al-Anon, which is for the spouse of the drinker and is a wonderful program. and there is also an AA derivative adult children of alcoholics, which if the kids are old enough and are willing would not hesitate to send that to them because it's all very friendly and you're just in with a whole bunch of other people who are going through exactly the same problem. and there are different stages.
John Gilburt (46m 5s):
So they're helping each other and it is tremendously valuable.
Ryan Kalamaya (46m 9s):
Yeah, And I know some people chafe at the 12 sub programs with the kind of religious connotations and the higher power. But I can also speak from experience, not of going to an AA meeting, but my judge in Eagle County, she would order DUI clients who had had a second or a third and would order them as part of their sentence for a DUI or some alcohol related offense. And I kind of joke that I never saw a domestic violence case where someone was stoned, they were under the influence of TC or weed, but alcohol I saw all the time.
Ryan Kalamaya (46m 54s):
But she would order 90 meetings in like a hundred days. And it was amazing to see some of these people come back at the end of it and how much better they looked and just to hear them talk. And after the 15th, 20th, 30th person that had done this, it then registered, wow, this is really powerful stuff. And the person would come in and say, my life is totally different. And also the flip side, John, you, you undoubtedly have experience with this is I would see people that would come back after a year and they had picked up their third or fourth DUI and had lost their kids or lost their wife and they said, I got away from going to regular meetings.
Ryan Kalamaya (47m 46s):
I th I thought I could have a drink and that it wouldn't be that bad. And I don't remember what happened after that. I ended up in jail and they just thought they had conquered their problem and they relapsed. So Can you maybe talk about relapse and the kind of grace that one should extend to someone that is dealing with these issues. Cuz I think that one thing you've kind of touched on that is the stigma that goes along with alcoholism And you know, I remember I went out to Moab with a group of guys and one of them had reached out to me about his Divorce and his wife had a really bad alcohol problem.
Ryan Kalamaya (48m 31s):
And he told me while we were riding, you had two people that one that were sick, one was an alcoholic and another woman had breast cancer. And you asked the general population, who would you feel kind of more empathy? Who would you feel worse for? And, I think a lot, most people would say, I feel horrible about the breast cancer, that they didn't, you know, that they can just as is cancer, there's not as much of a stigma. And you know, he said after going through this and a lot of therapy, I have more empathy for the person dealing with the alcohol issue. But I do think that the stigma, the shame that is associated with that is somewhat of a barrier to proper treatment.
Ryan Kalamaya (49m 14s):
So, you maybe talk about relapse and shame and, and some of the, those, those related issues.
John Gilburt (49m 19s):
Yeah, sure. And that's very, very important. It goes way back, I mean, at least remember the Women's Temperance Movement and the late 18 hundreds, they claimed that the alcoholism was a choice. It was a moral problem that a person was deficient, that a person was, something was wrong with them, that they would become, you know, that they would choose to be a heavy drinker. And it was really ridiculous and very punishing and very difficult with no understanding whatsoever. so we've learned a lot in that time.
John Gilburt (49m 60s):
And again, it is about the chemistry, it is about the large quantity of a poisonous chemical that is doing damage and that is what causes all the outflow from that and all the consequences and those consequences when we see a pattern of problems caused by the alcohol. That's when we call it alcoholism and particularly when a person continues to drink in the face of that. But once again, now we know they're not thinking clearly and the part of the brain they need to help them make the right decisions is not functioning.
John Gilburt (50m 43s):
so it took a long time before we got away And, we still haven't given up that moral kind of a problem that somebody, well they have a choice, they don't have to drink that much. And that just shows a misunderstanding of the power of the chemistry and the power of the rebounds in between the drinking episodes that that forces the next drinking episode to happen. So one man in particular coined the term disease. His name was gel in 1960, but that is not accurate.
John Gilburt (51m 24s):
It's not a disease in any sense that we recognize what he was trying to do is get alcoholism into the medical community because there was money in it at that point they realized that treatment could bring in money. And so it's gone through a lot of iterations and a lot of different stages of understanding and conceptualization. Right now we have a huge school which believes that the alcoholism is caused by trauma, it's caused by unhappiness, by anxiety, by depression, by bad relationship with your mom, by this, by that, none of those things are true.
John Gilburt (52m 9s):
If anything, all of those conditions are likely to be the result of the chemical poisoning. But it starts with the chemical itself and with the tolerance, with this unusual response to alcohol, which is different from most people. It demonstrated it very clearly in animals and in mice and in fact could breed a strain of high tolerance mice up here at CU And. I happened to be going there around the time they were working on this. And then they sold the mice to universities all over the world who took the brains out and looked at what is different happening in the brains of the little high tolerance mice versus the low tolerance mice.
John Gilburt (52m 59s):
And they found a bunch of things which were measurable, observable, solid, you know, chemical differences. This was nobody's imagination. That's what I did my study and my dissertation on. And that's part of our education program is we want people to realize that, that this is not their fault. It's not that they're a bad person or immoral or that they're stupid or crazy. They've inherited this specific response, which turns out to be dangerous.
Ryan Kalamaya (53m 34s):
Well, I want you to maybe explain to people about What goes into a substance abuse evaluation as we near the end of this, this episode on alcohol Can. you talk, John, about what is a Substance abuse evaluation and what's the process from your end?
John Gilburt (53m 52s):
It's, it's a crucial part of this process because that's how we come to understand the individual who are all different. There is no one formula for this. So usually we'll spend several hours over several sessions sitting down and talking with the individual. And if I were doing an evaluation with you, I would wanna know about your childhood, I'd wanna know about your family background, wanna know if there were any problems with the birth or any problems with the pregnancy. If I could, I'd wanna speak with your parents, I'd wanna speak with your significant others.
John Gilburt (54m 33s):
So I want to get as much information about you And I. Certainly wanna focus on your understanding of what does the drinking mean to you and how does it work and why do you drink and how would you be able to accomplish not drinking? And what would that mean? How much of a loss, how much of a sacrifice would that be? I've had people who felt that they could not imagine not having that euphoria throughout their lives. And these are grown up intelligent people who are professionals often, and it is the greatest pleasure that they have in their life and they wish they could give it to everyone else.
John Gilburt (55m 18s):
And they don't understand that they are being poisoned and that they are destroying their bodies. Little by little over time, usually you start seeing it comes out in the fifties, things start going wrong. And then most often heavy drinkers don't get past the sixties. The body cannot tolerate it and it will kill 'em. The evaluation is meant to bring all of this out and to organize that so we have a full understanding. And so I can then reflect to you and give you an understanding of yourself from a scientific point of view. This is not just my opinion, this is the science and it is very well established and well documented.
John Gilburt (56m 5s):
And hopefully I'm gonna gain your trust and your cooperation And, we will decide together and you may need to try it, you may need to try it. Well, I can control it. I'll just have a couple and see how that works. And some people rarely are able to do that with a great deal of effort. But two drinks is about it. That's about how much your body can handle without any real ill effects. But then most people learn when they come back in And, I say, how'd you do And? I said, well, not so good. you know, I, I did it for four days, I was fine and then I lost it.
John Gilburt (56m 49s):
And I said, let me explain to you why you lost it. so it began to put in an educational therapeutic intervention. At the same time, we're still evaluating what resources you have to be able to cope with this, to deal with it, to not drink and to then be able to deal with your life and all the things that have happened. so it's a, it's a complex time consuming process and you could do quick versions of it, but that's a shame because you miss out on a lot of valuable information that you're going to be using to help the person.
Ryan Kalamaya (57m 31s):
Yeah, that reminds me John of the f Scott Fitzgerald famous quote about, first you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you And. I is really hard for a lot of people. And if people are interested in learning more, we'll talk, we'll finish up with your book. But there are other episodes that we've done on the Divorce at Altitude podcast on Substance Abuse and Parenting. It's episode 44. There's also episode 46 on experts in a parenting dispute. John would work as a Substance abuse evaluator, and correct me if I'm wrong, John, it's a certified addiction therapist or certified addiction counselor is often the kind of the cat and cat acronyms are often people that do the evaluations or someone like you that has even more than that, a PhD and others.
Ryan Kalamaya (58m 23s):
But there are experts. There's also a podcast episode that at least I found to be very influential, And. I've heard a lot of other people share the same thing. It's the Huberman Lab podcast, Andrew Huberman, he's a neuroscientist at Stanford that has done one on alcohol that you will never think about alcohol in the same way after listening to that episode, we'll have links to all this in the show notes. But John, let's wrap up about your book. Why'd you write 99 Bottles Can? you tell us a little bit about the book and the project. 99 Bottles of Beer.
John Gilburt (58m 56s):
It's based on my dissertation, which is the neuro neuroscience version of this, which I went looking for what are the chemical differences between a high tolerance subject and a low tolerance normal subject? And I found a bunch of stuff in there, so this is not, then this was free from all the psychological theories of tension reduction and pleasure seeking and trauma and all the world of confusing psychological theories that we have. And I wanted to focus on the importance of the chemical itself.
John Gilburt (59m 40s):
And to a regular reader, a dissertation is pretty much unreadable. They're very difficult to read. So I wanted to write a public, a version for the common person who is not educated in these things but is interested and maybe needs to learn about these things. And so that was the reason for the book and the, the title 99 Bottles was because of the quantity, which is, is crucial to understanding the damage and all the bad things that flow from someone who is drinking too much. That should be out soon.
John Gilburt (1h 0m 21s):
And I, I included some history in there and some other theories and some other things, which I hope will make it interesting, but also the actual neurochemistry that I discovered in my research.
Ryan Kalamaya (1h 0m 34s):
Well, John Thank You for sharing your time, your insight, your expertise. We didn't even talk about your time as a rocker throughout Europe. And, we didn't touch on mental illness because there is kind of an interrelationship between mental illness and alcoholism. A lot of people with mental illness. My, my sister, she was bipolar and she self-medicated through alcohol. And that can be a double whammy when people are going through a Divorce. But John Thank You for the time. I really enjoyed the conversation. Hopefully we can expand on it in the future. And again, for people that are interested in learning more about John, we'll have links to his business and his profile in the show notes.
Ryan Kalamaya (1h 1m 20s):
But until next time, Thank You for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. Thank You Hey, everyone. This is Ryan again. Thank You for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode, visit Divorce at Altitude dot com. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me at Kalamaya.Law or 970-315-2365.
Ryan Kalamaya (1h 2m 0s):
That's K A L A M A Y A.law