The Great Pretenders

Want to have some great non-alcoholic beverages to offer your friends and family this holiday season? We’ve got you covered. For many years, AAA has published “The Great Pretenders” holiday drink guide, with creative and delicious recipes.

Festive Peppermint Cocoa Cocktail

Submitted by Erle Webber – Executive Chef Formerly The Ritz-Carlton, Dearborn MI

  • 6 each peppermint stick candy or candy canes, crushed
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup non-dairy powdered coffee creamer
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Whipped cream/peppermint patty candy for garnish

Place 3 crushed peppermint sticks in a food processor until fine powder. Add sugar, creamer, and cocoa and pulse until mixed. Add 1/4 cup mix to 3/4 cup boiling water for each serving. Use remaining 3 crushed peppermint sticks to rim your glass. If you like, serve topped with whipped cream and garnish with a peppermint patty candy.

Mackinac Mock-hito

Submitted by Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI


  • ginger ale
  • fresh limes
  • granulated brown sugar
  • fresh mint sprigs


For two drinks, cut one lime into 8 wedges. Place 2 lime wedges into a sturdy glass with 2-3 sprigs of mint and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Muddle until all the
sugar is absorbed into lime juice. Add 1/2 a glass of ice and ginger ale. Stir it so the muddled fruit and spice are mixed, then top o with more ginger ale. Garnish with sprigs of mint and 2 more lime wedges to serve. Repeat for the second glass.


Submitted by Irridescence, Detroit, MI


  • 1 oz. lemon juice
    1 oz. orange juice
    1 oz. pineapple juice
    2 oz. Vernor’s (or ginger ale) dash of grenadine
    orange slice


Mix ingredients, pour into glass. Add orange slice garnish.

For more great recipes, follow this link:

Happy Holidays!

Clearing the Channel


Here is an article I wrote for Human Development magazine, focusing on burnout in the helping professions. It contains a cautionary tale, an action plan, and a success story.


––Jeff Jay




“Make me a channel of your peace….” —Prayer of St. Francis


We can all admire the prayer attributed to St. Francis, no matter what our pastoral, teaching, or care-giving role. But what can I do to keep my own channel clear? Having worked as an addiction counselor for decades, I know something about crisis management and unrelenting stress. For most of us, they’re part of the job description. What can I do to keep the channel clear and avoid burnout?


The neglect of this question killed a co-worker of mine, shocking everyone in the organization. It was early in my career, and burnout was not yet well understood. As a staff, we dismissed the notion of self-care, but our nonchalance withered as his funeral approached.

(read the full article HERE)



I’ve provided the article here in two formats: the original magazine layout and a text layout, which is easier to read. If your school or institution is interested in the confluence of psychology and spirituality from a Catholic perspective, consider subscribing to HD.


Download the full article here (right-click or control-click): Clearing the Channel text file


Clearing the Channel_Jay_ HD Magazine sm



The Myth of Hitting Bottom

A letter from one of our readers…

Dear Jeff and Debra,

My daughter is an alcoholic, and she refuses to get help. People tell me there’s nothing I can do until she hits bottom, but she has two small children, and I just can’t bear to watch this go on much longer. Is hitting bottom the only way?

Worried Mother


Dear Worried,

Why not raise the bottom to right now? You don’t have to wait for a drunk driving or a medical problem or an accident with the children. You don’t have to wait for something terrible to happen. You can take action right now, without waiting for her to hit bottom (whatever that means).


The idea of hitting bottom is difficult to define, when you examine it closely. What does it take for an alcoholic to realize they’re sick and accept help? For some people it might be the loss of a job or a marriage, but many people will keep drinking anyway. For other people, it might be a medical or legal problem that opens their eyes, but many people will keep drinking anyway.


So, what is hitting bottom? What will cause a person to hit bottom, and realize they’re an alcoholic? How can we define “bottom?”


Simply put, an alcoholic’s bottom is a moment of clarity, and a moment of action. At the bottom, an alcoholic will admit that they can’t go on drinking and they don’t know how to stop (and stay stopped).


Dr. Vern Johnson, an episcopal priest and a recovering alcoholic, realized in the 1980’s that there had to be a better way than merely letting a person free-fall to their bottom. He developed the first popular intervention technique to help bring about this moment of clarity, without the dire consequences.


Over time, the technique was evolved to truly harness the power of love and concern, so family and friends could break through the wall of alcoholic denial and help the alcoholic accept help. Using a love-first approach, we have learned how to raise the bottom to right now, and begin the recovery process before it’s too late. Remember, for some people, the classical bottom has no bounce. They simply die of their disease.


This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News


You may also want to read this excerpt from No More Letting Go:

The Silent Treatment

A letter from one of our readers…

Dear Jeff and Debra,

My little brother is successful in business, but his life is being ruined by alcohol. He’s already lost his marriage because of his drinking and verbal abuse, but he’s still playing a blame game. Some of his friends and I tried to talk to him about his drinking, but he wouldn’t listen. Some people say I should cut him out of my life until he accepts help. Should I stop talking to him?

Big Sister

Dear Sister,

Just the opposite. When a person doesn’t accept help for an obvious problem, it’s usually more effective to increase communication. Alcoholics usually want to isolate themselves from concerned family members and friends. They do not want to talk about their drinking. When forced to talk about it, they will reframe the issue and blame others for their dilemma.


Your informal intervention didn’t have the desired effect because it wasn’t well planned. When we do a good, structured family intervention, we spend a lot of time in training and rehearsal. There are three keys to a successful intervention: Plan, Plan, Plan. We need to use the power of love and concern in a very specific and organized way, so we can break through the natural denial and defenses of the alcoholic, and bring them to a moment of clarity where they will say Yes.


If we can’t reach an agreement for treatment, the family members and friends should promise to continue the conversation at every opportunity. They should no longer avoid the issue. If the person we’re concerned about was avoiding treatment for any other life-threatening illness, we wouldn’t walk away. Why should we do it with addiction?


Mental health and addiction problems thrive in the dark. They grow in islolation, and snowball with other negative emotions. When we continue to bring the issues into the light with care and compassion, we make it more and more difficult for the alcoholic to refuse help.


Rather than give your brother the silent treatment, you should consider a better-planned approach and keep the conversation going. We don’t recommend nagging him, but we do recommend a family commitment to recovery.


This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News



Holiday Drinking Guide

A letter from one of our readers…

Dear Jeff and Debra,

We now have two family members recovering from alcoholism (and a few more who probably should be). We always host a large family party over the holidays, and we wonder if we can offer something besides soft drinks and coffee for the non-drinkers?

Holiday Hosts


Dear Hosts,

Thoughtful people like you embody the spirit of the holidays. Family parties should be a time for celebration, but for newly-recovering alcoholics, they can be stressful and dangerous. Having some interesting alternatives to alcohol will not only make their lives easier, these “great pretender” drinks can also encourage others to stay within their limits.


For many years, AAA Michigan published “Great Pretenders” drink recipes for just this reason. Although it hasn’t been published this year, you can find a previous edition here: .


We also found a tasty drink called Golden Glow Punch at

6 oz orange juice concentrate 6 oz lemonade concentrate
1 qt chilled apple juice
2 qt chilled ginger ale

1 pint lemon sherbet or ice ring

Pour the concentrates and the apple juice into the punch bowl. Stir the ginger ale into the bowl. Spoon in sherbet or add an ice ring. Serve immediately.


To make ice ring, arrange thin citrus slices in a 6-cup ring mold. Pour water into mold to partially cover fruit. Freeze. When frozen, add water to fill mold 3/4 full. Freeze. Unmold and float fruit side up in punch bowl.


Everyone will enjoy these festive drinks, and your thoughtfulness will be appreciated. Your sober friends and family members will notice the extra effort you’ve taken, and your holiday spirit will really shine.


This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News

Rebuilding Trust

A letter from one of our readers…

Dear Jeff and Debra,

Our adult daughter’s life has been shattered by addiction, causing hurt and harm to everyone around her. She’s been through residential treatment twice, and is now living in a sober house, far from home. She asking us to trust her and allow her to come back to live with us, but we’re not sure what to do. How will we know when we can trust her?

Wary Parents


Dear Wary,

Your daughter is making a common mistake in asking you to trust her, and you are making a similar mistake in pondering the question. She is pulling at your heartstrings and asking for a favor. In most circumstances, her request might be reasonable, but in light of her addiction it could have life or death consequences.


Your daughter’s question shouldn’t be, “when are you going to trust me?” Her question should be, “What am I doing to become trustworthy?” As parents you are naturally wary based on your experience with her relapses. We can only imagine the havoc her addiction may have already caused in the life of the family. You are right to be cautious.


Like many things in life, recovery from addiction is the result of right actions maintained consistently over a sustained period of time. If someone has a broken leg, the bone must be set, the cast must be worn, physical therapy must take place, and so on. There is a natural healing process that must take place with a broken leg, and if the process is interrupted, the leg may be worse than it was before.


Similarly, your daughter must follow the recommendations of her treatment team. She must stay in a structured environment, continue her Twelve Step meetings, attend counseling sessions, and work an active program of recovery. It is up to her to rebuild trust by following the directions and achieving realistic goals. There’s work for you to do, as well. Follow the directions in the book, “It Takes a Family,” (Hazelden, 2014) and learn how you can support her progress. By building a culture of recovery in the family, trust can be rebuilt on both sides of the equation.


This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News

The Hero’s Journey

Navigating Grace, by Jeff JayJoseph Campbell was an influential thinker, weaving together the stories of many cultures into a seamless narrative. His most famous book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, demonstrated that the travails of our individual lives and the teachings of the world’s great religions have a lot in common—namely struggle, divine help (usually disguised), and deliverance.


Many such stories begin with an unlikely hero (think of Moses being orphaned in the reeds), who through divine intervention is delivered to a powerful family. A series of unlikely events unfolds over the years, endangering his life more than once. But in the end, he triumphs and leads his people out of bondage and into the promised land.


In our own lives, a crisis can challenge us to take action, face difficulties, work harder, accept setbacks, and try again. No matter the outcome, we are stronger and wiser than when we began.


The book Navigating Grace is the story of people in recovery who became heroes—at least to me. Their stories, their courage, and their wisdom helped me to overcome my own addiction and find my way into recovery. The maverick priest, Vaughn Q.; a crippled saint, Mary B.; and boxer, Jimmy C.; all showed me a way out of the darkness of my own self-destruction. They were bearers of light.


These heroes guided me from chaos to coherence, and from doubt to faith. Navigating Grace is the story about a solo sailing voyage into the Atlantic that nearly ended in my death. Through seven harrowing days at sea, 200 miles offshore, I lost all hope, but mysteriously regained my life.


The heroes in my life taught me about resilience, persistence, and mercy, and I hope in some small way to pass on their message through my talk on October 11 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

––Jeff Jay

PS: A video of the talk can be found here:


This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News




College Drinking

A question from one of our readers…

Dear Jeff and Debra,

Our son has been having problems at college related to alcohol and pot. He used to be a good student, but his grades have plummeted. We know from reliable sources that he’s “partying” every day. We don’t want to interrupt his academic career (he’s a junior now), but college is expensive and we don’t know what to do.

Paralyzed Parents


Dear Paralyzed,

If you treat college like an entitlement program, you’re asking for trouble. Your son is fortunate to have parents who can pay for a good education, but that privilege brings responsibility.


As long as he’s living on the bank of mom and dad, there should be clear expectations for his behavior and performance.  He’ll face even greater expectations when he enters the workforce.


We don’t know if your son is addicted, but we do know it’s time for a serious talk, and probably a professional assessment. Don’t make the mistake of sending him to a counselor for a solo session. A thorough assessment will involve several family members and others with first-hand information. If he has developed a addiciton problem, it’s unlikely that he’ll be forthcoming about it, because denial is usually a hallmark of addiction.


If he doesn’t need addiction treatment, but needs to change his behavior, here are some tips for discussion. 1) Let him know that you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours in his education, but 2) it doesn’t look like he’s making the same level of commitment. 3) Tell him it’s OK to drop out of college and get a job if he’d rather party, but that 4) he can’t live at your home.


It won’t hurt him to get a taste of the real world, and reconsider the value of a college education. Early in adult life, most of us learn things the hard way. One last point: illegal activities are illegal. If you give any ground on that issue, you’re asking for trouble.


This post first appeared in the Grosse Pointe News




Addiction and Redemption: the way out

addiction-and-redemptionHere is a PDF of an article I wrote for Human Development magazine. The article begins on page 8.


Addiction and Redemption, by Jeff Jay


The article contains some material from my book, Navigating Grace. It also contains material on Steps 1–5. I hope you’ll pass it on.








“Addiction and Redemption: The Way Out,” by Jeff Jay, as originally published in Human Development Magazine.

Why isn’t AA helping?

A letter from a reader…

Dear Jeff and Debra,

My wife has an alcohol problem, and she knows it. She’s admitted she’s an alcoholic. After trying to quit on her own, she tried going to a few AA meetings, but nothing seems to work. I don’t know how to help her. She’s tried everything. What do you suggest?

Bewildered Husband


Dear Bewildered,

If someone went to the gym a few times, but said it didn’t work for them, would you blame the gym or the treadmill? If someone tried various diets, but quickly gave up on them, would you blame the diets?


Alcoholics get frustrated when there’s no quick fix. They’re used to the instant gratification of alcohol or other substances, and they’re impatient with the idea of working a program of recovery. It requires honesty, open mindedness, and willingness.


It’s no coincidence that “one day at a time” is such a popular motto among recovering alcoholics (and their families). To avoid frustration, keep it simple, and take it day by day. Participate in a Twelve Step meeting today, call your sponsor today, read some recovery literature today. Most people find they can do almost anything for one day.


Before too long, there will be positive results. Crash diets don’t work because they’re not sustainable. But if we take a slow and steady approach, we can be successful. Our communities are filled with people who are ready to help (they’re at the meetings). Experience shows that if we keep doing the next right thing, years of sobriety can be achieved by taking it one day at a time.




This post was originally published in the Grosse Pointe News