Flooding the booze away

Thanks to Prim for the idea for this post πŸ™‚

Since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve been addressing many issues in CBT that have felt at times intractable as they have been my way of thinking for so long that they felt as hardwired as drinking did back in the day.

What I’ve been experiencing is systematic desensitization, a milder less traumatic version of a type of behaviour therapy called flooding.

The process of systematic desensitization occurs in three steps. The first step of systematic desensitization is the identification of an anxiety inducing stimulus hierarchy. The second step is the learning of relaxation or coping techniques. Once the individual has been taught these skills, he or she must use them in the third step to react towards and overcome situations in the established hierarchy of fears. The goal of this process is for the individual to learn how to cope with, and overcome the fear in each step of the hierarchy.

It is a form of counter conditioning, a type of Pavlovian therapy developed by South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe. In the 1950s, Wolpe discovered that the cats of Wits University could overcome their fears through gradual and systematic exposure (thanks Wiki!)

So in the post I wrote about ‘the 15 minute rule‘ I talked about my almost Pavlovian drinking: certain time on the clock = wine o’clock.Β  So Pavlov’s dogs have been treated by Wolpe’s cats! πŸ˜‰

When we give up booze many of us withdraw from social situations that involve drinking as this becomes an anxiety inducing stimulus (step one above).Β  Then we learn self-care strategies to replace the drinking with, similar to the second step described above as ‘learning of relaxation or coping techniques’.Β  This enables us to then return to the previously anxiety inducing stimulus with the fear of the situation removed because we have completed step three and can then use these skills to react towards and overcome our fear of those scenarios.

But once we’ve conquered drinking many other scenario’s that were fear inducing present themselves and our former way of coping with them has now been resolved/removed.Β  So then we have to apply the same processes to all the new anxiety inducing stimuli whether it’s job interviews for me or paperwork and desk sorting for Prim!

This feels like one of those really big aha moments for me in the continual journey to a life lived straight-edged.Β  If I can remember this in times of fear and stress it should offer some respite from the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee who pipe up at these times and that I’m edging ever closer to firing from the inside of my head! πŸ™‚

8 days to go


13 thoughts on “Flooding the booze away

  1. Got a new saying now Lucy. The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee!!! Love it. God just a week to go now xxx So pleased for you xxx

    1. Hi Kim You can thank Prim for the saying as I heard it on her blog first! πŸ™‚ xx

  2. Thank you. πŸ™‚ This is, in therapy what I call, ‘finished with this trap, now let’s see what I fal into next’. But you are right! I can carry over skills, never thought of that. Well I did do it from sugar to smoking to cola and caffeine to alcohol, but not to life (or desk sorting for that matter). Ha! Let’s see! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  3. Think I’ve got this, but if you could show us exactly how you applied it to another situation that might help those of us of little brain. Have to say had a really stressful day yesterday it’s the first time I could have real done with a drink, but instead had a mock mojito with ice and lime did some deep breathing and put on a programme I liked, sorted does this count as the strategy you’re talking about or have I lost the plot lol.

    1. Hey Catlady. Sounds like you handled the stressful situation perfectly and as the post described πŸ™‚

  4. This reminds me of a Buddhist idea I’ve read about. From my very limited understanding, the idea is that when you get an uncomfortable feeling, you’re supposed to invite it to stay rather than pushing it away. Then you’re supposed to sit with the feeling for a while and treat it with friendliness and loving kindness. The more you practice, the less anxiety you start to feel when faced with unpleasantness and the more you’re able to accept it as a part of life that comes and goes, like everything else. It sounds a lot like the desensitization process. Interesting that people have been struggling with the same issues for thousands of years. Thanks, Lou! Hope you’re having a wonderful time at the Recovery Walk. πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Julie and I love this as I aspire to a Buddhist way of being and thinking! I had to put this into action this week-end multiple times as I went to a recovery conference, then the Umbrella Bar and then the Recovery Walk. I was in a city I had only been to once before and knew no one else so that for me was anxiety inducing but I acknowledged it, sat with it and worked through it and all was okay, in fact better than okay πŸ™‚

  5. great stuff, Lucy. and particularly like the hierarchy idea – that we address our obstacles one at a time. so glad for you having an epiphany here – love it when that happens!

    and it is not that I have not tried self-improvement before – it is that I had previously always been missing a crucial ingredient – self-compassion. like leaving out the yeast, I cannot rise without it…xx

    1. Hey Prim Yep we really are our own online group therapy aren’t we? πŸ˜‰ Love you yeast and rise analogy xx

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