I loved reading the book ‘Almost Alcoholic’ by Robert Doyle and Joseph Nowinski but I was left with this nagging question that I can’t shrug off and which wolfie is quietly nurturing.
So many of their case studies who were in the ‘almost alcoholic’ zone seemed to be able to go back to normal social drinking after some self-help work or psychological therapeutic input. Now don’t get me wrong they are clear that there are some who cannot go back to this type of drinking however hard they try. They talk about drinking developing to the point of dependence or a person having co-occurring conditions, such as mental health problems.
In the UK substance abuse or misuse is seen and treated as part of the mental health service within the wider children and young people’s services if you are under the age of 17. Both mental health, drugs and alcohol carry the same type of stigma for young people and adults despite huge campaigns to change it (for example the time to change campaign). Which is why I struggle to accept where I am and am still looking for a way round. As you know I’ve been having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) specifically to look at my drinking and having done a series of posts on drinking thinking. In the near future I will start to look at my thoughts and the formulations that we are working on to share them with you here. I posted before about a friend of mine who had CBT and turned their drinking around completely. This both fascinates, excites and scares me. Could I do the same, would I want to and what if I can’t? I’m still trying to figure that out.
89 days to go
When I think back on my drinking it wasn’t just about drinking habits it was also about drinking rituals. Interestingly when I looked at the word ‘rituals’ on Wiki it said this:
In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.
How very interesting?!
And I think for me it was a bit like this as I was a bit obsessive about my drinking. What do I mean by that? Well I had certain wine glasses that I preferred to drink out of – you know a ‘favourite’ and would be eager to replace them if they got broken. I would always have spare wine in the house so we NEVER ran out. The wine rack was filled regularly, the fridge always had a bottle of fizz, white and rose chilling in it (for unexpected guests of course!) and I used to love those supermarket offers that incentivised me to buy even more. Interestingly us UK folks love of a drink bargain may also be confirmed by recent University of Cambridge research that found end of aisle displays significantly increased sales of displayed products: 46% for spirits, 34% for wine and 23% for beer. So it wasn’t just me then?
If I was having the lie-in the next morning at the w/end I would almost always stay up beyond Mr HOF and sink another couple of glasses and smoke a couple more fags – like I needed them? Same with the fags had to always make sure there were 2 left in the pack for the following day. Not nuts much huh?
Was it just me with the drinking rituals or does this all sound familiar to you too? 🙂
Previously I had posted that I was still struggling with my social life and how I felt about drinking when I was out socially around drinking venues and other drinkers.
But in the last few weeks I’ve noticed a shift. My social life is improving and is reaching out to new groups and new ways of socialising that I just wouldn’t of considered before.
I’ve met some other lovely sober bloggers for lunch and cups of tea and am keen to do this again soon, but this time with cake 🙂
Secondly I have started going out with some friends at work. We’ve been going for a bite to eat and then on to the cinema and we’ve done this a couple of times now and I really enjoy it. Doing something where no one drinks is really odd but equally really nice. When we first had a meal together I was struck by how no one at the table had an alcoholic drink and how weird that seemed – but for me, newly sober, how fantastically reassuring. There is a social life out there where booze isn’t a pre-requisite! Who knew?!
I’m lining up tickets to a gig soon too which will be breaking new ground for me but it’s a couple of months out yet and I’m beginning to feel that by then this will be less of a problem because not drinking will have become even more the ‘new normal’ for me. Who needs booze to have a good time anyway? It would seem not me anymore, how ’bout you? 😉
After sharing yesterday’s documentary it seemed only appropriate to share this video too. I promise no more uncomfortable medical video posts for a while.
This was shared by Alcohol News which you can follow here. This show only aired in the last few weeks so is very recent.
The scary thing is the Dr talks about the additional burden alcohol places on females as we are just not as able to process alcohol as men. I watched this and feared for my poor liver! My intention is not to scare anyone into quitting but we need to be aware of the implications of what heavy drinking does to the body and how important our liver is to our general well-being and health.
Back to our usually more upbeat blog schedule now! 🙂
This is the mother load for me. Everything is my responsibility and my fault, good or bad, happy or sad. Drinking was my personal stick to beat myself with for years. I could ‘why me?’ about drinking ad infinitum. Why am I the only one who can’t drink normally? What did I do to make this happen to me? On and on and on.
Personalisation is where we attribute personal responsibility for something, including the resulting blame or praise, for events over which we have no control (source) Or, welcome to the world of parenting, I digress 😉
Nothing allows this better than drinking. Imbibe lip loosening, inhibition dropping addictive substance in vast quantities and stand well back. OK so I picked up the first glass that IS my responsibility. But the cascade of events afterwards, however much the bottle of alcohol says ‘drink responsibly’ – sorry this is an oxymoron and paradox rolled into one.
Strategy, for the last time, involves – you guessed it – checking the evidence! Not everything is our fault and it doesn’t always happen to me only. I am just not that damn special or ‘terminally unique’ as AA would say 🙂
I should say everything was my responsibility because I’m drawing boundaries around this one and progress is swift when you put down the glass. Maybe you’d like to join me? 🙂
Jumping to conclusions or mind reading, another skill of mine 😉
So when I was considering stopping drinking I thought that all sober people were boring and that any social event without booze would be dull. So I completely jumped to the wrong conclusion and my fortune telling skills failed epically too. I also thought that people would like me less sober because I was a mind reader too!
This thinking error means we reach false preliminary conclusions, usually negative ones too, with no evidence to support them. In reality, I couldn’t have been further from the truth but you have to leap blindly first to find it out. Or you lurk on sober blogs for a while and learn vicariously before you take the step yourself! 🙂
Jumping to conclusions is a common error because we are cognitive misers and these are “judgmental shortcuts that generally get us where we need to go – and quickly – but at the cost of occasionally sending us off course” (source)
How do we correct?
- You’re probably sick of me saying this now BUT check for evidence
- There is no benefit in just accepting something at perceived face value, challenge your thinking first and see if you were right, or most likely wrong!
Is anyone else as bad a fortune teller as me?
This is a real biggie in our world. We use labelling to connect with people but also to distance ourselves. So I am happy to be a member of the sober blogging community because that has positive connotations for me but am still stuck on the ‘am I an alcoholic?’ question because the label of alcoholic still carries and attracts very negative stigma.
“This is a more severe type of overgeneralization; attributing a person’s actions to their character instead of some accidental attribute. Rather than assuming the behavior to be accidental or extrinsic, the person assigns a label to someone or something that implies the character of that person or thing” (source)
Being unable to control our drinking is seen as a character defect rather than the reflection of an alcoholic substance that we have accidentally become addicted too because of our cultural acceptance and encouragement of us to drink. For me it suggests that I am a ‘bad’ person and that I have ‘failed’ in some way. But I am not defined by my ability to drink alcohol or not, this is just a tiny facet of me as a person, and yet I feel shame.
Strategies to manage:
- Back to checking for evidence. I am not the only person struggling with this issue and thanks to the sober blogging community I know this. I could always go to an AA meeting in real life and check it there too.
- Beware of labels as they usually hide the truth
What other labels need deconstructing and redefining? Sober and what that means is the first one that springs to my mind. What else? Chime in below 🙂
This is another biggie for me. When I was moderating and trying to manage my drinking I struggled with the ‘I should be able to manage my drinking’ and ‘I must have 3 nights off a week as per the Govt recommendations’. Then when I couldn’t manage it I would beat myself up and feel guilty for being such a failure and not being able to keep my own drinking rules. Hello, addictive substance alert!
These kind of thoughts make heavy demands on us emotionally and I love that Albert Ellis termed this “musturbation,” probably because it appeals to my sometimes purile mind (source). It is one thing to want to try to do something positive about your drinking, like reduce the amount you drink on a daily or weekly basis. It is quite another to say that you ‘should’ or ‘must always’ be like that.
- When you find yourself using ‘shoulds and musts’ recognise and acknowledge the thought and then forgive yourself the perfectionism and give it up.
- Yes, of course it is important to try and change thoughts, feelings and behaviours but don’t punish yourself if you can’t always keep it up or don’t succeed.
This, for me is, is why I stopped drinking. Because if I drank I’d break my own self-imposed rules and then think ‘what the hell, may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb’ (explanation).
If you don’t drink the only should or must is not to drink. There is no sliding scale on the perfectionism. In this instance all or nothing thinking actually works to your advantage 🙂
This is a kind of selective attention like ‘Mental Filtering’ except this time you are discounting the positives of an experience. The moderation examples used in the last post would be equally applicable to this.
Or again using my blogging example someone might congratulate me on a post and I would dismiss it out-of-hand, believing it to be undeserved. I might also automatically inwardly interpret the compliment as an attempt at flattery or perhaps as a result of naivety on their part, as in ‘wait until you find some of the really good sober blogs’. I might then dwell on how much better these other bloggers are instead. This is a genuine thought process of mine at times and I’m not looking for people to blow smoke up my arse (thanks FFF!)
As with mental filtering, if you have to accept something as not really bad, then you discount it by saying well it wasn’t really good either. It was nothing. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t ….
Here it is important to remind ourselves that filtering out good experiences only leaves negative ones to focus on and that increases the risk of depression. I’m not suggesting we become all Polyanna-like but I think some balance in our thinking is critical and crucial to our recovery. We need to celebrate the wins of not drinking rather than dismissing or minimising them as that way drinking again lies. Sober treats and self-care reminder! 🙂
This is times when I focusing entirely on negative elements of a situation, to the exclusion of the positive. I guess for me and drinking that would be thinking about when I was moderating and how when I started to drink heavily again how I could not think about the times of moderating as positive and how each time I was learning new tools for my sober toolkit. They weren’t wasted they were valuable learning opportunities but I saw them as negative relapses.
Also, it is the brain’s tendency to filter out information which does not conform to already held beliefs. So if someone said something nice about this blog post I might still think it was not good enough and that it should have been better written because I believe I am not creative.
This is mental filtering.
As Almost Alcohol wrote: Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. In this piece of writing she focused on the fictional relapse and not on the successful quitting before that night.
The new way of thinking includes:
- Checking the evidence to support the statement
- Write a list of all the ‘good bits’ no matter how small they seem by comparison
- Try not to filter out all the bad stuff and just focus on that
Every time you attempt to moderate and do so successfully, for however long a duration, this is a good thing if you are trying to cut down or stop completely. I spent years moderating before I finally nailed this quit and I wouldn’t have done it without all the good things I learned about my drinking and myself during the process. It’s not always the outcome but the process which teaches us the most or to use the oft used expression ‘it is not the destination but the journey’.
What great things did you learn when you turn your mental filter to positive? I’d love to hear them 🙂