It could be argued that once I drank there was no reasoning with me. I became completely at the mercy of my emotions. But now I don’t drink and so I am less ‘tired and emotional’ (code for pissed and sobbing) and my reasoning is more reasonable 🙂
So emotional reasoning is when we react emotionally and let our hearts rule our heads. Where we are presuming that negative feelings expose the true nature of things, and experiencing reality as a reflection of emotionally linked thoughts. Thinking something is true, solely based on a feeling (source)
So sometimes in the early days of stopping I felt bored in the evenings because I’d stopped drinking so I felt I was boring. Feeling = being. Or when I’m due to clean my house and I think that it’s hopeless to do it because I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of doing it! Not helpful and also not true as I always feel tons better when it’s done with a real sense of achievement.
Over to Almost Alcohol‘s passage: I’m just a pretty crap person. I might as well learn to live with that. Fuck it. Lots of people are crappy. We all grow up and learn the truth, that we are just not that great. Because I feel like crap I am crap.
- Searching for the evidence to support feeling this way.
- If you do find them you may have to accept you are being ’emotional’
- You can accept that you are putting yourself down for no good reason
- But you do have a choice
- You can continue to feel this way
- OR you can tell yourself that there is no reason why you are feeling this way
- And then try to work out how you should be feeling
As a female I get caught up in this type of thinking because I am unfortunately hormonally challenged fairly regularly which doesn’t help. And sometimes I just accept that this is the reason and it will pass. How ’bout you?
PS I am using a piece of writing by another sober blogger because it was SO good and illustrated so many examples of these types of thinking without me having to write a forced piece including them all. I am using it because it completely reflects how I felt and is not a reflection on her individually. I am also mentioning and linking every time because I don’t want to not acknowledge her brilliant writing talent 🙂
Ooh this one was a biggie for me. Catastrophising. I had an old nursing colleague who said that I could take one problem and split that into ten and then split each of those ten into another ten until I had a pyramid of problems, worries and anxieties. Maybe being a nurse doesn’t help as during your career you get to see the worst possible things happen and you just end up with a jaded view. Who knows.
But I can magnify a problem like a pro. Exaggeration? No, just disaster/risk management in my book 😉 But the thing about this line of thinking is that if you see the problem as SO big it becomes unmanageable; the ‘you can’t eat an elephant in one bite’ approach as Belle would say. You’re also minimising and underestimating your ability to deal with it, like you are looking down a telescope from the wrong end. So I end up paralysed, in analysis paralysis.
Here’s some catastrophising: I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives.
And here’s some minimising: Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person (Almost Alcohol)
So what to do?
- When things do go wrong I try to avoid turning a small problem into a disaster. Mountains out of molehills anyone?
- I search for the evidence. How bad is it really?
- I assess my ability to manage it. Am I really not able to manage it?
- I make a list of things I could try to do
- If all else fails I call in the professionals
Sorry not trying to make light – I couldn’t help myself 😀
So this one has taken some major work on my part. How do you catastrophise around your drinking thinking?
This is similar in some ways to ‘black and white thinking’. Overgeneralisation is where we use an experience in one part of our life to influence other parts of it. A negative example would be the ‘I never get anything right’ kind of thinking where a single negative event is seen as a never-ending pattern of defeat.. A positive example would be ‘everyone drinks like me’ which may be true, as for me personally, most of my friends and family did drink like me – apart from the pre and post event hidden drinking at home, ‘livener’ and ‘night cap’ anyone? 😉
It is a cognitive bias and a logical fallacy but that doesn’t stop me using it to support a line of thinking whether positive or negative. Who says our brains are rational and logical?
Just because we fail at one thing does not mean that we will fail at everything and transposing negative feelings from one experience to another can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I’d relapsed on my drinking yesterday, smoked, eaten crap and not run I’d have been wallowing in overgeneralisations a bit like this I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. Thanks Almost Alcohol 🙂
So how am I working on this line of faulty thinking:
- Again I look for evidence to support this view. Does everyone drink like me? Do I never get anything right?
- I don’t pretend there isn’t a problem.
- But I am learning to recognise that there is no value in generalising my unhappiness from one situation to the rest of my life.
- I try to distinguish between things which genuinely are ‘bad’ or unpleasant from other areas of my life that are not and that I am viewing under the same black cloud.
It is a much happier way to be 🙂 How bout you? What overgeneralisations related to your drinking would you be happy to share?
This type of thinking is typified by what I would call, and recognise in myself, as ‘all or nothing’ thinking. So if I relapse then I’m not just going to have one glass I’m going to get completely smashed. There is no point relapsing otherwise right? And if I’m going to relapse on drinking I may as well smoke and eat garbage all the next day and blow off my run. As Almost Alcohol described it it’s ‘when we finally stop moderating and swan dive down to the rocky, dark, terrifying bottom‘. No middle ground or grey area. Success or failure, win or lose, good or bad.
It is related to the common psychological defence mechanism, called ‘splitting‘ which is the error in a person’s thinking to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is also known as a ‘false dilemma’ and the fallacy is the opposite, unsurprisingly, of the argument to moderation. Uh oh. Sounds familiar.
So back to the brilliant passage of Almost Alcohol’s, which you can read in it’s entirety here, these are the lines that resonated with me: I’m a fuck up. I can’t get out of this. I can’t quit. For me that is at the heart of my all or nothing thinking ‘I’m a f*ck up’.
So how am I working on this thinking error?
By checking the truth of it and challenging myself:
- What is the evidence for this thought, for saying that I am a f*ck up?
- It may be true that sometimes I may do things that I regret, and that I could improve the ways I do things
- However although I feel I have f*cked up – does that make me a f*ck up? NO.
- I remind myself that reality is made up of many shades of grey (hello, a well known book just popped into my head!)
- I am not all good or all bad, all right or all wrong
- There is no black and white.
Does this type of thinking resonate with you too? What other examples of black and white thinking around booze do you have that you are happy to share, anonymously or otherwise? 🙂
As you know I started some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to look at my thinking around drinking. Having done a couple of sessions I quickly began to realise that, actually, my drinking was a symptom of a much more complex issue than my inability at times to control how much I drink. Shit, this was not what I thought it would be.
In one of the early sessions we looked at some of the thinking errors that can occur that can keep us trapped in negative thought patterns. These negative thinking patterns simply convince our mind that what we see is true when it is not. These cognitive distortions are “maladaptive” and CBT replaces these “coping skills, cognitions, emotions and behaviors with more adaptive ones by challenging an individual’s way of thinking and the way that he/she reacts to certain habits or behaviors” (source)
So the main thinking errors are:
- Black and white thinking
- Emotional reasoning
- Mental filter
- Discounting the positive
- Should’s and musts
- Jumping to conclusions
Now I recently read this brilliant post by Almost Alcohol and with her permission I am reproducing this particular paragraph here because she has completely nailed my thoughts around drinking and I couldn’t have written it better myself.
Why is it here? Because it beautifully illustrates some of the thinking errors that I display and that she expressed on my behalf 😉
Shit. I’m pretty drunk. Shit. This wasn’t what I wanted to happen. Maybe I can’t drink normally. Maybe I’m really an alcoholic. Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. I’m a fuck up. I can’t get out of this. I can’t quit. I always thought I could quit when I finally decided to and I can’t. I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives. I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. I didn’t mean to be an alcoholic but it’s too late, I guess. Life didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person. I might as well learn to live with that. Fuck it. Lots of people are crappy. We all grow up and learn the truth, that we are just not that great. So I drink. So I’m a drinker. What the fuck ever. I wish I weren’t, but also I wish I were thin and dynamic and good at crafts and successful and I’m not. We can’t all be perfect. I’ll just accept that my life isn’t great. At least then I can drink, which gives me something to look forward to when I’m bored and depressed.
Over the next 10 posts I’m going to address each of those thinking errors listed above and we’ll play a bit of buzzword bingo and see if we can spot them in the paragraph above.
Starter for 10? 🙂
I read this excellent book last year by Caroline Myss called ‘Anatomy of the Spirit’ and it is about the power of the mind and how bodily ailments, aches and pains can be signs of unresolved psychological issues. What you don’t express, or suppress, will find a way of expressing itself and you will leak psychological distress and it will manifest physically. This is sometimes referred to as psychosomatic illnesses which can be as real and debilitating as any other physical ailment so should not be dismissed lightly.
For me I had a whole host of symptoms that were associated with anxiety and depression for example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But when you are actively drinking or hungover it is really hard to get past the initial symptoms of a hangover to be aware of anything else. It just took up too much time and space! And because drinking made my anxiety and depression worse I couldn’t see that booze was part of the problem and just assumed it was a flair up in the underlying physical disorder nothing else! Now I’ve stopped drinking my IBS has pretty much gone completely 🙂
As a nurse I was also plagued by back injuries. An old injury sustained as a student nurse repeatedly came back to haunt me and I would end up off work for spells while the osteopath and rest allowed it to heal. Now I’ve stopped I’ve noticed the weirdest thing. I will feel my back start to go and if I stop and pause it won’t go completely. This has never happened to me before and was really quite odd at first.
So I’ve been trying to interpret what my body was trying to tell me, with a little help from a friend 🙂 I thought it was trying to say I was ‘spineless’ or ‘had no backbone’ for the challenge of stopping drinking but my friend suggested an alternative view. She said that maybe it was telling me to slow down as previously I hadn’t listened to it and so it had just gone with no warning whereas now I was getting warnings and if I heeded them the total stopping because of injury was avoided.
I’ve recently needed some more osteopathy to sort it out and when the practitioner assessed me initially he said that my spine was out of alignment in four different places. I had literally ‘bent myself out of shape’ trying to manage my back problem because if you throw it out in one direction at your hips it will naturally try to compensate by throwing it out in the other direction further up and that’s what mine had done several times over.
Our body is such a beautiful, clever, robust but delicate thing and I abused mine so badly when I was drinking paying no heed to the warnings it was trying to tell me and trying to contort myself and my situations to keep drinking. Now I listen more closely and have given up the contortionism (is that even a word?) 😉
What have you noticed since you stopped?
So this week-end has really shaken things up for me. My running buddy was the first person I told I was going to give up drinking the week-end before I did and this was our first time together again since that day. Not only that but it was a week-end of more firsts – first hotel, first organised run event, first meal out with friend, all sober.
Don’t get me wrong it was a huge success and I feel so proud of myself but that in itself has created a bit of a problem. See when you start to do well in some aspects of your life you, or I at least, start to question other elements of it that are less rosy. It’s like you raise the bar on life.
See before if I wasn’t particularly happy about something that was happening, or I had to do, I would drink, smoke and moan to a friend. You know ‘poor me, poor me, pour me another one’. But 2/3rd’s of that coping strategy is no longer available to me and so I find myself in a bit of a conniption (I love that word and just had to use it!)
I used to be a happy little wage slave and the private and public corporations could do their worst and I would drink. Annoying person in the office? Have a drink when you get home. Dull and boring task? Reward yourself later. So I am struggling with the whole happy in my work day existence and the fabulous week-end just drew attention to that fact. I love my job, I just hate the office politics and am not very good at playing the game or keeping my mouth shut – can you tell? 😉
What I’m struggling with is do I trust myself and my emotions in these early days? It feels like a real issue but I can’t work out if it’s a ruse to destabilise things and make drinking more likely or if I genuinely am just not happy with the status quo in a way that I used to be before. Maybe I’ve always been less than happy with things and I just need to let it go. I really don’t know and it is giving me angst.
If there are any wise words that you can offer I’d much appreciate it. Answers on a postcard please, or in the comments section below 🙂
Saw this news piece from Channel 5 and thought I would share it here:
Britain Over the Limit: Would you drink a bottle that comes with a graphic health warning?
Interesting news piece: £800 million a year is spent on advertising by the big drinks companies within the UK!! The man from Diageo, the largest spirits manufacturers, pushes it back to personal responsibility as ‘demonising the product to everybody is not the solution’.
OK fair enough, then you won’t mind us sticking a picture of a cirrhotic liver on the side of a bottle of wine or spirits then. How do people take personal responsibility unless they have all the facts? In the medical world it’s called ‘informed consent’.
A poll carried out by Channel 5 found that 60% of those canvased thought it was a good idea. So if minimum pricing is off the table may we suggest this as an alternative then?
Would it have made/make a difference to your drinking if alcohol carried health warnings like cigarettes? What do you say? 🙂
This was a news piece on Reuters yesterday (source)
More than 3 million people died from using alcohol in 2012, for reasons ranging from cancer to violence, the World Health Organisation said on Monday, as it called on governments to do more to limit the damage.
“More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” said Oleg Chestnov, a WHO expert on chronic disease and mental health.
He added there was “no room for complacency”, warning that drinking too much kills more men then women, raises people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases, and killed 3.3 million people in 2012.
On average, according to the WHO report, every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per year. But less than half the population – 38.3 percent – drinks, so those who do drink on average 17 liters of pure alcohol a year.
It found that some countries are already strengthening measures to protect people from harmful drinking. Those include increasing taxes on alcohol, limiting its availability by raising age limits and regulating marketing.
More countries should take similar action, WHO said. More also needed to be done to raise awareness of the damage alcohol can do to people’s health and screen for those who may need earlier intervention to cut down or stop.
This is where I start hopping up and down as a public health nurse! We need to give people the facts about alcohol and we need to screen – as I suggested in my Guardian article (here). If people don’t know then they can’t change should they wish too. There has been extensive research and evidence to support and show that alcohol brief intervention can have a profound impact on someone’s drinking and can be delivered quickly.
Climbing off my soapbox now. Is it just me that gets so bent out of shape about this?