"I love my alcohol." I remember hearing a close friend state this not long after I quit drinking in reference to the idea of quitting drinking. He said he would never be able to quit drinking because he loved it so much. Does this sound familiar? I know it did to me. I remember making statements like, "I don't trust people who don't drink" or "I have mixed drinks about my feelings." Drinking was a big part of who I was too, and if you are reading this, it has been a big part of who you are or were as well. It's kind of the whole hook of alcohol. Think about it. Most people did not like alcohol the first time they tried it. Why then, did we persist in MAKING ourselves NEED alcohol. That sentence may have unintentionally been the most poignant statement I have ever made about alcohol addiction. We did it. Read that again. We did it. We continued to drink something we did not like because we thought we had to in order to fit in, to look cool, to be a part of something, to grow up, or any number of other reasons one persists in voluntarily poisoning themselves. We did it until we needed it. Then, we touted it as the greatest thing in our lives. How pathetic is that?
Once we find ourselves addicted to alcohol (behavior), we then proceed to find ways to justify our drinking (cognitive). This is one of the greatest conundrums of our time because even though alcohol is advertised to us from a very young age as the answer to all our problems, if we drink too little we are a prude and if we drink too much we are a drunk. How many people do you know who drink the RIGHT amount? What is the RIGHT amount? Is there a RIGHT amount? I have quoted Annie Grace from her book, "This Naked Mind" many times, and here is another one, "Most people consistently drink more over time." Her point is if you drink, you are or have just as much a potential to become an alcoholic as anyone else. It is the nature of the substance. It is the point. Alcohol was never meant to be drunk moderately. It was meant to hook you and cause you to think you need it in order to survive. "I love my alcohol" (emotional). That is what alcohol was meant to do. How then, do we change our core beliefs about alcohol?
As I stated in my past couple of blogs, there is no correct order in how we approach change, but there are three aspects we must understand in order to affect real change. Cognitive change is changing how we think about alcohol. The statement above, "I love my alcohol" is a complex statement because it incorporates two of the three aspects in one sentence. Not only am I saying alcohol is important to me, but I am also saying I feel an intense emotional connection to it as well. From a cognitive standpoint, I am saying it is important to me. Why? This is where you come in. You have to find your reasons why alcohol is important to you. You cannot change your thoughts about something unless you truly understand your thoughts in the first place.
I thought alcohol was important to me because I thought it made me feel better. If I had a bad day or if something bad happened to me, alcohol would make me feel better. That's what I thought and I relied on it's presumed power daily. In reality, it made me feel worse because the next day not only had I ignored the bad situation, I effectively erased any motivation I would have had to deal with it by waking up hungover, tired, and irritable. The most phenomenal aspect of this process is how we never learn from it. Even though we continually make the same mistakes and consistently wake up feeling horrible while never actually dealing with our problems, we tell ourselves over and over alcohol is the answer. We tell ourselves until we believe it to be true, then we justify it.
In order to make real change, the first thing we have to do is see how our thoughts are affecting our feelings and behaviors. We have to hear ourselves say things like, "I love my alcohol," or "I need a drink," or "alcohol is my best friend," and recognize we have not only been lied to about alcohol, but we are lying to ourselves about alcohol. It is from this place we can finally begin to see the truth. Nobody truly believes alcohol is the answer. We have made ourselves believe it is because it's easier to believe alcohol is the answer than to believe the society of alcohol has duped us. Who wants to believe that? Swallow your pride for a moment and truthfully ask yourself what benefits you receive from drinking. The answer is undoubtedly none. Believe that, and you have changed the cognitive aspect of drinking.
While there is no correct order for how we approach change, changing my thinking about alcohol was the first aspect I chose to change on my journey. It started with some of the quitlit I read when I took my first steps into sobriety. The first book I read was, "This Naked Mind." Annie Grace used the idea of changing your thinking about alcohol as the basis for her book. It hit me head-on and extremely hard, and it immediately challenged me to change how I looked at the society of alcohol. Once I started to look around me every day and allow myself to see the truth, I never looked back. I saw advertising differently. I heard conversations about alcohol differently. I looked at people who drank differently. I thought about alcohol differently and then something else happened. I FELT nothing toward alcohol.
I can't remember how quickly this occurred, but I can say it was almost immediately. The moment I started to look for the truth in alcohol, my feelings changed; the emotional aspect of my attachment to alcohol disappeared. Not only did I not want to drink, but I literally felt no connection to it any longer. That is the single biggest complaint I hear people state when quitting drinking. People say they miss it. They want it. They can't stop thinking about it. The emotional attachment to alcohol is an integral part of addiction. By changing my thinking about alcohol I unknowingly and unintentionally changed how I felt about it too. These two aspects fed each other like a symbiotic relationship. My feelings for alcohol fed my thoughts about alcohol and my thoughts about alcohol fed my feelings for it. Change one and the other falls apart. It was that simple for me.
Needless to say, once my thinking about alcohol changed my feelings for alcohol, I stopped drinking and I have never looked back. I have not since wanted a drink. I have not since missed drinking. I have not since thought I have a problem with drinking. I have not since felt I will always be addicted to alcohol. How can this be? There are many beliefs out there supporting the idea that an addict is always an addict and an alcoholic is never cured. I believe these statements can be true if you approach your addiction from that standpoint. If you quit drinking and miss it every day. If you quit drinking and think of yourself as ill. If you believe you have no power over your addiction. If you approach your addiction as a disease. All of these actions, thoughts, and feelings support the idea that you are an addict, that you will always be an addict, and that you will never be cured.
Look at the definition of addicted; physically and mentally dependent on a substance, and unable to stop taking it without adverse effects. Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral change is possible when a person stops thinking, feeling, and behaving in a way defined by addiction. I am not dependent any longer. I experience the positive effects of not drinking, and there are many. I react to adverse conditions with positive behaviors. I am acting in ways not conducive to addiction, therefore I am no longer an addict.
Everyone's experience and journey are different. If you believe you are forever an addict and that works for you, then more power to you. If you believe your powerlessness has taken you where you need to be, then congratulations. No matter how you are effectively walking a sober path you are winning, and that is all that really matters. I write about my journey because I am fascinated by the disparity of experiences in sobriety. I continue to seek out knowledge to learn more about why my experience has been different from so many others. I believe there are lessons to be learned and passed on. I believe sobriety does not have to be a lonely, excruciating, and forever experience. I believe full recovery is possible. I believe we have the ability to live without the constraints of labels that are as damaging as addict, disease, and alcoholic.
I believe in easier sobriety.