Alcohol: How to Give It up and Be Glad You Did

Alcohol: How to Give It up and Be Glad You Did

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This practical, comprehensive, and easy to use book helps alcohol abusers understand their behavior, but provides practical steps that anyone can use to solve an alcohol problem. Written by a cognitive-behavioral psychologist, this book includes chapters on overcoming low self-esteem, depression, stress, attending self-help groups, and living a better life after quitting. Each chapter contains specific self-help techniques. Recommended by SMART Recovery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781884365102
Publisher: See Sharp Press
Publication date: 01/28/1996
Edition description: Second Edition, Second edition
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Philip Tate, PhD, is a licensed cognitive-behavioral therapist employed by the Veterans Administration, who for the past two decades has specialized in the treatment of alcohol abuse. He is a past vice-president of SMART Recovery and a former board member of Rational Recovery.

Read an Excerpt


How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did

By Philip Tate

See Sharp Press

Copyright © 1997 Philip Tate
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-884365-10-2


A Quick Start to Quitting

Some people drink heavily, recognize that they have problems with drinking, and they quit just like that. They find motivating reasons to quit, they think sensibly, and they follow through. If you can do it, then do it. However, if quitting is more complicated for you, there are a lot of things you can do. This chapter outlines many of them.

Developing Motivation

Recognize that you share with others a universal human goal: to enjoy yourself more and to suffer less. That's motivation at its best; it's a key to success, and it's certainly worth developing.

To increase your motivation, think of the gains and losses from your drinking. Write them down. Then think of the gains and losses you can expect when you quit. Write these down too. Take a close look and notice how you feel. Review what you've written again and again. This builds motivation.

Setting Your Goal: Living Without Booze or Drugs

When it becomes obvious the problems of alcohol aren't worth the benefits, set a goal for yourself: to live without booze. Then set another goal: to get involved in other activities. Commit yourself and follow through, and if you're like many others, you'll soon feel happier and will suffer less.

Because this sounds simple, it may also sound easy. Usually it isn't. Setting goals is easy; following through is not. It involves work, and people often quit working because they believe that it's too hard. It isn't. It's merely difficult, and many people follow through and succeed.

Preparing for Self-Defeating Self-Talk

Once you make a commitment, unfortunately, you can easily talk yourself out of it. You can drive by your old watering hole and tell yourself how nice it would be to have a few. You can have an argument with someone, feel angry and depressed, and then tell yourself you need a few to "settle your nerves." You say to yourself, "it's my only vice, and nobody's perfect." So you decide to drink. In each case, you think and feel before you decide to break your commitment.

Awareness of and change of this thinking is the main thrust of this book. As mentioned in the previous chapter, REBT teaches that problem thinking often precedes problem actions. Yet, often, people are unaware of their thinking. To stick to your goals, you'll do well to develop an awareness of your problem thinking so you can then more easily refuse to go along with it and, ultimately, eliminate it.

When you focus on this thinking, what do you find? Here are some examples:

• You may believe that your thinking is the unquestionable truth about reality and not subject to challenge. You may think "I need a drink" (would you die without one?); "I absolutely cannot quit" (would you quit if you were in jail for two weeks?); "There's no use in trying" (are the benefits of quitting better than the penalties of continuing?).

• Your thinking may be illogical. Example: "Because I have done some bad things, I am a rotten person." Your actions may be rotten, but you're not. You are not your actions.

• Your thinking may be selective. You may remember two or three happy events connected with drinking, and ignore ten or twelve negative things. How long has it been since you had a good, long, happy high? Be honest with yourself.

• Your thinking can take the form of rationalizations and excuses. Example, "I don't have a problem with drinking" — that, with a conviction for Driving Under the Influence and four lost jobs. Or, "Everybody has a vice, drinking is mine." If your neighbor robs banks, is it then OK for you to steal from supermarkets?

You can see that the thinking preceding your drinking isn't your best thinking. It's crooked; it's distorted; it's subtle; and it seems nearly automatic.

Some of the most damaging beliefs that distort your view of reality are those that are absolutistic and illogical. Most of this book is about such beliefs and how to change them so that you can feel better and do better. You can challenge damaging beliefs and find no evidence to support them, and you can prove them impractical. Here are some examples:

Because I like booze so much, I don't care what else happens to me.

Be honest with yourself. Of course you care. We all do. You care about your relationships with friends and family; you care about money and jobs and self-respect. I've never met a person who didn't, or couldn't, care about themselves.

I can't stand life without booze. I need the excitement it gives me.

Challenge this belief. Is it true? No. You may not like some things about life without booze, but that does not mean you cannot stand it. Like millions of people who have quit, you can stand to live without booze, and you can do well without the excitement it gives you.

It's too hard to quit and change.

Can you prove that statement? I agree it may be hard, but not too hard. People quit drinking every day without dying from the effort. On the contrary; they do better.

Because I've failed in the past, I'm no good, and I cannot do better.

Just try proving that one. Yes, you failed a few times. We all do. That proves that you made some mistakes — even, perhaps, a few serious ones. But it does not prove that you're no good, and it does not show anything about your ability to improve.

Over concern about failure can be overcome by eliminating beliefs such as this one and gaining some realistic optimism. Look back; you've changed and improved many things in your life, and you can change and improve here too.

I need booze or drugs to cope with stress. Everybody has an escape and this is mine.

Prove it. Go ahead, just try. Booze does provide an escape — into blackouts and oblivion. That's a poor way to live. You don't really have to escape anything, and you'll be hard put to prove that escaping is a good thing to do! You'll do better to manage your stress, and often you'll find that you benefit from your effort.

You have just read a few of many the ideas that can sabotage your commitment to abstinence. Other chapters deal with these ideas and other self-defeating beliefs in greater detail. So now you've decided to quit drinking. What is the nature of your drinking thinking that can sabotage your goal of abstinence? It's thinking that's based on short-term pleasures, not on long-term satisfactions, and it's thinking that ignores the problems of drinking and exaggerates the benefits. It does not consider your personal health, your family, your friends, or your ability to hold down a good job. It simply urges you to go for the gusto now, and to hell with everything else.

If you have decided to quit, expect to have thoughts that will interfere with your commitment. They are against your best interest. Remember, you can have them almost without your being aware of it, so learn to recognize them quickly. Refuse to dwell on them — you know where they can lead. Get your mind and your actions on to something else.

To help you do this, try this technique: Tell yourself — out loud if it helps — that abstinence is your goal, that it's for you, and that drinking is your enemy. When you think, "Just one more," you can reject that thought because it's against you and leads to self-harm. If you think, "This time I can control my drinking," you can refuse to go along with it because, again, it's against you and leads to self-harm. Even with "I need a drink," it's clear that the thought is against your best interests and leads to self-harm.

If you've had experience with AA, you may doubt this emphasis on thinking. In AA you were told, "Your best thinking got you to here [to AA]," which means your "best thinking" resulted in drinking, and "you can't rely on your thinking." And, AA tells you not to rely on your own abilities because you have no ability to quit drinking without believing in God.

In REBT, are we saying that A A is wrong? Yes we are.

Think of it this way. The thinking that got you addicted was not your best thinking, but your worst. Learning how to quit for good is an example of your best thinking. With the use of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), and your own common sense, you can quickly recognize that you have the ability to change your behavior by changing your thinking.

Preparing for Feelings and Urges

After you quit drinking and start to live a normal life, you may experience what people sometimes call "cravings." That's a dramatic word for a strong urge or desire. Many people worry about them, don't understand them, and hesitate to quit because of them. Tom Horvath, a clinical psychologist and a member of S.M.A.R.T. Recovery's board of directors, lists four common misconceptions about such urges in S.M.A.R.T. Recovery's Member's Manual: 1) urges are excruciating or unbearable; 2) they compel you to use; 3) they will not go away until you drink or use; and, 4) they will drive you crazy.

It's nice to know these beliefs are not true. Urges are short lived, and you can help them go away. Here's how:

1. Accept your urges as a normal part of changing instead of treating them as catastrophes.

2. When you have an urge, do something — any harmless activity — to get your mind off it.

3. Gain a better understanding of your urges.

4. Look at the problems of drinking or using and the benefits of quitting.

5. Reaffirm (to yourself) your commitment to a clean and sober life.

Let's discuss each of these further. Will your urge drive you crazy? No it won't, but you can make yourself feel crazy by thinking thoughts such as, "I can't stand this; it's awful to feel this way; this is too much for me; I'm losing control of my emotions and I must be in control." Indeed, urges feel bad, but thinking this way feels worse.

Calm yourself. Frustrated desire feels bad, but it's neither awful nor too hard to bear. Consider the following: if you went on a 21-day cruise, and 100 miles out to sea you discovered that there was no booze on board, would you survive? Could you bear it? Yes, you could — and you would. Many people go through this. They have these feelings; they don't enjoy them one bit; and they survive. You can too.

So why not just challenge those false beliefs instead of fretting about them? Here are some brief challenges:

Is there any evidence that you have to give into these desires?

No there isn't. Check it out. As mentioned above, you can resist them as others have, and you can even change them. When you realize that you can stand a little discomfort, you will be back in control, and a part of your problems will be solved immediately.

Is there any evidence that you cannot stand your urges?

No! You just don't like them. If you give up the belief that you cannot stand them, part of your distress about them will go away, and you will feel better.

Is there any evidence that you must be in control of these hungers, feelings, desires or urges?

Not a bit. Check that out too. Your feelings come and go, and controlling them when you do not want them is nice, but not necessary. A key point is this: initially you may not have full control of these feelings, but you control what you do with them — you decide to act or not to act on them. That's control, and it's control that counts; and, paradoxically, if you give up this belief that you must be in control, you will gain even more control.

When you challenge your beliefs instead of automatically accepting them, you will see that your thinking isn't always accurate and helpful, and that giving up the exaggerated and absolutistic part of your thinking will diminish your emotional disturbances. By keeping the sensible part of your thinking, you will feel better and be better able to allow your urges to just come and go.

So, with your urges, challenge the thinking that leads you to do poorly. By doing so, you may see that you can tolerate these feelings, and that they will go away when you do not give in and when you switch your mind onto something else.

Another technique that can help, as mentioned before, is going over the costs and benefits of drinking (or drugging). Think of the down side of addiction. Think of the benefits of clean and sober living. Write these down. Read what you've written again and again.

Distraction, as briefly mentioned before, is another way of dealing with urges. Getting your mind off your urges and onto something else may help, whereas paying attention to them makes it easy to feel miserable and to give in when you feel an urge. You can distract yourself by engaging in activities such as physical exercise, reading a book, and talking to a friend on the phone. If you only think of something else, that will help too, but for most people that's harder and less effective. So do something and think of what you are doing.

To help distract yourself, you may practice a form of "thought stopping." Here is an example. When you are having an urge to drink or use, shout (silently) to yourself, "Stop! Get on to something else! Now!" Then follow through.

When you decide beforehand on some distraction technique, thought stopping works even better. List the many things you can do when an urge comes, such as reading, going to a movie, cleaning up your room, or working on a hobby. Go ahead, list five or ten things you can do or want to do to get your mind off the urge. Then, when an urge comes, shout "Stop!" to yourself and immediately start doing something you've planned to do.

Prepare for Lapse (A Failure)

AA lore correctly states that abstinence may be easy for the first 30 days, or even 90, when you're all aglow with your success, but then — you go out on a bender. Yes, sobriety is wonderful for a while, but often it doesn't last. To have a drink, or even to get drunk, is a lapse, a mistake in judgment, and usually it's not a major catastrophe.

A relapse is when you get back to your old drinking patterns with the same attitudes and behavior patterns. If you relapse, you've caved in — thrown in the towel.

With either a lapse or relapse, you are fully capable of recovering; it's just harder to recover from a relapse. Simply treat either as a mistake and keep working the methods that have helped.

Going From Here

If you can quit through using the information provided so far, great. Keep it up. Still, some people need more help, and more help follows in the next chapters. In them you will find information on how to handle abstinence, lapse, relapse, and recovery. Topics include: 1) how to recognize problems with drinking or using; 2) getting yourself motivated; and 3) recognizing and eliminating drinking (using) thinking, and feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, anxiety, guilt, low frustration tolerance, and anger.

In the latter part of this book, you will find a chapter on happiness and how to achieve it. Real recovery means more than getting sober and clean; it means regaining some or all of the happiness you sacrificed by abusing alcohol or other drugs. Finally, you will discover how to get help in a recovery program, through a therapist, or both.


Acknowledging Problems Related To Drinking

The first step in dealing with heavy drinking is to look at the problems it may create. People who continue drinking often recognize these problems, damn themselves for creating them, and drink to escape their misery, thereby adding to their misery. They often rationalize these problems or deny they have them, just to live with it all, and they keep drinking.

What a mess!

Instead of cluttering your mind with the nonsense of excuses and self-damnations, it's better to keep things simple. If you ever think that drinking (using) gives you problems, it does! Face it. Then take the next step and do something about it. This may not be simple, but it's our goal: to first acknowledge problems and then to change them.

This chapter lists many common problems created by drinking or using in order to help you develop awareness of them. As you read, you may recognize some problems that you haven't fully admitted. If so, acknowledge them — they are important: your awareness of them may help you quit.

Once you acknowledge that, "yes, I do have problems related to drinking," you may feel motivated to change — and that is good. I said may feel motivated because you may do something else when you acknowledge a problem: you may think irrationally and tell yourself that you can't stand to think about these problems, and you're no good for creating them, or worse, you may even tell yourself that these problems are not problems at all. When you do that, you may go no further in helping yourself, and you can get worse because of your denial.


Excerpted from Alcohol by Philip Tate. Copyright © 1997 Philip Tate. Excerpted by permission of See Sharp Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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