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Alcohol Addiction: A Rational View to Change Your Life

Are you prone to addictive thinking?

What is an addiction? A pattern of behavior that interferes with, blocks, or sabotages your long-term goals. It includes addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and other activities affording at least momentary pleasure or its promise.

There are both physical and psychological addictions. I will address only the psychological.

Do you have an addiction? This depends on your goal. For example, if your goal involves abstaining from alcohol and you have a pattern of drinking, then you have an addiction. First, clarify your goal.

Misconceptions about alcohol addiction

  1. You are powerless. This means you're compelled to drink. This would be true if someone forced you to drink at the point of a gun. Then, we may say you're powerless. But under normal circumstances, you're a free agent with free will. You can choose to use or choose not to use. Addiction is a choice.
  2. If you have a drinking problem, you're an alcoholic. Your behavior doesn't define your essence, your being, or your personhood. In reality, you're an imperfect human who has a drinking problem. Viewing yourself as an alcoholic can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I am an alcoholic, then I have to drink; it's my nature and I have no choice.
  3. Drinking causes alcohol addiction in certain susceptible individuals. Drinking can influence you to drink but it doesn't have the power to addict you. When you have an urge or a craving, you can choose to drink or choose not to drink. Drinking is a choice. Since you're a free agent with free will, you can decide to drink or not.
  4. A relapse means you've failed. You can turn a relapse into a temporary failure rather than a permanent one. Unrelentingly continue to work at quitting and don't assume you're defeated. As long as you persist, you haven't irrevocably failed. It's common for success to come after many relapses. Stubbornly refuse to give up. Giving up means failure.

A three-minute exercise to overcome your addictive thinking

  • (Activating event) I have a craving for a drink.
  • (Irrational Belief) I absolutely must satisfy my craving for a drink right now.
  • (Undesirable Behavioral Consequences) Drink. Feel good for the moment.
  • (Disputing or Questioning the Irrational Belief) What's the evidence I absolutely must satisfy my urge for a drink right now?

There is no evidence I must escape this discomfort. Drinking may feel good for the moment but will surely feel really bad later. There is no "must" commanding me to drink, all musts are a figment of my imagination. I don’t have to act on it.

If I feel uncomfortable for a while, tough sh*t! I’ll survive. I refuse to ruin my life for an ephemeral (destructive) pleasure. I’m determined to face the discomfort and move through it. In fact, I had better court discomfort and practice, practice, practice facing it, rather than running away from it. This ability will benefit me forever. If it really kills me to face the craving and to allow myself to just feel, feel it, so be it. At least I’ll be out of my pain and Juanita and the boys will make me a splendid funeral. (A little humor, there.)