If most alcoholic people know how to stop drinking, why do they continue to drink? Essentially, it is because they indoctrinate themselves with myths and nonsense. The difficulty in staying stopped stems, in large part, from the extremely popular, irrational, alcoholic belief that addicted people cannot choose to become non addicted. The truth is that many do it, and do it every day. Stripped down, Rational recovery could be called, “generic recovery”, because we are using an approach that most people resort to when undertaking any kind of self-improvement. RR relies on “uncommon sense” that is very human.
Hal, a friend of mine, sober for six years, summed up the issue of powerlessness this way: “I drank excessively for many years, thinking I was out of control and unable to stop. I knew I was an alcoholic because I couldn’t prevent myself from drinking too much and I suffered all the usual consequences. But I heard so much about alcoholics being out of control that I convinced myself that it was natural to keep drinking, day after day, even though it was wrecking my life. The pain of drunkenness became greater then the pain of being sober, but when I tried to stop I would feel very uncomfortable; I figured this is why alcoholics cant stop drinking. Then I would drink and feel better for a while- it was fast, temporary relief. How did I spelled relief? B-o-z-e. It was only after I discovered my own chicken attitude toward pain that I was able to stop. Withdrawal was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be but I was finally ready to hurt as much as necessary to get better”
I remember my first tries not to buy beer. It was usually the day after my hangover has subsided. It was easy not to buy alcohol when I was having hangover because I believed that drinking more beer will make my symptoms worst. Even if you disagree but for me continuing drinking would actually worsen everything. I would be scared drinking for too many days after I experienced irregular heart beat and had to be shocked to normal rhythm.
I would drive by the store fighting myself ” No, No I will not buy beer tonight”. It was truly hopeless situation because deep down I didn’t believe that I can resist my craving. Craving was this magic thing that had total power over me. There is no way I am capable of saying “no”. As soon as I did various emotions and feelings would come in like angriness, thoughts that I had the right to experience the pleasure that alcohol has given me because my life as an addict was so pathetic that it was the only pleasure I had(oh poor me). That said I had the right to this pleasure.
Thinking that craving is something I can never overpower I went to look for crazy solutions that will help me to go around it so I can never face it because facing my craving meant that I will give in once again. I looked in from various magic remedies that stop alcohol cravings to actually going to the doctor and asking her to prescribe me sleeping pills so every time I feel a craving I can put myself to sleep. How can you possibly stop drinking if you know you dont have the power to win against cravings?-thats how I felt.
Only when I went to rehab did I see that cravings can be dealt with. It changed my belief system from “I am hopeless against cravings” to “It will be my own fault if I let the cravings win”
You see the best thing in recovery is that you learn how to deal with things and your feelings. It forces you to learn otherwise you keep on relapsing. Unfortunately you cant learn alone and from yourself only. I was, am a loner and asking for help, being surrounded by people was/is hardest part for me. The amazing part was that once I got over it and got help I found out that there is so much I can do before the cravings even hit me. Just by being with people who are in recovery and observing them helped me enormously to reshape my thinking. My greatest understandings and inspirations to stay sober came from seeing peoples stupidity, whining, mistakes, relapses, not accepting pain, playing victims and ect., Thats the reason why you have to take your time to be around people especially with those in recovery. Me taking time to be social actually what prevents me from having cravings. Every time when I feel out of comfort zone I know that I am doing something right and the payoff is immediate. I feel much better as soon as its over. I am not sure whats your situation but it could be that asking for help will be one of the hardest part of your recovery which is ironic because asking help should be the easiest part right? Abstaining from alcohol the hardest?
With chemically dependent people, pain is the problem as well as the “cure”. Until an alcoholic person recognizes that alcohol is causing more pain than pleasure, he or she has no reason to stop drinking. It is doubtful that any of us has ever quit drinking because alcohol might eventually cause some problems. This is when the emotional pain-fear, disgust, remorse, depression, anxiety, and hangover sickness-is finally present and exceeds the pain of not drinking that the stage is set for change. Tragically, if the alcoholic believes in powerlessness, there can be no self-inspired change.
For me, there is no choice that can help me avoid pain. Only solution is acceptance. There are two pains: “Pain of staying sober” and “Pain of drinking”. One leads to self destruction while occasionally being sedated and thinking that is happiness and another is, honestly, unknown…This is the hardest choice I ever made that requires constant self reassurance. My mind always puts the labels of what happiness is therefore I always go back to thinking how good was to drink. I fail to see that perhaps there is greater benefit in unknown, it scares me because I need to let go of the idea being happy.
But if, like Hal, you understand that we control what we put into our mouths, and that the pain of withdrawal is tolerable and harmless(although you should seek medical attention if needed), you will act wisely and decisively to “stamp out the problem”.
I hate to leave you with open ended question. Avoiding the pain is a temporary solution. I see so many people relapse (It can be me as well) because they are interested in easing the pain, not accepting it. I would be a liar if I said that unknown doesn’t bother me. It is a new way of life. Although for me it is much better then accepting the promises of aa. Why limit yourself with aa promises? instead of inviting unlimited possibility to what can happen?
So besides wanting to stop feeling the pain that drinking causes you what are your deeper reasons for quitting? are they even in your picture? How are you going to stay sober long term? How will you make the pain of wanting to drink worth enduring?
References: The small book