alcohol-habitAlthough it may seem like ‘just a habit’, you are making a choice to have a drink each and every time. That choice involves many components – your beliefs about alcohol and yourself, your thoughts (your inner dialogue), your feelings and your behaviour.

Your wish to not drink so much (because you can recognize the negative consequences) will translate into action depending on your motivations. Partly you are motivated to have a drink because its pleasurable, it helps you relax etc, and at the same time you’re motivated not to drink because you know about all those negative consequences. So you’re in a dilemma. The strength of your different motivations will determine how easy you find it to choose not to have a drink.

Lets take an example to illustrate this – there is something happening at work which you find very stressful, so you get home feeling frustrated and edgy. You believe the stress at work is not going away soon, and perhaps you also blame yourself for some aspect of the situation. You have a belief that you can’t handle this stress well naturally, and you believe that alcohol removes it very effectively. So you want a drink. But of course you know you shouldn’t, because you’ll be hungover again tomorrow, and that will leave you feeling worse. So your inner dialogue, your thoughts, might be something like – “well I haven’t had a drink for a couple of days, so I deserve it.” or – “I just don’t want to feel stressed like this, I want this feeling to stop NOW”.

However, emotional pain and difficult feelings are a part of life, there’s no escaping them, but alcohol deals with them so effectively, that its easy to develop a reliance on it to take away all your painful feelings. In order to cut down or stop drinking therefore, you have to accept that painful feelings must be dealt with sober, just as you are. You can deal with life, but you are choosing not to experience discomfort, because it can so easily be tranquillised with alcohol.

Its a common thing to drink because you feel “I can’t cope” – but what does that actually mean? Whatever is happening in our lives, however painful it is – we get through it, we survive, and that is coping. So the belief that we can’t cope makes us give up trying, give up hope. And again, alcohol is there to take away that hopeless feeling, to take us to that dream-world where things are fluffy and safe.

To get through life being generally sober, we have to accept that painful feelings can be handled naturally. Not rubbed out, but acknowledged, truly felt. You’re stressed? So see how it feels for it to just subside naturally with time. You feel bored? So just sit with that and examine what it really means to you. What could you actually do to remedy that feeling? Again, explore it and see what needs or thoughts are associated with the feeling. Then you might realise a different solution or two, whatever they might be.

Or perhaps you just don’t think you’re a particularly valuable person? Any mistake, any difficult situation can be attributed to your own failure or lack of some quality. Again, alcohol makes you feel good about yourself, temporarily anyway. And then it bites back with a vengeance. So to an extent, the solution might also be about healing that relationship with yourself. Your beliefs about yourself can often be a sort of self-constructed fiction. That constant inner commentator is so detached from the world, in many ways. So you may believe yourself to be inadequate because that’s how you’ve been affected by life, but of course its a subjective opinion, its not a fact, just a viewpoint.

The point here is to make yourself aware of the various elements that make up your drinking habits, then you can try to solve each part, rather than just relying on will power to not drink, which as you’ve probably discovered by now, isn’t that effective.