By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Your automatic thoughts may be unhelpful.
Practice doesn’t make perfect it makes things permanent. I forget where I read that, but I’ve learned there’s a lot of truth in that statement. When you tell yourself something over and over, you start to believe it. Many people practice their unhelpful thoughts so frequently that they have convinced themselves they have no other choice. Let’s take some common automatic thoughts which may be making your problems worse and setting you up for relapse. I’ll illustrate this with statements about alcohol, but it could equally be true of drugs, behaviors, or mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
I need a drink.
This unhelpful thought is baked into our society. You will hear it repeatedly on television, in the movies, or in statements made by those around you. The premise here is that the only way to cope with difficult life circumstances, problems, or unpleasant feelings, is to reach for a substance that will temporarily make you forget those problems. When you use a drug or alcohol to avoid feeling that avoidance is only temporary. Once the brief diversion wears off, you will have to face the problem, and it’s likely the problem has gotten worse while you were avoiding it.
If I stop drinking or using, I won’t have any friends.
People who are trying to get clean and sober may discover that all their current friends are drinkers and users. That doesn’t mean you can’t have friends. More than half of the adults in the U.S. have not had a drink in the last 30 days. You’ll probably make lots of friends in sobriety, and you’ll also find it’s an opportunity to reconnect with some of those clean and sober friends you haven’t talked to in a long time.
If I give up drugs and alcohol, I won’t have any more fun.
For a large segment of society fun for adults equates to drinking, using drugs, or having sex. It comes as a shock to many people how much fun you can have clean and sober when your senses are not dulled by substances. There are many enjoyable activities that do not include drugs or alcohol. Learning to have fun without substances can be a challenge if you’ve never done it. Make an effort to connect with people and to attend events that are clean and sober, and you will be surprised how much fun you can have.
Without alcohol, I’ll be miserable all the time.
One of the things we hear people in recovery say is that they were sick and tired of being sick and tired. Chemicals may temporarily change the way you feel, mainly by keeping you from feeling what you’re feeling, but once the chemicals wear off, you will find you feel better than when you had those drugs in your system.
Alcohol helps me get more done.
This used to be a common belief among news reporters and writers. The result of this belief was a lot of alcoholism, physical illnesses, and early deaths. Alcohol may temporarily disinhibit you, allowing you to do things that your brain is telling you not to do, but alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. Alcohol damages muscles in virtually every other part of the body. Using alcohol to get more done can result in an alcohol use disorder. Once alcohol has moved from being your solution to being your problem, you will get very little done.
How can you celebrate without alcohol?
Far too many alcohol-fueled celebrations end unhappily. Give sobriety a try. You will find plenty of ways to celebrate that don’t require alcohol or drugs. Using chemicals to celebrate impairs your ability to accomplish anything in the future.
Everybody else drinks, why can’t I?
This is one of those grand lie’s drinkers tell themselves. Everybody does not drink. Not even all the adults drink. One-third of the adult U.S. population doesn’t drink at all. Half of the people in America have not had a drink in the last 30 days. Having even one drink per day moves you into the top 20% heaviest drinkers. Heavy drinkers, particularly alcoholics, deceive themselves with the excuse that everybody else drinks the way I do. The truth is if you drink regularly, you drink way more than most other Americans.
You need a beer on a hot day.
For many people, this is a conditioned response, like Pavlov’s dogs. What you need on a hot day is plenty of water to prevent dehydration. The other thing you need is to get out of the heat whenever possible. Drinking alcohol on a hot day can result in you getting nothing done that day except drinking. Recovering from alcohol consumption can interfere with your functioning for several days after each episode of drinking.
Alcohol just goes with watching sports.
This is another excuse, not a reason. If you enjoy watching sports, you will pay more attention without the depressant drug alcohol in your system. You train your brain to connect these two items you can train your brain to disconnect them. When you do two things together, you condition your mind to expect to do both at the same time. Whatever you have learned, you can unlearn. Learn to pair your recreation with nonalcoholic pleasures.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!
My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.
Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.
Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.
As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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