When some people take a break from alcohol so that they can learn how not to use it as a crutch, they start by avoiding all the situations where they might be tempted to drink.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re just getting started. But the question remains, is your desire to drink created by alcohol and the environments in which it is commonly available or is your desire created by your thoughts?
This understanding is so crucial to getting to a place where you truly no longer desire alcohol, rather than thinking, “If I could drink, I would drink, but I can’t.”
Most people think the environment and the substance create your urges. For the longest time, so did I. It also meant that unless I could relocate to a cabin in the woods, I was always going to be exposed to alcohol which meant I was always going to desire it. Maybe not as much as when I went out to bars on the regular or hung out with people who drank a lot socially, but if being around alcohol created my urges then my desire to have a drink would always be present.
When I started to understand more about how our thoughts create our emotions (including desire) and how our emotions drive our actions (i.e., having a drink), I realized that there was a different way to think about what was driving my desire. When I teach this framework to my clients, it’s almost always a huge relief.
Once you have some practice, you don’t have to sequester yourself away from alcohol. You don’t have to avoid alcohol at all costs. You don’t need to limit your socializing to completely dry settings, nor do you need to ask your friends, your family, and your romantic partner to stop drinking in front of you. Instead, you can look at the thoughts generating your desire and learning how to unravel the cycle.
You can observe, change, practice, and eventually develop new automatic thoughts associated with drinking. Thoughts that won’t generate your desire.
In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with avoiding the situations where your desire is in high-gear, but it’s important to know what is really driving your desire. Ultimately, you can use these situations to your advantage by paying close attention to your thinking and seeing what is fueling the urge to drink.
It’s a different approach to how most people think about desire, but one that gives you so much more freedom in the long run.