This was sent to me years ago by one of the founders of SMART’s online community. I had to read through it several times to ‘get it’. That process of reading, thinking, and reading again was probably as important as the concepts he presented. I have barely edited it at all...so you can have the same learning experience I did!
The ABC he refers to is the REBT tool whereby you identify the Activating event (A), the Condition (C) which results from it, and the irrational Beliefs (B) which underlie that Condition; then you Dispute (D) those beliefs to come to an Effective (E) new condition.
This same guy passed along a very wise, simple phrase: Be patient with yourself.
Most of our intense distress does not arise from a single event. Distress severe enough to ‘make’us do things like drink or use when we really don’t want to, doesn’t result simply from, say, the trigger of being in a restaurant and others drinking around us. This type of irrational action results from a ‘Series of Events’-a series of A-B-C‘s.
The irrationalities that lead us to the ‘I CANT STAND THIS’and subsequent drink, begin down at a deeper psychological level, a core irrationality. You can ‘run’the ABC’s backward and sometimes discover this fact. It might go something like this:
I Drink, Because I am Uncomfortable; I am Uncomfortable, Because I am Insecure; I am Insecure, Because I Believe (B) I am Unworthy.
Other emotions and other irrational core beliefs may be in play, but the series of UNDISPUTED irrationalities is what eventually ends with us doing things that are not in our best interest and not understanding WHY.
So to beat this, we take it one step at a time.
In the first stages of the ‘game’of increasing our awareness of our thoughts and consequences it is usually necessary to employ the technique of ‘Stop and Divert’. At this stage we have not had sufficient time to develop a repertoire of disputes nor the skill of even recognizing the exact nature of what it is we are TO dispute.
Here we use the gross behavioral technique of simply ‘OK this feels Bad’, STOP IT, and DO something to get our minds off the event. This buys the time, the real need of time, to be able to develop the next component of the skill. This component is the awareness about what is going on. The physiological limitation of being human prevents us from thinking accurately and precisely WHEN we are in distress. So the ‘common sense ’tactic of ‘counting to ten’ comes in to play.
When we find ourselves in a quieter moment, away from the trigger or event, then we can begin to develop our awareness of what is, in reality, going on and our repertoire of new beliefs.
Note: often, first we have to remove the distress so we can think clearly. This is why INITIALLY it may be necessary to avoid people, places, and things that cause drinking related distress.)
First, we must identify the irrationalities. Here is where the ABC’s come into play. First we begin to replace the ‘Stop and Divert’ tactic with the more efficient Disputation. Effective Disputation, though at first it may not eliminate the distress, does lessen its degree and therefore increases our tolerance. This increase in tolerance then leads to less dependence on the ‘Stop and Divert’technique. This then allows a further cushion of comfort and time.
Focus the ABC concisely on these ‘high level’stresses. In other words, keep it simple.
A) I am feeling an urge to drink (for whatever the reason).
C) I am anxious, agitated, on the verge of stopping at the liquor store. B) I can’t Stand this urge, I must have relief.
D) The disputation here uses the philosophy of ‘absolute thinking’ When we hear ourselves saying ‘can’t’or ‘must’accompanied by distress, right there we know that the irrationality of the ‘absolute demands’of those key words was in play. The dispute is
simply. I CAN stand this ‘¦No I don’t HAVE to have a drink.
From here we find that the day to day distress will begin to diminish and the positive reinforcement of ‘feeling better’will start to take place. We find we are calmer and therefore now more able to ‘hear’more of our distressing thoughts and ‘see’the irrationalities involved. Now our ABC’s can become more intricate. The skill is beginning to develop and the awareness is becoming more pronounced.
A) Friends around me are drinking
C) I think about drinking. I am sad.
B) I need a drink. I am not normal.
Here the D) is: Yes a drink would be nice but I don’t NEED it. I can live without it. Yes many people can drink but it is not in my best interest to do so because of what it has done in the past. This one aspect of my behavior DOES NOT though make me abnormal. It is as normal as another person having an allergy.
From here, except for the occasional random thought, the ‘drinking thinking’becomes less and less frequent over time. Now one can begin to focus on issues that cause the primary distress. Issues of ‘misunderstanding’, of worth, of fear, of guilt. The new found ‘quietness’of the mind and enhanced awareness of our thoughts from ABC practice will now allow us to ‘hear’these more elusive ‘private thoughts’that used to slip by ‘unheard’and undebated, but pervasively and negatively impacted our emotional lives. Here the ABC runs something like this.
A) I miss my drinking ‘lifestyle’
C) I am depressed.
B) I am lonely, I need friends, I am bored, I need that ‘liquid courage’, etc.
D) There are General Disputes to these such as USA (Unconditional Self Acceptance), etc. But the specifics can only come from the individuals themselves. Your past, your present situation, your strengths, your weaknesses—they all make an effective dispute, something that can only come from within, from your own ‘insight’, from your own ‘evidence’. The grand thing is, by now you have developed the skill of rational thought and awareness. You now have the fine-edged tool to solve these issues.
Upon solving a number of these ‘core’issues you will find that the ‘need’for substances will vanish. Your day to day stress level will diminish. The light of Serenity will be shining through the trees.
Be Patient, But Persistent