excerpted from Alcohol: How To Give It Up and Be Glad You Did, by Philip Tate (See Sharp Press)
Think of the gains and losses from your drinking. Write them down. Think of the gains and losses you can expect when you quit. Write these down, too. Review what you've written again and again. This builds motivation.
Set a goal for yourself: to live without booze.
Then set another goal: to get involved in other activities. You'll feel happier and suffer less. Following through on this goal isn't easy. Many quit because they believe it's too hard. It isn't. It's merely difficult.
Prepare for self-defeating self-talk.
"It would be nice to have a few. It'll settle my nerves. Nobody's perfect." You think and feel before you decide to break your commitment. Problem thinking precedes problem actions. First you learn to refuse to go along with your problem thinking. Eventually, you eliminate it.
* You may believe that your thinking is the unquestionable truth about reality. 'I need a drink‰Û¦I cannot quit‰Û¦' Would you die without a drink?
* Your thinking may be illogical. 'Because I have done some bad things, I am a rotten person.' Your actions may be rotten, but you are not your actions.
* Your thinking may be selective. For every happy event connected with drinking, how many negative things are you ignoring?
* Your thinking may be rationalizations or excuses.
Some of the most damaging beliefs are those that are absolutistic and illogical. If you challenge these, you may find there is no evidence to support them, or you can prove them impractical.
* 'I can't stand life without booze.' Is this true? No. You may not like some things about life without booze, but you can stand it.
* 'Because I've failed in the past, I'm no good and I cannot do better.' You made some mistakes--even, perhaps, a few serious ones. This does not mean you're no good or can't improve.
* 'I need booze or drugs to cope with stress. Everybody has an escape and this is mine.' Booze does provide an escape--into blackouts and oblivion. You'll do better to manage your stress and you'll benefit just from the effort.
The thinking that got you addicted was not your best thinking. You have the ability to change your behavior by changing your thinking.
After you quit drinking, you may experience cravings--a dramatic word for a strong urge or desire. Tom Horvath [president of SMART Recovery] lists four common misconceptions about urges:
1. urges are excruciating or unbearable;
2. they compel you to use;
3. they will not go away until you drink or use;
4. they will drive you crazy.
Urges are short-lived, and you can help them go away.
1. Accept urges as a normal part of changing;
2. When you have an urge, do something--any harmless activity--to get your mind off it;
3. Gain a better understanding of your urges;
4. Look again at your list of the problems of drinking and the benefits of quitting;
5. Reaffirm to yourself your commitment to a clean and sober life.
Is there any evidence you have to give into these desires? No!
Is there any evidence you cannot stand your urges? No! You just don't like them.
Is there any evidence that you must be in control of these hungers, feelings, desires, or urges? No! Initially you may not have full control of these feelings, but you control what you do about them.
List the many things you can do when an urge comes, such as reading, going to a movie, cleaning up your room, or working on a hobby. List five or ten. Then, when an urge comes, shout 'Stop!'' to yourself and immediately start doing something you've planned to do.
Unhook yourself by changing your thinking and behavior.
Dr. Tate's book is available from your local bookseller, or online at Amazon.com.