ANY use creates a craving for more

from Sober Challenge (day 1):

“Hi Belle. I’m doing ok but I’m sorry to say I drank last night.

I went to my therapist meeting on monday and we have however formed a plan for me to tackle this. I don’t know what you would think to her suggestion but I think it could help me. She thought that as I have tried to quit for over a year by stopping, perhaps I needed to “try something different” (sound familiar) 😉

The thing I’m not sure you’ll agree with is that she gave me this method that she uses to break the cycle. We have written a “ladder” of things that I associate with alcohol and where I use alcohol to help with anxiety starting with the easiest to do without alcohol to the hardest. I now have to start at the bottom of the ladder, do the activity as many times as possible in the first week without alcohol and continue until I don’t have the anxiety and it is normal to do the activity sober and anxiety free. She is going to see me once a week and I will record all my feelings and experiences. The aim is that within a few months I will have worked on all the steps of the ladder and then be in a better position mentally and physically to commit to a sober life.

I am going to give it a try as I feel more positive and feel I can approach it this way. But if you think this is not a good idea, I’m open to your thoughts …”

me: sweet pea, let me say this.

I don’t know you in real life, and I’m not a therapist, and I’m not YOUR therapist. I don’t know all that is ‘UP’ with you. and you should never take the advice of a girl on the internet anyway 🙂

and here’s what I think.

it sounds like your therapist is using some ‘exposure’ therapy ideas to help to deal with your anxiety. like, imagine you were afraid to go outside. first you’d stand on your front step. then you’d walk to the corner and back. then next week you’d walk around the block. and you’d slowly get used to doing things.

and maybe you do have an anxiety problem, and maybe you do really need some kind of immersion/exposure therapy.

but my guess is that your therapist is not a sober human, and that she isn’t an alcohol specialist.

in my head (where I spend most of my time!), if you have an anxiety thing then yes, it does require treatment. exposure, counselling, medication. If you’re using alcohol to deal with anxiety, it’s adding a problem to a problem.

but what therapist is saying, is something like “let’s find all the ways you can go through life without cocaine and then slowly increase the percentage of your day when you’re not using cocaine.”

the problem with cocaine (and booze) is that they’re addictive. and that ANY use creates a craving for more. and any use creates problems with anxiety. so to me, continuing to drink in any amount while dealing with anxiety stuff  is like tying your legs together and asking you to walk.

again really, I am not an expert and I know NOTHING.

you may well need some medication. you might need rehab or outpatient treatment. my personal opinion is that you can’t really treat anxiety (for real) unless you’re sober. because the noise in our head is so loud because of the booze, that it’s just not able to integrate other things. (I sometimes wish I could go back and do all of the counselling I did before but do it sober, like it’d be so much more useful…)

the same can be said for the medications we take for depression or anxiety. while they work, they gotta be working BETTER when we’re sober, right?

again, really, are you ignoring me? you should be – but again, I don’t think that drinking is something we can ‘think’ about in a new way. it’s not logical. it’s not rational. it’s not sensible. our brains are complicated places. if it was ‘easy’ we’d all work through some kind of process and come out the other side as occasional one-drink drinkers. and that isn’t what happens. It “should” happen if you think about it logically. but it doesn’t. because nothing about alcohol use is logical.

and I don’t think we can change how we think about drinking while we’re still drinking. it’s only once the booze is removed that things begin to change.

well there. that’s my opinion.

please delete this message now 🙂

and keep emailing.
hugs hugs


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

17 thoughts to “ANY use creates a craving for more”

  1. In my (humble) experience, this response is spot on and correct. It 100% reflects my cycle of trying over and over again, without totally removing the REAL problem. Once it is removed, the other struggles/issues have a clean slate – a new ‘palette’ – against which to be exposed and dealt with. Thank you belle.

  2. And the quote of the day goes to Belle:
    “ANY use creates a craving for more.” Yep, that one’s going down in my saved folder. So true on so many levels. I don’t even let myself think about drinking anymore.

  3. Every time I read your blogs I well up. I don’t know why. I’m still drinking myself – with hundreds of day 1,2,or 3, but not much more. I love what you say but I’m filled with such emotion that it is a bit overwhelming sometimes (so I shouldn’t read at the office where tears in my eyes bring on strange looks). I will keep reading and trying. I appreciate the support even if I haven’t found the strength yet to really be sober… I know I’m getting there and that helps.

  4. IMHO, will not work. stick with belle’s sober challenge, as a lifelong boozer and OCD sufferer I can say unequivocally that alcohol will only make things truly hellish by comparison. I am not a therapist but I can positively attest to that through 40 years of alcohol abuse.

  5. This would not work for me at all. Doing the things that I do drunk would make me drink. For example, on this ladder of drinking activities is going to a pub with friends. Going to a pub with friends as many times as possible and trying not to drink there would be setting myself up for failure.

    Physical addiction to alcohol is a real tangible thing. It is not like having anxiety when you are near puppies. Maybe you could conquer that anxiety by petting a puppy every day until you get over it.

    Doing any activity that makes you want to drink sounds like a bad idea.

  6. I think you hit the nail on the head about the therapist being a boozer too. I had a therapist 12 years ago when I first realized that I may need to quit drinking. She sent me to AA because I didn’t believe in God. Or at least that’s what I am assuming now. She was a Christian therapist and long story short – I ended up in her wine tasting group. After I had found God and declared myself not an alcoholic. That “worked” for a few years. Then still riddled with anxiety and depression and hangovers and a miserable existence – I knew I had to quit the alcohol. I didn’t want to go back to AA but I definitely knew that the way things were going was not how I wanted to live. This site has helped. I only have six months and that is the longest I have ever gone. I have a new therapist. And it is only in the last week or so that I am feeling a shift in the anxiety and depression. It’s lifting. Things are getting easier. Life is more manageable. And it is because the common denominator of my problems ALCOHOL has been removed. I’ve got a momentum that I could never achieve while partaking in the sauce. It’s unfortunately the truth that my boozer brain doesn’t want to accept, my healthy self is getting stronger and it’s good. It’s better.

    1. Melisa, you ended up in your therapist’s wine tasting group …that’s hilarious.

      When I read that the therapy prescribed to quit drinking was to continually do things that make you want to drink I thought “This therapist will have this client in sessions for a long time!”

  7. I believe that both the therapist and Belle are right. I think there are many ways to reduce your drinking. That is better than continuing to drink massive quantities. Any sober day is better for your health than a non-sober day. But, using this approach, alcohol will still be the go to thing when you are triggered. Maybe less often, but the basic association between trigger and drinking remains. And, I believe that you can easily go back to more frequent and heavy drinking as long as that association remains.

    Quitting completely is the only way to break the link. It is the only way to learn to always do other things than drinking when something triggers you. It is the only way to heal your brain.

  8. This resonates with me today. I’ve pondered sobriety for about a year and a half now. Not a daily drinker, but definitely not doing well moderating. There is no point in having one. I want 10.

    Last night and also last Friday I had a work-related happy hour. I don’t over-imbibe when out because there’s no way I’m driving drunk. But on the way home, I stopped to buy more to drink at home. By myself. Today’s remorse is almost palatable.

  9. 49 days without any alcohol. Doing things differently by no longer drinking alcohol and removing it from my life has ignited the real me and got rid of the anxious, depressed and negative me. That person has gone, thank goodness without any medication or therapy.

    I’ve never previously faced up to tackling the real problem.. which i thank goodness have now realised was alcohol.

    I’m looking forward to my first hip and completely sober Christmas in probably 27 years : ) I’ve been to events, meals out, festival nights, a live band, the pub, an awards ceremony ( there was free wine all night and fizzy water for me!!). My friends still love me and completely respect my decision and I’m doing all this sober….Yay

    Thank you belle for the daily updates and to the on line community whose stories continually reinforce that this is the right decision

    xx xx : ) xxxxx

  10. Totally agree. One drink always leads to another. I could not start to deal with all the shit in my life until I put down the bottle.

  11. I, like Cindy, agree to a degree with both the therapist and Belle! I didn’t get from the original message that the therapist was advocating anything other than sobriety, there was no mention of drinking smaller amounts! I should say, before you take anything I say as gospel, that I am less qualified to give advice on what works than I am on what doesn’t work as I managed 70 sober days this summer then daintily stepped off the proverbial wagon…… drama, just the sweet tempting voice of the ‘angel’ on my right shoulder (or Wolfie as he is to you guys) sounding remarkably like the angel that sits on my left shoulder, and my gorgeous ‘normal drinking’ boyfriend agreeing that a glass of sangria when we are sitting at a beach bar was perfectly ok on the odd occasion! (It took a mere six weeks to return to a bottle of wine a night and a few sneaked shots but now back on Day 4) However, avoiding the beach bars completely wouldn’t have worked either, tried that one a couple of years back, because it isn’t just there that I think about drinking! So the therapist saying that doing routine things sober (like going to the beach bar or the supermarket and not drinking) will build up a feeling of normality to doing it sober does make sense, but what we need to be prepared for (and you’ve probably mentioned this before Belle?) is a degree of complacency and comfort in not drinking setting in and then you start to forget the bad relationship you had with alcohol and start to feel normal and kind of sorted then in steps the little devil impersonating the angel, sounding rational and sweet, trying to persuade you that you are totally ‘fixed’ and can return to ‘normal’ drinking! That’s what I now know I have to be constantly on high alert for ………no matter what number sober day I reach! I am determined to do it! Alcohol? Not today thank you!

  12. Having any alcohol just keeps me tied to the idea that it is a necessary and wonderful part of life and that living without it is “less than.” It keeps me twisted. The only way I have found to be happy is to treat it like a bad boyfriend…so glad that he is gone…and completely convinced that if I left him in the living room, he will be in my bed in no time, and he will move in for good. But that’s me.

  13. This is my, oh I don’t know how many times trying to quit. I am tired and exhausted of the same old routine of feeling like crap. I am joining the 100 day challenge with a new outlook on life. You are all very inspiring. Cheers

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