To Drinkers Who Want to Stop But Are Having Problems With Cravings! (The Written Part…)
The Discomfort of Change
Lets take a look at what is happening when you get so-called ‘cravings’!
In the first few weeks, it can be difficult to put up with the discomfort. Some of the discomfort is to do with alcohol, mostly the discomfort is to do with the habit….
You mostly feel uncomfortable because of the massive changes that you are making in your life.
Think about it – how much does drinking, or thinking about drinking, impact your daily life right now. 95% of the discomfort is about adjusting your unconscious mind to not thinking about drinking any more.
Let me repeat that, 95% of the discomfort you feel when you stop drinking alcohol is about adjusting your unconscious mind to not thinking about drinking. That’s not thinking about going to the pub after work, not thinking about drinking in the evening in front of the television, just not thinking about drinking full stop.
The Unconscious Day to Day Life
Most of our day to day activities are done unconsciously, without our being aware that they are happening. If you think about brushing your teeth in the morning when you get up out of bed, you probably get up out of the same side of the bed every morning, stand up in more or less the same way, go into the bathroom to take a leak, then you brush your teeth in much the same manner. You don’t think about each step of the way, it’s just unconscious, you’re not aware of it. But, if you get a pain in your tooth, you suddenly become mindful of what you are doing. If you see blood on your toothbrush, or you spill toothpaste down your front or onto the floor, you suddenly become conscious of what you’re doing. Otherwise it’s just the same old, same old.
Something Tastes Fishy Here!
Another example is eating. When you sit down to eat a meal, it’s mostly done automatically. You might be sitting in front of the TV or chatting to your family across the dinner table. For the most part, you won’t be aware of the food you’re eating, especially if it’s a regular meal. If it’s something special, a food that you would not normally eat, or a new recipe that you’re trying out, you might be more conscious of each bite. If something tastes a bit fishy when it’s not fish you’re eating, you become aware of it. If you’re happily munching on the new seasons strawberries and you feel something wiggling on your tongue, you will get an automatic reaction of spitting and maybe gagging. You’ll make sure to look at the rest of the crop really carefully before eating any more.
When you drink, it is mostly done on an unconscious level. You might notice the first few mouthfuls, but the rest of your drinking will mostly pass you by without your being aware.
When I used to drink Guinness, for instance, there is the double pour… the bar person fills up the glass about two thirds to three quarters the way and places it on the counter next to the pumps to set (settled to the well-known black bottom and cream head).Once the liquid has set, it’s ready for topping up.
That is normally done by pushing the pump backwards to obtain a slower flow. Then the almost finished pint is put in front of the customer and he pays. But it’s not ready to drink yet. The ‘amateur’ will drink straight away, but the ‘pro’ will wait until it once again takes on the familiar black and cream look.
It’s all contrived bullshit! It’s a great marketing trick, a way of getting the punter into the fairytale routine.
My point is that the anticipation of the first pint is a hook, you go into the pub with that anticipation in your mind. The second and subsequent pints will always be ordered before you have finished your last pint, so you don’t anticipate them as much, you don’t take any notice of the setting process. You might keep an eye on the pints, and you might savour the first sip as you break the head, but it’s all trained behaviour, like Pavlov’s dog drooling at the sound of the bell.
Every time you take a drink, you’re not really thinking about it. Your mind is somewhere else. On the conversation you’re having with your mates, the soccer match that’s happening on the TV, the women in the corner, the new arrivals, your urgent need to pee.
Once You Quit!
When you go into the pub without drinking, when you’ve stopped drinking, you have a massive hole in your experience. Your brain will keep reaching for the pint that’s no longer there. Or you’re drinking something else, say a glass of tonic water, the glass is there but it’s all wrong. You’re not getting the same taste, nor are you getting the same smell, it doesn’t feel the same in your mouth nor does it give you the same feeling when you drink it, in your body or your brain.
Did you ever smoke and then quit? When someone stops smoking, one of the hardest things is figuring out what to do with their hands, that’s what they say… I’ve been there. It’s because they are so used to reaching for the cigarette packet once or twice or three times every waking hour. As soon as they get the feeling of not having nicotine, they reach for the cigarette pack. When they stop smoking, they still get the nicotine need, but there is no cigarette pack any more, nothing to reach for. There is no more nicotine. So they’re having the constant urgent need to ease their desire for nicotine by reaching for a non-existent pack of fags.
Sipping, Sipping, Sipping
As another example of your unconscious mind leading the way, say that you enjoy a drink at home at the end of the day. Maybe you have your favourite chair that you always sit in, perhaps the remote control on the little table beside your chair, and there’s your glass of alcohol, sitting on the table. Again, while you’re watching the telly or chatting away you’ll be drinking without really being aware of it.
You’ll be reaching down for the glass, lifting the glass to your lips and taking a sip, putting the glass back onto the table with barely a thought. How many times will you do this throughout the evening. Maybe 10 or 20 sips per glass, seven or eight glasses, it adds up to a lot of times you lift the glass to your lips, perhaps over 100 sips.
You’re also unconsciously keeping an eye on the glass to see how full it is, or how empty – depending on your thinking. You’ll be unconsciously tasting, unconsciously moving the drink around your mouth, and then mindlessly swallowing, getting your mouth ready for the next sip.
You might be keeping an eye on how much alcohol you have left overall, calculating when you’re going to run out. If you have a couple of bottles of wine for the evening, you won’t pay as much attention to the first bottle disappearing as you will to the second. Once you open the cork of the second, you’ll become more aware of the rapidly emptying bottle.
Then there is the trail of alcohol related thoughts that your mind will go through from one end of the evening to the other.
These scenarios are similar wherever drink is involved in your life. The longer you’ve been drinking, the more rooted in your life they will have become. And I’m not taking into account your personal drinking rituals.
Small Changes, Catching Up Your Subconscious!
So when you stop drinking, all of this must change. Think about that for a moment. All those subconscious reaching and thoughts and sips and tastes and calculations now don’t lead anywhere. The subconscious mind still reaches for the non-existent drink, or the drink that doesn’t deliver what the brain expects. Your mind is in a state of confusion. You KNOW you have quit, but as silly as it sounds your subconscious hasn’t caught up. The automatic part of your brain is still trying to automatically do what it’s supposed to do, automatically, but it’s hitting a brick wall.
You mind is constantly being made aware of this hole in your life. Instead of the routine, happily churning away in your unconscious, it’s all gone haywire.
Click, Click, Whirr!
The thought and the actions are still part of your day, every time you sit in front of the TV, in those first few days, it’s like you’ve just started a mental program running. But there’s something missing, a core and essential part. This missing part of the routine is stuck in your awareness like a toothache. It makes you fidgety and nervous. Your mind becomes anxious and stressed. Your mind interprets all this anxiety as cravings and withdrawals and symptoms… you tell yourself that its the alcohol, that you need a drink to make it go away.
Beauty and the Beast
The brutality of these feelings and emotions and thoughts is part of the beauty in the system. And it’s the same beautiful system that will work for you to quit, you just have to give it time.
Out With The Old, In With The New
You need to develop new habits to replace the old. Your whole survival system will get behind your new habit once it knows that there’s a new habit being built up. How does it know that? Repetition! Once you repeat this process of not drinking over and over and over again, you’re system knows that a new habit is developing.
You mind will gradually adapt to the new and get rid of the old (for the most part). The discomfort will lessen day by day. Even though you will be changing moment by moment, your mind learning by your new behaviours, you won’t really notice on a daily basis. You will all of a sudden notice that you haven’t thought about drinking in a while, maybe for a full night, or a couple of days.
The Finished Product
The change is still happening behind the scenes. Picture all that goes on behind the scenes on a movie set, all you see is the finished product. You don’t see all the work done by the stage hands.
The thoughts become less and less. You reach for the drink less and less. Your expectation for the taste of alcohol becomes less and less. Eventually you don’t think about it at all. It’s gone from your life. All you will have left will be the infrequent and fleeting habit memories. They too will pass with time.
Changing Your Environment
One of the biggest and most effective changes you can make is to change or at the very least alter your environment. If you want an immediate effect, move to a new city or better yet a new country. I talk about my changes in SDA58.
The next best thing is to take yourself on holiday/vacation for two or three weeks. Get away from it all, all your usual haunts, routines, and rituals. You’ll have no stress or worries, relax and chill out in different surroundings. No drinking buddies etc.
If you can’t do that, change what you can in your day to day life… You have to do this anyway in the beginning.
If you sit in front of the tv, change it for something else…
If you go to the pub, stop going…
Get alcohol out of your home…
Throw away the paraphernalia.. Give it away…
Do anything you can to change your environment…
So, instead of thinking about these things in terms of symptoms and cravings and side effects, you now know that they are the result of your own mind adjusting to your new reality. When you push through and allow the new reality to take effect, for all the old thinking to be replaced by the new, you are essentially moving away from alcohol.
Thanks for visiting the site.
Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!