Today’s blog is going to be about progress in stopping drinking (which I’m currently not doing very well at) and one of the biggest obstacles; the most difficult time, the evenings sat at home alone when the lonely depressed feelings come, the craving for relief and the thought of drinking appears and nags, nag, nags and NAGS.
What makes some evenings so difficult to get through without drinking?
That horrible feeling in the evenings is really a combination of two thing; a) the fact that the evenings are INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING due to loneliness, boredom, spending a lot of time cooped-up in the house & at a loose end & b) the craving feeling which has been learned as a result of self-medicating (the desire for relief of the craving, the stressed ‘I could do with a drink’ feeling).
The relief is what I’m craving
There’s that feeling of wanting a drink which is similar to that hunger for food. There’s the relief from the loneliness, that empty depressing feeling feeling that HITS SO FUCKING HARD in the evening. Even though I’m fully aware that drinking is not the solution and will have undesired effects (such as wanting to carry on and eating into my sleep, hangovers etc.), it’s relief from that which I’m craving during that moment more than ANYTHING in the world.
The agonising wait
The thought of when the off-licenses close is on my mind, & dominates my thoughts, the seeming ETERNITY that has to be waited through. From dinner time onward until up to 10pm the thought of drinking appears, and it starts to nag, nag, NAG, NAG, NAG, NAG! It’s like a LONG agonising wait for the off-license (liquor store) to close (similar to waiting for the dentist, blood test or injection). It’s like an endurance test. It’s like some monster that once it grips it doesn’t go. It’s like a PRESSURE that rises, rises and RISES.
I thought cravings were supposed to last 20 mins, 30 mins tops
I’ve tried many of the techniques to deal with cravings such as take a bath, do a puzzle, do something else, take some exercise, phone a friend (currently not an option, more on this below), put it off for 20 mins. Do that, wait 20 mins, still want it, try another 20 mins, still hasn’t gone, try again, still want it more than anything in the world. Meanwhile, the thought of how much time is left before the shop closes & a sense of PRESSURE building up.
The rock and hard place; rising pressure, falling sword
A big part of what motivates the decision to start drinking is FEAR. There are two motives; experience of pleasure and escape from pain. It’s ESCAPING PAIN that’s the dominant motive to start drinking (as well as carrying on). The FEAR is that the PRESSURE to drink will BUILD UP & become UNBEARABLE. Two decisions;
- Do I try to resist and GET THROUGH this period, but run the risk of caving in at the last minute (starting a session late, risk wrecking the sleep pattern) or
- Do I just get it over with and get the relief I’m seeking now & end this ordeal
It’s AWFUL, it’s like a PRESSURE THAT BUILDS AND BUILDS AND BUILDS!
The lecturing; think about the consequences!
I am BLOODY WELL AWARE that it’s not good for me and will likely lead to a hangover and is contributing to feeling tired. The thing is, in those moments I WANT RELIEF MORE than I want to evade a hangover (which to be honest I can get by with). You might want to see my account of my attempts to resist with willpower (which I have done). You might say things like ‘what does that achieve (worst thing to say to a problem drinker; grrrr!) because you do not understand or haven’t actually read any of the text despite liberal use of bold and bullets. See below.
When I have tried to resist I felt MISERABLE! It even PUT ME OFF stopping
There have been many times when I’ve had this problem and I’ve FORCED myself not to drink, taken long walks, runs and bike rides, had work in (in the vain hope it would distract me and make it go away) still only to be completely unable to think of ANYTHING ELSE. I’ve found those experiences to be so UTTERLY TORTUROUS that the second time (or rarely a third time) that this happens, I’m less willing to FIGHT it.
What has it felt like when I tried to resist?
When I try to resist, especially feeling like how I’ve described, it feels like PUNISHING myself, be a good boy to please people. It feels like volunteering to put myself through torture to get some reward out of it. The thing is, when I’ve done this, it makes me want it more. So the next time I get this desire, it becomes EVEN HARDER.
Allen Carr is RIGHT, I’m using the wrong approach, I’m using the ‘willpower method’ (aka ‘white-knuckling’). The things that are making me miserable that I turned to booze to escape from are equally applicable today.
“You shouldn’t have turned to booze, it’s not the solution”
I bloody well know this already you patronising little twat. Are you saying that given circumstances similar to mine that initially drove me to drinking you wouldn’t have been affected, that I’m somehow a lesser person & you’re an ultra strong person? Is that an attempt to belittle? Yeah, that really makes you feel better and less inclined to drink doesn’t it? THIS is one of the reasons why this sort of lecturing is one of the WORST things to say to a problem-drinker. I hope that’s loud and clear. If you’re thinking like that, may I ask you to humbly dismount your high horse.
If there was a REWARD for resisting? (important)
On those occasions where I have successfully refused to drink and endured the ordeal, what what do I get as a reward for it? More boredom and loneliness, being cooped-in! That’s all there is. If there was more to get out of it than to evading a hangover, then I’d feel more motivated. If there was a REWARD for resisting, I would be more WILLING to. If it’s focusing on someone finger-wagging, it makes me want to engage in the ‘bad’ behaviour even more.
I’ve even been advised not to ‘white-knuckle’ it
I mentioned what I’ve mentioned here in a SMART recovery meeting & this experience was widely-related to; the long agonizing wait for the shop to close, people were laughing as in ‘oh boy, I get that, this brings back memories’. I was told that it was some sort of negotiating process going on in my head, not so much a craving. That when these thoughts start to appear, I’ve already lost. I was advised not to white-kuckle it when feeling like this, for the simple reason that it will create a bad experience. This problem was labelled by the facilitator as the ‘witching hour’, so from now on I’m going to use that term to describe this.
Addition; to make matters worse, I’m surrounded by temptation
Living at home with both parents who drink. During this sort of time of the evening there’s also the chorus of cans popping and wine pouring.
Conclusion (or may-day)
THE BOTTOM LINE; I feel like a SLAVE to this pattern, want to stop and escape yet I UTTERLY DREAD going through this ORDEAL on certain evenings of the week. What I’ve talked about here is the BIGGEST BARRIER to stopping drinking. Those evenings are like a LOOOOONG agonising wait for the off-license to close, an endurance test in which the pressure just builds up and up. What the hell do you call this problem? It’s not a normal craving. The more I force myself not to, the more I want it. I end up chastising myself for not having the stamina or endurance and being a PUSSY for not being able to white-knuckle my way through. As I’ve explained, I’ve identified there are two factors that make the evenings unpleasant a) the lonely depressed feeling that hits hard in the evenings (the reason I originally got into ‘drowning my sorrow’) and b) the craving (that ‘I could do with a drink’ stressed, anxious feeling). A lot of the experiences talked about here might only be relatable to people who’ve had problems with cigarettes, food and other things. To be honest I DREAD this ‘witching hour’ ordeal more than I dread being moderately hungover, I UTTERLY HATE it. However, if I have a bad hangover that’s enough to make me not want to drink for a few days. I go through periods of determination where I have periods of abstinence, and periods where I don’t try. During those periods I don’t try, it’s those memories of times when I’ve tried to resist and felt UTTERLY MISERABLE that make me want to not bother fighting. that sometimes affects my motivation to stop. I hope there’s a way round this. I just feel trapped, I’m concerned about my drinking, am aware that it’s a vicious spiral, yet when I try to resist I feel utterly miserable. It’s like a tug of war, a terrible conflict between two wills, it UTTER TORTURE. Allen Carr is RIGHT, it’s the FEAR of this TERRIBLE CRAVING rather than any pleasure that keeps it going. That’s certainly the dominant factor that motivates me to start drinking. I must be on the road to finding a way round this problem. I’ve put it out there and I’ve identified what’s going on.