Giving Up On Giving Up: Is Abstinence Really The Answer To Addiction?

I started drinking again recently. After struggling to stay quit for years, I finally stopped for almost five. Then I started again last year.

Why? I don't believe abstinence is always the answer.

David Bird Cognitive Hypnotherapy Leighton Buzzard, Drinking Alcohol Addiction Therapy

Quitting cold-turkey can itself be running away. Effectively saying "I can't trust myself with this". Like locking the monster up. You might have it behind bars. But it's still there. Waiting. And how strong is that cage?

I used to think I had a drink problem. I didn't. I had an anxiety problem. A self-worth problem. Drinking was how I coped. Not the healthiest solution, I'll admit. But the mind will have you continually repeat a bad strategy in the absence of a better one.

Clients often say to me "I'm scared of having to give up". And that fear is normal. Sensible, even. If you've got a broken leg but your crutches give you blisters, it's not an inviting idea to ditch them and start hopping. You need different ones. (Or a willing piggy-backer).

But do you?

In recovery, they talk about the dangers of HALT. Being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. How you're at risk of relapsing in those states. And need coping strategies to get you through. Which makes me wonder:

If you need a coping strategy to stop you going back to your old coping strategy, have you actually resolved the problem?

Gabor Maté describes addiction as a 'painkiller'. The problem isn't the substance a person is 'addicted' to. The real problem is the pain they're trying to kill with it. Resolve that, and the proverbial-paracetamol becomes defunct.

I realised I'd quit drinking out of fear. Yes, it'd benefited me. Massively. And I'd learnt to socialise sober where I couldn't before. But not through choice. Fear can be a great motivator. It doesn't mean it's a good one.

Strong reactions - whether you're pulled towards or running away - means a lack of choice. So whenever you have a craving, compulsion, or even a strong desire, for something - the question to ask is:

What problem does this solve for me? If there was something I was afraid of, or running away from, by having this thing, what would that be?

(Struggling to stop doing something you’d like more control over? Cognitive Hypnotherapy in Leighton Buzzard can help you. Get in touch to learn how).