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Defusing A Trigger

Changing my life, one trigger at a time

benefits I've sought from drinking

As part of my moderation process, I've had to take a good look at what drinking has been doing for me, why I've chosen to continue excessive drinking despite the negative effects.

My strong opinion is that every behavior we do has a positive intent. By over-drinking we are actually trying to do something good for ourselves, to meet our needs in some way.

I don't buy the demon-rum theory. There is no more power in alcohol than there is in a cheese sandwich, or in any other ingestible about which I have a choice. The power is in what the booze is doing for me.

Since my subconscious mind is trying to help me by pushing me to drink, it will not give up that behavior unless it has effective alternatives from which to choose.

I also found that since I am stubborn as a mule, it won't do to eliminate drinking as a choice; if I do that, then I'm just going to get involved with the whole "rebellion, resentment and rule-breaking" thing. I simply need to add more choices to what I already have.

deconstructing a trigger

I'll show you what I mean. This is an actual process I went through with one of my biggest triggers.

TRIGGER: Getting home late at night from work, drinking to decompress and get to sleep. I invariably end up having "just one more," sometimes enough to get drunk.

Q: What do I want in this situation?

A: I want to relax and to get to sleep quickly.

Q: What am I getting out of drinking in this situation?

A: Alcohol forces my muscles to relax and helps me get to sleep by depressing my central nervous system. I also love the euphoria and feel I deserve it at the end of a long day or a hard concert.

Q: Do I want new behavior choices in this situation in ADDITION to drinking, so that I do not ALWAYS have to choose drinking?

A: Yes, very much so.

Q: What are five new behaviors I could do instead of drinking?

  1. I could drink "Sleepytime" tea. Does not work as fast as booze, but gentler on the body and no side effects.

  2. I know self-hypnosis; I could develop a self-hypnosis tool which would work as fast as booze to relax me...but then I wouldn't have the euphoria.

  3. I could meditate. This would get me relaxed and produce a pleasant altered state.

  4. I could read. This often puts me to sleep at night. But no euphoria.

  5. I could take an antihistamine. This will make me feel warm, drowsy, slightly euphoric, and put me to sleep quite nicely. But I will wake up with a hangover.

analyzing my options

Q: Am I willing to add these behaviors to my list of choices in this situation?

A: Not the antihistamine; it has the same side effects as liquor for me.

(Note that I did not reject the idea out of hand. I wrote it down and considered it and consciously decided that I did not want it. For me, this is an important way of respecting the part of my brain that generates new ideas and behaviors. If I pooh-pooh and discount its ideas, it will stop generating them!)

The other behaviors: Yes, with a caveat: I notice in answering the questions, that there are two important aspects to this trigger: Getting to sleep, and the high. My new behaviors will work when the high is not important to me.

I see that I need to develop a new skill: Deciding, when I get home, if I want to get high or if I just want to get to sleep.

This sounds elementary and maybe a little stupid, but I think it's going to be necessary for me to change my behavior here.

I see from my list that I can generate several ways to get to sleep, but there's no way to get the same high without drinking. However, one good thing that this process is doing right now is reminding me that alcohol is not a sleep aid, it's a recreational drug the point of which is to get high, and if I'm using it to get to sleep I am actually misusing it.

making my decision

My eventual decision was to separate the getting high from the sleep aid.

Now, when I come home late and wired, I use my sleep-aid of choice (usually tea) FIRST, upon walking in the door.

Before I go to work I make sure that the teakettle is full and there's a mug sitting on the counter with the tea bag already in it. I drink one or two mugs full of tea.

Then, after the sleep thing is starting to be taken care of, I make a conscious decision: Do I want to get high or not? Usually I don't care and I just relax and go to bed. Sometimes I want to and so I do, no regrets. But I find even then that one drink is all I want, after my body is relaxed from the tea.

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Revised 07.26.2003 mm@moderation.org