The thinking that supports or suggests the use of alcohol or drugs
People struggling with problematic alcohol and drug use and addiction are usually “of two minds.” That is, part of them knows they have a problem and is contemplating stopping, and the other part wants to continue the behaviour. I often equate it to the old Tom & Jerry cartoons with the devil on one shoulder (the addictive voice) and the angel on the other (the voice of reason).
The Addictive Voice – Part 1
The “addiction voice” is very demanding and manipulative and thinks in the short term very much like a child; “I want what I want, when I want it and I want it now.” It speaks from a more primitive part of the brain that desires to only repeat behaviours that provide immediate pleasure regardless of the long-term consequences. The prefrontal cortex area of the brain, where all this hangs out, controls the “executive functions” including judgment, impulse control, management of aggression, emotional regulation, self-regulation, planning, reasoning, and social skills. The use of alcohol and drugs disrupts the effective use of this part of the brain and underlies not only compulsive behaviour but also accounts for the range of negative behaviours that are associated with alcohol and drug use and to some extent the erosion of free will.
The “addiction voice” is highly seductive and effects both individuals that have not got to the stage of abstinence yet but also those that have. However, the great thing about the addictive voice is that it does not stand up to rational thinking and it can be beat. Here are some common things it will say:
- It’s been so long since I’ve had a drink, line, pill etc. I have it under control now so a dabble won’t hurt
- I can have just one; it will be okay.
- I just want one relaxing evening, just like in the good old days.
- Oh, I don’t really have to totally quit. I can just cut down a little bit. I’ll only drink or use on weekends
- I can’t really loosen up and have a good time without something to take the edge off
- It’s just so unfair that other people can have a good time, and I can’t
- Oh well, some experts say that relapsing is a normal part of recovery. I hear that lots of people relapse half a dozen times before they really quit forever, so I still have five relapses to go. It’ll be okay…
- I feel so stressed out right now, I deserve this
- Just one grand blow-out, just for tonight and then I’ll quit
- This evening is so boring, might as well have a drink or a smoke or a line or, or, or….
- I’ve been doing so good for so long, totally abstaining without any cheating whatsoever, it’s time to celebrate!
- I’ve been doing so good for so long, totally abstaining without any cheating whatsoever, I’ve got this beat. Let’s test this by having a drink or using as I know I won’t go back to my old patterns
- Things aren’t really as bad as the doctor was saying. I know they was exaggerating, just trying to scare me into quitting, that’s all…
- I need a little inspiration. This is big, important, and I need to come up with a creative, original concept. So I need a little something to help get the creative juices flowing. All the true creatives do this
- My partners not really going to leave me, throw me it, stop me seeing the children……
- I don’t have a problem I can quit whenever I want
- What is everyone going on about, I don’t have a problem
If you recognise any of the above then the reality is that you most likely have a problem with alcohol or drugs and more than certainly have a problem stopping using them or are on the brink of a lapse or relapse.
If you or someone you care about is in danger of relapsing do not wait until it’s too late to take action or if you recognise using some of these phrases yourself then give us a call.
We have a range of face to face and online programmes to address problematic alcohol and drug use. Call us now on 0208 191 9174 or jump onto Live Chat or email us directly https://www.helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us/
The Addictive Voice – Part 2
The “addictive voice” will sometimes have “elements of truth” in what it says, such as, “I am really stressed….you deserve to reward yourself and get rid of your stress…” but of course there will be major lies or outright omissions in the content of its seductive thought patterns. It will not want you to think beyond the next few moments, and it will completely ignore or diminish the ultimate consequences of your choice to engage in your drinking or using behaviour.
Three questions the “addiction voice” will not want to answer are the following:
- “How long will I really feel good?”
- “What price will I pay for this?”
- “What is the reality, evidence or facts of what I am saying to myself?”
Once you start questioning your addictive voice with these 3 little nuggets it will start to squirm and throw up all sort of counter arguments to keep you in your drinking or using or get to go back to it.
Let us be clear your “addictive voice” is not your friend
So What Can You Do?
As we have said before problematic drug and alcohol use and addiction are diseases that thrive in isolation. As dependency on and abuse of drugs and alcohol worsens, important areas of our lives are steadily dropped as dependence takes hold, be they psychological or physical. In most cases, problematic drug and alcohol use and addiction is a secret shame that is lived with in the shadows until it can be hidden no more.
This cycle can be broken, however, and a better life can be achieved through friendship, honesty and the openly embracing the help and support from professionals, people that care about you and people that understand what you are going through. The cycle will not be broken by keeping it to yourself or trying to solve it on your own.
The reality is if you partner, husband, wife, friend, boss……. is telling you that they are worried about your drinking or drug taking they are not saying this because they hate you and want to watch you destroy your life!
The staff at Help Me Stop have all had problems with drugs or alcohol in the past, so they know firsthand how sneaky this “addictive voice” can be. Equally they know, as psychotherapists, and through life experience how to beat it.
We have a range of face to face and online programmes to address problematic alcohol and drug use. Call us now on 0208 191 9174 or jump onto Live Chat or email us directlyhttps://www.helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us/
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop’s General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.