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You can become addicted to all sorts of things, drugs, alcohol, stealing, gambling, cigarettes, foods, exercise, chat rooms - the list goes on and on.  This story is about alcohol addiction, but you could easily adapt it to your own issues and how to deal with them.

Bob started drinking at age 11 - to feel more like a grown up.  This is what his father did every weekend. By age 19, Bob got a dishonorable discharge from the service due to drinking, fighting and disobedience. When asked about his drinking he noted proudly that he did not use drugs and did not drink hard liquor, only beer.  The years of alcoholism took a toll on his life.  He could not hang on to a job and was in and out of jail or prison for a variety of offenses related to his drinking.  His family was fed up with him, and wished no contact with him.  He had three children by two different women, but did not provide for their support and was not welcome in their lives.

As he grew older, he realized that he should do something about his drinking.  He enrolled himself in alcohol programs, but was unsuccessful in stopping.  In prison, he went to church regularly, studied the Bible and hoped that the Lord will give him the strength to stay off alcohol.  In the same institution, he took college classes and learned about substance abuse and how to turn his life around.  He felt his faith was strong and he had little desire to drink.  The day he left prison, his mind reverted automatically to its old patterns of thinking and all he could think of was how to get back to his old crowd and get a drink. Bob came to believe that the only way he could stay off alcohol would be to live someplace where it was not available.  Bob overlooked the most important component of this problem - his thinking.

Thought always precedes action, even in the most impulsive individual.  If Bob is successful in controlling his thoughts, he will be successful in controlling his actions.  Therefore, willpower is nothing more than the ability to control thoughts.  Feelings of deprivation, daydreams about alcohol, and excuses for drinking are the primary destroyers of sobriety.

We say that we feel deprived, but actually we feel sorry for ourselves because we think we are deprived. Through years of brain washing by our associates and ourselves, we have come to believe that we need alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, in order to be content.  A false - but deeply ingrained belief.  In order to abstain successfully we have to find a way to remove the thoughts and false beliefs.  It is also helpful to understand the role of triggers in causing thoughts of alcohol to enter our minds.

Triggers are events, emotions, and geographic locations which activate thoughts of alcohol.  Some familiar triggers are boredom parties, certain emotions, and street corners.  We turn to alcohol when we feel sad or angry.  Parties and celebrations often lead to excessive alcohol consumption.  Geographic triggers can be very subtle.  We can be driving close to an intersection at which we typically decided whether to turn left to go to the liquor store, or to drive straight home.  Even if we had not been thinking of alcohol, suddenly we will find ourselves thinking about drinking.

And then there are the excuses.  Let us remember how we give ourselves permission to drink.  Examples of such thoughts are: "I am chemically addicted,” "Just this once," "I did not have any for a year, I am not addicted," "Everybody is doing it," "It's the only pleasure I get out of life."  I am sure you have your own favorites.  Such thoughts are an indication that we are brainwashing ourselves.

Although brainwashing has negative connotation as a way of gaining political control over people, in reality, it is merely a repetition of ideas.  Commercials and advertisements are accepted forms of brainwashing in our culture.  We brainwash ourselves, and others, into believing that we have to eat chocolate, smoke cigarettes, drink "socially" or use drugs in order to be content.  The wonderful thing is, that if we can brainwash ourselves into believing those things, we can also brainwash ourselves into other ideas that can improve our willpower and make the cravings a thing of the past.

In order to help himself, Bob has to understand that he has the power to brainwash himself into disliking alcohol.  He also as to realize that he can exercise control over his thoughts and that if he wishes to stop the cravings, all he has to do is to stop himself whenever thoughts of alcohol enter his mind.  We can generally think only one thing at a time.  Therefore, if thoughts of alcohol enter his him, all he has to do is to introduce a competing thought.  In order to be successful, Bob must not allow himself to daydream about past or future drinking, or the associated lifestyle.

Bob has to be sober in order to control his thoughts.  Therefore, detox will be the first step to take before he can use his method.  People under the influence have very little control over their thoughts.  This is why professionals insist that alcoholics and addicts have to give up all drugs and alcohol.

If Bob decides to give up drinking, he could start by getting into the habit of paying attention to his thoughts.  Whenever he thinks of alcohol, he needs to stop and introduce a competing thought.  He could use the phrase: "I hate alcohol".  Bob needs to repeat this phrase several ties, each time thoughts of alcohol pop into his head.  He will repeat the phrase several times whenever the thoughts of alcohol pop into his head.  He will use the same method in order to eliminate the other triggers.  When Bob sees people drinking, even if he has no desire to join them, he needs to repeat "I hate alcohol" several times.

After using this method for a number of weeks Bob will notice four changes.  The craving and feeling of deprivation will be gone; the triggers will lose their power and he will no longer have thoughts of alcohol when he sees a movie in which people are drinking.  Although he will never truly hate alcohol, he will be indifferent to it.  Bob will find that he rarely has to use the competing thought of "I hate alcohol" because the thoughts of drinking do not arise and because the triggers are inactive.  On rare occasions, when he does have thoughts of drinking, his mind will automatically say: "I hate alcohol".  This will happen because he got out of the habit of daydreaming about alcohol and how to obtain it - into a new habit of introducing a competing thought whenever he thinks of it.

Thoughts of deprivation are very powerful and can cause a shift in types of addiction.  While Bob is successful in applying this technique to control his alcohol cravings, he may find himself overeating.  This also happens with other addictions.  To deal with this problem, he can use competing thoughts again in order to keep from overeating, by repeating the phrase, "I am full," several times and the craving will pass.

Beat the cravings.  Use this Method.  It costs nothing and requires a minimum of time and effort on your part.  After all these years, you will finally feel in control.  You will have the willpower you always wanted.  Read the article on  Willpower.

Rounded Rectangle: Clinical Psychologist                            Alexandra J. Rogers, Ph.D.