A Pint won’t hurt

Even though I’m in a good mental place at the moment and have my anxiety under control I always have to be vigilant that the ‘addictive voice’ I spoke of in the last blog post (or ‘the beast’ which I often call it) can strike at any point. It’s not just when we are bored, stressed, tired, anxious or depressed that it rears it’s head. I found yesterday and today that despite being active and happy in oneself, the internal conversation can start. The scary thing about it is that sometimes I don’t even realise I’m in dialogue with my AV. I’ll give you an example…

I’ve been very clear about my Big Plan and a lifetime of abstinence from alcohol. Not in question, I won’t drink today, tomorrow or in 10 years time. I’m committed to the long game. Me. I am.

So why yesterday when I was at the football did it cross my mind to have a few pints in the sun at the pub across the road from the stadium? I drive to the matches for a start but there I was saying the driving was actually a safety net because I couldn’t have more than one or two prematch drinks as I’d need to get behind the wheel a few hours later after the game.

But wait a minute. Why have I just had this conversation with myself? I don’t drink. I won’t be drinking ever again. Ah, wait a minute. I know this! I made the bloody decision. It’s that sneaky bastard known as my ‘Beast’. He’s quietly slipped the idea into my consciousness when I was in a good mood and looking forward to a day at the football. First game of the season, sun is shining and everybody is in good spirits.

Nipped. In. The. Bud.

But again today, here I am with my 3yr old daughter who I’ve just collected at lunchtime from the child minder. We drove the short distance to the town centre to do a few errands (and most importantly buy some paint for our allotment scarecrow making later this week). We walked past one of the many pubs on the front street and I heard my name called. It was my parents sitting in the sunshine having a drink. We went over and my Mam asked if we’d like a drink (she meant a coffee as she’s very supportive of my sobriety). So we sat down in the beer garden and I had an Americano. No issue there. No anxiety. No fear of missing out watching my Dad drink his pint of Madri.

It wasn’t until 30 mins later or so as we said our goodbyes and headed on our way back to the car that the conversation started again in my head. It wasn’t as clear and direct as yesterday because my addictive voice wasn’t telling me a pint with my Dad would have been nice, etc. It was more to do with the secret drinking I used to do. Here is how it went…

You do know you could still have a pint in a beer garden when working away or if out and about on your own?! Your problem is drinking when you are in a bad place mentally. If you apply a plan like you’re doing with so many other aspects of your life it would be fine. Just say to yourself, I’m only going to have two pints. No more. Two pints. Done. Don’t drink to get pissed or to suppress anxiety, just enjoy a cold pint like you used to. Nobody ever needs to know anyways. Just do it occasionally on your own.

I have no plans to be on my own anywhere or working away anytime soon so not sure why my AV even mentioned that scenario. All that said and done, my AV doesn’t play by any particular set of rules so it’s important not to overanalyse the internal conversations. The model of addiction shows that the ‘AV/Beast’ has no direct means to get what it wants. It must appeal to us to get alcohol or drugs into our bloodstream. It cannot speak, it cannot see, it has no arms or legs, and it has no intelligence of its own. But it uses our thoughts, sees through our eyes, creates strong feelings, and persuades us to use our hands, arms and legs in to obtain its favorite substance.

So nothing has changed here. I’m still sober and I still have my big plan in place. I just had a reminder that sometimes you’ll get a little visit when you least expect it.

AVRT vs. AA

The Recovery Programme I’m following is known as Rational Recovery but many will refer to it as AVRT (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique) which is the nuts and bolts of how this approach to overcoming addiction works.

I’ve had a few people ask me how it works and quite often when we discuss this pathway they are surprised there is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous out there. All we ever see portrayed in film, TV and the media is this vision of an alcoholic sitting in a community hall with a group of other ‘drunks’ sharing their story. AA is recovery to a lot of people. This is still the most common and most used programme globally but it’s just never quite clicked for me, and as I’ve since found – many others too.

So first off, I have no issue with AA and in fact there are many elements to it which I like but I’m of the opinion I need to give my all to something as significant as my abstinence and I never fully believed in the words of the AA’s big book.

So what is the difference between AVRT & AA?

Firstly, the Twelve Steps of AA are presented as a suggested self-improvement program of initially admitting powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledging its damage, the listing of and striving to correct personal failings and the making of amends for past misdeeds. To stay recovered, AA suggests maintained spiritual development through the Steps.

The Rational Recovery program is based on recognising and defeating the “addictive voice” (internal thoughts that support self-intoxication) and dissociation from addictive impulses. The specific technique of Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT) refers to the practice of objectively recognising any mental thoughts that support or suggest substance use as AV (addictive voice). This passive recognition allows you to realise that you need not do what the AV says, but can effortlessly abstain.

So after reading both of those short statements you can already see a significant difference. The overarching aim is the same (abstinence) but the approach and how we go about it differ massively.

With Rational Recovery there is “no better time to construct a “big plan” to abstain from drinking/using than now” and that AA’s idea of “one day at a time” is contradictory to never using again. Rational Recovery says, if AA proposes that you are never going to drink again, then there isn’t a reason to keep track of time. One day at a time (something I based my recovery on once over) works for so many though and by breaking down sobriety into daily goals, it can make the journey feel so much less overwhelming. So I do get it!

Rational Recovery does not regard alcoholism as a disease, but a voluntary behavior.

Rational Recovery discourages adoption of the forever “recovering” drunk persona.

There are no Rational Recovery recovery groups and whilst I personally connect with others using the programme via social media, it isn’t group or meeting led. From what I’ve read so far in the book we are encouraged not to surround ourselves with others in recovery. (The opposite to AA).

Finally, there are no discrete steps and no consideration of religious matters, or requirement to put one’s trust in any sort of higher power, whether it be a god or a group of people – something AA is based on.

I hope that by providing a brief breakdown of the two programmes it’s a little clearer as to how both work. I haven’t written this post to slag one or the other off and I have no interest in causing divide in the recovery community. I have borrowed alot of the above words from the horse’s mouth – it’s not my opinion, it’s what the programmes say about themselves.

Can you use AA & AVRT together?

I couldn’t. Or I’ve certainly been unable to up to now. I find that they are too far apart with their approaches that it is very difficult and counterproductive to commit to both. Commit is the key for me and if I’m giving my all to the ‘Big Plan’ how can I also commit to the twelve steps? It’s only my opinion but for me, you should explore both by all means but then choose the one that fits for you.

I’ll be back with more on this subject because it does run deeper than the brief synopsis I’ve given today but I hope you’ve found this post of interest as a starter for ten.