Desire to Drink

There have been some pretty tough days of late where I’ve come so close to succumbing to my Addictive Voice and feeding it alcohol.

For context (not that I’m using it as an excuse or for approval to drink) my oldest daughter who is 7 years old has been in hospital for around one month now. It’s been a very traumatic experience for her and whilst me and my wife have been strong for her, it is naturally taking it’s toll on us too. We have another daughter in nursery school so the juggling act has been tricky.

During this time our family unit has been split in two. Me and my wife only see each other when we are at the hospital swapping ‘shifts’ between daughters so that in itself is an odd dynamic. Our oldest daughter has her own struggles and long road ahead but we need to be acutely aware of keeping routine for her little sister too. It may feel like an afterthought but the mental health of both me and my wife is so important because if we break we become a burden, not a help to the family.

That’s where I wanted to go with this post – my first in a while. It’s not appropriate or important to share the finer details of my daughter’s condition at the moment and blogging about our day to day in the four walls of a very busy and overwhelmed NHS hospital won’t do any of us any good so I’ll give you an update on me instead.

As you may know if you are a regular reader of Happy Daddy, I’m a man with diagnosed and long standing mental health issues who for 17 years was a binge drinker turned alcohol dependant boozer. Throw in life events like my daughter’s illness and I won’t deny it tests my metal despite the progress I’m making in recovery.

It’s very much about pragmatically using the tools I’ve come to rely on or have successfully utilised in the past to ensure I can keep myself in the strongest mental and physical place whilst also appreciating we are not super human and there is a likelihood that despite all of our best intentions and efforts there will be kinks in our armour during periods of high stress and disruption.

Tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion, agitation, irritation, anger, self pity and despair are just some of the buzz words that pop into my head when describing the last 5 weeks or so since my daughter’s health took a pretty sudden nosedive.

I even reacted immaturely in Tesco tonight. I’d just popped in on my way home from Hospital and was walking down an aisle browsing the shelves. I could see a bloke walking towards me and assumed he’d walk around the outside of me as I was pretty close to the shelf but he didn’t move. We had an awkward few seconds staring at each other before I nudged past him and said “you weren’t going to move were you?” – He replied “nah” so as I walked away I called him an obscenity which he most definitely heard.

Why do that? I didn’t have right of way as much as he didn’t. I could have easily walked around him and carried on with my day but I’m finding that I’m spoiling for a fight more of late. It’s like the old me in the height of my depression (not always drink related) where I would get angry so easily and use any excuse to get into an altercation. I used to have really bad road rage for example, and that has increased again of late despite a good few years of being a zen driver. When I got back to my car after paying for my bread and chocolate I told myself off and accepted I was pathetic. That’s the difference. In the past I would have justified my behaviour and let it wind me up for hours later.

I suppose it’s all a way of saying I’m under a lot of stress at the moment and in the past I would have used alcohol as my go to relief yet all it would do is fuel even more intense anger and irritation further down the line. I know deep down that I’m not a bad person but I also know I have unresolved deep rooted issues which need to be addressed by a Therapist or Psychologist.

In the past when I had counselling or a psychologist I wasn’t being fully truthful with them because I was hiding the severity of my drinking. I think I’m in a unique place in my life now where I can address my issues clearly and without alcohol blurring and undoing any work I achieve through therapy.

I’ve made the first steps to accessing said help.

I’m off now but I just wanted to thank everybody for their kind words and thoughts. I’m still active on Twitter (albeit maybe not as much as normal) and the majority of interactions I have in the Recovery Community are positive. Focus is of course on my little girls and wife but it is so imperative that I recognise my own struggles before they become something more uncontrollable. I think I’ve done that successfully just by writing today but the next important step is applying solutions to the problem.

What is AVRT?

More and more people are asking me the question “What is AVRT?” so let me give you a basic introduction to the most important abbreviation in my life.

AVRT stands for Addictive Voice Recognition Technique and it’s a Thinking Skill which we can all learn to use in order to overcome our addiction to alcohol or drugs. AVRT is the birth child of American clinical social worker Jack Trimpey who founded the ‘Rational Recovery’ programme in 1986 (coincidentally the year I was born) and in the years that followed he wrote and released books to help spread the word of his revolutionary alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Jack believes that we can achieve total abstinence from alcohol and drugs and live our lives beyond the realms of ‘one day at a time’.

Our brain can be divided into two parts: There is the primitive animal brain which consists of the limbic system – essential for basic survival, and there are frontal lobes which are responsible for abstract thought, planning, and the other things which make us human.

The animal brain is responsible for essential things like breathing and sex, but also conditioned reflexes which include what we refer to as addiction. It is the limbic system which is responsible for the idea that we must pursue alcohol or drugs for short term reward. In Rational Recovery we all this our Beast.

The frontal lobes are the rational part of the brain and the real “you”.

By following AVRT it teaches us to distinguish between our beast brain and the rational brain – our real self. When the voice of our ‘Beast’ starts telling us to drink or use and sells it as the right thing to do at that time and place we can use AVRT to talk back to the Beast and shut it down.

Jack Trimpey talks in detail about the different ways in which we can recognise that our Beast is interacting with us and how to rationalise what it is suggesting and saying to us. Ultimately our Beast has no power other than speaking to us – it has no arms, legs or mouth so needs us to be the vehicle to feed it’s only desire and need.

I’m not going to sit here and say that by reading Jack’s book you’ll be immediately free from your Beast but it certainly was a game changer for me. It allowed me to understand my brain and my desires more which in the most part meant I could overcome the periods when I was maybe more vulnerable to picking up again. Day to day when you are focused on your new way of living you’ll probably not hear from your Beast because you are in a good emotional place and appreciating other natural highs of life such as exercise, good food, reading great literature, spending time with family, etc.

However, when you go through periods of stress in your life, fall out with people, have a shit day at work or have other people trying to persuade you to pick up this is where AVRT comes into it’s element. When you rationalise and shut down that Beast behaviour and remain abstinent you will get such a natural buzz from winning that battle and it will further strengthen your armoury and confidence that you are in control.

I’m not here to be a salesman for Jack or to copy and paste his words into my Blog but I’m acutely aware that AVRT is still relatively unknown in the mainstream which is a travesty given how good it can be as a recovery programme. I’m always here if you have any questions or feedback about AVRT so thank you for reading and speak again soon!