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.

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.