Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and “Alcoholism”

A currently popular “magic bullet” for curing our misuse of alcohol is CBT. As magic bullets go, it’s far better than most, actually addresses the anxiety and non-clinical depression (dysthymia) which are frequent underlying conditions we medicate with alcohol. Additionally, it is a primary component in SMART Recovery’s program which offers a much better exit from “alcoholism” than AA or any of the other “programs.”

Alas, it’s not magic.

Equally disappointing, there is no Holy Grail, whether the quest is for an end to self-medication, whether with alcohol or food or gambling or…
Still, while not magic, CBT is an important and effective weapon in the arsenal of those who are prepared to learn how to listen to their symptoms and resolve their difficulties, be they anxiety, depression, loneliness, trauma, dis-empowerment, or adherence to one cult or another.

CBT’s roots indeed run deep – all the way back to Epictetus (ca. 50-130) who said:

“What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgement about the things.”

Epictetus’ observation went pretty much nowhere until Albert Ellis (1913-2007) came along and pioneered modern CBT, or as it’s sometimes called, ational Emotive Therapy. Now before you stifle a yawn and stop reading, give me a paragraph or two to explain why this is important when it comes to your drinking. Please.

Self-medication is a symptom, indicating that we are avoiding, rather than addressing, discomforts which are usually felt as anxiety, depression, boredom, loneliness, and so on. Most of us mistakenly believe that these uncomfortable feeling are what drive our thoughts and drinking behaviors.

Consider, for a moment, that again, what we usually believe, is wrong. Rather than our emotions driving our thoughts and behaviors, it’s our thoughts and behaviors which generate our emotions. We are NOT POWERLESS over how we feel therefore we are not powerless over our thoughts and behaviors either.

Dr. Ellis was best known for being the father of “brief therapy.” This can also be described as rapid deprogramming from the mistaken beliefs we hold that make us miserable – misery we attempt to relieve by drinking.

But if you can actually control your emotions, rather than mistakenly thinking they control you, you will find yourself empowered to manage other things in your life including your drinking.

The even better news is that CBT is something you learn and internalize – it’s a skill and coping mechanism. It’s not something you go to a therapist for every week until her or his last kid is out of college. It’s called brief therapy precisely because it is something you can learn and use in a very short time – something we teach clients as one of the key skills you need to incorporate in order to regain control of both your drinking and your life.

As usual, why not find out more? The conference call is free. The consultation is free. The possibilities are real. What more do you want now that you don’t even have to leave home to enjoy the benefits of our 15 years of experience with all manner of people and situations from all over the world?

“Great. He’s Quit Drinking. When Will I Get My Husband Back?”

The stark answer is, never.

We’ve heard variations on this question since we first opened our practice. Women and men whose spouses have disappeared into the AA cult never to return. It’s even part of AA’s program, the intentional driving of a wedge between spouses because “your first priority must be to The Program.”

That’s the mantra of every cult and the plight of everyone whose spouse has disappeared down the rabbit hole.

Consider this analogy: When your spouse took up with alcohol it is, functionally, no different than if she or he had acquired a lover and the affair is wrecking your marriage, happiness, security, and peace of mind. Joining AA is merely a matter of switching lovers, from alcohol to the cult, even when it works, and you still aren’t going to get your husband, or wife, back. Usually you’ll end up with even less because now they feel justified in embracing their new love, absolved of guilt because they are powerless over their disease, and free to rebuke and manipulate you because you are interfering with them working their “Program!”

Don’t’ fall for it. And don’t head off to Alanon to be further brainwashed into the AA nonsense.

Drinking, and AA, are choices. They are symptoms that someone doesn’t want to grow up, learn healthy ways to cope, and assume responsibility for their behaviors.

Hold them just as accountable as you would if they were carrying on with Jill or Jack down the street, at the office, the club, or the beach and proceed accordingly. Unless, of course, you have your own reasons for wanting them missing-in-action in which case, why are you reading this?