A Question To Help You Assess Your Relationship With Alcohol

Written by Annie Grace

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Only 1 in 12 people suffer from alcohol dependence — yet many more engage in risky or binge drinking. In fact, millions of drinkers who do not suffer from addiction aren't happy with their drinking habits. Even if they're not physically addicted, psychological or emotional addiction can also be incredibly difficult to overcome.

I drank for years yet could easily give it up when I needed to. Even without physical addiction, I came to believe that alcohol was vital to enjoying myself at certain social occasions and to relaxing at the end of a long day. Although I wasn’t drinking in the mornings, or suffering withdrawal during periods of abstinence, I felt deprived and upset if I didn't allow myself to indulge.

In my late 30s, drinking started to have more negative effects than before. My tolerance had grown, so I rarely felt "drunk," but the amount of alcohol I was able to drink was affecting my mornings. My relationship with alcohol had changed; I was drinking more than I ever set out to and it was no longer fun.

Yet, when I made rules for myself around drinking — like only allowing myself to drink on the weekends — I felt miserable. I began to seek change. One of the things I did was join an online social community where people come together to examine and reevaluate their personal relationship with alcohol.

One of the members posed a question to the group. It was a powerful turning point in my relationship with alcohol, the point at which I realized I was, in fact, psychologically and emotionally addicted. The question was this:

If I were offered $250,000 to quit drinking alcohol forever, would I?

That's enough money to pay off my mortgage or put my kids through college. And all I have to do is simply put down the wine, never picking it up again. This question stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to say yes — after all, I would certainly quit eating doughnuts or give up chocolate for $250K. But I hesitated. Why? Not only because the idea of quitting drinking terrified me but also because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it.

In that moment, I realized I was no longer a "take it or leave it" drinker.

This realization launched a yearlong process of self-discovery. I have a hard time with willpower and have never been able to diet. I know myself well enough to know that if I tried to exercise willpower and deprive myself of alcohol when I still believed it provided benefits, I would be miserable. I would probably fail.

I had to find another way — a way that provided freedom from my emotional attachment to alcohol rather than deprivation.

A few years earlier, I was cured of severe back pain with the help of Dr. John Sarno. Dr. Sarno talks about how some pain manifests physically but actually originates in the subconscious. His work cured my pain when no other treatment — chiropractic, acupuncture, muscle relaxants, traction, etc. — had worked.

Dr. Sarno’s work makes it clear that your desires come from your subconscious rather than your conscious mind. For example, you don’t choose who to fall in love with. I realized that although I had a strong conscious desire to drink less, my subconscious mind believed alcohol was vital to my enjoyment of life; vital to relaxing, to having a good time, to having fun. I knew in that moment that freedom would come if I could change my subconscious desire for alcohol, bringing it in line with my conscious desire to drink less.

I relied on Dr. Sarno’s work as well as diving into the specific neuroscience of addiction. I used a new technique called Liminal Thinking, a kind of mindfulness, and through this process was able to uncover and change my subconscious desire for alcohol.

Without desire there is now no temptation, and I never feel like I'm missing out. Instead of depriving myself, or imposing rules, I now drink whenever I want to. And the truth is I simply don’t want to drink.

Ending my relationship with alcohol has been one of the most empowering and positive experiences of my life. I have true freedom. I have never been happier or more at peace within myself. I’ve even written a book, This Naked Mind, about my journey to freedom, thanks to that one question.

The benefits are priceless — but I never did get a check for $250,000.

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