Chicago Compass Counseling, LLC
Sure, you're not DEPENDENT on alcohol. But the thought of taking a night off of drinking feels... uncomfortable.
Every day, after work, you pour yourself a drink. Maybe it's a beer after you put the kids to bed. It's become part of the Bedtime Routine: Feed the kids, clean the kids up, put them to bed, and grab a beer. I wonder my drinking is normal, you wonder. But what could be more normal than a drink at the end of a long, hard day?
If you're like my clients, it's not the drink itself that bothers you - it's the sense that you need a drink. That you would be uncomfortable without that drink. If you've made a habit of having a drink at the end of the day, the first step is to understand the function of the drink. The major functions of alcohol are as follows:
- Physical relaxation. You drink to alleviate tension in your body.
- Association with a place. You drink because that's what you like to do in your basement/man cave/garage.
- Numbing out disturbing thoughts. You drink because you don't want to think about what you think about all day.
- Replacing intimacy. You drink because you feel lonely, bored, or isolated from others.
- Rewarding yourself. You drink because you feel you deserve it.
But I drink for all of the above reasons, you might say. Although this might FEEL true, there is only one main function that keeps you stuck in your bad habit. Here's how to test it out. Each night this week, focus on just ONE function, replacing your drink with an alternative activity:...
So what happens when we compare our inner experience to someone else's social media feed? Anxiety. Unfair comparison. Despair. And generally, the feeling of "How did they get that life, and I'm here?" Social media is a fickle friend. Sure, it helps us remember birthdays, share exciting milestones in our lives, and generally wile away the time on a long CTA ride ...
This logic can also apply to "positive" labels that you may like about yourself. These "positive" labels are things we may pride ourselves on, and can still inhibit our sense of self if we live-or-die by them. For example, if someone were to say to you "He's always so reliable"-that's a good thing, right? Sometimes! But it also may be your sword to fall on. You may find yourself saying "yes" to everything, and then spiraling into overwhelming anxiety when you realize that are only human and cannot conceivably appease everyone. Or perhaps, someone labels you as "the life of the party." You may feel the need to always be the loudest, most fun person at the party offering to get the next round of drinks, even if you feel like you might need a quiet night staying in. We get ourselves in trouble when we ignore our emotions and push ourselves to maintain the status of our label. This rigidity will likely push you to a point of emotional and physical exhaustion that is bad for your overall health. ...
Messages like these are constant and disproportionately directed at women. This is the false cultural narrative of the "Irrational Woman."
As women, we're seen as "emotional", "reactive", "unstable" and are portrayed as such in the books, movies, television shows and even in the news media we consume daily.
The Connection to Problem DrinkingWhen speaking to my female identified clients about their problem drinking behavior and, more specifically, about the scenarios in which their drinking begins to get out of control, the universal narrative tends to be some form of the following:
"I was at a party/on a date/at a work function and I began to feel... uncomfortable. I don't know why. I just felt... stran...
I will share a secret with you that most people don't know, including the other people in your program: the benefit of programming is the process, not the content.
What do I mean by this? Too many people focus on the content of the groups.
For example: "Today we're talking about relapse prevention planning!"
This might feel like a yawn to you. You might think to yourself, "I could read this in a book or google this information." Sometimes the information barely relates to you, or feels silly. The information is not the intervention.
What I want you to focus on is the process, not the content.
I'm sitting in my chair with a legal pad, poised for note taking. The problem drinker - my prospective client - glares at the wall. His wife is wringing her hands, detailing the insanity of his drinking.
"I tell him to count his drinks, but he doesn't," she says.
"That's not true," he says, rolling his eyes.
"He says he's going to change, but he doesn't," she says. "He's choosing alcohol over me, and he's choosing alcohol over the kids."
"That's ridiculous," he says. "You should see the way she drinks sometimes."
I nod again. This unstructured conversation will continue for about 2 minutes. ...
- Eat something. Make sure you eat SOMETHING before you drink. If you are drinking with a meal (brunch, lunch, or dinner,) make sure that you order at least an appetizer before selecting a wine. If you are waiting f...
So if the goal of mindfulness isn't to make us happier, then why do it? Let's think about it in terms of two emotions that cause us extreme distress: anxiety & depression. Anxiety is generally manifested by thinking about what we did in the past that may not align with our values, or worry for what is to come in the future. Depression is often rooted in thoughts about difficult times in our past, or hopelessness for our...