Is fear causing you to drink too much? How many times have you launched into a real doozy of a binge because you were afraid of something such as losing your house or your spouse or your job? You may not have been consciously aware those were your thoughts, but if you stopped and took a mental inventory, you might realize that those were the underlying fears.
Did drinking DO anything to prevent whatever you were afraid of from coming true? Not likely – at best it just relieved your anxiety and prevented you from reacting out of fear – and we know that reacting out of fear can often make things worse because the panic hinders your ability to make clear decisions or perform effectively. But it also probably changed your thoughts about the situation.
So what you have to strive to do is CHANGE the way you think and feel about the situation – WITHOUT using alcohol or some other unhealthy escape. First of all, realize that FEAR is just a thought based on your own distorted emotional beliefs of what you think will happen in the future. I was reminded of this in a post from Kim Peterson on commonsensehealth.org where she quoted a line from the movie After Earth. Will Smith said, “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me – danger is very real – but fear is a choice.”
The concept of FEAR being in your mind is so true. So you have to change your thoughts. Here are the steps to take to get back in control of your thoughts and emotions instead of your emotions controlling you. This is a technique used in Dialectic Behavior Therapy and one that I use regularly.
- Become mindful and think about the situation. What is “Emotional Mind” or emotional thoughts telling you? Example- You just got laid off and your emotions have you panicking thinking that your wife is going to leave you and you are going to be homeless. You may not even be aware on a conscious level that those are the inner thoughts driving your anxiety. So you have to take a moment and get quiet and really listen.
- Get into your “Reasonable Mind.” Ask yourself what the facts are – just like a reporter, determine only the facts. Example – You don’t have a resume, but you have 3 months living expenses in the bank and there are other jobs in your field, your wife loves you for you, not your job, etc.
- Get into your “Wise Mind.” Based on what you KNOW, not what your emotional distorted thoughts are telling you, think about what is really more likely to happen. Example – “I’ll pull my resume together, find a recruiter, start applying for jobs and if necessary, my wife can get a job for a while to help out….and we can also use the new “free time” to do some things together that we haven’t had time to do.”
Once you get used to getting mindful and walking through these steps when you are feeling anxious, you will gain the confidence to know that you have the ability to handle situations without turning to the bottle, and your self-esteem will grow knowing that you are strong and in control.