Researchers estimate that that 90% of those who recover from addictive behavior experience at least one relapse along the way. We can increase the odds in our favor through awareness of the warning signs, along with the process of examining the underlying beliefs. In 1982, two researchers, Terence T. Gorski, and Marlene Miller, identified a set of warning signs that typically lead to relapse. Further research has validated these changes in attitudes and behaviors, and proven they are accurate predictors. As you read this list, realize these changes occur gradually. Recognizing them early in the cycle will allow you to see beneath the behaviors, and modify the beliefs that drive them.
“Listen closely to yourself and dispute the thoughts that don’t serve you—even if those thoughts are true…. For example, you might think, ‘Writing a novel is hard. Selling a novel is hard.’ Yes, both thoughts are true, but they don’t serve you. The only thought that serves you is, I’m off to write a novel!” (emphasis mine)
We are used to practicing REBT to help us dispute and change our irrational belief systems. The paragraph above jumped out at me because I think we forget sometimes that the beliefs that keep us chained to our addictive behaviors, can actually be true, as in the example above. Of the three main tests that we apply to our beliefs, only one of them has to do with the belief being true or false. To review the tests, they are:
If the belief fails any one of these tests, we should dispute it. In the example above, the writer should dispute the beliefs because they conflict with the goal of finishing a novel. I think that oftentimes we concentrate upon the first test, the “truth” test, and forget that even “true” beliefs can fail to pass one or both of the last two tests. Remember that the goal of the REBT process is to help us deal with life’s problems without resorting to our self-defeating addictive behaviors, and sometimes these behaviors are driven by our belief that the problems we’re facing are insurmountable, when the truth is they are not. Yes, it is hard to write a novel, and it’s also hard to change our behaviors, but that’s no reason to stop trying and give up.
A few years ago, when I decided to quit smoking following a major heart attack, one of the techniques that made it easier was seeing myself as a nonsmoker. I visualized a person with fresh breath, no little holes in his shirt, no nicotine stains on his fingers, and no pack of smokes in his pocket. A person who could answer the phone, read the paper in the morning, have a cup of coffee, deal with stress, and socialize, all without having a cigarette constantly burning nearby. Not just any person either, it had to be myself in a new role.
To some extent, I used the same technique years before when I quit drinking, but not as consciously as I did with smoking. With drinking, I had to first convince myself that there even was a life without alcohol before I could see myself in it. Once I decided there was, I could imagine myself in all sorts of situations, even attending my daughter’s wedding, without a drink.Continue reading
My hour-long radio interview with Ken Anderson of HAMS has been posted. You can hear it here. I enjoyed the interview, it was an excellent chance to talk about the book, SMART, and some ideas about recovery. There are other interviews on Ken’s Blogtalk site that should be of interest to the recovery community, and I encourage you to take a look up there.