Alcohol and automatic thoughts

January 9, 2022 / Topical / Background

When I drink a glass of wine I really relax, going out is only fun with alcohol, when I see my friends, that includes our regular beer: we all have our own fixed thoughts and beliefs about alcohol. In fact, some of these thoughts are so entrenched in our brains that we don't even think about whether they are still correct. Read on and find out if you have automatic thoughts about alcohol.

Do you ever try to 'turn off' your brain? Hard is not it? Not thinking is an almost impossible task for your brain. In fact; our brains produce a stream of thoughts almost continuously. This often happens unconsciously. Then, for example, you are at work, only to discover a little later that your thoughts have wandered to the groceries you still want to get or the call you still have to make. Thoughts move so fast that we often don't even realize that we are thinking them. Thoughts and beliefs that we have carried with us for a long time, without being aware of them, become automatic thoughts named. For example, you may have the automatic thought that you are not good at talking to strangers. This thought can subconsciously get in the way at a party where you don't know anyone.

Alcohol and automatic thoughts

You can also have automatic thoughts when drinking alcohol. Psychologist and stress expert Carien Karsten explains how strong these thoughts can be. Carien: “We develop automatic thoughts from an early age. Take, for example, a child who burns himself on a hot pan. The child's brain immediately makes the connection between 'pan' and 'pain' and the child will look out in the future when it comes near the pan. This association is protective and therefore useful.

We also build associations around drinking alcohol. These are often pleasant associations: your brain remembers that cozy party, or that moment of relaxation with a glass of wine at the end of the working day. This often works unconsciously. You have a memory of the relaxed, good feeling that the wine gave you and that memory makes you drink a glass of wine every day. A fixed association arises between 'relaxation' and 'a glass of wine in the evening', so that the automatic thought leads to a fixed ritual. The thought that you relax with a glass of wine becomes deeply entrenched in your brain. As a result, you no longer think about whether it is also true that you only relax in the evening when you drink a glass of wine.”

From automatic thought to fallacy

An automatic thought can turn into an unconscious fallacy. Do you recognize any of these automatic thoughts about alcohol?

Examples of automatic thoughts about (not) drinking alcohol

  • If I don't drink, I feel uncomfortable and I don't dare to speak to a stranger.
  • If someone asks me: what should I pour for you, I automatically say: a glass of wine.
  • Right now there are so many good wines in advertising, it's a shame that I have to leave that alone.
  • It's okay if I drink one glass, that's less than I did anyway.
  • Why should I continue? I don't notice the good effects and it just makes me stressed.
  • My loved ones don't like having a drinking break either, so why go through with it?

How do you break an automatic thought?

Breaking through automatic thoughts is quite difficult. Especially because you think these unconsciously and you do not always realize that you have an automatic thought. Therefore, when you want to drink a glass of alcohol, first try to find out what thought you have about this. Then try to challenge this thought. A practical way to do this is the RET (Rational Emotive Therapy) method.

With the RET method you ask yourself four questions:

  1. Is it true what I think?

Imagine that you are in front of a judge, can you prove yourself right?

  1. Will I achieve my goal this way?

Regularly remind yourself of your motivation to take a drinking break. Preferably every day. Also write down the advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Am I not unnecessarily in conflict with myself?

So yes, if you have agreed with yourself to stick with it for a month. What does it feel like if you don't stick to it?

  1. Am I not unnecessarily in conflict with others?

Maybe you have a buddy who supports you in this. They won't like it if you don't stick with it.

In this way you can investigate which automatic thought you have with alcohol, check whether this thought is still correct and work on breaking the thought.

Do you give in to a glass of alcohol after an automatic thought? Then don't think that everything has been for nothing, but give yourself a compliment about the time that you did not drink. Such a positive thought makes it easier to pick up your challenge afterwards!






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