Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S.

sober woman smelling wine bottle

Staying sober should not be about constructing walls to avoid personal temptations, but rather about learning to manage the impulses that lead us to drink. Moreover, the addiction model has long insisted that the addictive issue originates with the personal vice. I argue that the addictive vice is often related to a psychological event, condition, or diagnosis. Therefore, the addict’s relationship to alcohol is essentially a coping mechanism designed to manage one’s life. Coping mechanisms are strategies that an individual has implemented when trying to manage a particular psychological aspect of life. The coping mechanisms are ways with which an individual maneuvers through external or internal stressors. Coping mechanisms are a key component of an individual’s ability to navigate through life. For some, coping mechanisms are positively constructed, while others have foundations that are brittle.

The greatest fear of many addicts is the possibility of relapse. How do you maintain sobriety in a world so consumed with alcohol? Alcohol is not only American’s greatest pastime, but it is essential for having a good time, or at least that is what marketing companies would have you believe.

Targeting Women
For many decades, commercials enticed consumers with the notion that alcohol was essential for managing life. Alcohol was marketed as the ultimate beverage for entertainment, as an aphrodisiac and as a source of comfort. Alcohol is believed to lighten an individual’s perceptions and bolster the timid of our society. Even Hollywood has had a major influence on the consumption of alcohol. In recent years, the target audience has shifted from a male dominated group to include the female counterpart. In fact, an article published by Kimberly Kindy and Dan Keating in The Washington Post examined this blatant shift in marketing. For decades, the primary target audience was undoubtably male dominated. However, this strategic shift in alcohol campaigns has the professional community gravely concerned.

The Kindy and Keating article -For women, heavy drinking has been normalized. That’s dangerous, took an in-depth look at how ads on social media have had a direct influence on the consumption of alcohol amongst women. “Instead of selling alcohol with sex and romance, these ads had an edgier theme: Harried mothers chugging wine to cope with everyday stress, women embracing quart-sized bottles of whiskey, and bellying up to bars to knock back vodka shots with men.”

“In this new strain of advertising, women’s liberation equaled heavy drinking, and alcohol researchers say it both heralded and promoted a profound cultural shift: Women in America are drinking far more, and far more frequently than their mothers or grandmothers did, and alcohol consumption is killing them in record numbers.”

Staying sober should not be about avoiding environments or places that serve alcohol; rather staying sober is learning to mitigate the impulse to drink. For many alcoholics, the urges and impulses are more than a mere craving; they are a mandate to drink. Alcoholics have developed a belief system that alcohol will improve life. It is not only about improving life, but in managing through the obstacles of life.

Furthermore, individuals who suffer with an impulse to consume alcohol should not identify as “alcoholics,” but rather, they need to learn that it is not unlike any other medical diagnosis. For after all, an individual who has overcome cancer does not become “a cancer”, but rather a survivor. Alcoholics need to change their attitude and perceptions of their struggle. For they too are survivors of their addiction. When an alcoholic is faced with an environment of alcohol, they must remove the desire by recognizing their strengths rather than their weaknesses. The alcohol model has long taught individuals struggling with temptation of alcohol that they are weak, vulnerable and incapable of overcoming the burden of alcoholism. It is of critical importance to recognize that alcohol is often self-prescribed; it has been self-prescribed to manage life and the struggles therein. My argument is: the prescription may no longer have leverage if the psychological catalyst has been properly dealt with.

Do not avoid and do not focus your energy on avoiding the consumption of alcohol. The more attention that you place on the avoidance, the greater the struggle becomes. Instead, we must refocus our energy by creating new thought patterns, new ideological perspectives, and new pursuits. If we are handed a glass of wine in a social environment, we do not have to partake of that wine, nor do we have to treat it like the plague. Moreover, it is about accepting that alcohol is a common beverage within our society. We are capable of accepting or rejecting it. It is of the essence that those suffering from alcoholism recognize that they are empowered; that they are capable; that they have the strength to transform their thoughts.

As you learn your personal triggers, you will naturally learn how to manage your life. It is important that you consider implementing a variety of strategies that can help you cope and manage through this time. Design a plan of action to manage times of vulnerability. You may wish to establish an accountability partner. It is important that you consider seeing a professionally trained therapist. There are a number of strategies that can have a positive impact in your recovery, such as: meditation, breathing, journaling, mindfulness, yoga and positively constructed mantras. As you develop your strategies for managing life, I highly recommend a daily routine of reading and listening to positive messages. Establish a support network of positive influential and supportive individuals. Exercise is an excellent way with which an individual can learn to manage stress and deal with personal cravings. It is critical that you learn to manage stress and pressures of this life. Most importantly, you need to learn to deflate times of elevated stress and to implement strategies that help you cope and manage life. Staying sober is about recognizing your personal vulnerabilities and limitations. It is also about recognizing that you inherently have the ability of proving victor over your addiction.

Reference Provided Upon Request
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