What is CBT?
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that explores patterns of thoughts and feelings. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the way you process certain situations, and helps to restructure maladaptive thought patterns.
How Can CBT Help You?
One of countless ways CBT can help is to encourage and guide you in expressing your real feelings.
You may be angry, for example, but given a chance to talk about it and given the right questions to answer, you may discover that the anger is really a mask for pain and hurt.
When you feel like you want a drink or a drug, and you talk about it, you may learn that it’s not really a chemical you want, it’s approval, or job recognition, or the love of someone you’ve lost: the craving is just a habitual, knee-jerk reaction to unhappiness, loneliness and feelings of inadequacy.
Because once upon a time you took a drink to soothe some pain, and because your disease then made it pure habit to take a drink when something hurt, you do it automatically. You’ve completely forgotten—or you never quite learned—that it doesn’t remove the pain. You haven’t yet accepted the fact that it just puts the pain into brief oblivion; afterward it’s still there, and added to it is whatever damage you did by drinking or taking drugs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
An Example of CBT for Relapse Prevention
In CBT therapy, when you think about taking a drink, or a drug, someone can help you “talk the drink through.”
That means describing and remembering truthfully just exactly what will happen if you take the drink or drug: how at first it will make you feel comfortable again, then foggy-headed, then hungry for more of the drug or drink, then drunk or stoned, then hung over or crashing, then guilty and miserable—and without any relief from whatever pain you thought made you take the drink or drug in the first place.
When you can go through this entire exercise honestly, and recognize that your pattern is consistent—one drink or one joint is never enough—then you are beginning to dismantle your denial of the chemical’s tyranny over you. Then it’s only a short step away from the rock-bottom admission that you don’t drink to ease the pain, or to be sociable, or to relax from the day’s stresses: you drink to get drunk or you take drugs to get high.
Then you can ask yourself what good does that do? This exercise can also bolster your effort to learn another essential truth: the bad part was always far worse than the good part was good.
Many chemically dependent people cling to the pleasant memories associated with drinking or taking drugs, and easily forget the negative side. “Talking the drink through” is a way of reminding yourself that the sociability of drinking—the taste of fine wine, the connection between beer and basketball, or cocaine and sophisticated night life—were brief, fleeting, and overwhelmed in importance by the misery and grief that went with them.
Work in Progress
Recovery requires you to be comfortable in being a work in progress. Eventually you will discover how easy it is to have a good time without chemicals; for the moment, it’s necessary only to remind yourself that the “good time” was really a bad time. When denial really starts to unravel, you begin to find it impossible to say, “I can quit anytime” to a group of other people who are living proof that they couldn’t do it either. And then it also becomes considerably harder to keep believing it yourself. When the alibi system begins to fall apart, many other things begin to happen and are helped along by the CBT treatment process.
When you stop denying that you can’t control your chemical dependence, then you also begin to see that you can’t control many other things, especially the behavior of other people. When you stop denying that you alone must take the responsibility for continuing the work of therapy after the responsibility for continuing the work of recovery-sensitive-CBT after you finish the program, then you may stop blaming other people for your drinking problem in the first place.
When you really accept that you are like all other chemical dependents in your helplessness against the condition of dependence, you will stop dwelling on the real or imagined hurts or deprivations or failures that you used to blame for your behavior.
Because We Care.