Solving alcohol problem step 3: Trial and error

Most people sometimes drink more than they initially planned. Most people regret this the next morning when they wake up with a hangover, but it is of course extra annoying when you are trying to reduce your alcohol consumption.

Slips and relapses

Almost everyone who tries to reduce their alcohol consumption experiences slip-ups. This means that you start drinking again or have drunk too much. This is not a disaster and happens to almost every quitter or slower. Your brain is adjusted to alcohol and keeps trying to persuade you to drink again. Try to learn from the slip so that you can immediately counter any subsequent slips.
When you fall back into your old drinking pattern after a slip, this is a relapse. The relapse is also not the end of the exercise. After all, to make mistakes is human. So it is absolutely not the case that one mistake is the end of positive change.
However, a relapse is a choice. It doesn’t happen to you, but at some point you make that mini decision that you are often not aware of. And precisely because it is a choice, you can make a different choice in the future when you are again confronted with the situation in which the slip occurred.
Although it may seem that the slip or relapse has no identifiable cause, this is often the case. You don’t just drink more than you had in mind. There’s a reason behind it. Often a relapse or slip occurs from seemingly innocent and unimportant events or decisions. For example, if you think about buying some extra beer for the weekend, you don’t have to rush to the supermarket on your early Saturday morning to avoid the afternoon rush. But then you feel alone and then the step to that one beer is easy. And because you’ve already made a mistake, that second beer no longer matters. And there you have the slip.

Unhelpful thoughts

Our thoughts have a lot of influence on what we think and do. Nevertheless, you often don’t think about this. It can be very difficult to identify the so-called unhelpful thoughts that were probably at play during the slip. These thoughts have become automatic. Often when a slip or relapse occurs, thoughts come into play that are not particularly helpful to us. These thoughts are called fallacies.

Thinking in black and white

When you think in black and white you tend to judge things or qualities in extremes. There seems to be no middle ground. Thoughts that include terms such as never, always, everyone and everywhere can indicate black and white thinking. There is little room for nuances.

  • “I can never do anything right”
  • “Once I see beer I have to drink one”
  • “I can’t stop, 1 beer is never enough for me”


Focus on the negative

When you focus on the negative, you only pay attention to the negative aspects of an event. You don’t think about the positive things that the event brings. This is a common fallacy, because it is very easy to focus on the negative, which often attracts the most attention.

  • “I’ve had 2 too many drinks again” (although you stopped after those two instead of continuing to drink)
  • “I didn’t reach my goal for this week, what a loser I am!” (while you have achieved 9 out of 10 sub-goals)


Reversing the positive

When you reverse positive events you immediately connect something negative to something positive. Neutral or positive events are turned into negativism.

  • “Even if I drink less, I still sleep badly”
  • “My attitude to work has still not changed, even though I drink less”



With personification you turn neutral events into events with a negative charge that you relate to yourself.

  • “My wife’s party was ruined because I didn’t join in drinking”
  • “Grocery shopping becomes a lot less fun for my son if I don’t buy drinks”



When you label, you stick tags and tags on yourself. You do not distinguish between your personality and your behavior, but see them as a unity.

  • “Drinking that beer was stupid, what an idiot I am”
  • “I drink too much and that’s why I’m a loser”



When you generalize, you see a negative event as evidence of a repeating pattern of misfortune. You ignore windfalls or dismiss them as coincidence.

  • “You see that I can’t do it, I’m already going to fail in the second week”
  • “I can’t drink less today, after all I couldn’t do it yesterday either”


Preventing relapse: helpful thoughts

And do you recognize the above thinking errors in yourself? Which are they? Once you have discovered your thinking errors and learned to recognize them in yourself, you can get started with them. You can turn the unhelpful thoughts into helpful thoughts. Helpful thoughts are optimistic, realistic and positive. They do not contain terms such as must, never and nowhere.
It can be very difficult to transform unhelpful thoughts into helpful thoughts. This certainly takes some practice. The transformations below from unhelpful thoughts to helpful thoughts may help .

Analyze relapse

Try to reflect again on the moment of the slip or relapse. What situation was this in? Where were you and with whom? What were your thoughts in and about this situation? What were the feelings about this situation? What were the consequences?
By analyzing the slip, you can collect helpful information about the reason for the slip. Check whether this trigger contains helpful and non-helpful aspects and try to convert these into helpful thoughts if possible.
You can also investigate how you can prevent yourself from making a slip in the future when you find yourself in the same situation. What are the alternatives to drinks ? What should you do to prevent the slip? What do you need for that? Learn from your slip, don’t give up.
AOGG schedule
Try to answer the following after a relapse. What made you start drinking again? What did you think ? What feelings did this lead to and what behavior?
Analyze where things went wrong and how you will do this differently from now on. Ask yourself the questions:

  • What worked before?
  • What made me relapse?
  • What have I learned to do differently from now on?


In court

Another option to analyze your relapse or slip is to take yourself to court.

read more

  • Solving alcohol problem: is there even a problem?
  • Solving alcohol problem step 1: Action Plan
  • Solving alcohol problem step 2: Difficult moments
  • Self-help: 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Alcohol dependence and comorbidity
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