10 Core Beliefs Preventing You from Quitting

Core beliefs are our attitudes to alcohol and ourselves — you have already read about them in our task related to the two-level model of addiction. If you know about them, you can identify them in your thought and neutralize them.

Core beliefs are made up of our experience, upbringing, cultural and social context.

They define our worldview, values, thoughts, assessment of our capabilities, and, ultimately, behaviour.

A person may not realize or may ignore core beliefs that are contrary to their goal. However, their core beliefs keep working and quickly derail all their attempts to change.

What can I do? 

You can turn off hidden core beliefs by challenging them with alternative thoughts. This technique belongs to the tools of cognitive behavioral therapy. Use it every time you notice that a core belief is ‘on’. Over time, they will stop bothering you. 

Core beliefs and antidotes

1. Alcohol is poison. I will switch to something less harmful

A lot of people do that and seem happy for a while. However, there is one nuance. Addiction is not about substances, it is about a person.

Over the years of use, a person is developing characteristic patterns of thought and behavior. If addiction is already existent, the substance will not matter. Alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, coffee, chocolate — whichever substance you switch to, addictive patterns will catch up with you. 

Alternative belief:

I want to be completely sober for a while and sort out my life, my goals and values, my past, present, and future.

2. I do not want to be the one who is crazy about sobriety and is talking about it all the time

Nobody likes people who make a fetish out of sobriety. But it is not necessarily that you will become one of them. Although at the beginning, one does have an urge to tell everyone how cool sobriety can be. Why is this happening?  

Do you remember the part on the neurobiology of addiction? When you drink all the time, the brain loses the ability to experience pleasure. But when you quit, the sensations come back little by little. And then the simplest things start bringing you joy: the grass is green, the sky is blue, the water is delicious, and the child is laughing. These experiences seem shiny and new, and you want to share them with everyone, and it is all right. After a while, you will get used to it.

Alternative belief:

I understand that sobriety is not a goal in itself. It is just a necessary condition if I want to sort things out in my life.

3. Total sobriety is too much. I want to learn to drink a little now and then

Not everyone can honestly admit that they do not control the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption, as well as the fact that drinking is not a choice for them anymore, but a necessity.

If addiction has already developed, moderate consumption is almost impossible. Of course, you can hang on by the skin of your teeth. But life based on strict self-discipline will soon become unbearable. Thus, total sobriety may be the best option.

Do not be afraid that a world without alcohol will become gray and boring. Your sober reality will be the way you make it. You can live a full life and feel good without any alcohol.

Alternative belief:

Sobriety is a natural and normal condition for a human being. I want to create a sobriety that will be better than a life with alcohol.

4. I cannot imagine the rest of my life without alcohol

And you do not have to. Everyone who has ever tried to change their lifestyle has fallen into this trap. Our brain barely knows what ‘forever’ is, it needs a short-term benefit at a short distance.

Alternative belief:

I will not be drinking for a while — one month, six months, one year. I will try and learn more about such condition as sobriety. Then, it will remain to be seen what to do next.

5. Sobriety is hard and boring

Sobriety can be different. If a large part of your life has been devoted to alcohol for years, you will feel empty without it. And it is up to you to choose how to fill that void.

You can fill it with new habits, goals, hobbies, experiences, and loved ones. Or you can just stay away from alcohol and repeat with a sour face, ‘There is something missing in my life,’ every day.

Alternative belief:

I am responsible for the way my sobriety will be. I will make sure it is of high quality and live a long, happy life with lots of events and experiences.

6. They will look at me like at an odd one out

How shall I talk my way out now? Everybody drinks, and if you do not drink, there is something wrong with you!

When you quit, you will soon find out that most people do not actually care why you abstain. They are too busy with their own lives to be honestly interested in it.

A simple answer, ’I do not drink,’ is better than any excuse. The people around you will quickly get used to it, and your commitment will be truly respected. Soon everyone will be saying, ‘Hey, Sam doesn’t drink!’

Alternative belief:

My sobriety is my choice. The opinion others have does not matter to me, I will stick to my decision.

7. I must not drink. I should not drink. I do not want to drink

Such motivation will get you only so far, and you will end up moving in a different direction. Such phrases are equal to violence against yourself. The worse the violence becomes, the stronger the resistance grows. And you are all but certain to face a relapse.

‘I do not want to drink,’ seems to be better, but it has one weak spot. I do not want to drink today, but I will tomorrow! And then what?

The best option is the ‘I choose’ attitude. It meets our basic need for self-sufficiency, ‘It is me who chooses — I am not being under control.’

You have studied the problem and made a list of pros and cons; and you know your goals and motives now. And you have chosen not to drink.

Alternative belief:

Sobriety is my choice. Nobody has forced me, it is my personal decision, and I am going to stick to it.

8. I will never drink

Determination deserves praise. But the ‘I will never drink’ statement has a tricky trap. You are simply disguising the problem with false well-being, and creating an illusion of confidence. 

But if quitting an addiction were 100% under our control, there would be no addicted people. Thus, attention to yourself and moderate paranoia are better than unbridled optimism.

Alternative belief:

I want to learn to live a sober, meaningful life relying on my internal and external resources. I do not know whether it will work out or not, but I will do my best.

9. I will fail

The most obvious and the most dangerous core belief. It implies ‘It’s never worked out before,’ ‘I’m a loser,’ ‘I’m weak,’ ‘I do not believe in myself,’ ‘Nobody can do it,’ and similar variants. But if you take a closer look at a most unfortunate loser, you will see that even he managed to succeed due to his focused efforts.

If you work on yourself relying on your internal and external resources day by day, everything will work out.

Alternative belief:

Day by day, I will be taking actions devoting my time to my sobriety. And then, what happens, will happen.

10. I need to change everything in my life

Many leap into action to get rid of all the old stuff immediately. But your resources are objectively limited, and you cannot change everything at once. The faster you are trying to run, the more you cannot make it. You are increasingly unhappy with yourself, you are doubting your abilities and undervaluing your success. And it is leading to a relapse.

Alternative belief: 

I will change something and I will accept something. And most importantly, I will learn to find a reasonable balance between the latter and the former.

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