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My views and my experience with ACT

Old 06-24-2014, 04:12 AM
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My views and my experience with ACT

First, I want to say that this post is one big "IMO" and very specific to my personal issue with drinking. That's probably obvious, but I want to emphasize that I don't believe there is a one size fits all for alcoholism or the treatment of.

So I tried AA before and despite being encouraged over and over by my therapist and the outpatient program I went to, I just couldn't get into it. Not just because of the higher power stuff, but I couldn't accept the idea that I am "powerless". My life became a mess partially because I wasn't willing to take responsibility for it; I didn't take ownership for all the decisions I made, big and small. Usually the worst decisions were not making a decision, because it allowed external factors take control of my life. So I believe the only way for me to get back on track is to empower myself, not the opposite.

I think my particular brand of problem drinking is a symptom of bigger issues, namely depression and anxiety. I drank to avoid feeling those things. I also drank sometimes to avoid feeling boredom. The point is, I used drinking as a way to avoid feeling things I didn't want to feel. Or when I wanted to make my brain shut up (I think too much). So tackling the drinking itself doesn't really solve the underlying problem. Since I've curbed my drinking, I've spent (wasted is more accurate) way more time watching TV or surfing the internet than I care to admit. So I've basically transferred excessive drinking to doing other things excessively. (Why am I here at 4am??)

Also, I don't want to diminish the difficulty of overcoming our addiction to alcohol, but I think it's more helpful to look at it as something we CAN manage. On a list of the hardest addictions to break, alcohol actually isn't #1. It's food. Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows this, and yet some people manage to lose weight, and some even manage to keep it off. I think "love" was on there too (yes, it can be an addiction!). I can attest to that given how hard it was to leave my relationships. But I digress.

So the point of this post - I was introduced to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) through a book my therapist recommended called, "Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life" by Steve C. Hayes and Spencer Smith. I've tried a lot of things to get my drinking under control, and this is something that has worked the best for me. It's not perfect and I'm not suddenly living the life I want, but it has helped and I think it could be helpful for others, particularly those with a cerebral bent.

The thing it has helped me the most with is the craving for alcohol. It doesn't lessen the intensity of the desire (it still creeps up on me at night when I would want it SO BAD), but it allows me to let myself feel that desire, without needing to do something about it. Just observe and acknowledge the feeling. The desire usually passes eventually, as all feelings do. This has also buffered my depression a bit; no matter how crappy I feel, I remind myself to let myself feel it, observe it, and know that it will pass. Fighting or ignoring or covering up the feelings with booze or Cheetos usually makes things worse. Anyway, it's an alternative for those interested in trying something different.

I also want to say that if you try it and it doesn't work, try not to beat yourself up or feel bad. I learned that the hard way. The more I'm able to forgive myself and treat myself with compassion when I screw up, the faster I'm able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again. Never stop trying. I believe everyone has a method (or more likely, a combination of methods) that works best for them.
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Old 06-24-2014, 05:59 AM
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Seems to me that ACT would be helpful in many areas of a person's life, not just recovery.
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Old 06-24-2014, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by NightsWatch View Post
First, I want to say that this post is one big "IMO" and very specific to my personal issue with drinking. That's probably obvious, but I want to emphasize that I don't believe there is a one size fits all for alcoholism or the treatment of.

So I tried AA before and despite being encouraged over and over by my therapist and the outpatient program I went to, I just couldn't get into it. Not just because of the higher power stuff, but I couldn't accept the idea that I am "powerless". My life became a mess partially because I wasn't willing to take responsibility for it; I didn't take ownership for all the decisions I made, big and small. Usually the worst decisions were not making a decision, because it allowed external factors take control of my life. So I believe the only way for me to get back on track is to empower myself, not the opposite.

I think my particular brand of problem drinking is a symptom of bigger issues, namely depression and anxiety. I drank to avoid feeling those things. I also drank sometimes to avoid feeling boredom. The point is, I used drinking as a way to avoid feeling things I didn't want to feel. Or when I wanted to make my brain shut up (I think too much). So tackling the drinking itself doesn't really solve the underlying problem. Since I've curbed my drinking, I've spent (wasted is more accurate) way more time watching TV or surfing the internet than I care to admit. So I've basically transferred excessive drinking to doing other things excessively. (Why am I here at 4am??)

Also, I don't want to diminish the difficulty of overcoming our addiction to alcohol, but I think it's more helpful to look at it as something we CAN manage. On a list of the hardest addictions to break, alcohol actually isn't #1. It's food. Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows this, and yet some people manage to lose weight, and some even manage to keep it off. I think "love" was on there too (yes, it can be an addiction!). I can attest to that given how hard it was to leave my relationships. But I digress.

So the point of this post - I was introduced to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) through a book my therapist recommended called, "Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life" by Steve C. Hayes and Spencer Smith. I've tried a lot of things to get my drinking under control, and this is something that has worked the best for me. It's not perfect and I'm not suddenly living the life I want, but it has helped and I think it could be helpful for others, particularly those with a cerebral bent.

The thing it has helped me the most with is the craving for alcohol. It doesn't lessen the intensity of the desire (it still creeps up on me at night when I would want it SO BAD), but it allows me to let myself feel that desire, without needing to do something about it. Just observe and acknowledge the feeling. The desire usually passes eventually, as all feelings do. This has also buffered my depression a bit; no matter how crappy I feel, I remind myself to let myself feel it, observe it, and know that it will pass. Fighting or ignoring or covering up the feelings with booze or Cheetos usually makes things worse. Anyway, it's an alternative for those interested in trying something different.

I also want to say that if you try it and it doesn't work, try not to beat yourself up or feel bad. I learned that the hard way. The more I'm able to forgive myself and treat myself with compassion when I screw up, the faster I'm able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again. Never stop trying. I believe everyone has a method (or more likely, a combination of methods) that works best for them.
I can certainly relate. Thank you for the book recommendation.
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Old 06-24-2014, 07:18 AM
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i like what you had to say

the way i live my program in aa is very much along the same lines,
i have also found a lot of people who have tried aa only went to the one kind of meeting, and they will make there mind up about aa based on that first meeting

in my area most of the meetings are run with the same format
someone does the main share lasting for 20 mins or so and then the meeting is thrown open for all to share
if there is a new comer in the meeting we share our experience of what the drinking did for us in the hope that the new comer will get identification

as for the new comer it will be the first time they will have heard all this stuff and the honesty in the rooms hits them hard if there living the same life that we once did

we offer out our hand of friendship to the new comer and try to make them feel as comfortable and at ease as they can be
at the end of the meeting we will give out our phone numbers or offer them a lift or if there really down some of us help them out with a place to sleep or feed them

i hope you went to a meeting that practises in this way and not one of the meetings that focus on other things in sober living as there is a huge difference in meetings

hence we say if you dont like whats on offer here at this meeting please try another one as there meeting might be just what your looking for

you post seems to me to be along the same lines as i what i was looking for and i found it in aa but there are meetings that if i went to them i would never of come back and like you had to look for other ways as i would of written off aa
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:36 AM
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Excellent Writing, NightsWatch. TY for your insightful perspective.
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by MesaMan View Post
Excellent Writing, NightsWatch. TY for your insightful perspective.
I agree.

Not my sandbox here, but I come in good spirit .

Interesting you should mention that book, as yesterday I was trying to squash a few extra books in my bookcase, and came across that one. I took it out, and wondered where it came from, as I didn't remember buying it. But I surely did, and even penciled in many of the exercises. I take your mention of it as a sign that I should pick up where I left off with that stuff. I don't actually remember what it was all about, but remember it being very similar to CBT work I had done in the past. Anyhow, wanted to plug in here, see other people's experiences with this. Thanks for the post.
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Old 06-24-2014, 11:08 AM
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Good stuff, thank you! When I first learned of Rational Recovery, I introduced my therapist to its principles. He's all about ACT, and he was very attracted to the RR model. Now when we meet (about once every month), we find ACT/RR common ground. Like you, I drank to avoid feelings of boredom, depression, and anxiety, and like you, ACT redirects my thought processes from avoidance of these feelings to acceptance, and the crux of my therapeutic process regards mindfulness and learning, as you said, to just sit with or be with difficult feelings. They go away.
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Old 06-24-2014, 11:26 AM
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I came upon ACT after learning about AVRT and mindfulness. To me, they seem to be different aspects of the same aspect of good old mental hygiene, and have much in common. As Carl suggested, acceptance and mindfulness of 'what is' and a commitment to our desired end situation is applicable to life in general and not only to addiction.

I wonder if these skills like ACT, CBT, REBT and mindfulness, so obviously lacking from me when I was in active addiction, might actually have prevented addiction from happening in the first place? If these aspects of mental self care would have reduced my desire for escape?
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Old 06-24-2014, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by freshstart57 View Post
I wonder if these skills like ACT, CBT, REBT and mindfulness, so obviously lacking from me when I was in active addiction, might actually have prevented addiction from happening in the first place? If these aspects of mental self care would have reduced my desire for escape?
Whether they would have impacted desire for escape I can't say. I think it very likely it would have reduced reliance on the single escape mechanism, though.
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Old 06-24-2014, 12:35 PM
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Thanks for the book mention Nightswatch; I haven't yet looked into ACT, but It appears to be something I should explore now that I've been sober for awhile.
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Old 06-24-2014, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by NightsWatch View Post
Not just because of the higher power stuff, but I couldn't accept the idea that I am "powerless". My life became a mess partially because I wasn't willing to take responsibility for it;
Just read this again and felt I wanted to say something regarding the powerlessness stuff. Not looking to convince anybody of anything or change any minds, just clarify. There are undoubtedly people in AA who talk about powerlessness as if they're helpless and god has to do it all for them, but that was never my understanding. Nor what it says in any of the AA literature. The literature actually acknowledges that we gain lots of power through the admission of powerlessness over alcohol, and in my understanding all that meant was that alcohol kicked my ass. It was stronger than me once I ingested it, I had less power, it won. If I drank I was sunk. That knowledge, that admission, granted me back all the power I needed to put the pieces of my life back together. Like most alcoholics, I identify with lack of responsibility being a huge part of why I was the way I was. I've never considered myself powerless to do anything about that. But not here to get into a debate on that. Just wanted to address it since it's brought up in the OP.
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Old 06-24-2014, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by freshstart57 View Post
I came upon ACT after learning about AVRT and mindfulness. To me, they seem to be different aspects of the same aspect of good old mental hygiene, and have much in common. As Carl suggested, acceptance and mindfulness of 'what is' and a commitment to our desired end situation is applicable to life in general and not only to addiction.

I wonder if these skills like ACT, CBT, REBT and mindfulness, so obviously lacking from me when I was in active addiction, might actually have prevented addiction from happening in the first place? If these aspects of mental self care would have reduced my desire for escape?
What an interesting question! When I relate it to my personal experience the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!

I used alcohol simply as a coping mechanism. Inappropriate, yes, but a coping mechanism nonetheless. An "escape" from feelings I did not want to feel and situations I did not want to experience. Unfortunately the continued use of this substance is the genesis for neurological changes in the brain and these changes make it difficult to stop. Indeed, a vicious cycle.

Traditional treatment literature and the little I knew of the "disease" of alcoholism convinced me (particularly the last few years of my career) that I was simply broken. I would be a lifelong addict; a poor little alcoholic who would never have control over her compulsion.

It was simply revolutionary for me to understand that I could make a decision, a choice not to drink again. The brain will heal most of the damage I inflicted and I can live a life free of the shackles. No poor little addict here.

RR really helped me. Thank you for your insight.
B
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