You try so hard to change your drinking. You have some success, taking one step forward before taking two steps back. You distract yourself, grit your teeth, count days. I see you. Until I discovered thought work, that was me, too.

It is with drinking as it is with all behaviors – it’s impossible to make long-term change without changing our thinking. Why is that? Because our thoughts determine our feelings and our feelings fuel our actions. If we simply try to muscle our way into changing our behavior without addressing the underlying thoughts and feelings, we will eventually revert back to our old ways.

For example, if we think we need a drink at the end of a stressful day to help us relax, we’ll feel a craving and possibly end up acting on it or resisting it and white knuckling our way through it (which creates more stress!). Resisting can work for a while, but if our underlying belief that alcohol relaxes us remains intact we are susceptible to acting on it when our wells of will power get depleted.

Some would say that the anesthetic properties of drinking does help them relax so how are they supposed to change that thought? It’s true for them after all.

If this is you, the question to ask is whether the thought is serving you or not. Is there an equally believable thought about alcohol and relaxation that you can replace it with? For me, any short-term relaxation alcohol might provide is outweighed by the disrupted sleep I experience later that night.

Or can you practice thinking differently about relaxation? Does relaxing need to mean numbing out?

Or, perhaps, it’s worth looking more deeply at the thoughts that have you so stressed out to begin with.

If we want to change our drinking behavior long-term, we have to take a look at the thoughts that give rise to our cravings. If we don’t change our thoughts we will always be fighting against them and using will power, a limited resource, to manage our desire for alcohol. We can’t solely behave our way into a new life. We need to think differently too.