Escape Alcoholism by Being Kind to Yourself

reminders from the dashboard (random acts of kindness)

It sometimes felt as if there was a little man living inside my brain, and he loved it when I messed up. I tried to quit alcohol hundreds of times, but this nasty gremlin was always there waiting to gloat over my lasted failure:

“You are such a loser”
“You are so weak”
“You have let everyone down”
“I knew you would fail”

Even when things were going relatively well for me, this inner-tormentor was there waiting to piss on my parade. This voice had the opposite effect of a life-coach because it reduced my self-esteem, tried to convince me to accept the unacceptable, and generally just sabotaged any effort I made to improve my life.

My Brain Was Not the Enemy

It felt convenient to think of this negativity in my brain as my enemy – I heard people in recovery groups and in rehab refer to this voice as John Barleycorn. The problem with thinking this way was I became convinced that my own brain was working against me, and I felt powerless to do anything about it. I’d make the decision to improve my life by giving up drinking, but this voice would weaken my resolve and make me doubt my own abilities.

I eventually realized that I was never going to win a battle against my own brain. So instead of try to fight this inner-voice, I tried my best to understand it. I began to see that my mind was full of all sorts of thoughts, and these were triggered by my environment, mood, and current situation. These thoughts were like clouds passing through the sky and most of the time they just came and went without me hardly noticing. The problem happened when I became obsessed with certain thoughts or I tried to resist them.

It turned out there was no John Barleycorn living inside of my brain. What was really happening was I tended to focus more on negative thoughts rather than positive ones. It wasn’t that my brain was working against me, but that it was offering me a banquet of thoughts each day, and I was picking the shittiest options.

My inner-tormentor started to disappear when I became choosier about the thoughts I paid attention to. I consciously replaced that negative voice with ones that were kind and supportive. The results were almost instant and they were amazing. I began to naturally focus on the more positive thoughts and my life became so much easier and happier after that.

Escape Alcoholism by Being Kind to Yourself

Giving up alcohol is going to be much harder if you pay too much attention to negative thoughts. You need to choose to be kinder to yourself because you need and deserve this support. Working with your brain should be much easier than trying to fight it.

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6 thoughts on “Escape Alcoholism by Being Kind to Yourself

  1. Really useful article Paul, sound common sense. Sounds similar to the CBT support I had when I was giving up ( over 3 years sober now – never looked back!) I’m interested in using mindfulness and self compassion in the same way to tackle alcohol misuse. Its the bit about paying attention to ourselves with compassion to come out of those damaging beating ourselves up routines that we all got so good at that appeals to me. Sounds simple, but takes some practice!
    Best wishes


    1. Hi Sue, developing self-compassion has been a real game-changer for me. It has opened me up so much. I’ve found that loving-kindness (metta) meditation is a good practice for developing compassion.

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