Allen Carr

I read Allen Carr’s book about quitting drinking just a few days after I, well, quit drinking.

I highly recommend it for anyone to read, whether they feel they have a problem with drinking or not.  It really does make you look at alcohol in a different way.   The first couple chapters are essentially a sales pitch for the book, which I didn’t really need, and the whole of it is written in a self-help style that can be a bit cheesy.   But its message is simple, straightforward, and yet somehow revolutionary.  At least, it was exactly what I needed to read when I was on day 3 and still feeling shaky and in shock about what had happened.

Like Jason Vale, he talks about the nature of alcohol, that it is addictive and anyone who drinks can become addicted.  He uses the metaphor of a pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant that lures flies and other other insects with its sweet nectar, luring them further and further in until they can’t get out even when they try.  The difference between a “normal drinker” and an “alcoholic” is merely one of degree.  He says, in fact, that anyone who drinks is somewhere on that slide toward the middle of the pitcher plant.  I don’t know if I believe that is universally true, but there is definitely some truth to it.  I turn back to Jason Vale:  he suggests, as a rather delightful thought experiment, that you substitute the word “bananas” for “alcohol” when you hear someone talk about how they don’t have a problem with alcohol:  I never eat bananas before 5:00… I only eat them a few days a week … I decided to cut back to just one banana a day… I don’t eat bananas during the week but on the weekends I like to cut loose and eat the whole bunch … If you heard someone talking like this about their banana intake, wouldn’t it sound like they had a problem with bananas?  Would they sound like “normal” banana eaters?

In Carr’s book, he goes through all of the reasons that people say they drink and dismantles them one by one.  For instance, when people say they “like the taste.”  Pure alcohol tastes terrible (and is very poisonous); it is the things that we put into it that sweeten and dilute it that we say we like the taste of.  And yet, somehow no one wants to drink a non-alcoholic drink that tastes just like straight vodka, scotch, brandy, even wine.  And even non-alcoholic beer is a tiny, tiny market compared to the market for alcoholic beer.  So if we really liked the taste, wouldn’t we want to drink things that taste like that, whether or not they had alcohol in them?

Of course, I was most interested in the chapter where he talked about people who say they drink alcohol to relax or cope with stress.  Here he made an interesting point that I feel I am coming to see the truth of, over these last weeks.  He says that since drinking alcohol is debilitating, you are actually less able to cope with stress overall.  And that in itself creates more stress, which creates an increased desire to drink, in a vicious circle.

At the end he encourages you to celebrate the fact that you don’t drink alcohol anymore, that you are off the merry-go-round.  Tell yourself “I’m free!” when you see alcohol or see someone drinking.  And this is actually quite powerful.  When I first read this, as I said, it felt almost revolutionary, a “the scales have fallen from my eyes!” moment.  And it’s still there in my head, a little spark,  penetrating old thought processes and old assumptions.  Making me listen differently when I hear people talk about alcohol.  For instance, at that dinner party I mentioned in my first entry, one of the guests poured himself a glass of wine, offered it to my husband and me, which we declined, and then to one of the other guests.  This guest smiled and said “Sure, just so you don’t have to drink alone.”

“Just so you don’t have to eat bananas alone …”

I’m free!!

7 thoughts on “Allen Carr

  1. i sometimes substitute ‘corn on the cob’ for banana – like, would i drive across town to get corn? (well i really really like corn, but … no). would i count how many cobs my husband had compared to me? would i make sure there’s enough corn for the weekend? would i pay really ridiculous amounts of money for different varieties of corn that all have the same effect – to make me feel terrible? hmm. no. and no. congrats on day 24 🙂

  2. I will put it on my library list right now! 🙂
    I must recommend the movie ‘When a man lives a woman’ with Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia. Al Franken co-wrote it after his recovery. Not the greatest movie of all time, but quite good. H and I watched together last weekend, and I had seen it while in detox in the mid nineties. Love you and your blog

    • Thank you, Scott. I remember when that movie came out but never saw it. I really like Andy Garcia, and the subject matter is certainly topical for me right now. I will watch it. Good luck to you, and love you (and H) too!

  3. I have had 35 years of alcohol-induced regrettable moments, injuries and embarrassment, and I am halfway through Allen Carr’s book. My husband thinks I’m fun when I drink since I’m a very serious, tense person otherwise, and he actually seems worried that I’ll stop drinking because we have such a good time every weekend (I’m a little worried too). While I was reading the book last night he said “but honey, you’ve been better about your drinking lately” and I said “just last week I blacked out from drinking!”. By the way, he never drinks enough to black out, fall down or embarrass himself. When I do stop drinking, how do I handle him???

    • Lucy, that’s a really tough one. I would say that the most important thing is to prioritize quitting. I know for me, so many times I would say to myself “I’ll quit drinking when ____” waiting for some perfect time, and that never happens. In your case, waiting until he’s ready for you to quit might never happen, so you might have to go ahead without him. But make sure you do have support from someone else, whether it’s online or in person, AA, whatever. That’s a good idea for everyone, but particularly someone in your situation, where you don’t have support from your husband.

      I know for me that drinking helped me cover up problems, and you might find that’s true too. I used to get scared when I read that (before I quit), something like “be prepared to deal with stuff you’ve been drinking to avoid dealing with.” I think I used it as a reason not to quit. Quitting seemed hard enough without contemplating what other problems I might have to deal with. So when I finally did quit I gave myself permission to deal with things badly. Something like “The most important thing to me is that I don’t drink, so when things happen I might deal with them well or I might deal with them badly, but either way it’s okay.” What I mean is, it’s okay if you’re not “FUN” for awhile! Don’t give yourself a hard time even if your husband gives you a hard time.

      I hope this helps, I’m typing as I think it out …

  4. Pingback: The A Word | Stick a fork in me ... I'm done

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