AVRT in a Nutshell
by Jack Trimpey, Founder
Rational Recovery Systems
(From The Final Fix, reprinted with permission -- all rights reserved)
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Rational Recovery: E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rational Recovery Web Center: http://rational.org/recovery
PO Box 800, Lotus, CA 95651; (916) 621-2667
With Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT), the game of recovery
from "Alcoholism" or other drug dependence is rigged heavily
in your favor. By learning what is going on inside your head and taking
independent action on your substance addiction, you may avoid involvement
with support groups and with "treatment" that you find disagreeable.
[In other Rational Recovery literature], you will find a diagram of the
human brain showing the structural model of addiction. Some call
this "the game board of Rational Recovery." When you discover
how the parts of your brain interact to result in your addiction, you will
finally understand (1) why you have continued to drink or use even
though it is against your interests, and (2) what you can do to stop your
addiction, starting now.
Whether or not alcohol or drug dependence is a disease (most unlikely!), addiction may be understood as a natural function of the human brain. In effect, you have two separate "brains" within your head which compete with each other. One is primitive, similar to the brain of a dog or a horse. This we call the midbrain. It is basically the brain of a beast and its only purpose is to survive. The beast brain generates survival appetites that drive the rest of the body toward what it demands, such as oxygen, food, sex, and fluids. In some people (it matters not how), substances such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana get mixed in with the midbrain's real survival needs. Then, that person is addicted and will do almost anything to continue the use of that substance -- even if it means the loss of everything else that is important. The Beast of Booze, or The Beast of Buzz, is ruthless in getting what it wants.
But there is another brain that sits on top of the beast brain, the cerebral
cortex. This "new brain," or neocortex, allows human beings
to be conscious, to think, to have language, and to solve problems. Your
neocortex is "you," and you can override any appetite,
even for oxygen or food. (Anyone can stop breathing until unconscious or
stop eating until dead.) In Rational Recovery, we use the neocortex, our
human brains, our selves, to override the appetite for alcohol and
other drugs. (This is done without Higher Powers, moral or spiritual betterment,
or labeling yourself "an alcoholic." Rational Recovery is neutral
on those matters; they are simply left out.)
With AVRT, defeating an addiction is not as difficult as it seems. At first, it is tricky, because your beast brain uses your language and thinking centers to get what it wants. For example, if you wisely decide that drinking is bad for you, and that you will stop, you will soon hear that old, familiar voice telling you why you should continue drinking. You may even imagine a picture of what you want to drink, and picture yourself drinking somewhere. That is your addictive voice. You made a wise decision to stop drinking, but your Beast has used your language and visual centers in an attempt to insure your continued use of alcohol. In order to defeat your addiction, you must compete with your midbrain for control of language. If you will compete you will win, for beasts are short on intelligence.
There are two parties to your addiction -- you and "it," the
addictive voice. "It," the addictive voice, is simply any thinking,
imagery, or feeling that supports any use of alcohol -- ever. With your
intelligence, you can easily recognize those parts of your addiction.
If you drink to relieve depression, you can recognize those parts of your
addiction. If you drink to relieve depression, you can recognize that feeling
as part of your addictive voice.
The structural model of addiction shows that the Beast has no direct means to get what it wants. It must appeal to you to get alcohol or drugs into your bloodstream. It cannot speak, it cannot see, it has no arms or legs, and it has no intelligence of its own. But it uses your thoughts, sees through your eyes, creates strong feelings, and persuades you to use your hands, arms and legs in order to obtain its favorite substance.
Your Beast's favorite pronoun is "I." When you hear the thought, "I want a drink," you may recapture "I" by adding a "t" to the "I." Then you will hear yourself thinking "It wants a drink." After you have recaptured the pronoun "I," it will resort to the pronoun "you," and you will hear it say, "You need a drink. You have been good and can have just a little. You can handle it. Just be careful this time." Sometimes, it will even speak for both parties, you and it, by saying, "We need something. Let's go downtown and get some." Recognizing the Beast's use of pronouns can be very helpful in sticking to your decision to abstain from alcohol or drugs.
Once started, AVRT is practically effortless. When you recognize the addictive voice and understand its primitive origin, it will usually fall silent and then later return. It may whine a lot, but you are in control. Beasts have feelings, too. When you have stopped drinking or using for a few days, you may feel uncomfortable. That is not physical craving, but only "Beast activity." Your Beast will generate strong feelings which may include anxiety, depression, anger, grief, and a desire to be left alone. These feelings are common in early sobriety, but they fade with time.
Instead of struggling "one day at a time," you may make a Big Plan to quit for good. A Big Plan has only five words: "I will never drink (or use) again. Saying "never" is much different from saying "no." To the Beast, "no" means "later." Lifetime abstinence is a difficult commitment because your Beast is terrified of its own death. It views alcohol or drugs as necessary to survival. Therefore, you will feel flooded with endless reasons to postpone your decision to quit drinking for good, and you may notice strong feelings -- anxiety, sorrow, anger -- when you contemplate your Big Plan. Those feelings are not truly yours, but are the expressions of a fearful Beast. Your old enemy is on the run. The Beast is just a beast, and it will finally surrender to you, to the neocortical authority.
When you finally decide, "I will never drink again," you may feel great relief. This is the abstinence commitment effect (ACE), showing that you clearly understand the concepts of AVRT. A Big Plan changes the way your future looks, and your depression may no longer have a purpose. Stay alert for new Beast activity; it may be sudden or gradual. It doesn't give up easily and it is a strong opponent. When you feel the struggle within you, it is only old enemy having a hard time with its new master -- you. Knowing that builds great confidence that your addiction is over once and for all.