HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

Using AVRT to Help You Achieve Alcohol Free Days

Jack Trimpey is the founder of Rational Recovery and has created a technique called AVRT (pronounced "avert") which the Rational Recovery program teaches to people who are seeking permanent abstinence from alcohol. On this web page we will adapt some of the Rational Recovery ideas for people who wish to add abstinence days into their alcohol harm reduction plans. For more information on using AVRT for permanent abstinence please visit the Rational Recovery web page http://rational.org.

The letters AVRT stand for Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. AVRT recognizes that the human brain can be divided into two parts: There is the primitive animal brain which consists of the limbic system, the brain stem and so forth which is essential for basic survival, and there are frontal lobes which are responsible for abstract thought, planning, and the other things which make us uniquely human.

The animal brain is responsible for essential things like breathing and sex, but it is also responsible for the formation of conditioned reflexes including that special subset of conditioned responses which we refer to as addiction. It is the limbic system which is responsible for the voice of craving--for the idea that one must pursue alcohol or drugs or other potentially destructive behaviors for the sake of short term reward at all costs--sometimes even at the cost of one's life. AVRT calls this the Beast Brain. In contrast to the Beast Brain, it is the frontal lobes--the uniquely human part of the brain--which tell us that we sometimes need to put aside immediate gratification for the sake of more important long term gains. The frontal lobes are the rational part of the brain and the real "you".

AVRT teaches people to clearly distinguish the voice of the beast brain from the voice of their real self. AVRT teaches us to talk back to the voice of the craving. When the Beast Brain starts telling you that you "have to have a drink or a drug because you are stressed or anxious or depressed or feeling social phobia", then you need to talk back to the Beast Brain.

If you tell the voice of craving to "shut the F-- up" of if you say to it "I am not gonna drink today and you can't make me! So there!! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!!" then you can abstain.

Trimpey also talks about Enemy Voice Recognition. If you have chosen to have an abstinence day then ANY thoughts you have in your head that tell you that you need to drink are the ENEMY. No one ever puts a gun to your head and forces you to drink. Bottles of booze never jump off the shelf ate the liquor store and come rolling up to your house and knock on your door and say "Drink me!" You are NEVER powerless over alcohol. It is always YOU who chooses to drink or not to drink. You either choose to listen to that mental voice or you reject it. AVRT is a tool to help you succeed at rejecting it. So recognize that voice which tells you to drink on an abstinence day as the ENEMY and CHOOSE to reject it.

The ENEMY voice will put forth irrational ideas and beliefs to try and make you drink, but you can defeat the voice of the ENEMY by disputing these irrational ideas.

Here are some examples of the voice of the ENEMY:

  1. I am so depressed/anxious/stressed that I have to drink right now!
  2. I can't stand one single day without alcohol!
  3. My husband/wife is driving me to drink by being IMPOSSIBLE!
  4. I can't do a whole abstinence day--it is too HARD!
  5. It isn't FAIR that I have to do an abstinence day!

Here are some examples of how you can use your rational voice to dispute these irrational ideas:

  1. Being depressed/anxious/stressed really sucks but I can deal with it for one day. Think of how proud I will feel tomorrow after I accomplish my abstinence day!
  2. I didn't need to drink alcohol when I was a baby--I surely don't HAVE to drink it now that I am an adult.
  3. My spouse's bad actions cannot force me to drink. I may really dislike my spouse's bad actions but I can still choose to abstain for MY benefit!
  4. Can't do one day? Shut up Beast Brain! Of course I am strong enough to do one day!
  5. Fair? Beast Brain--you are really clutching at straws now! False imprisonment might be unfair but an abstinence day is just a way to flex my muscles.

AVRT can be a very helpful technique to help you to abstain on your designated abstinence days and to reserve the drinking for the designated drinking days where it can be an enjoyment instead of a BEAST!

Please also see our page The ABCs of Harm Reduction for ideas about using REBT/CBT for abstinence days.

Please also visit our page The Contradiction of Will Power.

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