I had a client today who binge drinks to oblivion. She hates doing it, but every disappointment seems to trigger something deep inside. The result is she reaches for the bottle and drinks until she goes unconscious. She does it about once a week.
My initial reaction was that she was drinking to try to avoid something. I got her to talk about her childhood and her upbringing. That was a mistake. She wouldn't stop talking. Words poured out of her. I had real difficulty keeping her focused on what I was asking her. You get some clients who just won't talk about their emotions. With other clients, getting them to talk about themselves at all is like asking them to pull their teeth out. This client just kept talking and talking.
I finally got control of the monologue and asked her for a specific instance of when she felt she had to drink. She told me that she and her husband are trying to buy a new house. They found a house that seemed ideal. She put an offer in on it, and then learned it had been sold to someone else. Her immediate reaction was to start drinking, and keep drinking. Her husband is distressed by this, she is distressed by this, but she just cannot stop herself.
Self Sabotage with alcohol
She wasn't able to explain why she felt this way. She just cannot handle disappointment. I asked her about her feelings in general and it seemed to me that she had quite extreme black and white thinking. Things either went the way she thought they should, or she fell off the wagon. In her case falling off the wagon means self sabotage with alcohol.
She revealed that she hates the idea of others judging her for her drinking. She started crying and said "I don't want to end up like my mother". It turned out that her mother was a nasty drunk. As a child she got verbal and physical abuse when her mother was under the influence. I asked if her mother also had black and white thinking. This opened up another torrent of feelings, memories, and opinions. I was able to work out from that that her mother was almost certainly depressive and angry. All of the stories that she was telling were basically about her mother taking out petty spite on her own children when she was drunk.
Reason for self sabotage with alcohol
Despite an obvious abusive childhood she took a long time to open up to her real emotions about her mother. She finally acknowledged that her current behavior was really all about trying to cope with the stresses of her childhood. Every time she felt disappointed, that something had happened to put her down, it triggered memories of the same thing happening when she was a child. Her drinking was an attempt to drown out those unhappy feelings.
I went on to do some inner child work with her, and that seemed to help. I think she's going to need a lot of help to deal with the conflict between loving her mother, and accepting that her mother is the cause of her problems.
On the other hand, I learned something that I hadn't realised before. I learned why some people talk all the time. It is to stop them having to deal with their own anxieties.