Step 7B: Abstinence Violation Effect
In the research, this destructive process is called the Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE), a psychological mistake that leads you to elevate the singular slip into a disastrous fall.
Please don’t feel intimidated by the research jargon; you already know the AVE by other terms. It is the opposite of your mantra from Step 2: A slip is not a fall. But in the AVE, a slip becomes the fall!
It’s the saint or sinner complex, the all or nothing thinking, the black or white view of life. If you subscribe to the AVE, you slip and immediately think, “Well, there’s the proof of my inability to keep the goal. I might as well quit now and return to my old, problem behavior.” Or in the memorable boast of a former patient, “If I slip and have a drink, I might as well go and get drunk.” All utter nonsense, but that’s how many of us think after experiencing the disappointment of a slip.
Study after study has documented that how you respond to the slip, NOT the slip itself, determines which road you take. If you lack a confident, optimistic spirit and/or an effective plan for dealing with slips, more often than not you will grant your urges free reign and descend to the lower road. It is crucial, therefore, to work a plan for preventing a full-blown relapse.
Have you ever experienced the Abstinence Violation Effect? Share your experience.