(Originally published on Soberistas.com )

You are an intelligent person. You have learned a lot in your life and you like to think that you generally pay attention to what’s good for you. Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the consumption of alcohol has little to no benefits and a whole truckload of detriments. Compound all of this wisdom and then add your own personal experiences (it is said that we are destined to be presented with life’s lessons until we learn them) to notice that, hey, you really are informed about drinking, aren’t you?

Then why is it so difficult to change? Why can’t you just use sheer willpower to sustain an alcohol-free life? The frustration that many people experience is indicative that we can’t always just think our way out of our problems. The reason for this is that your conscious thought processes, which house things like rational, logical thought, along with short term memory and willpower (which is also short term), is not where the real drivers of alcohol drinking are maintained.

The subtle, but even more powerful thought processes of emotions and creative imagination are stored and managed in a different realm – that of the subconscious mind. In this magnificent place, your lifelong memories, imprints, impressions and beliefs are also kept and it is these which are influencing your daily attitudes and responses.

Trying to make permanent behavioral change by “thinking” is much like attempting to create corporate change by going to the receptionist. You need to get to the CEO which, in this case, is your subconscious mind.

You can think about your subconscious thought processes as being a sort of depository for ideas, even programs. Some get downloaded and they keep running, even as you grow and mature. Some grow and mature with you. For example, most children don’t care much for the taste of onions but somewhere along the line, as they mature, they begin to appreciate onions. Now, some programs operate almost in isolation, failing to update as you move through life, so you arrive at a place where certain mechanisms, like drinking, are no longer congruent with who you are or who you want to be.

At some point in your life, you learned how to drink alcohol. You may not even have cared very much for the taste of it, but you learned how to like the effects. At that time, you had all of your own very good reasons for starting to drink, so the behavior served you well. Your subconscious downloaded that program, understanding only that it made you feel good in some way, almost like a foundational block from which a chain could form.

Over the years, just like a chain, the drinking habit was built, link by link through associations to people, places and events so that eventually it felt like one massive chain that you became wrapped up in. That chain may even have felt so heavy that you gave up trying to liberate yourself.

The good news is that by utilizing your subconscious mind, you can release that chain of a drinking habit. You can make permanent shifts occur by taking advantage of your brain’s own plasticity, that ability to create new, healthy thoughts and feelings which result in more positive behavior. Hypnosis practitioners are adept in a variety of techniques and approaches to help this happen, but here is a quick and easy one that you can use on your own:

Create a Mind Map

One of the mistakes people make is to worry about what they are afraid might happen (or dwell in thoughts about their regretful mistakes). This is a problem because the subconscious mind is a great eavesdropper, but it is non-judgmental. It is not discerning whether those thoughts and ideas are positive and helpful, but just embraces, focuses and moves us toward whatever we are thinking!

A better approach is to spend some time imagining what you want to happen. Close your eyes (a good time to do this is right before you fall asleep) and create a scene in which you are living your life in the best-for-you way. Use all of your senses to make it as vivid as possible and notice how energized, how wonderful, how confident and successful you feel in this scene. Then, imprint this picture or feeling into the front of your mind’s eye. You may even assign a special word or phrase, or a color, sound or even a scent that represents this sense of freedom.

By creating this image, along with the feelings, you are telling your subconscious mind specifically what you want and who you want to be. This provides a destination for it to move toward and you will find it happening almost automatically. In fact, many people who utilize hypnotherapy notice that the changes happen below their conscious awareness – they might suddenly realize that they have forgotten to remember about drinking!

Revisit your freedom image regularly, or use the word or other symbol to renew your emotional commitment to yourself. Each time you do, that healthy neural pathway is strengthening, creating a new normal state of alcohol free for you!

Consider exploring how hypnosis can help you enjoy the best life experience possible. Hypnotherapy is an integrative modality that works well with other forms of healing and you can find a qualified hypnotist via the internet or via your medical professional’s referral.