Since I quit drinking, the idea of perception and core beliefs have fascinated me. They have fascinated me so much I have tried, on multiple occasions, to find books to help me grow in this area. The first book I read was okay, it had a few new snippets of information I didn't yet know from my therapy work. The second was an absolute train wreck. I ended up sending it back. Hoping to find something with more detailed information with strategies and exercises, I reached out to my recent therapist for recommendations. She sent me the title of a book she used to help in her training and understanding of the core beliefs. It arrived the other day, and it is exactly what I was looking for. It is basically a textbook, but it is full of the kind of information I wanted to find. I bring this up because I believe the ideas behind core beliefs are the keys to unlocking the potential for Easy Sobriety.
Right away, the book dug into some of the areas I want to spend more time thinking and writing about because they are simple yet incredibly complex when used in the context of sobriety. Everything comes down to the way we think, how we feel, what we do, and most importantly, the way we handle the information garnered from those three things. The most fascinating part of this whole idea is how all the before mentioned actions are choices, for the most part. If they are choices, then we have the power to make different choices at any given time. You will note I said, for the most part, in regard to choice. This is because, as we all know, our addictive actions can become somewhat involuntary over long periods of habit-forming behavior. Whether this is true or not, most of us, while using, are still making choices every day in direct conflict with the idea of involuntary addictive actions.
For example: While actively engaged with my addictions, I made choices not to use almost every day based solely on my voluntary decision not to use. What encouraged my decisions not to use in those times? Generally, it was something from a socially or morally ingrained belief. Something like choosing not to drive, this time, because I have had too much to drink. Interestingly, the choice not to drive rarely included concern over other people. While using, the choice not to drive generally concerned only my desire not to get arrested. Nevertheless, I made the choice of my own free will. Five days a week, I voluntarily made the choice not to drink in the morning before going to work. I didn't make that choice because I felt I couldn't perform my job. I made the choice because I did not want to get fired. Regardless, I still voluntarily made the choice. The point is this, we can and do make voluntary choices not to drink every day to protect ourselves from certain types of harm or trouble. If we can choose not to drink to avoid getting arrested or hurt, we can choose not to drink for any other reason too. The key lies in finding our intrinsic reasons not to drink.
It's time to throw those two words out of the window and never look back. They do not belong in our vocabulary anymore. Let's take a moment and look at the power of these two words, especially for an addict.
I have actively engaged in addictive drinking behaviors for thirty years. I drink as much as I can and as often as I can. It's the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning until I pass out in the evening. It drives my every action and fuels my every need. When I do not have it, I am anxious and scared. When I do have it, I am calm and relaxed. It helps me get through my fucked up life. I need it to deal with my job. When the kids are driving me crazy, it helps me not lose my temper. Without it, I do not know what I would do. I can't quit drinking because it helps me deal with my life.
How many of the above statements are based on choice? Every single one of them. If I choose the above statements to be true, are they? Yes, of course, they are. If I choose different statements to define my reality, can those statements be equally as true? Yes, of course, they can.
I quit drinking five years ago. I do not drink and I never think about drinking. When I wake up in the morning, I am grateful for my life. I live with intention throughout the day until I go to bed at night. My will to succeed drives my every action and my continued successes fuel my every need. When I used to drink, I was anxious and scared. Now, I am relaxed and calm. Not drinking helps me see my life as a gift because I feel positive and confident every day. I am a better employee at my job and have been promoted several times. I am a better partner and a better father. I don't know how I ever got through life while drinking. The best decision I ever made was the decision to quit drinking.
How many of the above statements are based on choice? Every single one of them. If I chose the above statements to be true, are they? Yes, of course, they are. What is the major difference between the two scenarios? In the first scenario, all of the statements are based on the idea and belief that I can't quit drinking. I believe, if I did, I would not be able to deal with all those things I believe alcohol helps me deal with. I tell myself alcohol helps me, advertising tells me alcohol helps me, my friends and family tell me alcohol helps me, my idols tell me alcohol helps me, and I believe them all. As long as I believe it to be true, it is true. In the second scenario, all of the statements are based on the idea and belief that I can and have quit drinking. I tell myself because I quit drinking, everything I stated is possible. As long as I believe it to be true, it is true.
Motivation and Perspective
How do we change our perspective? This is the golden question. Think about the times I mentioned earlier when we do make the choice not to use. What is the underlying difference? What is strong enough in those scenarios to keep us from giving in to our normal 'need' to use? Why is it so much easier, or should I say more plausible, to make a choice not to use in certain situations? It all comes down to our motivation and our perception of the expected or desired outcome. When properly motivated, we can do almost anything. When we believe a certain way, we can use that belief to propel our drive to achieve and succeed. Here is the craziest part of this whole idea: motivation and perspective are choices too. I can choose to allow anything to motivate me. It can be my desire to gain something, to do something, or to prove something. It can be anything I want it to be, as long as I believe it to be true. The way I perceive something is a choice too. I can choose to perceive alcohol as a thing that helps me deal with life. Or, I can choose to perceive alcohol as a thing that destroys my life. What makes either of these beliefs true are only my beliefs about these things.
Cognitive, Emotional and Behavioral Characteristics
Here is where I am going with all of this. Our core beliefs have three variables present at all times. The first is cognitive, or how we think about things. The second is emotional, or how we feel about things. The third is behavioral, or what we do as a result of the previous two. Understanding all three of these variables in a given situation can allow a person to actively join in their own conversation of why they are thinking, feeling, or behaving in a certain way. Understanding these things is a first step in actively making the changes necessary to affect real change in a person's life. Here is the catch. It is generally easy to identify the truth surrounding one or even two of the variables, but there is always the third and it can sometimes be quite elusive.
Starting Monday, I will begin to dig deeper into each one of these characteristics. I will provide examples from my own life of times when I understood one or two of the characteristics but not the other. I will explain how my lack of understanding all three negatively affected my ability to properly function in a way most beneficial to me and my life. I imagine most of you will relate to my experiences.