Updated: Nov 9, 2020
As many of you know, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my sober journey. More specifically, I spend a lot of time trying to understand the differences between my journey and other's journies. From day one of sobriety, it became clear to me that not all paths are created equal. For some, the journey is incredibly difficult and lifelong. For others, the journey is a struggle, but a struggle with an end in sight. Still, others experience the journey as simply a hopeful survival from one day to the next. Occasionally, you will hear about a journey with far fewer obstacles, struggles, and dependencies on things outside our control. It is these more rare occasions I find the most intriguing. I am intrigued by these journeys partly because it is how I found my experience to be, but it is also because I am obsessed with why there is such a disparity in the difficulty of experiences from one person to the next. How can one person experience such pain and torment on their path while another can experience ease and grace? I believe the answers lie in the why's.
Before we can even begin to start an effective campaign toward successful sobriety, we have to find our answers to a few questions. More importantly, we have to find the courage to be truly honest about our answers to these questions. As addicts, we have found it far too easy to justify our problems away. We quickly learned how to manipulate our and other's feelings to achieve our desired results. When we didn't like the way we felt about a particular situation, we learned how to deflect our true feelings and pass the buck on to someone else. One of the most effective skills in an addict's backpack of survival is the ability to divert blame, responsibility, and accountability away from ourselves and onto others. It is how we maintained our status of unreliability while still receiving sympathy and even help from those around us.
If we cannot separate ourselves from our usual self-preservation tactics, it is going to be very difficult to find our truths. Without our truths, we cannot truly answer the difficult questions necessary to set us free from our self-imposed constraints. Without our truths, we cannot find the strength and courage to dig deep enough to uncover our truest selves. Without our truths, we cannot effectively walk down the path of successful and easy sobriety. At this point, you may be asking yourself, what are the questions that can help us find our truths? The questions are simple, the answers, not so much. Nevertheless, the questions start with, why?
Why do I drink?
At first glance, you are probably thinking this is an easy question to answer. You may even think it is a waste of your time to ponder such a question. Why do I drink? That's easy. I drink because it tastes good. I drink because it makes me feel good. I drink because I need it to relax. I drink because it allows me to be more myself. You may say to yourself, this is nothing new. I have thought about all of this, and it doesn't help me get any closer to living successfully without alcohol. The reason none of these thoughts or beliefs help us get any closer to successful sobriety is that nowhere in any of those thoughts or beliefs lies any amount of truth. This is not to say we do not believe them to be our truths. This is to say, they are simply the lies we and alcohol have told ourselves to deflect our real truths and emotions. In order to find our truths, we have to be open and willing to dig deeper. We have to be open and willing to be vulnerable. We have to be open and willing to get to know our truest selves.
Why do I drink? First of all, let's dispel the obvious lies we often tell ourselves about drinking. Alcohol did not taste good. Our first introduction to alcohol was of a rancidness we could barely chug down. In fact, it tasted so bad, we often grimaced and even gagged with every swallow. How absolutely absurd is that truth? The idea that alcohol makes us feel good is just silly. The only thing it truly does is numb our feelings. It allows us to not feel anything, emotionally, and physically. It actually detracts from our ability to be present in any given situation. The idea that alcohol allows us to relax is partly true. The numbness we feel when consuming does temporarily erase some stressors from our daily lives. It gives us a moment of freedom. The problem is while alcohol is numbing our ability to feel stress, the stressors are continuing to pile up all around us. Eventually, when the numbness wears off, we still have to face the circumstances that created the stress in the first place. The relaxation we hoped to find in alcohol turned into an amplification of our original stress. Finally, alcohol does nothing to allow us to be ourselves. It wipes away the inhibitions built to protect us from harmful, embarrassing, and even deadly situations. Without our inhibitions, we are more willing to do things we would never do without alcohol. Alcohol does not make us more ourselves, it turns us into somebody nobody knows, including ourselves. It makes us dangerous, careless, and simply unpredictable. If that is more us, then we have even more dire issues to deal with.
Why are these answers to why we drink so prevalent? They exist because the society of alcohol touts them repeatedly and incessantly through advertising, marketing, social media, television, movies, books, and even word of mouth. We have been conditioned to believe these are the reasons we drink because they do not feel intrusive. They are acceptable answers to questions we do not want to find the true answers to. If we dig deeper, we will find there are many more real answers present to this question of why. I cannot speak for you, but I can speak for myself. Here is my answer to the question, why did I drink alcohol?
Why I drink
I used to drink because I developed a few core beliefs early on in my life. Why these core beliefs were built is not as important as understanding and accepting them as who I was and why I acted and drank in the way I did. One of the core beliefs I developed involved believing I held no worth. I truly believed I was worthless. I never felt I had much to offer. I would try, but I always seemed to fail at the things I thought would validate my worth. The problem was, I never understood failure to be part of the human condition. I didn't know our value was not judged by our failures but by our learning and growing from our failures. Another core belief I developed was the belief I did not deserve to be happy. I truly believed the mistakes I made and the perception I held of the things I had done wrong in my life warranted my living a life of misery and unhappiness. It never occurred to me that all people and all living things deserve to be happy from birth. I never experienced it, so how could it be true? While there are many other core beliefs I developed and could talk about in regard to my drinking, I will end with one final belief I believe important in this context. I developed a core belief about my inability to succeed. If I am honest, I developed the core belief I could not succeed in anything. This is not to say I did not desire to succeed. I did. I just knew, from my history, I could not succeed and eventually gave up trying.
Now, let's look at those core beliefs and how they facilitated my drinking lifestyle. It does not take a highly intelligent person to unveil my reasons for drinking. At my core, I believed I was worthless, deserving of misery, and unable to succeed no matter how hard I tried. What a miserable existence. It is a wonder I even survived feeling the way I did about myself and my life at all. I drank because I could not stand who I was on a personal level. I drank because numbing the truth was easier than facing it. I drank because if I didn't I had to face my failures, misery, and lack of worth every day. I drank to escape the beliefs I created and to prevent myself from having to feel unwanted feelings. I drank to escape my truths.
Needless to say, none of this feels good to admit, but until I do I am voluntarily trapping myself in a pattern of negative self-talk and thinking. I am ensuring I do not learn from my mistakes and grow. I am ensuring I continue down the wrong path. I am ensuring I will never become the person I want to be. I am ensuring a long and arduous journey. On the contrary, when I admit my truths, I am finally able to begin changing those negative core beliefs. I am able to work toward developing positive core beliefs. I am able to work towards growth. I am able to begin walking down the path of easy sobriety.
Why do I want to stop drinking?
At first glance, you may be thinking this too is an easy question to answer. Once we understand and accept why we drink, we can then begin to ask the ultimate question. Don't be fooled, though. The answers to this question are not any easier than the answers to the previous question. In fact, it could be argued this is an even more difficult question to answer honestly. Why do I want to stop drinking? That's easy. I am tired of hangovers. I am tired of feeling guilty. I am tired of doing stupid shit. I am tired of losing friends. I am tired of ... This list can be endless, but are these actually part of your truth? I am sure you are thinking, of course, they are. These are all the reasons I want to stop drinking. On some level, I do agree with you. On another level, however, these reasons may not withstand the test of time. Why? Because time has a way of erasing our bad memories. Time has the power to reduce and distort the true reality of our pasts. Time can actually be a burden if our reasons for quitting drinking are trivial or mundane. Even health may not be a strong enough reason. Why? Because as we begin to feel better, time once again rears its ugly head and begins telling us it was not that bad. We have to dig deeper to find our truest why in regards to wanting to quit drinking. It has to come from a fundamental core level to stand the test of time.
Why I wanted to quit drinking
Again, I cannot speak for you, but I can speak for myself. Here are some of my core reasons for wanting to stop drinking. During my first therapy session with my therapist whom I no longer see because I outgrew the need for therapy regarding addiction, she asked me a simple question. For those of you who do not know me very well, I originally went to therapy for help regarding several addictions. Her question was this: What would you like to be doing if you were not engaged in all of your addictions? To this I replied, I would be more present with my family, I would read more, write more, do more photography, and exercise more. I didn't even have to think about it. That was what I wanted. Her question was a simple way to reframe the previous question: Why do you want to stop drinking? I too would have answered that question differently, and it would have incorporated feeling tired of the feelings associated with drinking.
From day one in therapy, we concentrated on what I wanted not what I didn't want. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the foundation for why my eventual sobriety would be easy. I never tried to stop feeling sick. I concentrated instead on feeling good. I incorporated new behaviors, routines, and attitudes to help me be more productive. Everything I did was in an effort to do more of something I wanted rather than to do less of something I did not want. I developed a positive mindset by concentrating on nothing but positive thinking. Trying to quit something negative focuses our attention on the negative. It envelops us in negative thinking patterns. I can't drink. I hate alcohol. I'm tired of screwing up. I am miserable. I am lonely. I am no fun anymore. Nobody will like me sober. All of these thoughts are associated with concentrating on the lack of something in our lives. When we shift our mindset to the positive, we begin saying things like: I feel so much better, I love waking up sober, I am more productive, I am strong, I am powerful, I can do so much more than I ever thought, I am the best version of me. When we begin to accomplish goals and achieve success, it is truly contagious. Not only do we feel better about ourselves, but people around us also begin to feel better about us. Not only that, people around us get inspired by our positivity and want to jump on board too.
Along with my change in thinking came a desire to learn more about the society of alcohol. I began reading books about alcoholism. It virtually took no time to come across a piece of literature I have mentioned many times in my blogs. Annie Grace's, This Naked Mind, helped change my perception of alcohol on a fundamental level. Once I saw what was happening around me in regard to the propagation of alcoholism, I could not unsee it. I became somewhat obsessed with what I had learned about the society of alcohol. I focused a lot of my attention in that direction until I ultimately found myself wholly disenfranchised with alcohol at a core and fundamental level. I saw the lies in marketing, advertising, social media, literature, and movies. I heard the lies told by one person to another on a daily basis. I saw the shrines built to glorify alcohol in grocery stores, bars, malls, and even in our own homes. Everything about alcohol screamed lies, to me, and I no longer wanted anything to do with it. I no longer told myself I could not have alcohol, I told myself I do not want it. That is the fundamental difference between easy and difficult sobriety. It is not that you can't have it, it's that you do not want it.
Remember, before you can truly begin walking the successful sober walk, you have to ask yourself the why's? Why do I drink and why do I want to stop drinking? Ask yourself these questions and don't stop asking them until you are able to find your real truths about why. If you are struggling to discern the difference between menial and fundamental truths here is something to keep in mind. Most of the time, your answers to both the why questions will have nothing to do with alcohol. Start there and then give yourself permission to dig deep. The deeper you go the more real you will find your truths. The more real your truths, the easier your sobriety and journey.
My truths brought me here doing something I love. Where will your truths bring you?