My partner and I had a conversation yesterday about our previous alcoholic perceptions and something came up that bothered me quite a bit. L was talking to the driver of our snowboarding shuttle about a book they had both read. In the book, the author expressed a belief that alcohol is to blame for the majority of college campus assaults. L reminded me how, when she first mentioned this author's sentiments pre-sobriety, I did not agree. My argument had something to do with people making their own choices to drink, and people's actions are their own responsibilities. I guess I was trying to say the person is to blame, not alcohol. Whether or not you agree with either view is not really the point. What bothered me was my motivation behind my viewpoint. When L reminded me of my argument, I immediately questioned her memory. I questioned her because, in my current state of mind, I have a strong opinion regarding alcohol's role in most behavioral related incidents. Sure enough, her memory was correct. I reflected on my previous belief system for a short time and then found myself saddened by what occurred to me. I was protecting alcohol. Alcohol was my friend.
It's time to unfriend alcohol.
Is the idea of my friendship with alcohol really that surprising? No, it is not. It is very easy for me to look back on my life and see how much I liked libations. I touted alcohol's legitimacy, I bragged about my tolerance, I threw parties in its honor, and I even made fun of those who did not drink. I am reminded, shortly after quitting drinking, of one of my sayings, "I do not trust people who do not drink." I did all of this to show alcohol, an inanimate substance, how much it meant to me. I am not going to waste any more time talking about the relationship I used to have with alcohol. One of my new focuses in life is to help take away it's power from others. Nevertheless, if you are reading this, you are aware of the relationships built, cherished, and destroyed over alcohol. It's time we unfriend alcohol.
Annie Grace, in her book "This Naked Mind," talks about understanding our relationship with alcohol. There is a lot of ways to look at this, but again, like everything in sobriety, it is personal to us as individuals. Nobody can tell us what our relationship with alcohol is. We have to be the ones to dig deep, truly look ourselves in the mirror, and admit how much of ourselves we give to alcohol. It is a relationship, and it's a relationship people die for. Until we recognize and acknowledge our own relationship with alcohol, I do not believe we can ever truly end it. Unfortunately, like many other negative emotional attachments, even after we acknowledge our toxic relationship with alcohol, it can be difficult for some of us to let it go, forever. It is important to remember, whether it is a good or bad relationship, a long-term relationship carries with it an enormous amount of baggage. When we first evaluate this, some of the baggage is good and some of the baggage is bad. The key to successful sobriety is learning, understanding, and accepting, with alcohol, none of the baggage is actually good, it is all bad.
Our mind focuses on the positives of things we want to hang on to,
but it also focuses on the negatives of things
we want to let go of.
I am currently running an experimental sobriety challenge with a few amazing people. One of the things I asked of them is to spend time reflecting on their memories of life before alcohol. This ended up being somewhat difficult because, for those of us with extremely long drinking histories, it can be difficult to remember what life used to be like pre-alcohol. I believe this to be important for successful sobriety because unless we have some semblance of an idea of what life looks like after alcohol, it will be difficult to break the ties of that relationship. For most people, when we think of quitting drinking, we tend to focus and even obsess on what we remember to be good about our relationship with alcohol. We remember false memories such as fun, excitement, daring, inhibition, rebellion, etc... We do not remember true memories such as regret, guilt, loss, suffering, vomit, hangovers, etc... Our mind focuses on the positives of things we want to hang on to, but it also focuses on the negatives of things we want to let go of. Read that again.
In order for this to truly sink in, we have to correlate the idea with something to which we can relate. Try to remember a time when you easily walked away from something or someone because you learned something new or unforgivable about them. I'll start with something simple and move on from there. I bartended throughout my college career. While behind the bar, I often took pleasure in stabbing green martini olives with a toothpick and devouring their salty goodness. One day, for reasons I cannot remember, I took a look at the nutrients label on the side of the olive jar. Two olives contained 350mgs of sodium. I buy low sodium everything, and there I was unknowingly consuming thousands of milligrams of sodium. I never stabbed another martini olive again. It was that simple. I learned about something I perceived as unacceptable and made a change with no effort whatsoever. If I could do this with olives, why couldn't I do this with alcohol, nicotine, drugs, sex, or any other addictive substance? The answer lies in the relationship with those substances.
The truth is this, alcohol has no redeeming or positive value
for our lives whatsoever.
We have to want to make a change for our minds to focus on the right things. If I didn't care about my sodium intake, I would have simply kept stabbing those damn olives. But I did, I cared enough to walk away without hesitation. When we focus on what we perceive to be the "good" qualities of alcohol, we are telling our mind this: we like our relationship with alcohol and we do not want to change. In order for us to truly walk away from alcohol, without hesitation, we have to focus on the truth of alcohol. The truth is this, alcohol has no redeeming or positive value for our lives whatsoever. The only thing alcohol actually does is destroy lives. That is the truth. With that said, here is the painful part of this journey. If you are not focusing on the truth of alcohol, then you are focusing on your truth, which is you are not yet willing to unfriend alcohol. I am sorry if that stings a bit. It's okay. Let it sting.
Have you ever held on to a toxic friendship for far too long? I am willing to bet most of us have done this at some point in our lives (Ironically, if you are reading this, you are most likely doing it right now: put a pin in this). Do you remember that feeling? We had a feeling we couldn't shake about a person we were so desperately trying to hang on to. We wanted them to be good for us, but deep down we knew they were not. We kept trying, but we always ended up in the same place: hurt, disappointed, discouraged, let down, and sad. Eventually, we had enough. We found ourselves tired of being hurt and decided we deserved better. We cut ties with our friend and moved the fuck on. Do you also remember the relief associated with that decision? Do you remember feeling as though you could breathe again? This relief occurs because we were holding on tightly to something we knew was bad for us. Making the decision to let it go felt right, good, and justified. It made us feel as though we deserved better, and we do.
Remember those? The relationships that actually offer everything
alcohol promised but failed to deliver.
Back to the pin. Our relationship with alcohol is exactly like those toxic relationships with people. If we are struggling to let go of our relationship with alcohol, it is because we are still in the hopeful phase of our inevitable breakup. We are still clinging to the idea there are some good qualities to it. We are trying to convince ourselves it is good for us, we can moderate, we deserve it, we are not one of those people. I am sorry to be the one to break this to you, wait, no I am not. I am happy to be the one to break this to you. You are lying to yourself, and it is time to acknowledge the truth. Alcohol is not your friend, there are no redeeming qualities to it, you cannot moderate your drinking, you deserve more, and you are one of those people. It is time to unfriend alcohol and find your real truth.
You already know your real truth, but I am going to go ahead and say it for you anyway. You no longer want anything to do with the toxic behavior of your old friend, alcohol. You are tired of getting hurt, feeling disappointed, being let down, and feeling sad. You have realized you deserve better and have moved the fuck on. Enjoy the relief of your decision. Take a deep breath, exhale, and now go out and find the positive relationships you deserve. You know the relationships I am talking about. The relationships that add to the quality of your life. The relationships that challenge you to be better. The relationships that foster love, kindness, and forgiveness. The relationships that are always there for you.
Yes! Remember those? The relationships that actually offer everything alcohol promised but failed to deliver. It's now time to give yourself permission to go out and find those healthy and more positive relationships.