I knew after I stopped drinking that in order to be genuinely at peace with being sober I needed to retrain my own brain so that I wouldn’t keep bombarding myself with woe-is-me thoughts about booze. I knew I couldn’t control the world around me but I could control my own thinking and that really needed to change.
Personally I think this brain retraining is a vital part of recovery and it is something that we always need to be working on. We have physical cravings – yes – but we have mental cravings as well. We have brains that have been conditioned to think in ways that lead us to drink, and we need to work on those brains to free ourselves from those unhelpful (addictive) thoughts.
Sometimes to work on my thoughts about alcohol I need to really focus on them and analyse/unpick them to uncover the lies they are founded on.
But at other times I have to do just the opposite – NOT analyse and focus on them but just push them out quick smart and not allow them any time or space to settle in and grow in strength.
How do I know whether to pick them over or push them out? I’ve had to learn to understand myself. I’ve had to learn self awareness. I’ve had to learn to look first and foremost at what mood or state I am in when these unhelpful thoughts arrive.
So when a sad woe-is-me thought arrives about booze (e.g. “I am missing out, everyone else is drinking and having fun, I am a boring sober loser, my life is over” etc etc) rather than just allow that thought to sit there and fester I first ask myself: How am I right now in general? Am I feeling good today? Have these sad woe-is-me thoughts about booze risen because there is a genuinely tricky situation up ahead? Or in actual fact am I particularly tired/stressed/anxious/sad/angry right now? Am I in a low or gritty phase? Am I vulnerable?
And through this process I have discovered that it is usually on the days I am feeling particularly emotionally vulnerable about something else that I am more likely to form woe-is-me thoughts about my non-drinking lifestyle. When I can see this clearly for what it is, I take the power away from the thoughts. They are no longer absolute truths or facts, they are born from a mind that is feeling exposed, tired, vulnerable. Having this little insight and awareness of my emotional state is enough for these thoughts to lose their power, and I don’t feel the need to go into any great effort analysing them.
I am tired – enough said. I need rest not booze.
I am stressed – enough said. I need to relax genuinely not drink alcohol.
I am sad – enough said. I need to acknowledge the sadness and treat myself kindly, not numb myself away with booze.
(In sobriety self-awareness is often followed closely by it’s special friend self-care.)
Learning to understand ourselves – that is one of the greatest gifts that sobriety brings us.
Member @mac007 illustrated her growing self-awareness brilliantly in a recent update and with her permission I am reprinting it here.
@mac007: Over this busy time I will not lie , I have had the odd thought of picking up a glass, with the feeling I was ‘missing out’ on the celebrations of the festive season. These feelings popped in when I was tired and then I would see others laughing and getting excited about meeting up for a get together!
But I addressed them for what they were – ‘Bullshit mind games’ -and quickly turn my focus to look at where I am without that shit in my life.
I don’t have the anxiety, worry, wobbly wheels, stress, edgy, over sensitivity and guilt cluttering up and screwing with my head. What I do have is a calm, enjoyment, fun, happy, relaxed, creative, unruffled, in control and positive focus!
So why do we think we need this booze, why do we think we need to drown our sorrows, why we think we need to follow others, why we need to think drinking will help?????? Why? Why?
Because it’s a sneaky bastard and we allow it to rule when we get sucked in to its bullshit charms!
It knows when to hit us, always when we are vulnerable .
I know it will always be there waiting , within me, and that is why I can never give it time in my head. It will always wait to pounce but it has to be fed to do this, fed with insecure feelings.
So I talk to myself and give myself the praise I deserve.
This praise has replaced all the ‘beating up’ comments I bombarded myself before.
And so the rewards are good not destructive.
I have learnt to be proud of myself.
Be kinder to myself.
And learning to understand myself to do so.