M(3), 4/21: Letting Go of Old Ideas
Happy Monday! In today’s meeting we read a selection from the book Living Sober, a fantastically helpful guide for the newly recovering individual. The chapter, entitled “Letting Go of Old Ideas,” is short in length, but chock full of helpful information.
The action of refraining from ingesting alcohol, or any other mind-altering substance, does little to abate our preconceived notions about drinking, our mental associations of various things to drinking, and our perception of the disease of addiction. Of course not drinking is a vital first step on the road to recovery, but our thoughts and ideas about drinking need change as well if we are to experience lasting peace in sobriety.
The chapter discusses the various common forms of faulty logic those of us trying to recover frequently used during our drinking days. Most opinions about alcohol are formed fairly early in life, and depend upon our childhood family situation. For me, having been raised an Irish Catholic in a large, close, extended family, I did not know that family functions existed without alcohol. I am not exaggerating when I say that we did not gather as a family without alcohol present, and I am including breakfast gatherings (bloody mary’s, anyone?). Consequently, for many of my adult years I operated under the assumption that alcohol was a necessary component of social situations, and I found it uncomfortable if I was at someone else’s family gathering and there was not alcohol present. It was not a conscious thought process at the time, but I judged an alcohol-free function as strange, and certainly less desirable, than my own family gatherings.
I believe I may have shared this story before, but it’s relevant here: years before I recovered, I was expressing the desire to “drink normally” to a therapist. The therapist countered this desire by pointing out that for some people, normal drinking is, in fact, not drinking at all. I’m not sure how much longer I went to visit this therapist, but I may as well have stopped with that appointment, because I know I wrote her off right there and then!
The trick in letting go of old ideas is to first develop an awareness of what they even are, and then to ask yourself if the ideas are factual, and if they are serving you well in sobriety. Here are some of my old ideas that I have learned to dismiss:
1. It is impossible to have fun without alcohol
I think I may have shared this story before as well. I was a couple of months sober and attending a family function with alcohol. About halfway through the evening, I had a light bulb moment: the only thing different about me and the other party goers is the type of liquid in my cup. We are eating the same food, enjoying the same family and friends, and laughing at the same jokes. It was a milestone moment for me, and each time I have been tempted to feel sorry for myself that “others can drink what they want and I can’t, wah wah wah!” I bring to mind this moment and realize how silly it is to think that a drink will change the social occasion for the better.
2. Non-Drinkers are weird
My original preconceived notions about non-drinkers was not that they were recovering alcoholics, but just that they were, quite simply, strange: boring, uninteresting, and certainly not people with whom I wanted to associate. This assumption goes hand-in-hand with the prevalence of alcohol in my childhood social situations. I remember, during a brief stint of being alcohol-free (though certainly not sober or in recovery), friends of my parents popped in unexpectedly at my house. Even though I was choosing not to drink, even though it was the middle of the damned day, I remember vividly how mortified I was that I did not have alcohol to serve them. I assumed they felt about me what I felt about other non-drinkers, and I felt ashamed.
It goes without saying that I know plenty of non-drinkers these days, and most of them could have grown up in my house, we are so much alike. In other words, if they are weird, then so am I!
3. I will need to develop an entirely new set of family and friends if I stop drinking
I believed this would be the end result either because:
a. I would not be able to handle others drinking around me, or
b. that my family and friends would no longer be interested in being around me
It’s a little painful to admit this one, because it sounds so incredibly shallow.
Certainly in the earliest days of sobriety I chose to eliminate as many drinking situations as I possibly could, so that I could build a sober foundation for myself. As time goes on, it gets exponentially easier to handle situations that involve alcohol. Just yesterday I attended my family Easter celebration, and an uncle spilled his beer on me. Now, I will admit: having to walk around smelling like a beer was not a fun experience. On the other hand, not at any point did that incident evoke a desire to drink a beer, or any other alcohol, and believe me there was plenty of it to go around.
And so far, my friends and family have kept me around, so I assume the second part of my theory was equally incorrect!
I imagine, as time goes by, I will find even more false notions under which I operate. Let me throw the question out to all of my blogging friends in recovery: what old ideas have you let go?
Having the mental clarity to examine the crazy ideas that hold me back
Posted on April 21, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles and tagged 12 step program, Addiction, Alcoholic Anonymous, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, Substance Abuse, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.