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?

Today’s Miracle:

Having the mental clarity to examine the crazy ideas that hold me back

Posted on April 21, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. What an interesting perspective. I might have to re-read this later. Thanks for a great post!

    I don’t remember much about my early family experiences, but I think there was always alcohol, and quite possibly some drunkenness, happening around me. It is encouraging to see other people comfortable being around drinkers, as I am trying to get there, too.

    xx

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    • Hi Jen, thanks for the comment. I will say that it takes time, and planning, for me to get to the comfort level I am currently at. At first I avoided all parties. Then I went, but always had sober support with me, and I stayed for limited amounts of time. As recently as Christmas I said to my husband, “the mood it turning,” meaning, people are starting to get drunk, and we were out the door in 5 minutes!

      So it’s a process, and I wish you luck in getting through yours!

      Thanks again!

      Like

  2. Once again you and I are in sync. Because your last question (and your post, in some respects) is answered and discussed in what I wrote in my blog…lol. It was all about old ideas / old stories I told myself.

    Now, yours are more drinking / drinking culture revolved…so I can answer those without being self-referential…lol.

    I too thought that life was done without booze. how could I *feel* or not feel, or just get outside of myself if I didn’t have booze? For the longest time, I would head home from work, and would think “What’s at home waiting for me?” I am talking a year after getting sober. And yeah, my *family* was at home, but I was talking about something else, you realize. What was going to erase the parts of me I didn’t like? What was waiting? Lots of sugar? Tons of AA stuff? Sleep? I don’t know what I thought, but it was still hard to not have that sense of ease and comfort at times.

    I obviously realized I don’t need anything to be *waiting* because I carried what I needed – a sense of self and self-value. Sounds corny I know. But I had to eliminate this need of having something, anything, to bring me to a different place. I had to learn that I was enough. i am getting there, not fully realized. But at least I have the battle plans 🙂

    Great post, Josie, and I could go on. We shed a lot of our old ideas, especially around alcohol itself.

    Hugs,
    Paul

    Like

    • Well, I am late to this comment, but, as always, God has a plan for me when to read your wisdom. As I have already given up mind-altering substances, and now nicotine, and I’m working on eating healthfully, I will honestly say, particularly in that first week of not smoking, to feeling a bit of panic… WHAT CAN I TURN TO? I AM OUT OF VICES! It sounds comical, except that the panic was real. So truthfully, I’ve come a long way, but I’ve got a long way to go.

      Thanks for this comment, and thanks up above for having me read it exactly when I needed to 🙂

      Like

  3. Thank you for posting this – I can relate to all of these points and especially the one about non-drinkers being strange. This nails on the head why for me the idea that I’m being ‘boring’ and that life is ‘boring’ without alcohol has been by far the biggest sticking point for me, because for over 20 years that is exactly what I thought. I was not interested in non drinkers and I thought they were boring, uptight, judgemental, no fun. So it’s been very very hard to reconcile myself becoming one! This perspective is great.

    Like

    • Hi Lilly, as I’ve been starting and stopping on my “health bandwagon” (although I have made some great strides with some issues, just not all), I have been thinking about you… we need to restart that idea of getting people to check in on some kind of regular basis. God knows we all help each other with sobriety, let’s do it with other stuff too!

      I promise you, I felt the exact same way. If you didn’t drink, it was a given in my mind that I didn’t want to spend time with you, that somehow our personalities would clash. I promise there is a way to come out on the other side of that.

      Call me crazy, but it almost seems with so many celebrities announcing themselves as addicts, the tides may be turning a bit in our favor? One can always dare to hope, anyway!

      Great to hear from you!

      Like

  4. That I can’t go out and enjoy myself. That I won’t have fun. That the evening will be boring. I have realized those statements are not true but sometimes I feel left out b/c of my desire to want to numb myself. I do find I get annoyed when people around me are crossing that line of buzzed to dumb, sloppy repeating themselves drunk. I can’t stand to be around it….. So I try to distant or leave if that starts happening!

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    • I absolutely, positively agree with you, especially the last part, and once my radar goes off that people are crossing the line from buzzed to drunk, I am out the door. Just like it wasn’t fun to be around me when I was drunk, I now get to exercise my rights!

      I think the more time passes, the more you realize that it is not the alcohol that makes the evening fun or not fun, boring or interesting, it’s the company you keep. But in the beginning, I would imagine most people feel the way you just describe. I know I did!

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m sorry for the delay in response!

      Like

  5. I loved this post and found it really helpful. I have not changed my mindset yet, though I am trying! I laughed out loud at Lilly’s comment about non-drinkers – yep, not just weird and boring, but uptight and judgemental, no fun – I would have said all that, too. And now I am one, and I’m still me. I worry about what others will think, I worry that I worry too much about what others think, I worry that I am boring and uptight. Agh! 😉 I am still getting used to social situations without alcohol – like you, I grew up in an environment where alcohol was a normal (necessary) part of any occasion. I think it’s going to take a while to build up confidence and just “normality” about being AF when at social gatherings, but looking at where some of my twisted logic comes from feels like a good start. x

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    • And I think, too, time and repeated exposure goes a long way in being comfortable in social situations with alcohol. I remember my first function where I was not drinking… I felt like a spotlight was on me, following me everywhere I went, and that all eyes were upon me. But each time gets a little easier, and before you know it you’re laughing at those original feelings… as if I’m so important that the entire party is interested in what beverage is in my glass!

      Thanks so much for the comment!

      Like

  6. I just discovered the sober blogging world and this post helped me through my first non-drinking weekend in a very long time. I kept telling myself, the only thing different between me and them is the type of liquid in their glass. Brilliant! As the eldest child in large catholic family, I completely relate to the story –largely unquestioned — that alcohol must be the center of every event. It’s a tough story to rewrite, but I’m working on it.

    Like

    • Hello Dragonfly, and may I start by profusely apologizing for failing to see this comment in a timely fashion. I am normally a lot more on top of responding to my blog, but if you have read more recent posts, you know that I have been on a vacation of sorts.

      I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this comment, and humbled that I could have played any role at all in your first in a long time sober weekend. That is such great news, and I hope this comment finds you with even more sober time under your belt!

      Not sure what nationality you are, but we are a large Irish Catholic family, so alcohol is more or less a foregone conclusion! I am here to tell you, having come out “on the other side,” as it were, it is entirely possible to enjoy your family while they are enjoying alcohol, and what a relief that is, because I really like my family (most of the time!)!

      Hope to hear from you again soon, and I look forward to heading over to your blog!

      Like

  1. Pingback: The Stories We Tell Ourselves | Mended Musings

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