I’m grateful that I can honestly say I haven’t missed drugs and alcohol. For those who find this hard to believe, I offer the following metaphor: It’s like trading a $5.00 per hour job that really SUCKS, for a $500.00 per hour job you LOVE. In this metaphor, the word “job” represents your life and the “hourly wage” represents the amount of compensation (intellectual, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, etc.) you can earn with drugs / alcohol out of the picture. Get off the bar stool, begin putting your time and energy into more productive / rewarding things, and your life will be immeasurably richer. …you too will find it very hard to miss your “old job.”
Sure, you might occasionally look back on the “good old days” with a sense of longing. You might sometimes miss the days when there was less responsibility and a sense of being “young and out of control.” I had a little bit of that when I first stopped. But guess what? Now that it has been 17 years since I drank, I notice I get the same feelings about stuff I was doing 5, 10, 15 years ago. In other words, don’t tie your “pleasant memories” of the past to the booze…nostalgia is always going to creep in. Don’t confuse what was good about your past with what wasn’t.
Now is a good time to state the obvious: If you want what you’ve read to “work” for you, you’re going to have to actually apply this information. I liken it to buying weights and a book on weightlifting…you can have all the tools and information necessary, but if you don’t “perform the exercises” you’re not going to get any stronger.
What happens the first time you and your significant other get into an argument? Well, if you’ve always retreated to the bar to have a few drinks, you can guess what your “reflex thought” will be. Based on what we’ve already covered, do you have some ideas about how to deal with that “reflex thought?” There’s nothing wrong with considering these types of situations before they happen…you can do some “exercises” without the pressure of the real event!
Aside from the information we’ve already covered, another technique is to create a specific image / association that you can use to help “get your perspective back” where it needs to be. First, visualize what it looks like when you’re out of control. (Really take the time to “see yourself” at the mercy of an unwanted state of mind.) Now, tie a negative phrase / association to that image. It can be just about anything, so long as it has a negative connotation. For instance, the phrase could be: “Heat of the moment.” Now you’ve got a ready-made wedge that you can use to block yourself from going too deep into an unwanted state of mind. Example: “STOP! That’s ‘heat of the moment’ talking, and ‘heat of the moment’ is always a bad idea…What is a better response?”
Another technique is to take the anger you’re feeling toward the situation and focus it directly on the ridiculous “reflex thought” to drink. I did this many times when I first stopped drinking. As a matter of fact, this technique became a sort of “reflex thought” of its own. Whenever an outdated / unwanted thought would slip into my mind, I’d pounce on it. “Oh ya, that’s a brilliant idea…gee, I can run away like a little baby and the bottle (or pipe, or line, etc.) will be my mommy so I don’t have to deal with the big bad problem! Sorry, but that approach has already “helped me” enough…I think I’ll pass.”
It may sound silly, but trust me; turning your anger and disgust on habitually counterproductive thoughts really works! If you’re done with the process of “assessing” how you feel about drugs / alcohol (you’ve looked at both sides as much as you want to, and you’ve made up your mind) then this is an effective way to teach your brain the kind of thoughts you will and WILL NOT tolerate. Outdated reflex thoughts are no longer welcome…like an enemy whispering in your ear, they will get neither your time or your respect.
Keep in mind that all of this is a process. Without exception, if you work through the challenges the best you can, you WILL build mental muscles for the future. Nothing is a failure. As long as you can truthfully say you did your best, you will keep learning and growing stronger.
Many people are nervous when they decide to stop drinking and doing drugs because they are afraid of the way they'll feel if they "can't" stop. They feel it will further affirm their inability to control themselves, or prove that they are an "addict". I say this is absolute nonsense.
All it will prove (if you should decide to drink or do drugs) is that you changed your mind. In my experience, that only happens for one reason: You’re focusing on some perceived “benefit” that hasn’t yet been completely discredited. If this happens, the key is to stay honest and keep working. As I’ve said, I "quit drinking” and doing drugs many times before I actually stopped.
What I say to everyone is this: If you feel like drinking, then drink. If you feel like doing drugs, they’re everywhere, help yourself. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that it is YOUR decision. Take mental notes, question how you feel, hold yourself accountable for the decision and LEARN something from it. I don't believe you should stop doing anything that’s really important to you but at the same time, if it seems to have become a total waste of life, stop and take a couple more steps in the right direction. (And don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve “thrown everything away” just because you had a drink. If you were sober 30 out of the past 31 days, you got it 96% right!)
Remember, nothing is absolute. If someday you decide that you want to drink or do drugs, they'll be there. But the reality is this: As you move towards your true ability and as that strong / healthy self-image begins to make more frequent appearances, alcohol becomes the furthest thing from your mind. It loses it's "power" because it becomes clear, aside from the power you gave it, it never had any. For lack of a better term, your mind will mature (grow up) and what once seemed larger than life will assume its lowly place on your list of things to consider.
After a short while you will begin to trust in your ability to make the right decisions. Don't be afraid of the question: "What if I start drinking again?" Who Cares? It's your decision, you’re an adult. Just say to yourself when that question comes to your mind, "Hey if that's what I decide to do someday, then it's my decision."
The bottom line here is, drugs and alcohol ain't goin’ anywhere and membership to the club is real easy to get. Don't stop because you feel you “have to.” That takes all the fun out of it. Stop because you want to. Stop because you deserve, and can do, better. When it comes to getting the most out of your life, quitting drinking is just the first step. Once that step is behind you, it’s on to bigger and better things.
I’ll end with a short list of simple truths; they should help to keep you on the right path.
1. The more you believe in yourself, the more you will accomplish. Avoid activities that only serve to harm and weaken you. (Like drinking & doing drugs)
2. The closer you look at life, the more solutions you will find. Whatever your initial response to a problem is, realize that it is only ONE of literally thousands you can choose from. In fact, you should actually SAY THAT to yourself the next time your “response” is clearly less than ideal. Say: “Well, that is ONE way I can respond…what is a BETTER way?”
3. Ignoring problems will not make them go away. Be honest with yourself, whatever the issue, and do the BEST you can to correct what is wrong. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done doing “a little at a time.”
4. Don’t beat yourself up if / when you make mistakes. With effort, you will make progress and progress (even if it is only 10%) is well worth having.
5. You will always have choices. Choices that require you to “dig deep” tend to pay the greatest rewards.
Wishing you the best,