I wrote down things from my childhood that made me happy. I explored the activities which used to bring me true joy. At first it was really hard to remember these things. I was so used to turning to alcohol to make me feel good that I almost forgot what it felt like before alcohol.
This exercise helped me understand some fundamental things about myself:
- I love to learn new things and experiment.
- I'm happiest when I'm free to create and explore.
- I like to take risks and have new experiences.
- I enjoy seeing creative ideas come to life.
- The act of creating is essential to my well-being.
- I'm happy when I have helped someone discover their true passions.
- I don’t like routine.
I used alcohol primarily to control my moods. Now when I start to feel anxious, I don’t try to immediately snuff out my bad feelings. First, I analyze what sources are creating the bad feelings. Some anxiety I experience is necessary for the improvement of life. For example, I feel anxious about my job since I know deep down, I don’t like my current one and have no interest in it. I want to be putting my energies into work I believe in and which also brings me monetary stability. I know the anxiety I feel is propelling me towards a work life which is more meaningful.
Then there is the anxiety which stems from my past experiences with an abusive boyfriend. This anxiety is much harder to deal with. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to diminish my anxiety, I’m learning how to first acknowledge the pain and then become more detached from it in order to heal. It goes like this in my head, “Oh, hello again Anxiety. I see you’ve returned. I understand you’ve taken over my body and emotions temporarily. I feel your presence. And now that I’ve said hello, I’m going to go over here and think a bit. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. I give you permission to leave. Goodbye for now. See you soon.” I acknowledged the feelings, watched as they took over my body and then I told them to go away. I'm allowing myself to feel pain instead of numbing it.
Also, I began to tell the truth. For most of my life I had been scared to tell people how I felt. I was afraid of conflict. I was afraid of letting them down. I thought if I let them down, they would not love me anymore. This was part of my programming. We all have been programmed in our lives and it is up to us as adults to discard the programs that no longer serve our growth. I realized in order for me to get better, I needed to start telling the truth to myself and others.
Other things I did: wrote about my experiences, shared them with others who have similar issues and most importantly, realized I’m not the only one.
The last thing I did was allow myself to be assertive. I noticed when I drank I would become super obnoxious, loud, demanding, overly sexual and annoying to others. The alcohol allowed me to express parts of myself I did not accept. I had banished those parts of my personality to the cellar and now the alcohol had unlocked the door! My obnoxious and sexually aggressive traits were hissing, spitting and emerging like crazy, starved victims!
Being assertive was not part of who I perceived myself to be. My core personality was not aggressive as far as I knew. I viewed myself as a withdrawn, shy person. At least this is how people defined me as a young woman.
As I got older, however, a stronger, more forceful person developed inside. I drank in order to integrate this new trait into my existing personality. The way I was able to stop this vicious drinking cycle was to allow myself to be assertive when I was sober. I would say things exactly as they were. I didn't sugarcoat anything. I didn't lie to myself or others. It was really awkward at first. I said "No" to people for the first time in my adult life. And it worked. The more I unconditionally accepted that little obnoxious, opinionated monster within me, the less I needed to drink in order to bring it out. The more I let out my monster into the sunlight, the less angry it was. I became my drunk self while sober, to a certain extent.
I now allow myself to be as outspoken and honest as I want to be, as long as I don't hurt others. I am still learning how to be outspoken and polite at the same time. I’m not very good at it yet since it’s a fairly new experience.
I quit abusing alcohol about 6 years ago. I’m one of the lucky ones, though, because I can have 1 or 2 drinks and not crave more. This was unthinkable during my drinking days.
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