Folks used to say AA would completely ruin drinking for you.
But here’s a truth you have to understand before that statement can make one iota of sense to you: addiction is based on lies.
In active addiction, you lie to yourself. To other people. To the Universe. And the lie that keeps coming up, the one that can be most destructive, is that maybe you aren’t an alcoholic at all.
Maybe you can drink like a normal person this time.
And so, if the lie sneaks up on you masquerading as truth, you could find yourself at a bar, ready to relive the glory days (pro tip: puking does not a glory day make)–which likely translates into getting blackout drunk.
Except, the whole time you’re inching toward oblivion (or hurtling, depending on if you are Bud Light or Everclear), the AA slogans that drive you nuts, the quips that old-timers offer up in meetings, seemingly random passages from the Big Book will pop into your head.
And AA will have ruined drinking for you. Because you know. You know there’s hope, that people really do recover, that you can have life. And that you don’t have to slowly die like this.
And once you know, you can’t unknow.
In early sobriety, I counted on this idea that AA would ruin drinking for me. In fact, if I started to “romance the drink” (it’s really supposed to be romanticize. but there was a woman who always said “romance” in the meetings–I swear she managed to work the phrase into every meeting she went to–and I always giggled at the idea of sitting across from a Bud Light bottle at a fancy restaurant, leaning in over candlelight. You know, romancing) I’d always come around to the idea that the whole damn thing would be ruined for me anyway, so why even bother?
Lately, I’m finding a parallel between drinking and toxic thinking. Well, in the ruination of both destructive habits at least.
Drinking was ruined by AA. Toxic thinking has suffered a similar fate from a one-two punch of Buddhist lovingkindness and a more critical examination of my own self-talk.
Yesterday, I was walking through the neighborhood cooling off after my run. I came up on a house that had a lot going on in the backyard. I immediately started passing judgment on who those people were that lived in the house. Not on the state of their yard. On their character.
What the hell, right?!?
My inner voice had some feels about that: Oh my God. Why are you so horrible? Who even thinks those kind of things?!? What is WRONG with you?
But then, like some sort of weird voiceover, the lovingkindness/invisible therapist voice was all: What an interesting response to a cluttered yard. Let’s examine that a bit… what do you think bothers you so much about what’s going on here?
Even though I still don’t have a deep grasp of what bothered me so much about a few old cars in a backyard (although I can guess & it’s not pretty), that toxic self-talk, the one full of recrimination and blame meant to cause shame, got gone immediately. Like I could actually feel it receding.
So, as bananas as the whole experience of having two competing voices battling for my attention in my own damn head was, I can tell you that shutting down that super-critical asshole voice in my head that is always trying to convince me I’m a shitty person felt like a pretty big triumph.
I have a feeling that banishing toxic thought is a lot like recovery–it’s a daily maintenance kind of situation. But I’m kind of digging this forward momentum.
Because once you know, you can’t unknow.
Wonder what I’m going to ruin for myself next?