Basic Instincts

Not All Instincts Are Good

Overcoming alcoholism is overcoming instincts.

If i felt compelled to do something, i used to think i had to do it. Because it came from me meant it was a part of me. As a result of this, i spent a lot of time telling people they could take me with my alcoholism or leave me, but if they stayed with me they had to accept my drinking. Because my drinking was me.

i’ve since learned that while instincts are a natural part of me, they do not define me. i choose if i want to act on that impulse or not.

So much of this must seem obvious to outsiders, but you’d be amazed how the alcoholic mind can twist the simplest of concepts.


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on September 26, 2011, in AA Step Work, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I don’t know if the “alcoholic mind” is any different that any other mind that has an issue but is reluctant to face.

    Take a look at the stages of change:

    This could describe a person who has high cholesterol and needs to watch his diet and exercise more, as easily as a person with a drinking problem. The problems are different but the thought processes are the same.

    Which stage would you say you’re in?

    I don’t wish to define myself as an “alcoholic” but rather “someone who has problems when he consumes alcohol.” i stay in stage 5, always aware of the dangers, but not overwhelmed by them.

    • ITSB!

      Hi brother! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you but WordPress marked you as spam and i had to save your comment from the trashcan. Sorry ’bout that!

      Thanks a lot for the Stages of Change chart. i think , though i’m still trying to get a grasp of the material, that i lived most of my drinking career in “Precontemplation”. After hitting my bottom, however, i was propulsed into Stage 4: Action. That’s one of the things i love most about AA: It’s a program of action where you have to physically and concretely do shit. And the more you put into the program, the more you get out of it. Says the guy who just finished 6 meetings in 6 days. Looking forward to hitting the next level, for sure.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  2. I’ve had days like that too.

  3. This is a really profound insight, a totally brain-shifting one, and is one into which I am glad you gained some insight! I always knew that there was something wrong with this statement: ” i spent a lot of time telling people they could take me with my alcoholism or leave me, but if they stayed with me they had to accept my drinking. Because my drinking was me.” My instincts/intuition told me something was not quite right with that thinking, but I could not put what was wrong with it into logical words or an image (like above — see more below on that). Also, I was afraid, pure and simple, that not accepting your terms of what you were saying meant we were through, kaput, and I did not want that to happen, either. I did not want to be booted out of your life simply because I would not accept you/drinking, which you viewed as one in the same. So I waited you out… and here you are, understanding that your instinct to drink is not YOU. I have great relief about that.

    That image up there is a great example of natural instincts gone bad, too, lol!! The instinct to pee is totally normal. But we’ve socialized into knowing that we don’t pee naked in the streets like an animal. Not in these post-Neanderthal days anyway, lol. Great image for the post.

    So, just because I have this question in my mind and would like to know the difference for myself as well: how does one differentiate a “good” instinct from a “bad” one, or maybe better put: how to differentiate an instinct that is truly protecting you (like how fear can work to our advantage by keeping us out of harm’s way, or how an unsettled feeling can keep us from being with the wrong people, people who might cause harm, in certain situations) from an instinct like “I want to snort cocaine now.” Or, as it may be for an overeater/food abuser, “I want to eat now” (even though there is no caloric need for food and the person has lost the natural instinct to identify fullness, no longer recognizing when he or she is sated). Etc. Are those instincts that we have created out of habits (bad habits)? Are they “man-made” instincts? (Does that make sense?)

    I know for me, I have not always trusted my natural instincts when I should have — the feeling that I ought not to do something, or go somewhere, or buy something. I have too often ignored the good instincts that can protect me. I have had to learn to listen to and trust those good instincts.

    So is there any difference between the instinct you are writing about up there, with a natural, born-with-it intuitive sense that can help us in our lives? If you think so, what is the difference?

    • Mrs Demeanor!

      You’re so cute with your blomments. You do realize your comment was 3 times longer than the original post, right? lol

      i’m not sure how to answer your question other than the AA way, which is to say to give it up to your Higher Power. That’s what my entire morning meditation is about…taking the “me” out of the equation. When i feel an instinct, i try to trust my intuition that i’ve given that choice up to my Higher Power and follow through wiht it that way. i surely can’t trust my own instincts, as look where they led me.

      Keep coming back, Angel,

      Al K Hall

  4. Here I am just trying to take a leak, and you snap my picture! Ah wait that’s not me; my beard is shorter.

    Nice post. The instincts aren’t who we are, we are what we choose, or something like that..

    • BoozeStory!

      Yeah, it’s your ‘beard’ that’s shorter. Keep telling yourself that. 😉 Just joshin’, brother!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note. i gotta get by to your page more often but what i really gotta do is find a way to get WordPress to send me an e-mail when you post. That way i have one less thing to remember.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  5. Amen Brother! I look back and am stunned by my minds ability to totally rationalize ANY behavior when I was drinking/using. I care for my mom a life long drink with alcoholics dementia and it is mind boggling how she became able to make stuff up at the drop of a hat to explain really, really crazy behavior. I tell you what, caring for her is the best AA meeting I could imagine. It the Hell she lives in now is where going back to being a Professional (thats what we call being a Drunk in my family..) will get me FORGET IT! Sober it is for me. I LOVE your blog.

    • Hi Jennifer!

      i checked out your blog (and linked it on my front page!) and it was very moving. i’m just glad you’re able to use your situation to keep you on the straight and narrow. The cycle stops with you!

      And thanks so much for your compliments…you made my day!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

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