6 Ways to Stop Thinking

An Example of Not Thinking

As i hinted at in my “Easier, Softer Way” post, one of the things i love about AA is that, thanks to the program, i don’t have to think. Not only is “not thinking” recommended, it’s required.

This is good news for me because i suck at thinking. If thinking were like driving, i’d have my license revoked because whenever i try to think by myself, i wind up in a bad place.

If i’m angry, sad, impatient, tense, nervous, aggressive, short tempered, or depressed 10 times out of 10 the cause is that i tried thinking again.

i tried thinking during my 30-year drinking life and it never worked, not even once. i thought constantly for my entire life and that led me to a drinking problem which led me to alcoholism which led me to a suicide attempt. My thinking nearly killed me.

My thoughts are lethal.

What can i do to squelch the constant static of thoughts filling my head?

6 Ways to Stop Thinking

  1. Read the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and do what it says
  2. Listen to my sponsor and do what he says
  3. Attend a meeting and listen to what they have to say
  4. Hang out with others in the program and hear what they say
  5. Meet “winners” with more experience in sobriety than i have and do what they say
  6. Read others’ blogs about recovery

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 November 6, 2011, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery, Toolbox and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. It seems to me that thinking itself is not the problem. Thinking without challenging, filtering, and refining your thoughts is what leads to many problems. Let me give an alternative take on your past two posts.

    Take a look at the four points of SMART recovery:

    1: Enhancing and Maintaining Motivation
    2: Coping with Urges
    3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
    4: Living a Balanced Life

    In SMART parlance, you are working with point 3. What you are referring to as “thinking” is probably the nasty, irrational thoughts that fill your head and lead you to unhappiness. Rational thoughts are good. You should be thinking rational thoughts. They’re the ones that allow you to create your funny blog posts, write for your survival, and allow you to maintain some level of functionality. It is mankind’s ability to think rationally that puts us at the top of the food chain. How else did we survive against faster and stronger predators who think we taste yummy? But the irrational ones can be equally destructive and they must be managed.

    Why not take a look at this essay, which explores how to recognize and deal with irrational beliefs:

    Irrational angry thoughts do not just come out of nowhere. Something is triggering them. Identify what is causing them and put yourself in a comfortable place so that that you cope with the trigger in a clearheaded way.

    • ITSB!

      How are you, brother? Thanks again and as usual for the words of wisdom. i see what you mean, of course, that not all my thoughts are “wrong” and that i need to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy thought patterns. i actually am getting a little better at not just determining what the triggers are, but doing things to either avoid or manage them.

      Thanks so much for that article! There’s some really really good stuff there.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • I’m good, Al.

        At the core of many dysfunctionalities is an irrational belief. When I was working on my Ph.D, I had a math problem that I truly wanted to solve. But my progress was hindered because every time I went down a certain line of reasoning, I was blocked by something I “believed” to be true. We’ll call the belief X. I kept following that line of thinking at least once a week. This went on for at least a year or two, and every time it happened, I scolded myself for thinking like that because “it was pointless because of X.” Then one day while following that line of thought again I asked myself “How do I know X is true?” So then I started looking for a proof of X. I couldn’t do it myself. So I did some research and found a book written 40 years ago. I just opened it to a random page which said something along the lines of “Contrary to intuition, X is not true. And here’s why.” At that point, everything made sense. And since X was not true, I was able to continue my line of thinking, solve the problem, and finish my Ph.D. Later I met the man who wrote the book that changed my life. And I thanked him profusely.

        This was a very sharp lesson in questioning beliefs and thoughts that I hold to be true. And I find myself able to solve problems much faster now by being more flexible in my thinking. It took me a while to identify all the irrational beliefs that kept me drinking. But once I got them out of my mind, quitting drinking was a “no brainer.”

        • ITSB!

          What a great analogy! Damn, each comment you post makes it that much sadder you’re hiding all this great wisdom in the comments section. i’m gonna hafta start posting some of these for you, if you maintain your adamant refusal to start your own blog.

          Keep coming back, brother,

          Al K Hall

      • Here’s a perfect example of an irrational belief that I had that kept me from staying sober. “I’ve been sober for a few months now, I can now start drinking moderately.” I think you know what happens then….

        The truth is that abstinence does not teach moderation. And unless you’re willing to learn a new set of skills like our friend Moderation (formerly known as ADS), you are likely to fail at it.

        Please don’t stop thinking. Rather, learn how to think well.

        • Hi Brother,

          This is kind of what i mean about “thinking”. What you outline is an irrational thought for me. i know that i can never drink again. No matter what my brain tries to “think”, i know my life is better than it has been in over 20 years. The last time i was this happy was more than 20 years ago. i don’t want to risk losing this feeling an on irrational thought.

          Keep coming back;

          Al K Hall

      • Excellent. Now I understand. Yes, it can be hard to exorcise all those irrational beliefs that lead you to drink.

        Here’s an exercise I did once that helps quash many of them in one go.

        When you are in a calm comfortable place, imagine for a minute something so horrible that if it happened would lead you back to the bottle. Maybe the death of a loved one would do it? Now stop and formulate a plan for dealing with this worst-case scenario. What steps you would take to avoid the bottle even under duress? Once you’ve worked out your safety net for that, anything else that happens is easy.

        A friend of mine likes to say “If it isn’t a matter of life or death, it isn’t a big deal.”

        • Good tip! A little freaky; i see what you mean about being in a good place first. i kinda already did this once, by asking myself what could happen that would make me drink again. Then ii realized it was just alcohol being cunning, baffling, powerful and that, as my sponsor says, “i don’t drink no matter what”. i like how your suggestion takes it one steep further by coming up with a coping strategy.

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

  2. I don’t know how you can make something so important and vital so damn funny! Thank you for: filling a hole, supplying info and making me laugh all at the same time. I don’t care what they say about men not being able to mutli task: you seem to do a Fine job of it!

    Thanks Al really… I needed a laugh and I need to think about not thinking. (?!?) Peace, Jen

    • “Think about not thinking!” lol

      Hi Jen!

      So glad you enjoyed the post and could get a smile out of it as well. You know what they say, ” A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  3. Turning your head off … i heard that in the programs. Man, that was a struggle … AND a relief.

    I’ll try not to be a tool … i have a lot of tools with which to deal …


    showing up here is a good tool. YOU ARE FUNNY, and you are right on!

    Thanks for sharing … and now, i will turn my head off and have lunch!


    • Mel-ady!

      i’m still not perfect at shutting down all my thoughts but i’m getting there. As for funny…well, whenever my kids tell me that, i tell them looks aren’t everything!

      Thanks for reading…now off to work on a resentment list for my 4th Step in the 2nd 12-step program, because it’s 11:20pm here and my sponsor is an American guy i call at 5am my time! Thank god tomorrow is a day off and i can go back to sleep after the call!

      Be well and Keep Coming Back,

      Al K Hall

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