Think! Think! Think! Again

Used 2012-09-23 Think Think Think alcoholism recovery sobriety

In AA speak, the slogan “Think! Think! Think!” means stop listening to your gut and start listening to the voice of reason. As alcoholics, we were dogs salivating for booze as soon as the warning bells went off, and the more we drank the faster and louder those bells rang. We we drank instinctively.

“Think! Think! Think!” tells us to stop acting on reflexes and keep our brains turned on.

(In some rooms, the “Think! Think! Think!” sign is turned upside down to tell us that yes, we need to think, but we need to think differently than we did in the past because our alcoholic thinking led us into a bottleneck.)


i keep saying that coincidence is the language of God and lately the question of my thought patterns keeps coming up.

  • i’ve been overly sensitive lately because i can’t turn off my brain when it comes to my problems
  • i’ve been thinking about how i can’t wait to get to Step 11 in the 12 Steps where it talks about meditation
  • My best recovery friend in the States talked about my “knowledge, IQ and ability to understand (recognize) situations and to give help to others” as a way to manage my overzealous thought patterns
  • At our last meeting, my sponsor said that controlling my intelligence is a key to moving forward in my sobriety

To control these rampant thoughts, my sponsor has suggested writing them out as soon as i feel the panic setting in. i do know that keeping busy helps and that going to meetings really really helps, but if anyone else has any tips (other than more exercise, ITSB! lol) on how to keep the dogs of thoughts at bay, i’d love to hear them.

Thanks for being there, y’all.

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 23, 2012, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. This topic comes up often in my Al-Anon meetings — the thought process spinning out of control. My therapist gave me an exercise that seems to work, similar to your sponsor suggesting writing them out: give myself two minutes to sit and worry over the worst case scenario, then ten minutes to write out as many better/best case scenarios as I can come up with. The writing out of positive results does help me lasso in my thought train.

    • Excellent idea! i like the idea of writing out the best case scenario…it helps make it more concrete than just imagining it. Plus, there’s a magical / mystical aspect to writing that may just mean i make some of it come true! Thanks for the tip!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  2. This is a tough one. Sometimes I feel like all I do is think. It’s never the good kind of thinking, though. Journaling definitely helps. I also have a sober buddy and we email each other frequently and bounce ideas off each other and process and vent. It’s nice. Like a phone call, only easier. This same buddy just told me when she feels lost, her sponsor tells her to move a muscle. She’s not an exercizer so she reads and pulls quotes and clips poems and articles to share with others. She says it quiets her frontal lobe. The brain, our biggest muscle.

    • i honestly think that i think non stop. i literally don’t understand the concept of not thinking, so i get what you mean. Journaling is a great idea,and it’s true that blogging helps me. i also communicate with a sober buddy in the States through email and he’s a big help. Quieting the frontal lobe is definitely what it’s all about; thanks for helping me label the problem. (i’ll start Googling “Self Lobotomy” and see what turns up!)

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  3. This is an awesome post. I have no tips bc Im not there yet. Your words help though. It shows that sobriety is possible. Sorry, ITSB is a wise one…exercise does make things better. L.

    • Thanks for the kind words, i’m glad you could get something out of the post! As for the exercise…waking up requires quite an effort, does that count?

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  4. A well-written post with lots of good self-awareness! I will leave the tip-giving to others who may have more constructive suggestions, and also, I fully know you are going to figure it out. You are working this out with such good effort and concentration, and I know between your sponsor, and friend, and the people here that you will find some solutions soon.

    I will say this though: I laughed so hard at this one as I did when I first saw it in comments from ITSB! “if anyone else has any tips (other than more exercise, ITSB! lol)” Hahahahaha! Yeahhhhh, I knew the exercise one was not going to go over so big. Although, you know, come to think of it, it might not hurt to take a walk up to the PdBC every day. When I was feeling super-stressed just before I left, going up there on a near-daily basis, just to look at the trees and the beauty of the atmosphere there, well, that was nice. Calming. It was also a good excuse to smoke a ciggie, ehhhhrrrrrm, but we’re trying to avoid that scenario, lol. But anyway, I guess the park always held happy people in it. It was (well, IS) a place where people go to have a relaxing time, and the vibe is really nice there. So maybe a walk is not such an outlandish thing after all… It’s not something you have tried, yet, right? I mean, a purposeful daily walk to the park and back? I mean, I know it sounds really super distasteful and not your style or vibe at all, but maybe that is exactly one reason it might be good to try. Lots of tense energy can be expended in physical activity. It burns off all that tension.

    So yeah, I will shut up now, but I kind of got going when I was typing, just thinking about how my little walks (okay, and cigarettes, ha) helped me out. I think minus the smoking they would have helped even more.

    Back to my original idea — I have full confidence you will figure out the best way(s) to handle the “overzealous thought patterns.”

    I bet it will have something to do with Step 11, just maybe? Seeing as God speaks in the language of coincidence?

    Live long and prosper, Al.
    Mrs Hall

    • I just read this again from byebyebeer:

      She’s not an exercizer so she reads and pulls quotes and clips poems and articles to share with others. She says it quiets her frontal lobe. The brain, our biggest muscle.

      and thought, “KNITTING!” That’s a great non-sport physical activity for quieting that lobe!! LOL.

      Okay, maybe not, but I really do like that idea from byebyebeer. I bet some of your solutions come from figuring out what will quiet the frontal lobe.

      • Hi Celeste. A train buddy of mine does knitting and says it is very relaxing. He has made the cutest things. Yep a male.

      • Well, there you go! Cool to know there are men who knit. I think it could be something really neat to learn.

      • IKR!? The frontal lobe. Like i said in my comment, it’s nice to have a label to place on what i need to work on. Putting words on it helps to judge the size of it better and keep it under control. Which is certainly why my sponsor told me to write out what i’m thinking and feeling.

        Guitar playing worked well for me in the past for that; maybe that’s something i should take up again, as long as i don’t put too much pressure on myself to do yet one more thing in my life.

        Thanks for the idea!

        Keep coming back,

        Al K Hall

        • One more thing – I was curious about the frontal lobe, and found this: www dot neuroskills dot com/brain-injury/frontal-lobes dot php — which may shed some light on things, but even more encouraging are these:

          Music therapy to heal the frontal lobe: “harmonious hymns and symphonies produce beneficial frontal lobe responses” (I’m going to doctor these links so that my comment won’t get spammed, so make sure to take out spaces and so on…)

          (this site also looks a little, uhhhh, conservative and weird, but I’d just take what’s helpful and discard the rest)

          amazingdiscoveries dot org (slash) S-deception-music_frontal_lobe_limbic

          and, oh, well… sorry… this one talks about exercise as therapy, too. Heh. Well, take it or leave it. I’m certainly not doing enough exercise, so I am definitely not preaching. I could use it, too:

          “Exercise can help patients [with frontal lobe injury] recover some neurological skills and abilities ”

          www dot tbirecoverycenter dot org (slash) rehabilitation dot htm

          Anyway, nothing you have to do, and nothing I am pushing at you. I just had the time to get down and dirty with Google and I was curious myself if there are practical and helpful tips online about dealing with the frontal lobe and this is the stuff I found right off the bat. Looks like listening to symphonies while getting some forms of exercise to get the brain to function better are a couple of strategies.

          With regards to exercise, the thought entered my mind, “Are you willing to do ANYTHING to keep sobriety?” Like, if you are putting the sobriety first, and sometimes that might ask of you certain things you don’t like, but perhaps need to do to stay sober, are you willing to do them?

          Maybe run that course of thought past your sponsor, in case I am way off base in my thought process and question there, but it was something I thought about as I typed this.

          I know, I would not like to have hated exercise forced upon me any more than anybody else, but maybe like for me and this issue, it comes down to needing a shift of thought about what exercise is, and what it means to do it, and what it needs to look like. You did used to day that you would like to try out Tai Chi. They still do that up at the PdBC on Saturday mornings, I think it is. I’m not sure, but I have seen them up there right across from the little place the lesbians own at the top of the park (lol — did not want to out you by typing the name of the place, but you know what I mean. The place that is named after the artist). I am sure that there is info online about this as I have seen it. Hey, you never know. It could be something cool!

          • ‘Preciate the suggestions. There’s a lot of information there and i’ll hopefully have some time to go through it this weekend. i’ll talk to Moe about exercise and of course if he says my sobriety hinges on my doing more exercise i’ll give it a shot. Tai Chi would be a nice compromise between exercise and meditation, so i’ll definitely look more into that. Great suggestion!

            Keep coming back,

            Al K Hall

    • Thanks for the tip on the park. The weather is getting ugly here and i already do a lot of walking but you’re right, a purposeful daily walk to the park is not the same thing as walking to and from work. i’d also like to do more physical pen to paper writing and i could do that there as well. i’ll let you know if i ever get the gumption to do it!

      Step 11 looks really good, NNKato had a good idea of starting it now (the mediation aspects of it). i’ll check with my sponsor and check online and see where that leads me!

      Thanks for the visit, babe!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Yeah, it is true, in shitty weather, that park is no fun. I’ve mostly done my walking there on nice spring and summer days.

        The pen and paper stuff sounds cool! You know, a good project might be to do The Artist’s Way. It’s in one of those boxes of books, and I labeled them with the titles, so you should be able to find it easily. Julia Cameron is a big supporter of the Steps and AA, and she advocates pen to paper writing. Might help you with that goal-setting/life-dreaming stuff, too. You might look into it…

        Just an idea. Good luck with 11.

  5. Another great thought-provoking post. I have just written similar but different, as in how to deal with stress that isn’t cigarettes or sugar. I don’t get too wrapped up with thoughts because I have engineered my life so I don’t have much free brain time. I’m either busy dealing with little people (my kids) or writing my MA thesis. And when those things aren’t there I busy my brain with TV, cookbooks or the radio. So I don’t stop and think too much. I am starting to think that I might need to start thinking more deeply and spiritually because there are so many insightful people blogging about very deep things. Maybe I’m just not deep. But anyway .. re you .. do you need a new hobby? Learn a new culinary skill? Knitting ? (as above). Playing guitar?

    • Playing guitar! Exactly! What a great idea. i used to play (casually) in the past and it was a nice form of meditation. Plus, my son plays and that’s an activity we could do together. My problem is that i, too, try to keep as busy as possible and even doing that these thoughts have a way on encroaching on me. Walking down the street, in the middle of a meeting, sitting in front of the computer…i feel bombarded at times.

      i try to keep busy with 5 blogs, a full time job, AA meetings, freelance journalism articles, cooking for me and my son, cleaning on weekends, seeing 2 movies a week…but still the thoughts come. Writing fiction worked well for me in the past and i think it’s something i need to make more of an effort to do more regularly. Guitar playing could work, as long as i don’t turn it into one more thing to beat myself up over if i don’t do it.

      Thanks for the great idea!

      Keep coming back, Al K Hall

      • Sorry — I always feel kind of skeevy when I comment a lot. I know it can be a co-dependent thing, and I know in the past you have not liked me to comment too much because it could be taken as me telling you what to do. I’m not meaning to do that, so if this comment bugs you, just delete it. No skin off my back if you want to. I mean it. I’d rather the comment disappear than have it irritate you! 🙂

        But I was reading this, and it made me think about something (see, I think a lot, too, lol):

        i try to keep busy with 5 blogs, a full time job, AA meetings, freelance journalism articles, cooking for me and my son, cleaning on weekends, seeing 2 movies a week…but still the thoughts come.

        This made me wonder a couple of things. The first is, maybe it is the trying to keep really busy that is part of the issue. Like, is the keeping really busy interfering with something? Is it interfering with whatever you need to do next in your working the steps? (So, this might be another heads-up for Step 11. Meditating means sitting and being. Doing nothing, and quieting the mind as much as possible. At least, that is what I know of it.)

        Maybe the busyness is interfering with something else that needs to happen, and the thoughts, your mind, your heart and soul are trying to get your attention.

        I don’t know. I guess it depends on the things you are thinking, and only you can and should know what that is. Maybe your thoughts are giving you some clues, though. Like, what you are thinking about may actually be leading you to something. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself. But sometimes when one thing really is not working, people need to try another strategy. Sounds like staying really busy is not working so well at shutting up your mind, so maybe it is time to find a new strategy.

        (You know, that old saying about how insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result? Like that.)

        Just a(nother) thought. Take it or leave it! 🙂

        • i was talking with the guy i co-chair the meeting with and he said sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. To sit back and literally do nothing. Yeah, that made me tense. Sometimes i feel better running around, chasing my own tail than relaxing and i probably give myself too much to do so that i can keep myself nervous and on edge. Clinging to these different activities and afraid to let them go… i think i’d like to relax but i’m not sure which “thing” to let go first. It’s the ol’ “All i need is this blog. That’s all. And the movie reviews. But that’s it. Oh yeah, the interviews, of course i need the interviews…” syndrome.

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

  6. Haha. You cut me off, Al. That’s fine…but I think you’re making a mistake. A good exercise buzz is better than any drunk I’ve had. And I’ve had my share of both… I just got back from a nice easy 45-minute “recovery” run on the beach at sunset, barefoot as the surf lapped my feet, watching the girls in bikinis frolic. When I was finished with the run, I wade into the waves, and let the cold water soothe my legs. And now I’m chilling to a little Pink Floyd. “Is there anybody out there?”

    As you may know, one of the tenets of SMART recovery is managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And one of the questions they ask you to ask yourself is: “What do you wish your life would look like?” That’s the first step towards setting goals. Good luck!

    • ITSB!

      i’ll take everything about your run except the running part! Makes me wish i lived near the beach. Speaking of “What do i wish my life would look like”…i want to be your brother Alan crashing at your 2 1/2 Men beach house!

      Seriously, that would be a great writing exercise as well; for me to put my concrete goals and wishes into words. Thanks for the inspiration!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  7. hmm, why wait until step 11, and start meditating now? thats probably too simple, but it’s all I got. 🙂 oh, and maybe make a movie. maybe start with a script. or maybe just start shooting. it’s a thought. putting all your wise words into moving pictures.

    • You’re right! Why wait?! i’ll check with some people in the program because i know i’m not supposed to be skipping steps, but i bet simple mediation type exercises wouldn’t be disruptive to my recovery process. Great idea. Simple, but not so simple that i didn’t think of it!

      Thanks for the tip, dudette!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

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