i’ve recently been anxious and stressed out by others acting out in my real virtual world. The situation has left me incredibly tense and feeling less than adequate.
A few years ago, i would have dealt with this using the only tool i had at my disposal: alcohol. Now it’s more daunting because i still feel the same dread but i don’t have the option of drinking over it.
Fortunately, i have more than one tool in my box now, and i’d like to share them with you here in case they might help you, the next time you get a little wound up.
The Serenity Prayer
i stand by this old standby. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change (which means other people’s behavior), the courage to change the things i can (myself), and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Where are you now?
i say this to myself when i catch myself falling down the rabbit hole of my thoughts, because eventually i get so far deep that my ideas start chasing their own tails and i lose my sense of the real world. Asking myself “Where are you right now?” forces me to focus on the real world and my physical place in it.
Once one of my biggest defects of character, now i let myself postpone worrying. When i notice the anxiety ramping up, i tell myself to put off thinking about the situation until tomorrow. This is nice because i’ve noticed time and sleep have a great way of diluting pressure.
The Happy Ending
When the problem ends–and it has to end eventually, it’s just a question of time–the ending will be happy because i won’t have drunk over the stress. i’ll have won, and that feels damn good.
The easiest hardest thing you’ll ever do is get sober.
The hardest thing an alcoholic will ever do is put down the drink, because recovery means pulling weeds that are deeply rooted in our soul.
Fortunately, it’s the easiest thing we’ll ever do because we just have to
Oh, and also, my sponsor tattooed my brain with one simple thought when we had our fist sit down.
“I don’t drink no matter what!”
Remember me? i’m the guy who has a lot of defaults and is lucky enough to be able to see them clearer all the time.
The truth now: i judge a lot. All the time. Constantly maybe even.
i judge walking down the street, talking to people i meet, looking in the mirror, even getting clearer in the rooms.
I judge alcoholically, meaning compulsively, and for the wrong reasons because i judge to make myself feel better at another’s expense. i judge because i like to think i’m master of the universe and judging the world comes with the job.
i don’t just judge you, though. i’m an equal opportunity judge because i judge myself all the time, as well. i judge myself for being too shy, too fearful and i judge myself for judging too much.
But that’s OK, right? Judging myself is a good thing and it’s a tool for self improvement, isn’t it?
Judging myself isn’t an act of humility, it’s the opposite. Judging myself is a flagrant act of hubris because i’m basically punishing myself for not acting as perfect as i know i am.
i judge myself so i can feel guilty.
The solution to this is to be right sized. To see myself as i really am and not as who i think i am. Only after i accept myself for who i am today, defaults and all, will i be able to let myself off the hook.
What do you do when The Voices tell you to give in and up? The answer is insultingly simple.
Think of something else.
i heard in the rooms that our brains are capable of only having one thought at a time. If that thought is one you don’t want, to change your mind you only need to change your thought.
Those of us in Alcoholics Anonymous like to use the Serenity Prayer for this, and we have no exclusivity on it by any means. You could try the Buddhist “Om” or even the lyrics to your favorite song (Bob Marley works well). Mentally repeat this mantra for a couple of minutes and soon your train of thought will be sidetracked and back on the right track.
“Act as if” is one of the first and truest things i learned in recovery.
If you’re sad, act like you’re happy.
If you’re angry, act like you’re calm.
If you’re afraid, act as though you’re brave.
The miracle of this is that, after acting happy, calm and brave long enough, you’ll become happy, calm, and brave.
Of course it’s not that simple… Except it is.
i’m a cat person, so it makes sense i have a cat’s life. i’m not very demonstrative, can be aloof, like to be on my own and am not a big fan of going outside. But i need to have a dog’s life.
Sunday was a super sunny in Yeaman, but i didn’t need to go outside so i didn’t. That night, as i lay myself down with my weekly Sunday blues, i understood that, like a dog, i need to go outside at least once a day.
In my drinking days i was able to live inside an alcohol bubble, cut off from the universe. Isolating, however, is dangerous for me because, when i withdraw from the world, i forget i’m part of it. When i’m not a part of humanity but apart from it, i lose touch with reality and, like a shipwreck survivor lost at sea with nothing on the horizon, i lose all sense of perspective.
i need to walk myself, like a dog, to keep myself grounded.
Sorry in advance if i pee on your shoes or hump your leg.
You know that moment when you laugh because you think the person is making a joke but then you can tell from their expression they were dead serious? That’s exactly what happened to me the first time i heard someone use the expression, “Emotional Hangover”.
After that initial social foot in mental mouth, i dutifully kept my “Next you’ll be telling me about the Le Mans birth of your inner child” asides to myself.
Until i got sober. Then i recognized the shaky weakness in my stomach, the fatigue, sadness and headache after an emotional enema for what it was: a hangover. i’ve probably been having them forever, only they were hiding behind the alcohol hangovers.
Fortunately, the cure seems to be the same…early to bed and lots of sleep.
Alcoholics are egomaniacs with an inferiority complex.
This is one of the truest things i’ve heard in or out of AA. i felt like this for decades but was never able to frame it with words. Fortunately, now i’m learning how not to need to.
How to Solve this Conundrum
The size between Large and Small? Balanced.
The trick is acting Right-Sized. As soon as my sponsor used this phrase, i instantly knew what he was talking about. Acting “right-sized” means staying within the norms of the situation and not getting carried under or away.
The easiest way to become “right-sized” is doing esteemable acts or anonymous good deeds. If i do something nice that no one will ever find out about, 1) i fight my ego because doing things with no recognition is humbling and 2) i heal my inferiority complex because i’m helping others.
The size between Large and Small? Right.