the truth about addiction recovery (1)

8 Myths (The One’s That Matter) About Sobriety: Wake The F*ck Up

The fact that life seems dull without drugs and alcohol is a testament to the idiocracy of our culture. It’s no accident that the Marlboro man was cool. It’s certainly no coincidence that beer commercials always consist of people having the time of their lives. 

As born and bred consumers it can be tough to see the forest for the trees. 

Fortunately, those of us who have journeyed the nonsensical terrain can see through the bullshit and have a lot to say. 

I pray this post can provide you with some clarity. The following is 8 myths about getting sober that our culture tries to sell you. Don’t buy it. Wake the f*ck up. 

Myth #1: You Become A Walking Stigma. A Social Plague!

“There is something inherently valuable about being a misfit. It’s not to say that every person who has artistic talent was a social outcast, but there is definitely a value for identifying yourself differently and being proud that you are different.”
–Daniel Radcliffe

Are you prepared to be shunned? If yes, then this is your prerogative. But it’s the height of sensitivity to assume that if you are sober you’ve become a cultural leper.

If anything, that was your prior existence. 

You’ve been healed, cured of your spots, and reunited with your clan. 

Unfortunately, the majority of addiction is mental. It follows then that the majority of recovery is mental as well. 

This head game you’ll play for a while. But if it’s a game in your head, then you’re the referee, you call the shots. This is your show. Seize the day.

Myth #2: You Need AA Or You Are Doomed!

Exclusivity has no place in recovery. Perhaps in the place of logic and mathematics, but not something as layered and multiperspectival as recovery. 

Why? 

Because the human personality cannot be put in a box. We are far too diverse for a one size fits all approach. Hence the birth of Rational Recovery, Smart Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Women For Sobriety, S.O.S, and the like. 

Additionally, various religious systems and philosophies have been endowing lives with meaning and purpose and getting people on the straight and narrow far before A.A. arrived on the scene. 

For example, the Venerable Matt Talbot, patron saint of alcoholics, sobered up through the Catholic Church ultimately becoming a priest and on his way to sainthood. 

William James, pragmatic philosopher and godfather of western psychology, “cured” his neurosis by the sheer force of the Will. He coined the saying that we must “act our way into right thinking.” Namely, everytime his anxiety would compel him to do a particular thing, he’d apply the opposite virtue. Though he didn’t suffer from addiction per se, his condition was eerily similar and his technique relevant.

Myth #3: You Have To Label Yourself An Alcoholic

Sweeping statements are the exact opposite of what a rational person needs. Labels serve a purpose. 

What’s that purpose? It’s twofold:

  1. Navigation
  2. Convenience

We use labels for convenience to help us make right decisions. For example, we label sharks dangerous. Most of us made this conclusion after our first shark week. The sum result? We are cautious around sharks. 

This isn’t all inclusive, however. We aren’t worried about sharks robbing us in a back alley somewhere or peddling drugs to our kids. Instead, the label is made with limited information but aids in our survival. 

Here’s the caveat: labels should not be used for identities sake!

Alcoholics Anonymous is sometimes misunderstood – in my humble opinion – to be recommending we concede to ourselves that we are an existential hiccup – a cosmic mistake. 

Rather, this particular label is used to compel us to move away from it. Much like a diagnosis is used to curate a prescription. 

However, it doesn’t need to be understood this way. 

You may prefer to not even speak this into existence. Rather, the language you choose is one of  change without even a mention of negative diagnostic type labels. It’s not that you label yourself non-alcoholic or something of the sorts, you just label yourself a “grateful person” or something with more affirmative measures. 

That’s fine. Speak hope into your life. 

The truth is that recent studies have demonstrated that 9 out of 10 people present with alcohol use disorder but aren’t actually alcoholics. 

As noted in the second myth, human beings are far too multidimensional to be nearly categorized into scientific categories with a fine toothed comb. 

To repeat, use a label to aid in your survival not to be an accomplice in your demise. 

“Labels help define you, but they are not you.”
–Colin Wright

Myth #4: It’s Dull And Boring

While drinking and getting high we diminish our dopamine receptors, decimate serotonin production, and wipe clean GABA’s chill factor. 

Yet, against all odds, we operate under the assumption that when these neurochemicals come back online that life will be glum?

Rather, it sounds like this is a convenient excuse to not address problems of guilt, anxiety, depression, loneliness and the like. 

Yes, these bugaboos will need to be tackled in due time.  But with all synapses firing you’ll be able to cultivate authentic relationships, critically think through difficulties, and leverage new ideas to pave a new path. 

Rather than being boring and tedious, this is tantamount to traversing the adventurous terrain of Middle Earth to dispose of the Ring of Power in the fires of Mt. Doom. Well, maybe that’s a stretch. 

But the ability to live new each day is the definition of living life to the fullest. The Groundhog Day of addiction is the antithesis. 

Myth #5: Everything Will Be Roses Once You’re Sober

Let’s get real. The same problems you had while drinking will continue once you are sober. Of course, quitting drinking does handle a litany of issues but you don’t just magically learn coping skills once you put down the drink.

Additionally, early on in sobriety the limbic system or emotional sector of your brain will be far more active than your rational frontal cortex. As a result, you’ll tend to magnify stressors to unmanageable proportions. 

As these stressors are confronted, the magnification decreases, and in time they become manageable stressors. But early on it feels like even the smallest of inconveniences might wipe you out of existence. 

It’s also true that overtime problems don’t just cease to exist. Actually, progress is best described as the arrival of new problems and new difficulties. 

That’s how you know you’re growing – you have new problems to deal with!

Sure beats dealing with the same shit day in and day out. 

Myth #6: Controlled Drinking Is Not Possible

I don’t doubt that controlled drinking is possible. I think it’s a myth to dogmatically assert one can never drink again. 

Instead, I have rational reasons as to why an attempt is unwise. 

  1. Habits

The first reason is the nature of habits. 

A habit consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward. For most heavy drinkers the habit looked similar to this:

Loneliness ==>drink ==> feel better

Guilt ==>drink ==> feel better

Anxiety ==>drink ==> feel better

It’s unlikely that once we’ve learned better coping skills that we will ever associate the drink with anything else. 

The brain has muscle memory, it quickly moves to “what works.” 

  1. Cost benefit analysis

Run this information through a quick cost benefit analysis and no rational person would take the chance of falling back into that old pattern.

If the benefit does outweigh the risk than your current condition would have to be pretty grueling, and if that’s the case the drink it’s being used as a coping skills and you’re back to square one. 

  1. Cannot trust a mind that still wants a drink after examining a and b.

If you understand the nature of habits and run an honest cost benefit analysis and still conclude to drink, your mind cannot be trusted because you’re lying to yourself. 

If you’re lying to yourself than how do you know you’re not rationalizing everything? It stands to reason you’re best bet is to follow the instruction of a mentor or something close to you. 

So am I saying you can never drink again? No, I am not saying that because frankly, I do not know. But with the evidence at hand, it appears total abstinence is the most rational choice. 

Myth #7: You Must Avoid Bars & All Places Of Drinking

Lastly, this is the myth of all myths. 

Alcoholics Anonymous, even the most strict regarding this point, expells this myth. They write,

“In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for a time, but he usually winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have tried these methods. These attempts to do the impossible have always failed.

So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence, but it isn’t.”

What’s a whoopee party? Your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, it follows that as long as our motives are built upon principles, love, and good-will, we can go to even the most sordid areas of the world if we have good cause – and that is from a conservative program! 

Yes, not all relationships will be compatible. It’s also true if you hang out at a barbershop you’ll eventually get a haircut, so I think AA’s advice is airtight. 

So, never stop assessing your motives. 

Myth #8: Sobriety Is A Prohibition

“The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour.”
–William James

Being sober isn’t a prohibition. It’s not about what you can’t do. It’s freedom. It’s what you can do. No longer limited by alcohol your neurochemicals can fire away, your social interactions can strengthen, and your life can open up to a new dimension of meaning, purpose, value, and direction. 

When you finally stop chasing the buzz, you can get the real buzz of authenticity.

It’s the greatest decision you will ever make. 

So what’s holding you back?

Timmy G (2020)

sober myths

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