One thing that’s been difficult to accept in my recovery is my overly-negative mindset. I tend to catastrophise small things into big things and then into life-changing events.
It’s really unhelpful and unhealthy, and over the past few decades, I can see that it fed into and out of my drinking. Over-thinking about situations out of my control, resentment of people for whom setbacks would roll off them like water off a duck’s back, not enjoying the moment, or always finding something to criticise in a situation or environment. Most of this was done in my head, rarely expressed, as another part of me recognised that many don’t think like me.
So, I was the perfect alcoholic: the physical and psychological dependent.
With mental health therapy to root down to the cause of it all (my very dysfunctional childhood and then addiction entering my teens, the most dramatic of which was my younger brother), my emotionally unavailable mothering – let’s be honest, family life had caused me mostly pain, or lots of pain. Wow 🙁
I’m working daily at changing my mindset, and it must be a daily habit, otherwise it’s quite easy to slip back to the well-worn, rutted grooves of negative neural pathways.
The numero uno for me is HUMILITY. Recognising with real clarity how little I’m in charge of in my life, except for my response to events. And that there is a Grace which transcends everything and everyone.
When I’m humble, I don’t need to dramatise at all, I can open my eyes wide and see all that’s in front of me. For instance, when it comes to my son’s dependent drinking, recognising that he has cut down, even though his consumption is too much for a healthy mind and body. When he was 18 and very broken after his dad’s abuse he drank daily for almost 2 years, he now has a few once a week: no more than most middle aged people who sit and quaff their fine wines whilst criticising young people for ‘staggering out of the pub.’
The humble me sees the progress, whilst the critic in me wants to condemn the fact he’s still drinking too much. The fact is, he has had an awful year, most of it completely out of his control.
Next, I get to choose my response. I observe that my mind wants to go into a hiding place, or put on my “poor me” waistcoat, so I ground it in looking for something helpful or hopeful. A robin bobbing along a branch, a new top that a friend’s wearing, or how the sunlight lights up a corner in the teashop where I’m sitting (as I was yesterday, with 3 friends.)
Then, I allow people to reach me. Part of the negative mindset was believing noone could, and noone cared (in truth there wasn’t a lot of caring in my childhood, but that was partly because of my father’s mental illness which ruled the house). This thought was a lie and deceiver, rather like alcohol. I found it out when friends got annoyed with me for not asking them to go along with me to my son’s trial I could have reached out, but felt so ashamed – which was stupid when my son was the victim. I chose isolation, rather than connection.
Next, I reach out to people. I open to their happiness and success in life, and begin to think that “yes, my life could look like that, if I allow it to.” I allow a thawing to occur – perhaps just a few millimetres, but a thawing of my iceberg heart for sure. The thawing is made real when we agree when next to meet. They enjoyed my company – how cool is that?!!!
The final step is to allow others to take control of some situations/events: That’s very scary for me, because as a young girl, that’s how I kept sane when I saw how dysfunctional we were as a family. I got even more controlling as a teen – my brothers would regularly call me “bossy boots” when I was 14. They were right. it was difficult to negotiate with me, but at least I’d ensure that something would happen, rather than getting stuck in yet another family drama (our drama revolved around scapegoating our younger brother, which hid our father’s mental illness.)
Finally, I watch it all unfurl in the way it was meant to. Doing this is and will be a daily discipline and is essential for me healing my shattered and battered heart. I am part of Life, not Life itself which is how we super-controlling (and usually very hurt) people want to see things.
Hugs to you, wherever you are on your journey. Try and look for some small signs of progress today – I’m sure you’ll find some……
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