Self-Sabotage

about-to-fall-off-a-tall-building1
sometimes I think you WANT to fail

Nineteen months sober and I finally got around to reading Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story. I have no idea how I missed it in early sobriety, when it would have helped immensely, but I’m glad a friend recommended it now. Maybe I gleaned more wisdom with some context. Knapp had incredible insight into her own motivations for drinking, and I could relate to many of them.

One of the quotes towards the end of the book bothered me, though. She was describing the dangers of alcoholic thinking and how it continues long after we put down the drink:

If it feels warm and fuzzy and comfortable and protective, it’s probably the alcoholic choice. If it feels dangerous and scary and threatening and painful, it’s probably healthy.

Who would stay the course in sobriety if it felt scary and painful? Who would choose anything healthy if it always felt that way?

Then I noticed this quote just above it (both were lines Knapp heard at AA meetings):

…with each decision in sobriety, you are faced with two possible choices: the alcoholic choice or the healthy choice. The alcoholic choice is the self-sabotaging one, the one that makes you feel self-pitying or resentful or somehow defeated. The healthy choice is the one that reinforces your vision of yourself as a better person, more in charge of your life, equipped with options.

Boy, I needed to hear that.

Sunday night I had about as close to a meltdown as I’ve had in some time. After a day of housecleaning/yoga-meditation class/taking the kids swimming, I decided to tackle two recipes that were beyond my skill level. I was hungry and tired and definitely angry and probably thirsty as well, so I was all the things I know better than to let myself get in sobriety. When my husband suggested ordering takeout, I brushed aside the offer in stubborn pride, which is kind of my thing these days. Self-sabotage much?

How did I get to this place of taking on more than I can reasonably handle? Is it part of the same masochistic mechanism that has me buying bags of adorable heart-shaped peanut butter cups for the freezer and obviously not me this month? Am I pushing myself so close to the edge to feel pain or the after-effects of relief? If it’s the latter, I can tell you the high is not worth it.

The lesson I learned is to force myself to scale back. The whole reason I’m taking meditation class in the first place is to learn to fucking relax, so next time I won’t pack so much into one day. I will note those recipes beyond my skill level were totally worth it, but I have no business attempting two at the same time, no matter my state of mind.

This is what the right choice probably looks like, and it did wind up being painful and uncomfortable, though it should not stay that way. Recognizing those attempts to self-sabotage, however curious and maddening, helped me understand what I need to do differently. This is the better vision I have of myself, someone who recognizes when I’m stewing in frustration and self-pity and scales back and accepts help. Ultimately my goal is to stay far from the edge in the first place, and this too feels possible.

Note: Day 22 of the sugar-quit and still holding. A little crazy(er) and beaten perhaps, but still holding. 

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19 thoughts on “Self-Sabotage

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  1. I’m seventeen weeks sober this Thursday. Over that period I have tested myself from time to time with art museums, favorite restaurants, hockey games, cooking, working in the garage, and other minor trials. Passed each with flying colors, no beer, no worries. In fact the last month or so I’ve gotten a little cocky, almost daring the boogeyman to come out from under the bed. I have done a great deal of traveling in my life and I have a collection of beloved bars all over the US and in many parts of the world. Last Saturday my wife and I went out to eat and I regaled her with stories of international drunken mishaps and close calls. She was absolutely thrilled. And she, like me, knows I will have to do a fair amount of both domestic and overseas traveling in the up coming weeks and months. You see where this is going. You see the danger. I didn’t until this morning when I woke up with a sugar hangover. I had large helpings of ice cream the last two nights in a row. And when I say hangover I mean it. Slow, heavy, thick, irritable, and just feeling like a pitiful human being. I did not know sugar could do that to me. So obviously I’m not out of the woods yet on multiple fronts. And it is finally dawning on me, I never will be. The drink testing will continue. Life tests will continue. I have preached this for years in my business world; today you will have a problem, there is no question about that, the question is, how will you deal with it. The chickens have come home to roost. Best watch my six a little closer today.
    Thank you for writing. Thank you all for your comments. It really does help.

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    1. It seems strange but universally true that the temptation to drink may go dormant but never leaves us. This is a handy reminder of why I can’t drink anymore.

      Congratulations on 16+ weeks! You sound like you’re doing great and loving your new freedom. No matter where you travel, there are always recovery meetings if you need a little support. Or the internet. Stay strong!

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      1. Was going to comment on the post, but decided to comment on this comment. Your words resonate, “the temptation to drink may go dormant but never leaves us.” Often I am in a state of shock when they pass through. I do wonder how they find their way in there. I guess they never permanently left. Glad I know what to do—today. Another beautiful post.
        ps. Day 22. You are my hero.

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  2. What a brilliant post, just shining.

    I love this: “If it feels warm and fuzzy and comfortable and protective, it’s probably the alcoholic choice. If it feels dangerous and scary and threatening and painful, it’s probably healthy.”

    This is often true, especially when dealing with the kinds of feelings that one typically wants or has wanted to “numb out.” It is an alert to pay attention to those feelings instead of burying them — to move through and past them instead of avoiding. Like you point out in this sentence, “Recognizing those attempts to self-sabotage, however curious and maddening, helped me understand what I need to do differently. “

    It’s true that a kind of “retraining” of the intuition is necessary. I am a big believer in the intuition and in following it, but I have seen firsthand in my own life how doing that with a “faulty guidance system” because of being clogged up with issues requires a lot of “clearing” or “retraining” of the unconscious so that it can flow properly, and then we know that more comfortable things may actually be the healthy choice. (Sorry, I am seeing a Jungian shrink these days and find that words like “unconscious” just start popping up all over the place, lol.)

    But yeah, until one’s internal guidance system is working on clearer premises, and has, in essence, experienced a lot of re-training, I think that the above is *excellent* advice.

    Wow — yeah: I am really having a lot of interesting and good thoughts about all of this. I think that, too, the word “alcoholic” up there in the quote could be replaced with “co-dependent” or “addictive”.

    Thanks, BBB. Keep workin’ it. You are doing great and your work is benefiting us as well.
    xx
    Celeste

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    1. Wow, now I want a Jungian shrink, lol. As always, your comment is packed with wisdom. I guarantee I will now give second thought to those things I initially find too uncomfortable or unpleasant.

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  3. “The lesson I learned is to force myself to scale back.”

    i totally get this…this is so me. My problem is, my instincts tell me scaling back is giving up and so i feel pressured to push myself harder. i’m working on getting to that place where scaling back means peacefully letting go.

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  4. Love this post and that book. I remember (well, kinda) reading it before I got sober, remember (again, kinda) being hit in the gut numerous times. Once I did actually stop drinking I read it again and it is, and continues to be, my favorite sober memoir, relateable on every page in every way.
    I more often now choose the sober choice, and I love that description of it reinforcing our better idea of ourselves, with options…in sobriety I do have options, and while they sometimes knock me on my ass, they also allow me to move into being the person I see myself as now; healthy, happy , and not that sad drunk with no idea of what to do, the victim of the world…ugh!

    Your insights are wonderful and just what I needed to be reminded of today as I am moving into inevitable and radical change; thank you

    And 22 days without sugar!! That rocks! Me too, tho i am also doing no grains, no gluten (alcoholic over-acheiving? LOL).
    I am finding that I am not craving it, and in my 22 months of sobriety I think it would not be an exaggeration if I said that I ate sugar EVERY day. I hope you’re feeling good about it…..

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    1. Thank you for this note. The cravings quieted down greatly, but I’m having a harder time mood-wise. That might be because I kept grains and a good deal of natural sugar. I was glad to read of your experience and relief in one of your recent posts. I too hope to incorporate this into something permanent.

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  5. This post really struck a chord with me. My comfort zone would kill most other people. The sober decision feels so awkward, even now at 3+ years, there are still times when it feels like my shoes are on the wrong feet.

    I am so blessed to call you my friend.

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    1. Me too, C. And I think most people feel like they have two left feet some days. I don’t think that part is unique, just maybe more sensitive to it and acutely aware that we need to do something about it. We are still human, flawed. It’s been kind of a sucky month, but this too shall pass.

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  6. Love this post and I can totally relate to over-reaching for new recipes. However, the cook in me has to ask if you would care to share those recipes so we can all reach a bit beyond our skill levels. 🙂

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  7. Oh, how I love that book! She did have incredible insight. What an eye-opener.

    I can relate so much to biting off more than I can chew! My sponsor zoomed right in on those tendencies and it’s a big focus for me. She’s always reminding me to not take on too much. And when I listen, I don’t have so many resentments.

    GREAT post. Great reminder!

    xoxox

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