What does it take to become alcohol-free and to stay alcohol-free? We have to explore our thoughts around alcohol. And, we have to learn to talk back to our brain! One of the most profound things I have learned is how ‘not to’ believe everything I think.
For many of us, we start this journey with a lot of thoughts around drinking: “Alcohol helps me have fun”; “Everyone I know drinks”; “How will I fit in if I don’t drink?”; “I need alcohol to….(fill in the blank) have sex, cope with my kids, go on vacation”; “I deserve a drink”. Sound familiar? While these thoughts are running in the background, we often don’t even realize it. I had a client once who called it the ‘elevator music’ that you don’t realize is playing but you are still listening to it.
The other way our brain can trick us is by having us believe that a thought requires an action. When I hear someone report that they had a drinking thought or drinking dream, they often report surprise or fear, as if the very thought means they will drink. No, it’s just a thought! And, thoughts come and go, 60+ thousand of them a day. It’s laughable to imagine that we would act on every thought we have! For example, have you ever thought “I’m going to kill that kid!” ? I also remember Annie Grace sharing that when she was first building her business she thought “I am going to give it all up and become a barista!” We don’t act on it, instead we vent, internally, and move on. So, why, when we have the thought “oh a glass of Chardonnay sounds so good” do we freak out? It’s just our brain doing what our brain does. And, we don’t have to take action. We also don’t have to be afraid of our thoughts as if a puppeteer is pulling our strings. I spent way too much time in ‘reaction’ mode. I am happy that I now know how to boss my brain around.
Here are 4 things I want to share when it comes to the how:
- Awareness – what is your brain saying to you? Tune into that elevator music. Tools to bring awareness: meditation and mindfulness.
- Don’t believe everything you think. Some of the thoughts aren’t even yours. We hear a statement over and over and after a while we accept it as truth. And, as you tune into some of your thoughts, notice how many you don’t consider acting on? It’s the same with drinking. Just notice and move on.
- Lighten up! I like to remind myself that my brain is just doing what it is supposed to and I am not a freak or anomaly, I’m just human!
- Get curious and ask questions. When we have a thought that creates fear, anxiety or stress, we need to know that we can explore that thought using curiosity. Let’s take the drinking thought for example, if your brain says “Oh, a glass of Chardonnay sounds so good”, rather than pushing it away we can explore it with curiosity. “How interesting that my brain just said that… I wonder why? Do I really think wine sounds good? And, maybe, but does that mean I have to drink, or want to drink?”
This is powerful stuff. When we get the hang of it, it can feel a bit like a magic trick. Give it a try, I would love to know what you notice and how it works for you.