Happy New Year!
Holy shit, it's 2017. In three more years it will be 2020. I never really gave much thought to who I'd be or what I'd do when 2017 hit but here I am living the dream, basically doing whatever I want with my life each and every day. It took a ton of work and sacrifice and sometimes I cry but it's helping me see the world and other human beings in ways I never did nor could have if I didn't go to hell and back. Hey! I'm back. It's nice to be here.
And what am I seeing about human beings? One thing many, if not most, people struggle with is moderation. When I say that, what do you think of? Food? Alcohol? Well, great! Alcohol is what prompted this blog post. In fact, Cedar Ridge Whiskey is the sponsor of it! Thanks, guys! I'm not kidding. I contacted them with this blog post idea and they sent me free DRANKS. Woodchuck isn't a sponsor, I just love that cider and took this photo of those bottles hanging out together.
I had this blog idea because it's January and many people are feeling all excited about resolutions. Ok, maybe they aren't excited but at least mindful of them. And those resolutions often involve drinking less. More than once people have asked me why I never talk about alcohol and drugs in my coaching workshops and events. It's because I've never struggled with drinking in moderation. I don't use drugs at all. All the other things I talk about? YES I'VE STRUGGLED WITH THEM. And still do sometimes! Things such as:
Food (for me it's sugar)
Wait. You didn't know you could have an addiction to negative thoughts? Pema Chodron, my favorite teacher for the past 16 years, calls this "critical mind" about ourselves and others. And OH BOY is this one of my biggest growing edges. The harder I am on myself, I mirror that right back out to others. I may not always say it, but I think it. It's something I see and know about myself and work on every day.
Critical mind is at the root of many other addictions, including alcohol and drugs. I think addictions start with negative thoughts about ourselves or life in general. I sort of tested this theory by studying posts on facebook or listening when I'm out with people and they say, "life is shitty, CHEERS!" or "bad day, here's a picture of my wine." Many people use drinking to escape or hide on the regular and not to celebrate once in a while, in moderation.
That's because as humans, if something uncomfortable happens, we immediately start telling ourselves stories full of cause and blame. Who did what to whom and why and how it wasn't the "right thing to do". We are often the front-and-center stars/victims of our stories. We only focus on what feels bad and how to get out of that feeling.
Hardly ever do we consider ourselves the source of the problem AND the solution. If we did, our lives would really improve.
Instead, we swirl about in negative thoughts and the downward spiral feels scary and gross so some people drink or use drugs to numb out from those feelings. The numbed out feeling is better than the hard feelings and they can escape the negative thoughts for a time. Drinking in excess perpetuates this escapism. Drinking in moderation means sitting with those feelings more often than is comfortable for many people.
Folks are often shocked when they ask me how often I drink. A friend recently asked if I had more than a glass of wine a night. I replied, "um. More like one glass a month." She was shocked. I admit I was shocked to hear how much she was drinking given the many responsibilities she has. I don't know how she does it.
Drinking in moderation is something that comes easy to me but maybe it's because I wasn't raised around it. I also didn't get into the partying scene in college or beyond. Maybe it's for other reasons. But like I said, I have plenty of work to do in other areas. And I can relate to the feelings. I just don't use alcohol or drugs to escape the feelings. I do different things. Sometimes I choose healthy things, sometimes I don't.
But I DO enjoy alcohol in moderation and want that for others too. It's fun to celebrate major milestones and holidays and heck, just kick back with a glass now and then. Funnily enough, I never buy red wine and ended up spilling my first glass all over my couch two weeks ago. My handy cleaning skills solved it, no worries!
So how can you practice more moderation, too? For drinking or critical mind or something else? Well, I've found it easiest to practice moderation when I tone down the perfectionist in my head. When I stop blaming other people for circumstances in my life. When I stop running the tape of ways I don't fit or measure up or compare to other people. When I stop trying to get it (life) right. When I get support from professionals like therapists or counselors. When I don't hide my faults from the world. When I exercise and drink water and practice other healthier habits I also feel better.
Which of these do you do or have you tried? Which worked? Which did you quit too quickly? And I don't think cold turkey is realistic for anyone or anything. Even this past summer when I was smoking (gasp!) I was only having one cig a day and eventually decided that was silly and stopped altogether. But it was moderation all along that helped me stop completely.
I'm going to say something bold here: I don't think there's such a thing as the disease of alcoholism. I also don't think it's true for drugs either. Or eating disorders. I've starved myself to the brink and swung way out to my highest weight and back again many times. I know why and what worked to heal it. I've also known thousands of people personally who use and/or are in recovery and I've heard many stories. One of my long-term romantic relationships ended from my partner's relapse. And I've coached hundreds of clients toward changing these things in their lives.
I DO think all people need more of the right support and resources in their lives. I think they need to learn healthier coping skills. I think they need to nurture more self-awareness. I think they need more love. I think they need more community. I think they need to build healthier self-esteem and self-confidence. I think these things would help most people overcome the addictions that prevent them from practicing moderation in all the things.
Like or comment or share if you're on board or if you think I'm batshit crazy. Let's talk about this and get a conversation going to bring it into the light.