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How I Kicked Alcoholism

How I Kicked Alcoholism

My Dear Reader,

I am intentionally writing this article without referencing outside sources like A.A. or other “experts,” because I want it to be a letter from my heart directly to yours. This is how I recovered from alcoholism. If I can do it, anybody can. If even one other person is inspired by my story and achieves sobriety, I will have been repaid a hundredfold for my efforts.

Here’s a quick rundown of my story with alcoholism. I started drinking when I was 23, about a year into my first rotten marriage. I was a chronic insomniac of many years, and after trying every sleep remedy under the sun, I discovered that alcohol was the only thing that quieted my mind reliably enough to allow me to sleep.

A habit that started with one or two beers or a glass of wine a night quickly blossomed into four, five, six… at my peak, I could easily polish off most of a fifth of vodka every single night. Half of it put me to sleep, and the other half put me back to sleep after I “rebounded” halfway through the night. Toward the end of my drinking career, I kept a small bottle hidden away in my desk drawer at work as a “hair of the dog” hangover cure and to help me cope with the stress. I never missed a day of work, although there were times I probably should have. I never drank more than a glass of wine around others, and even though toward the last I definitely drove a few times when I shouldn’t have, fortunately, I never wrecked my car or got pulled over for a DUI. I was lucky.

I took my last drink on April 16th, 2011 and never looked back. I was 43. Here’s how I did it.

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1. I forgave myself.

Drinking is actually a fairly honorable thing to do. We all want to feel good, and if we’re suffering, we want to feel better. This is simply human nature; there’s nothing wrong with it.

2. I realized nobody else was going to do it for me.

Taking pills didn’t do it. Going to therapy didn’t do it. Going to A.A. didn’t do it. Having my significant others hide the booze didn’t do it. Asking my partners to support me by stopping their own drinking didn’t do it – after all, they didn’t have a problem with alcohol, so why should they quit just because I wanted to? No, I had to do it by myself.

3. I decided I wanted to quit drinking more than anything else in the world, and I would do whatever it took to stop.

I had to want to quit more than I wanted to sleep, more than I wanted to numb out from my stressful job, more than I wanted to be in my less-than-wonderful romantic relationship. I needed every ounce of desire I had to carry me through the tough times ahead.

4. *THIS IS HUGE*: I stopped adding “spin” to the topic of addiction.

If you’re familiar with Law of Attraction, you might have come across the plates-on-sticks analogy. Remember the juggling acts in which the juggler kept dinner plates spinning on the top ends of long sticks? The juggler had to keep wiggling the sticks to keep the plates spinning, and if he stopped, everything fell down.

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Spinning Plate

    Well, according to Law of Attraction, things – good or bad – show up in our lives because we’re wiggling the sticks that keep those plates spinning. If we stop wiggling the sticks, the plates may spin for a little while by themselves, but eventually they’ll lose momentum and fall down.

    How do we wiggle the stick of addiction? By thinking about it. Focusing energy on it. Making it a problem. Therapy wiggles the stick. Drugs like Antabuse wiggle the stick. Programs like A.A. wiggle the stick. Rehab programs wiggle the stick. Doctors wiggle the stick. Beating ourselves up wiggles the stick. Talking about it wiggles the stick. Here’s how I stopped wiggling the stick:

    5. I thought of my alcoholism as a food allergy.

    This took a lot of the “spin” off of the alcoholism plate for me. Some people have to avoid wheat or soy. I have to avoid alcohol. It’s really not that big a deal.

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    6. I used discipline to redirect my thoughts.

    The long, sleepless nights were the hardest part of my recovery, and when my eyes refused to close at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. it was really tempting to sneak into the kitchen and break open a bottle of my partner’s beer. Yeah, it was tough — REALLY tough! But I reminded myself that, no, I had already been down that road many times and I knew where it led. So I got up, made a cup of tea, and read a book to distract my thoughts until I felt sleepy, or until it was time to get up. Insomnia hadn’t killed me before, so I knew I’d be okay. Eventually, I learned to make peace with insomnia, and even to sleep normally again.

    7. I appreciated the freedom!

    No more hangovers. No more reeking, using a tongue scraper and brushing my teeth to try to hide my alcohol breath. No more worrying about stopping at the liquor store to replenish my stash, not to mention all of the money I was saving! No more sneaking around, drinking my partner’s alcohol and then replacing it before anyone noticed it was gone. What a relief!

    Epilogue:

    Now, three years later, I am celebrating my third year of sobriety. In the last three years, I suppose you could say my life turned upside-down and then came back together right-side-up. The lousy relationship I was in ended, and I fell in love with and married another non-drinker. I quit my stressful job and started my own business. And while I still have occasional bouts of insomnia, they feel more like “ho-hums” than big problems. Most nights, I sleep like a baby. And I’m happier, saner, more alert, and more alive than I’ve ever been before.

    I hope you find my story inspiring, and that you find the strength within you to kick your own habit. There are a lot of us who started out exactly where you are. We won, and so can you.

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    All my best to you,

    Catharine

    Featured photo credit: Collection of Glasses / Billy Wilson via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on May 27, 2019

    How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

    How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

    In a world that is full of external factors that we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves.

    Thinking positively can have a tremendous effect on our lives. By eliminating negative thoughts, we’re able to at least influence the part of our lives that we can control: our own mindset.

    In this article, you will learn how to think positive and ditch the negative thoughts. Before we dive into the step-by-step guide on how to do so, I’d like to share with you how I learned to thinking positive the hard way…

    How I Learned to Think Positive

    At the start of 2019, I was quite stressed at work with multiple tight deadlines. I was constantly worried and the stress was affecting my ability to sleep. Numerous nights in a row, I would experience insomnia, where I had a staring contest with the ceiling because my mind would simply not stop thinking about all the stressful things I had to deal with.

    I eventually got up and wrote everything down. Every single thought that rushed through my head, I wrote it down in detail. This allowed me to do a couple of things:

    • It made everything relatable
    • It showed me that every obstacle that was on my mind was not that big on its own. I was only stressed because these obstacles were big in numbers, while independently, these obstacles were just minor things that I could overcome.
    • It allowed me to think positively about these little obstacles and how I was going to conquer them one at a time.
    • Writing down my negative emotions allowed me to wipe them clean from my mind. Think of it as a laptop: after having browsed for a long time, I was able to clear my RAM and start fresh. My mind was finally clear from negative thoughts.

    After doing this, I was finally able to sleep, and the next day, I slowly started to tackle these small obstacles.

    This is just one example of how I manage to think positively and eliminate negative thoughts from dominating my mind.

    Here are other actionable steps you can follow in order to achieve the same thing.

    Step 1: Turn Every Obstacle into Smaller “Challenges”

    In the intro, you read that I was stressed because I was worrying about a big number of small obstacles as opposed to one big devastating obstacle. Writing down my worries allowed me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

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    As a result, I observed my problems as single challenges that I could overcome.

    When you’re currently surrounded with negativity – whether that’s because of a stressful project or problems in a relationship – you should try to dissect that challenge into different sub-challenges.

    For example, if you have to deliver a huge presentation at work on Friday, try to think of this big task as multiple smaller tasks:

    • Find sources to support your presentation
    • Think of interesting anecdotes, introductions or examples
    • Create a general outline of your presentation
    • Complete the first 5 slides
    • Add a small video or puzzle to your presentation
    • Finish the presentation
    • Think of a keyword for each slide to remember what you have to say
    • Practice the presentation in order to finish it within 30 minutes
    • Deliver a great presentation

    While this example may not be relevant to you, the message is all the same. You can tackle pretty much any obstacle – no matter how big it may seem – as long as you take it one step at the time.

    That’s how you can eliminate negative thoughts such as “I can never do that” or “I’ll never be good enough” or “I’ll never reach that goal” from controlling your actions.

    Take it one step at the time and pretty much any goal becomes manageable.

    Step 2: Realize That Positive Thoughts Can Be a Choice

    Happiness is determined as follows:[1]

    • 50% is determined by genetics
    • 10% is determined by external factors
    • 40% is determined by your own outlook

    This determination has been studied by numerous researchers, and while the details differ, the results all share the same observation:

    Your happiness can be influenced by your own thoughts.

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    Even though there are things in life that we cannot control, we can still often control how we react to these things.

    In that sense, we might not get to control 100% of our happiness but we can still influence a big chunk of it.

    I believe we can learn to influence the 40% of our happiness that is determined by our own personal outlook. Happiness is a choice, and you can learn to recognize these situations on your own.[2]

    How does this help you to think positive and eliminate negative thoughts?

    Well, because this shows you that it pays off to learn how to think positively in difficult situations.

    By developing this skill, you can really increase happiness in your life. It is definitely not always easy, but you can change a bad day into a good one just by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives.

    This is the reason why I love this quote of Winston Churchill:

    A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

    Step 3: Spend Time with the People That Have a Positive Influence on Your Life and Be Grateful for Them

    Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your life.

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    I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.

    You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness. These people can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.

    Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your challenges with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do to initiate positive thoughts; and that’s to be grateful that these people are in your life:

    • Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
    • Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
    • Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
    • Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.

    Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help you in thinking more positively and eliminating negative thoughts?

    Well, the answer is simple.

    Being grateful forces you to think of the good things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism, instead of negativity. People that actively practice gratitude are much better able to deal with toxic emotions.

    So what do you have to do?

    Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life.

    To help inspire you to feel more grateful, here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

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    Step 4: Don’t Give up After a Setback

    So you had a bad day last week? Or maybe a terrible week in which you allowed negative thoughts to control your life? Who cares!

    We are only human, so we’re bound to experience a day of negativity every once in a while. It’s important to realize that everybody occasionally experiences negative thoughts in their life. Eternal happiness does not exist. Even the happiest man alive has experienced negativity and sadness on some days.

    What you need to when this inevitably happens to you:

    • Don’t let this set you back.
    • Don’t interpret it as a failure
    • Don’t let it stop you from trying to think positive

    You see, even the most optimistic person experiences negativity on occasion. Sure, we can try to be as positive as possible every day, but we have to accept that negativity is something that we have to deal with from time to time.

    So what if you’re engulfed in negative thoughts today? Screw it and know that tomorrow is a new day and that you can try to work on this again.

    Take a look at this article and learn about Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them).

    Final Thoughts

    In the end, there’s no arguing that we cannot control 100% of our happiness. We can’t stand in front of a mirror, repeat the words “I am thinking happy thoughts only” ninety-nine times and accept to suddenly be happy.

    It doesn’t work like that.

    However, there are a number of things we can do to at least improve our mindset in the situations where we do get to choose how we react to external factors.

    I hope that you have a better idea of what you can do in these situations. Sooner than later, you will influence your own mindset to think positively and to eliminate negative thoughts.

    More Articles About Positivity And Happiness

    Featured photo credit: Lucas Marconnet via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] For a State of Happiness: Happiness: it’s not just your genes, stupid!
    [2] Tracking Happiness: How Happiness Can Be A Choice

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