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How I Kicked Alcoholism

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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 November 18, 2021

    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

    We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

    A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

    So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

    • honest
    • reliable
    • competent
    • kind and compassionate
    • capable of taking the blame
    • able to persevere
    • modest and humble
    • pacific and can control anger.

    The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

    1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

    All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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    But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

    2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

    How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

    I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

    “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

    Abigail Van Buren

    3. How does this person take the blame?

    Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

    You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

    5. Read their emails.

    Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

    • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
    • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
    • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
    • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
    • Too many question marks can show anger
    • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

    6. Watch out for the show offs.

    Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

    7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

    A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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    Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

    8. Their empathy score is high.

    Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

    People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

    9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

    We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

    “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

    Stendhal

     10. Avoid toxic people.

    These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

    • Envy or jealousy
    • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
    • Complaining about their own lack of success
    • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
    • Obsession with themselves and their problems

    Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

    Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

    Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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