Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Breaking Associations and Making Excuses and Triggers


So, here we are trying to break triggers that help us drink.  What are they?  For me, I think, and this might seem strange, but, having a bunch of unstructured time has in the past made me feel anxious.  Now, as I'm a little older, I can see that I'm constantly planning out my time, meter by meter, step by step, and I'm doing so when there's a goal in place that lacks construction--to get to a point of relaxation, for instance.  It doesn't necessarily make sense, unless I just want to avoid myself and all of my thoughts, but that reason is a bit shallow and easy.  I don't have to come up with a reason, anyway, just go through the thought exercise of figuring it out a little bit.  So, that's one trigger. Stereotypical triggers may occur after a fight with a spouse, after talking with a relative that has an upsetting attitude, or other similar anxiety/fear provoking interactions. Positive associations exist as well, in the realm of happy friends or good times past.  Whatever they are, though, or however grounded (positive or negative), the feeling of loss that I may try to replace with alcohol will always be short term and not satisfactory. How do I know?  Because drinking has never ever helped to erase a trigger, only to exacerbate it/them. 

How to break the Associations?

Other causes for picking up a bottle have little to do with deep seeded emotional trauma (after all, not everything is so extreme as to be abnormal, special, or deep seeded and emotionally traumatizing).  Perhaps you've always had a joint or a beer when you listed to a particular album.  Now you put that same album on and begin to crave a beer, so get up and grab a beer if one's available.  Or maybe you smoke.  You like to smoke after you drink coffee, or you like to smoke and have whiskey, or you and your ex-wife used to have the best brandy on the block and you'd invite folks over for brandy and melon balls, I don't know, but you damn well know the smell of brandy and melon, and then you're at the office party and you remember some brandy, etc.  I think the basic answer to breaking associations is simply to have some discipline.  I know that for all the victimized alcoholics of the world, this might be hard to hear, and that multiple stages of acknowledging one's relationship to alcohol involves recognizing unhealthy associations, but it just isn't always possible to indulge, and as an adult living in an unprotected world, you'll have to face the fact that some associations do not have to be replicated to be acknowledged to be enjoyed privately, then left in their place.

As an aside, I don't necessarily buy the idea that you as an alcoholic are powerless over alcohol, and that such a realization is the bedrock toward a better life.  For me the realization came when I was acting in a disrespectful and mean way toward someone that I love.  She told me that I should stay sober for a month or so, at first, and think about what had happened, because, if it were to happen again, and I'm paraphrasing, then she wasn't obligated to stay and I'd be wasting a beautiful gift.  That didn't mean that I had to realize that I was powerless over alcohol.  It did mean that I had to reckon with something I hadn't examined with enough scrutiny earlier, and see that my behavior hurt someone that I would never intend to hurt overtly.

So, there are times when you have to step out of your own head and realize that the fantasy of melon balls and brandy is just that, a fantasy.  Anything less than that thought is a fantasy, which means that you're lying to yourself.  I've done it a number of times with relative ease.

 Note For some time, I've been meaning to go back through topics that I've touched lightly upon earlier and  extend them, but for now, I'm far too lazy. Sorry.  I still have another nine months or so to provide extended development on previously half-blossomed nuggets of guilt, pain, moral panic, and isolation, so bare with me.

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