Friday, April 29, 2011

The Past is Not Necessary

"I had to go through that to get where I am now."

An often repeated phrase.  The question: really?  How do you know?

To wit: huge spans of sobriety should be valued only if, compared to spans of time spent actively drinking, the drinking spans would have worse outcomes.

How do we measure outcomes that are squishy like this? 

We tell ourselves stories about the past that make it relevant.  Fabricated connections.  And we try to do it with enough precision to hold some credibility, whatever that threshold may be, while justifying how we feel now. 


The real answer is: if you are genetically prone to abusing alcohol +

you have abused alcohol in the past, =

The probability that your life's trajectory will be negatively impacted by boozin is greater than normal people, who get "tired" after three drinks, not fully lucid. 

The way to see what "negatively impacted by boozin" means is to look at other people with similar starting conditions and see where they are a few years down the road.  Then, and this is the hard part: recognize that you are not an exception to this rule.


Of course, those people have probably emotionally adjusted to where they are--i.e. told themselves (and perhaps anyone who will listen) about all of the people (and external factors) that have done them wrong. So talking to them won't do, by itself.  You've gotta come to an independent judgment about their situation, and their internal life, and what it might mean for you one day, independently. Tenuous, I know  That's why "they" say you can't stop drinking alone, but you have to come to the realization that you must stop drinking by hitting bottom--i.e. no longer able to justify current situation. 

We suffer from grand justifications, if nothing else, though.  A deluge of justification, a swarm.


Anonymous said...

"I had to go through that to get where I am now." That seems true, how could it be otherwise? We are where we are, because of causes and conditions that preceded it. Should people stay stuck in regret and ruminate about the past? If you do, your recovery can be a bust in the long run. Understanding you had to go through what you did helps you to clean it up as best you can and get focused on what you have to do, this/here/now. It opens up the door to transformation.

hmm said...

1) How could it be otherwise: you didn't go through some specific event, but you, nevertheless, are where you are. I know we're speaking generally, and mostly about emotions, but to analogize for a moment: you don't have to take a particular mode of transportation because you arrived at work in the morning--but you got there anyway.

b. Should people stay stuck in regret and ruminate about the past? Hardly. The post was more about the fact that we use facts conveniently to a) make up stories about what "really" happened in the past and b) show ourselves in the best light.

c. I'm decidedly ambivalent about what inputs lead to correct transformational outputs: i.e. whether you must analyze the past to get to a transformative future. You certainly have to process what you went through, and I think we agree on that point.