Sunday, July 7, 2013

Apprehension about Sobriety -

I get a lot of emails from folks who are either about to try to get sober, or who have gotten sober recently, and are concerned about anxiety: they've never experienced this much of it, namely, or they don't know how to act in social situations anymore, or they dread going out.

While anxiety is a constant enemy for me, I won't pretend like it can be conquered. I've probably talked about this before, but I want to be clear that when you decide to get sober, you must be prepared to deal with increased levels of anxiety.  That anxiety might get triggered for a lot of different reasons--reasons that you can work out with a therapist, or slowly, piecemeal on your own, so long as you remember that "knowing" why anxiety exists doesn't necessarily stop the anxiety from existing.  Repeated exposure to triggers with increasing severity is the core of cognitive behavioral therapy and can help. Just like pronouncing foreign words becomes easier with practice.

In fact, practice is at the heart of what it means to get sober because you will realize that you're simply not as good at things as you thought you were, and that, well, if you want to improve, for a variety of reasons, you need practice. Hopefully the ideal of practice will wear into what you do on an everyday basis, and you will stop seeking mastery in the sense of actual accomplishment, and see mastery instead as more abstract, i.e. unattainable, which will yield to more practice and betterment of self, and the knowledge that apprehension, worry, doubt, and fear, all presuppose a certain type of attainment, an expectation of mastery, that is not evident in anyone, i.e. is unrealistic, and at that point some sense of dread will dissipate.  Trying to figure out how to relax and have fun without being dogmatic and regimented will be quite valuable.  Good luck!

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