Trigger (heh) warning when reading this post: Please consult the note on the left of this page. Also, if you prefer to covet your status of “victim”, it’d probably be best to not read this post. No sense in messing up your status to get better, eh?
“I’m not good enough”, “I’m not fast enough”, “He thinks I’m too slow”, “She thinks I’m ugly”, “Society thinks I’m fat”, “I’d love a donut right about now”…
I’ve thought more than one of those, many have. It’s been a long time though. I’ve fixed how I think. I had to when I quit drinking more than two decades ago now, and the thoughts I entertained as a practicing alcoholic were much worse than “I’m not good enough”. Try, “I don’t deserve to live. I should end it before I hurt someone”. I had to fix that.
The good side of having to fix stinking thinking that far gone is that minor stuff, especially anything that is commonly blamed on “society”, is easy.
In recovery one of the first things we learn is the Serenity Prayer. For this post though, we’re going to let God chill out a minute. The prayer is simple and we’ve all heard it at one time or another. If you’ve been living under a rock though, click here.
The prayer sets a personal order… of everything. Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change (people, places and things other than me), the courage to change what I can (me), and the wisdom to know the difference. The way I learned this was a bit extreme; Embrace this simple concept or die. So embrace it I did.
I cannot change or control other people (you), places, or things (society, etc.). I can change me. All I need after that is to be able to discern which I cannot and which I can change. This, I learned, was the path to happiness.
Next I learned to change the tape I played in my head when certain situations arose. Being at the bar, even though it was just for a business lunch, made me feel uneasy. Well, I can’t change the bar, a bar kind of is what it is. I can change me though. I can suggest an actual restaurant for that lunch, or make sure I’m on more secure footing with my program so I don’t feel the same pull to drink when I’m there. The latter doesn’t always work though, some days are better than others. The former works every time.
Now, let’s apply this to a non-drinking situation. Let’s pick something “less controversial” so I can avoid a bunch of ridiculous comments: “I’m not fast enough”. Now this is going to take what we like to call “rigorous honesty”.
Okay, now I highly doubt someone told you you’re not fast enough (that’s rather rare), so the notion had to come from somewhere. Where did it come from? Did it come from inside your head? Of course it did. It came from you getting passed up or not being able to keep up at a ride/race/run and you not liking it so all of a sudden fast people are jerks and society sucks because the internet says you should be faster.
Here’s the trick: What can I change? Me, and only me. Oh, you can launch some kind of “accept me as I am” campaign but in the end, nobody really cares because it was never about “society” in the first place. Now, once we know that “the buck stops here”, we can get to work on fixing the tape we play in our head with an honest assessment of what’s actually happening up there and what we can do to fix it. We have options: Get faster, quit whatever activity it is we think we’re not fast enough at, or accept how we are. Right?
Most people want the first option but don’t want to work to attain it – or worse, they want what they want right now and are willing to throw half-measures at it. Let’s say, because we’re practicing honesty here, we’re going to try to get faster. We know what this takes: Harder work and less weight. This will take some time though so we get to it. Every time that thought pops into our head, “I’m not fast enough”, we assess the situation honestly. Am I doing everything I can, today, to be faster? Did I eat well? Did I stick to my workout plan? If I can answer yes to these questions, honestly, then the thought that “I’m not fast enough” loses its validity. I’m doing everything I can today to get faster. I may not be fast enough today, but I will be tomorrow.
Apply that same idea to anything: I’m too heavy. Have I done everything I can, today, to be at my best, healthiest weight? If the answer is an honest “yes”, you’ll have no problems sleeping at night and you certainly won’t care what “society”, whatever that is, thinks because you’ve done the best you could today.
We get into trouble though, when the honest answer is no.
The single hardest thing about eating well and exercising is falling out of the routine. With sobriety it’s a little easier to stay on the wagon because if I don’t, I’ll die. It’s that simple. Eventually my liver will shut down from the abuse and I’ll die a horrible, ugly death. With fat, it doesn’t kill you that quick – and you normally won’t lose everything that is good in your life if you do get fat so it’s harder to keep at it. There is another concept I can share about this that will explain why I am the way I am: How well do you pay your bills? Have you ever been late? Let me tell you, I have. The first time I was late paying a bill, I felt horrible. The next time it was a little easier though, and the next, and the next… Before long the creditors are calling. One other example: Have you ever cheated on your spouse? How about a boyfriend or girlfriend? The same concept applies. It gets easier to do again after the first time and every time thereafter. I cheated on a girlfriend when I was 18 years-old. That was the last time, because I never wanted to feel that way again. Had I not become the militant anti-cheater that I am, it would have become easier. Once it gets easy, most never come back.
The same can be said for all of the examples I gave above. Getting faster, getting thinner, getting fit… every time I cheat it gets a little easier to live with cheating.
This is why I don’t believe in cheat days. You’re programming yourself to be okay with pigging out. It’s just a matter of time before that one day a week becomes two, then three, then four – after all, it’s Christmas. Before I know it, I’m back into binge eating and hating myself again.
You can blame “society” all you want in the end, but society will never fix you. Change the tape that you play in your head and you can let society be society and get on with being happy.