Day 29: It’s Not Pass or Fail

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” — Henry Ford
When I was in High School, my GPA was brought down by lousy grades in my Physical Education class. Yes, I had a teacher who graded on effort. I had the idea then that PE should be optional pass/fail instead of actual grades. But as a high school kid, nobody (especially that teacher) would listen to me. Anyway, the jocks could bring up their GPA’s and the smart kids who were klutzes wouldn’t hurt theirs. Learning to abstain from alcohol would benefit from not being so pass/fail.

Many of us have tried AA in our quest for sobriety. Their black and white thinking that you’re completely and forever sober or you’ve relapsed just wasn’t a good fit for me. You can go from a 20 year coin to a day zero in one day! That was depressing for me. When I tried AA and drank again I felt like a total failure. It seemed as though tomorrow I would be drinking out of a paper bag on a street corner. For me, it was a reason to just keep drinking. I’d already blown it, right?  Might as well enjoy myself and numb the pain of failure.  I know AA works for some people and that’s great!  We all have to find our own path.

Most of us know it’s a good idea to track our drinking so we know when we’re doing better. One great way to do this is look at the percentages. Say you drank every day in December. That’s 0% alcohol free. OK, no judgment here. You know where you are and how you’re doing. Then you drank for 15 days in January. That’s about 50% which is 100% better!  That’s amazing!  Then if you only had unplanned drinking on 3 days out of the 30 – That’s 90%. You got an A! I know I feel a LOT better getting an A than feeling like I failed on just those 3 days. I bet you will too. I learned this and the following from Annie Grace, who wrote the Alcohol Experiment.

Here’s an idea to consider. When you drink and didn’t plan to (like during Dryuary) it’s not a relapse and YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE!  Think of Dryuary as an experiment – an unplanned drink is a data point. Look at what happened later and see what you can learn about yourself. I learned this from Annie grace, author of The Naked Mind.

Here are some questions you can use:

When the craving hits, ask. . .
– Am I hungry, angry, lonely, thirsty/tired? (HALT)
– Am I trying to fix something?
– Am I afraid to be my authentic self? Using alcohol to loosen up or relax?
– What is the harder thing? What makes it harder?
– Is this congruent to my goals and who I am? Will my future self appreciate this?
– How do I feel physically? Where do I feel this in my body? Have I felt this at other times without drinking?
– What does my impulsive version of myself want vs. the wiser version of myself?
– Am I borrowing time from tomorrow? “I will make up for today, tomorrow.” “I will start tomorrow.”

– What would have worked better? What could I have done differently?
– Who was I with?
– Where was I? physically and emotionally
– When was it? Day of week, time of the day, season, time of year? Did that affect my decision?- Why did it affect my decision then and not earlier or later? What about that moment?
– How am I feeling about it now?- What would have worked better?
– What can I learn from this? How will I use this for future experiences?

This process can help you figure out why you made the choice you did and ways to go get through the urge and go alcohol free the next time. Psychology teaches that change can’t occur until we are aware of what we need or want to be different.  Another thing to remember is that it’s been proven that change starts with awareness and is easier when emotions are positive around what we’re trying to change.  Don’t ask me which studies or whatever – I’m doing good to remember the actual information.  I hope this is as helpful to you as it was to me!

Post Submitted By: Suzie, Moderation Management Member

Suggested NA beverages: Cardinal Punch