About a month or so ago I was going through a rough patch at work. The issues were familiar ones. I wasn’t exploring new territory or encountering different challenges. It was all stuff that I’d been through before and it was frustrating.
And then something occurred to me. Rather than tackle the issues head on, why not work at them from a different angle? I realized that I needed to shift my perspective. Yeah, sure, I was frustrated at work. But the rest of my life was pretty good, really good in fact. Why not, I asked myself, start with the things that are right in my life and work out from those? Instead of devising a whole action plan to address my grievances at work, maybe it would make more sense–and be a lot easier–to nurture the other activities and aspects of my life. I wasn’t going to dive in and confront my work issues. I was going to go in the opposite direction and turn my back on them.
And it worked!
And then I wondered if this could be applied to the challenge of moderation.
And–no surprise–I do see a connection.
We all come to moderation forums or meetings because we have a problem with our drinking. Some of us may hesitate before engaging, but at some point we all do the same thing. We look at our drinking as an problem of quantity that needs to be confronted through any of the verbs we use to express reduction: we cut back, eliminate, reduce, skip, dilute, prune, decline, avoid. You get the idea. You know the list.
But we rarely start by asking what is good about our drinking, or if you prefer, what it is we want to keep from our drinking experience. And there should be something like that, otherwise we would all just become abstinent.
I know I must have mentioned this particular interaction in a previous post, but it’s buried in the archives so I’ll share it with you again. There was a guy who came to a couple of our meetings several years ago. One evening I asked him what he felt when he drank and he said that it felt like he was putting poison in his body. At that moment–although I didn’t say it–I knew that we would not be seeing much of him in the future. If every drink is toxic and therefore a small defeat, there is no way to find the footing that enables you to exercise the self-control it takes to be a moderate drinker. Every sip undermines you.
In our group meetings we spend a lot of time talking about drinks we wish we hadn’t had. We share tips about how to keep the “numbers” down. But we talk much less about the drinks we want to keep. And yet those drinks–the ones that we define as the drinking we want to do–are our real goal. The eliminated drinks, the reduction in consumption, those are all means to an end. We labor through all of that because we don’t want to lose the privilege of drinking and we have accepted that a change in our behavior is the only way to retain that right.
So what is right about your drinking? What are your good drinks? Turn–at least for a moment–from concentrating on the problematic ones and think of the ones you feel good about. And then look closer. What distinguishes the “okay” drink from the ones that are “not okay”? What are the occasions, who are the participants, what is the beverage when things are right? This can be as useful a guide as the lessons learned from our negative experiences.