Monday, January 31, 2011

The Importance of Self-Motivation

"Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly."
- Stephen R. Covey

Before I finally was able to stop drinking, I tried AA at least three different times, and it just would never stick. I wanted to stop my problem drinking and I agreed I had a problem. I set out with the best of intentions. But it took rehab and a fourth attempt at AA to finally give up the booze. What made the difference that last time?

I wouldn’t say it was rehab itself; there are plenty of people who complete rehab, go back out into the world, and go right back to their substance of choice. You get out of rehab what you put into rehab.

I think the difference is embodied in the quotation above.

The decision to go into rehab was mine. No one pushed me. I did it for me. I didn’t like the way my life was going; I didn’t like the person I had become; I didn’t like my continual blaming, angry outbursts, self-pity, lack of empathy for my own spouse, and reckless, impulsive behavior. I wasn’t myself anymore. I was fed up, sick of myself. I was unraveling.

The other times I’d tried AA, I’d done it reluctantly. I wasn’t even ready to admit I was a flat-out alcoholic; I could only get as far as “problem drinker.” I went to AA meetings only because a partner insisted. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that—sometimes it’s the urging of a partner or friend that gets you into meetings to begin with, and then your eyes can open—but mine didn’t. My mind was already closed before I even crossed the threshold. I’d look around the room at these people, many of whom looked like crap, and thought, “That’s not me.” Some had lost their jobs; some had gotten DUIs and were there because a judge had made them go; many, like me, were there because a spouse had issued an ultimatum. They told their drunkalogues and I felt like I couldn’t relate. I was insulted that my partner had dared think I was like these fucked up people. By god, I wasn’t that bad.

Ultimatums to alcoholics and addicts are like oil and water. We don’t like feeling controlled and being treated like children under house arrest. Resentment over our forced teetotaler status builds up. Finally we act out, screw AA, and get drunk; the world doesn’t end, so our drinking snowballs into a situation that winds up being worse than before.

I guess we kind of have to live through it several times before we finally get the point. And when we finally get the point, AA starts making sense. I’ve yet to attend a meeting where I couldn’t take at least one worthwhile tidbit of wisdom away.

When the student is ready, the teacher will come.

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