Saturday, April 28, 2012


"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." Boy, how many times when I was drinking did I keep driving right at that dead end, hoping for the outcome to be magically altered?

Switching to wine only, switching to beer only, switching to drinking on weekends only, switching to two drinks only: every tactic failed in the long run, yet I doggedly kept drinking when what needed to change was switching to not drinking at all.

But it wasn't just the alcohol. Getting sober enabled me to see that I was doing the same thing--driving straight at dead ends--in virtually all aspects of my life. (Alcoholics are famous for their emotional immaturity; we stay drunk too much to ever bother growing up and learning to think things through like adults.) But it's not just alcoholics who do this. Just about anything can get in the way of somebody's ability to stop acting like a bratty child. Some people have to control everything around them. Some people have out-of-control tempers. Some people pout and drown in self-pity. Some people feel entitled. Some people act out by lying, cheating, or seeking revenge.

The thing they all have in common is this: they are able to rationalize their behaviors by convincing themselves they had little choice in a matter, are pretty much in the right, and everybody else is wrong. If they admit to fault at all, it's usually a benign kind of fault, such as pleading ignorance or being too trusting or their heart being in the right place or that they intended to do well or they picked what they thought was the lesser of two evils.

Example: "Well, yes, I cheated on her, but only because our sex life has gotten really boring. I figured a little fling on the side that didn't mean anything would be less hurtful than breaking up with her and hurting her that way."

As if sitting down together and talking about that boring sex life simply wasn't an option. As if breaching trust weren't a worse thing than the actual sex itself.

The funny thing is, when I was myself a using alcoholic and accustomed to this kind of murky thinking and rationalizing, I truly did feel like I had very little choice in most matters and that things just kind of happened to me.  I simply could not see that what was really ruling me was fear.

Why do we lie, after all? We fear the consequences of the truth. Why do we try to control other people or situations? We fear what might happen if we're not running the show. Why do we cheat? We fear what might happen if we're honest about what we need, what we're not getting. Why do we put on facades or wear a false persona? We fear people won't like the real us. Why do we act selfishly? We fear life has short-changed us. Why do people stay in bad relationships? They fear being alone. They look at a balance sheet and figure the pros outweigh the cons. Or they harbor the expectation that the other person will change. Or, they figure they'll end it when the cons start outweighing the pros--or hang on until somebody better comes along. Reasonable enough, I suppose. Only I would hate to be the person they're with, knowing that's the future my partner is envisioning for us.

If something in your life looks like a dead end, by all means test it a couple-three times, making sure it's a dead end. Try some different tactics to see if something can be different. But if nothing changes, it may be time to face up to the fact that the roadblock outside yourself is not going to change. What's left is you.

You're the thing that needs to change.

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