It is interesting (and probably telling/meant to be/stars aligning/etc) that most of my graduate studies have consisted of behavior change ideas, concepts and theories. In all of that work, however, you never learn how to change your own behavior (maybe it is an assumption that being in the field of public health you might practice what you preach...ha!)....but, I do think it has been quite interesting and informative to be able to see, first hand, how behavior change plays out and what struggles come about in the process....but I digress...
The actual point of this blog I've noticed, over the course of this journey, some stages/mind sets that I have experienced along the way. I think the first month was easy (anyone can change a behavior for a month) and maybe my rationale for not drinking was more surface level. Then once I passed that three month mark I began to realize the benefits, the positive changes on my life, the changes in my personality, and really started to believe in my decision. And for about 5 months after that I strongly believed in my decision, received a TON of support from friends and family, and each day confirmed why I was abstaining from alcohol. Now, and for the past couple of months, I have continued to stick to my guns and have noticed that my thinking process has changed from being an internal process to being a comparative/external process. In other words, I have been comparing myself to others more, whereas before I felt confident and independent and successful and sort of unique (in a good way).
As I have mentioned before, humans rationalize their decisions to match with their actions. So since I have retired from drinking, I have had to change my view on alcohol to coincide with my behavior. Which I have been able to do quite successfully. Now, I believe, the issue is for me not to push these new found views on others. I have said before that a wise man once told me to remember that "just because I have a headache, doesn't mean the whole world needs to take an aspirin". Which I strongly believe. Just because I decided to quit drinking, in NO way, means that others need to do the same. BUT, I will say that keeping my mind in check on that notion is difficult. Think about it...if I have told myself that my sobriety is great, and I feel healthy, and I am no longer making stupid decisions, and I don't use it as a crutch to make life easier or relieve stress...then imagine how difficult it is to hold onto those feelings, AND not view others differently for going against them when I see those close to me drinking. I think on the positive side, I notice these thoughts (my questionable views about other people, my interpretations on their use of alcohol) as soon as they entire my mind, so I am able to refocus myself and realize that they are them and I am me and everyone is different...and to realize that I quit because alcohol was in no way, shape, or form benefiting my life....I didn't quit because I drank socially/healthfully and was able to control myself.
But I will say that I can see why behavior change for drug addicts, smokers, etc is very difficult when your social network are users. And while this might be somewhat of an exaggeration, everyone I know drinks...regardless of what level of drinking they engage in, bottom line is everyone does drink. So when doctors, social workers, therapists tell recovering drug addicts to remove themselves from the unhealthy environment and find different friends- that works for them....but for me to remove myself from an environment of alcohol use is basically impossible. And I don't really believe that anyone will understand this social and mental conflict until they have experienced it...but it is hard.
And I don't say this to make anyone uncomfortable...as always, this is my decision, my battle, and my life. And I want to continue to live and be social in this environment which will require me to work through this mental battle...and in the end (silver lining) make myself stronger. But I just wanted to share this interesting mental process I have been going through. Each day is different...full of different thoughts and views, different interactions with alcohol and sobriety, and different levels of affirmation and questioning of my decision.