Shayne On You: In The End, The Choice Is Up To You

By: Maggie Shayne

Shayne on You: In the end, the choice is up to you

Dear Maggie,

My problem is too personal to sign my name to this note. I hope you can help me, because I’ve tried everything else. I’m really at the end of my rope.

I can’t stop drinking. I’ve been to AA and I’ve done the twelve steps, and I just keep falling off the wagon. I’ve alienated my husband, who says he just can’t stand to be around me when I’m drinking. Even if I’ve only had a little, he can tell with one glance at me. He says I’m different when I drink. And he finally left me, and that just made it worse. I drink every night until I fall asleep. Every time I get near the end of a bottle, I tell myself that I’ll finish that one and then buy no more. But I always do. It’s just so hard for me to face life right now. And to be really frank, the alcohol helps. I feel better when I drink. So how is it better to not drink, and just sit there, stone sober and look at things the way they are, when they’re so very bad? How can I stop when I don’t really even want to?

But I guess I do want to, or I wouldn’t be writing to you. It’s a longshot, I guess. But maybe you have some crumb of wisdom that will help me figure things out. Like why am I even here? What’s the point when life is so miserable I need to drink just to get by?

Signed,

Hopeless

Dear Hopeless,

AA is a great program, but it doesn’t work for everyone. And I want to preface this by saying I’m not a doctor or a shrink, but I do know about despair and I know that’s where you are. And that’s okay. You are where you are, and you can only start from there.

There is only one reason any of us really choose to do anything. Because we think we’ll feel better by doing it. So you drink because it makes you feel better than not drinking. But the drinking has brought you a whole new set of problems, and those problems make you feel worse, and so you drink more to feel better.

But let’s back up a little. You drink to make yourself feel better. What was making you feel badly before the drinking? This is the core problem – there’s something about your life, maybe many things about your life, that you don’t like thinking about, so you drink and don’t think about them. You don’t want to drink. What you want, is to feel better. Drinking is one way to accomplish that, but since it comes with so many other problems, maybe it’s time to look at other ways you can make yourself feel better.

So let’s think about what was going on in your life before the drinking? What was it that you didn’t want to deal with that drinking enabled you to forget about for a while? That’s the key to all of this, figuring out where your thoughts are focused when sober, that they are not focused when you’re drunk. So what is it? That’s the issue.

Whatever it was, it was something that made you unhappy. We all think that things and people and circumstances and events have that power – to make us unhappy. Or to make us happy. The truth is, nothing has that power. WE make us happy. WE make us unhappy. All depending on where we choose to put our focus.

So, some of us face circumstances that come into our lives and see them as horrible, awful, very bad things and we hate those things, and we can’t see anything else because they are so big and bad. Relationships, illnesses, finances, chronic pain, loss. They happen and we get mired in them, and they become all we think about, all we focus on. We feel badly, and when we feel badly, we can only attract more bad things into our experience and so there’s a snowball effect. Things get worse and worse.

Others of us face those same circumstances and see them as bumps in an otherwise joyful life. We see them as challenges and start seeking solutions. We see them as signposts from the Universe that maybe we’re on the wrong path and use them as opportunities for change and growth. We focus on the solution – never having wanted it more than we do now, when the problem is up in our faces. We know that life is meant to be good, and so we seek the good, and more good comes, and the problem, whatever it was, no matter how big, passes. It fades due to lack of attention, and the solutions, where our attention is focused, come quickly and easily. We get a little relief, and then a little more, and there’s a snowball effect. Things get better and better.

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