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 Iíve tried everything else. Iím really at the end of my rope.

I canít stop drinking. Iíve been to AA and Iíve done the twelve steps, and I just keep falling off the wagon. Iíve alienated my husband, who says he just canít stand to be around me when Iím drinking. Even if Iíve only had a little, he can tell with one glance at me. He says Iím 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 Iíll finish that one and then buy no more. But I always do. Itís 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 theyíre so very bad? How can I stop when I donít really even want to?

But I guess I do want to, or I wouldnít be writing to you. Itís 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? Whatís the point when life is so miserable I need to drink just to get by?



Dear Hopeless,

AA is a great program, but it doesnít work for everyone. And I want to preface this by saying Iím not a doctor or a shrink, but I do know about despair and I know thatís where you are. And thatís 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 weíll 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 letís 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 Ė thereís something about your life, maybe many things about your life, that you donít like thinking about, so you drink and donít think about them. You donít 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 itís time to look at other ways you can make yourself feel better.

So letís think about what was going on in your life before the drinking? What was it that you didnít want to deal with that drinking enabled you to forget about for a while? Thatís the key to all of this, figuring out where your thoughts are focused when sober, that they are not focused when youíre drunk. So what is it? Thatís 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 Ė 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 canít 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 thereís 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 weíre on the wrong path and use them as opportunities for change and growth. We focus on the solution Ė 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 thereís a snowball effect. Things get better and better.

Thatís quite a difference, isnít it?

So go back to your core problems. The ones that make drinking seem like the best solution. Go back to those, and see what would make them better for you, and then put your focus on that Ė on the solution.

Tell a new story. Donít talk about how bad things are, talk about how good theyíre going to be. In other words, donít tell it like it is, tell it like you want it to be. And that will become how it is.

So begin right now by thinking about how you would like your life to be. Write it down, and do it as if it is now. ďMy life is good. I wake in the morning, and smile at myself in the mirror. I go to a job I donít love, but I find good things about it, people I enjoy spending time with. Thereís good to be found in any situation. And a better job is right around the corner. I earn enough money to pay my bills, which is more than some people have these days. Sometimes thereís even a bit left over for fun. I have one or two good friends a friend who love me, and some relatives who still enjoy spending time with me. I have a wonderful lover in my life who welcomes me into his arms at dayís end. Okay, I donít have him yet, but Iím imagining him and I know how good itís going to be and Iím looking forward to that. Iím healthy and getting healthier. Every day is a little better than the one before, which makes me look forward to them more than I used to. Itís getting better. Itís getting better. Itís getting better and better and better.Ē

And as you write these things down, KNOW that they are being created for you just by your attention to them. Know that whenever youíre feeling negative emotion, thatís your inner guidance system telling you that your attention and thoughts are focused in the wrong place. Then shift gently, focusing on something that feels a little better. And a little better and a little better. Find something good about everything you do in a day and put your focus on that one good thing, and not on any bad things.

Your doctor can help you Ė there are prescription drugs now, things that make you feel very ill if you drink, that might make drinking seem less like a pleasure and more like another bad experience. But this can only force you to face those core problems without the veil of alcohol. So those things will need to be addressed either way. If the drug makes it easier, fine. If you can do it without the help, thatís fine too.

As to why weíre here, and whatís the point, the point is to relish this life experience. To enjoy being alive and all that physical life has to offer. The food we get to enjoy. The beauty of nature. The exquisite pleasure of loving each other. The ultimate joy of knowing that we can have the life we want just by wanting it and believing itís on the way. Those are things that can give us a place to put our focus, that will help us feel good, no matter what else is going on.

Just remember that this is in your control. But you have to want it to make it happen. So begin today, just gently, consistently, seeking positive things in your day to day life that you can latch onto, focus on, relish and use as your excuse to feel good. When you reach the point where you can feel good without drinking, you wonít need it anymore. But no one can make you feel good. Thatís entirely, and without exception, up to you. And once that happens, AA will help. Your MD will help. Anything you believe will help, will help. But in the end, itís up to you and where you choose to put your focus and your attention. On whatís wrong with your life, which will make it worse and worse. Or on whatís right with it, which will make it better and better. You choose.

Wishing you all the best,


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