I've worked with people for all kinds of things, setting job goals and creating strategy around that, recovering from a divorce and starting life over, recovering from significant weight loss and building self esteem in that new life, empty nesters recovering from children and adapting to a new way of life and figuring out what that's going to look like... all of it is a process of recovery, growth and change.
And right now, especially because of this pandemic, we're all having to do a lot of adapting to a new lifestyle.
Through all of the work I've done, with myself and my clients, I consistently see the same mistake.
You wonder why your choices aren't working out for you.
You start to second guess your every decision because it seems like you are always wrong or screwing things up.
It feels like nothing will go your way.
The good news is... you're not crazy. There's nothing wrong with you and you aren't bad at making decisions.
The mistake we make is... we make decisions for the wrong reasons. Your ego gets the best of you and you choose something for how it makes you look to other people or how cool it makes you feel.
Or, your people pleasing takes over and you make choices based on other people's happiness and completely ignore what's best for you. That doesn't end well.
Finally, the biggest mistake I see over and over again, is the instant gratification trap.
Rather than taking a moment to think things through and make decisions that are good for you, you choose the thing that feels good RIGHT NOW!
We get stuck in instant gratification.
Early in my sobriety I was told if I wanted to start making better choices, then do the exact opposite of what my brain says.
And I did that.
I was clear that my initial response and reactions to things had not gotten me far over all the years of my life so I knew my way wasn't working!
My decision-making process got me in a lot of trouble.
How it made sense to me was simple- I knew I had to push myself out of my comfort zone.
My comfort zone was drunk or hung over. My comfort zone was to avoid life. Avoid feelings, avoid responsibility.
My comfort zone was lazy and a whole bunch of other charming qualities. 😉
So, if my mind immediately told me 'no' about something then I knew that was exactly that thing I needed to do.
For example, when I was brand new sober, probably in my first week, a woman in my group invited me to go to dinner with a bunch of other sober women.
I am an introvert. I have terrifying anxiety. And my mind INSTANTLY said,
"Heck no! We're not doing that. That sounds awful and super awkward. I want to go home to my dog and my safe little isolated bubble."
But I knew if the committee in my head was saying no, then it was probably the right thing to do. Because the committee was trying to drag me back to my comfort zone, and my comfort zone was a death trap!
I understood that I was going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable if I wanted to survive all of this change and do better for myself.
I had to start living outside my comfort zone because my comfort zone gave me instant gratification, but it was unhealthy.
From that point forward I felt like everything I did needed to be uncomfortable.
And that's how I knew I was probably doing the right thing.
I said yes to the dinner invitation that night.
And I sat in the parking lot and cried in my car before I went in because my anxiety was out of control and I was so freaking uncomfortable.
But I pushed myself to go in and I stayed thirty minutes.
Those women were incredible and kind, they were laughing and having fun.
You have to give yourself some grace because it won't be perfect. That situation wasn't "perfect".
My anxiety was through the roof. I didn't know any of those people. I could barely speak. I cried in the car and bailed after thirty minutes.
But let me tell you something, when I left there I was so proud of myself because I did the RIGHT thing. Not the thing that I wanted to do, which was run away to the instant gratification of my comfort zone, but I made the choice that was the best choice for my future.
It's not about doing things perfectly and don't have expectations that you're going to do hard things and it's going to be all rainbows and unicorns.
The key is, I DID IT!
I challenged myself to go against my norm because my norm was drunk. I pushed myself outside that comfort zone and by doing that I got myself a little closer to sobriety and a little farther away from a drink that day.
You so often screw up decisions because you're stuck in seeking instant gratification.
You feel bad, and you want it to go away right now.
You feel a craving and you want to eliminate this second!
You feel uncomfortable and you want it to change instantly.
And this is how we continue to make terrible decisions and end up where we don't want to be.
There is truth to that saying 'do the exact opposite of what your head says', because your head is wired for instant gratification. Recovery isn't instant. Recovery is a long game. You're playing the long game now.
This is also how boredom takes you down. You feel bored and you're intolerant of being bored (or feeling of feeling of any sort) that you immediately want it to be different. So you'll cave in to instant gratification and drink, or eat the cookies or chips, or call the person you know you shouldn't call just to get some instant gratification and make the uncomfortable feeling go away.
Or, here's a situation I hear about all the time- you make the decision to stop drinking and you feel like you're really committed to it this time. Then you decide you will still go on vacation with all your drinking friends, or you'll go ahead and go on the annual camping trip with everyone or have all your friends over to your house to drink because that's what you always do.
Or, sometimes it's your spouse. You quit drinking but your spouse doesn't, so your spouse will continue having all the friends over to your house and doing things because that's what is normal.
Then you see everyone drinking and doing the regular things.
You feel left out, you want to have fun with them, you don't want to spend your whole evening separate from everyone else because you're not drinking, so in that split second all that stuff runs through your head and you decide to drink instead of be uncomfortable.
Because it would be uncomfortable to go inside while everyone else is outside drinking or to go in your tent or camper while everyone else is sitting outside drinking.
It would be uncomfortable to be alone instead of being a part of the group.
The truth is if you're really committed to not drinking you wouldn't put yourself in that situation to begin with. When you are truly committed to something, you do whatever it takes to honor that commitment. One of the best things you can do is start practicing being uncomfortable and not falling into instant gratification.
It's not that we're bad decision makers, or we aren't smart, or we like to ruin our lives- we're just wired for instant gratification. And that will often lead to the decision that isn't the best or most healthy choice.
You've heard all these sayings your whole life: good things come to those who wait- anything worth having is worth fighting for- the best view comes after the hardest climb.
All of these are telling you that it will be hard. It will be uncomfortable. It will take commitment and probably some tears, and you're going to have to challenge yourself.
Instant gratification doesn't require any of that- it's the easy way out. That's why you don't get long term rewards from it and this is why you'll find yourself in that same spot over and over again because instant gratification doesn't create change.
When you want to change your life and grow as a human being. It's not about instant gratification anymore. It's about what's best for me moving forward.
If what you're doing isn't working you have to be willing to try something different. It will be awkward and uncomfortable. And that's okay. You are strong and powerful and resilient.
Challenge yourself to be open minded in this journey. Don't give in to the instant gratification of shutting down because it's uncomfortable. You are perfectly capable of getting through discomfort. You do it hundreds of times every day.
Going to the doctor's office is uncomfortable, arguing with your kids about getting ready for school or bedtime or homework- it's all uncomfortable and irritating. Spouses, jobs, traffic, bills, student loans, the IRS, the damn corona virus, the line at Starbucks- IT ALL SUCKS!
And we survive it every day.
Don't fall into the instant gratification trap of thinking you have to immediately make discomfort go away.
Uncomfortable feelings aren't bad, they're just telling you you have some stuff to work on instead of running from it and drowning it with booze or food or whatever.
The best thing you can do is remind yourself the reality of the situation and not make it bigger than it needs to be. You are safe. Nothing terrible is happening. No one has ever died from being uncomfortable. And you're strong enough to get through it.
Those are the things we forget the moment we're outside our comfort zone and we want to panic like it's the end of the world to be uncomfortable but it's not. It's just something we have to get used to because then we can learn to make better decisions for our lives rather than choosing the thing that numbs it for just that second.
What we want to practice is delayed gratification. Are you going to choose old instant gratification behavior or new healthy life behavior? You can drink today to fit in with everyone or you can focus on building your inner strength to be a stronger sober you in your new life.
Let's chat about boredom for a minute.
Boredom will take you down faster than anything.
My sponsor said to me one time, "Angela, if you're bored you're being boring!"
That is some of the best advice I've ever gotten. He was exactly right.
I was sitting around on my a**, doing nothing, complaining about being bored. And it wasn't getting me anywhere!
I was so small-minded I thought it was someone else's responsibility to entertain me. My attitude was so crappy that I would look for things to do, but I would look just to figure out why it wouldn't work for me.
I'd go down the list of activities to try and come up with a million reasons why I couldn't do it.
That won't work for me... I can't try that...I can't do that... I don't like that... that doesn't fit me.
And most of the reasons i would exclude things was because it would be uncomfortable in some way. I would be uncomfortable to have to go by myself, or uncomfortable to be around a lot of people, or uncomfortable I would feel uncomfortable or because it was a long drive, or it's raining out. 🤦♀️
I can come up with a million reasons to exclude suggestions, but it all came down to being closed-minded and unwilling to be uncomfortable.
I always wanted to instant gratification of being comfortable.
When I think about the life I want for myself. Those are not the words I want to describe me; closed-minded, unwilling, and scared.
That's who I was in my drunk life. That's not who I want to be in my new life.
Alcoholism is one of the most powerful forces out there. But so am I.
You can do uncomfortable things and get through it even when you want to give up. Remind yourself how strong you really are. We're all stronger than we give ourselves credit for and you don't realize how strong you are because you give up too quickly and give in to instant gratification.
Now, in this new life you are building, it's time to challenge yourself to push through the discomfort. Win the battle and don't give up on yourself.
When you fight tooth and nail to survive some brutal life challenges without giving up that's when you begin to understand how strong you are.
You are capable of not drinking. You've just made a habit of giving in to instant gratification. We're breaking free from that unhealthy comfort zone we've built and that's going to feel weird for a minute. Challenge yourself to get comfortable being uncomfortable.