Start at the Story: Understand How Your Daily Story Writing Plays Into Your Addictions
By Susan Aplin Pogue
Many of us who embark on a journey to change a behavior or addiction feel as if we are at sea without a life raft or, to be more crude, up shit’s creek without a paddle. For many of us the process of recovery focuses on avoidance – throw out the computer to not shop on line, pour the booze down the sink and avoid the old route home past the liquor store, take deep breaths in the closet instead of yell at the family, etc. And in avoidance we find we wear a smile that is one of gritted teeth, clenched jaw, and fallacy.
Every moment of our recovery we are one wave away from tipping into the shit.
What if we could start recovery with not just avoidance, because let’s face it we do have to stop as part of it, but also with the idea of rewriting the life we have to be one that doesn’t even begin to include the process that brings us to our behavior or addiction?
I can’t claim rights to creating the following model, but I will claim that it has been one of the greatest tools I received during my years of therapy and self-work. We have all had tools like that; ones that resonate at an intellectual as well as an emotional level. When we find a tool that resonates at these levels we have something that can help connect two key aspects of self-work – our head and our heart. Why does this dual connection matter? Well, it just makes it easier to understand and implement the tool; you can actually make it work for you immediately.
I was introduced to this tool at the beginning of my conscious journey to being a non-drinker. At this stage in my journey I found my desire to stop drinking wasn’t really grounded in a total “rock bottom.” I was functional and most of my life seemed to be working. (I would later come to accept the fact that I was totally, internally at a rock bottom but that I had mostly kept up my façade.)
Looking back I found that not drinking wasn’t where I wanted to focus my energy long term – that seemed as defeating as drinking because it was the same story line and brain paths at work and I was already tired from drinking. I also sensed that focusing on not drinking was a bit like saying to myself, “Don’t think of the color yellow.” It would take over my whole brain and then I was back to obsessing about booze. The model’s message is if you want to see different actions and reactions in your life you need to just stop yourself and retell the story that you are making up that is creating the reactions.
Now, the word “just” is so simple…but it, like other four letter words, is loaded.
For example, why didn’t I “just” stop at one glass? Why didn’t I “just” stop thinking about drinking? But when I started using this tool it was as simple as the word implies and it becomes more inspirational, like Nike’s “just do it!”
So here is the model…
(Model adapted from Crucial Conversations)
Let me give you an example of this model at work. Here is a scenario that might have put me in the mood to visit the liquor cabinet.
SEE: My husband forgets to take the trash out.
TELL: My husband is totally thoughtless of my needs and is so self-centered.
FEEL: Anger, misused, unloved, I made a mistake in choosing my partner.
DO: Have a glass of wine and stop the feelings.
Now let’s rework the same scenario using the model. First I would notice when I wanted to drink or was getting agitated to the point where I would have had a drink. Then I would say in my head or out loud “STOP…go to the facts”; I would go to the facts of what was upsetting me and see where they took me in my story-making process and then I would change to story. Here is what it looked like:
SEE: My husband forgets to take the trash out.
TELL: My husband forgot to take out the trash. I can ask him to do it again because maybe he had a long day and it slipped his mind or maybe he didn’t realize I really wanted it done by him.
DO: Ask my husband to take the trash out. Move on to other things.
This subtle shift in how I was approaching situations and people in my life and the conscious decision to intercede on myself when I was feeling anything other than neutral or safe changed my journey from one of desperation to not drink to one of rewriting my life in a way that didn’t require a drink.
If you are in the process of changing a pattern in your life or think a relapse is coming on, I suggest you look at your stories. See if you can rewrite the ones that are causing you angst and pain. By doing this, you may find you become the creator of your stories and not the unwitting, and probably self-harming, victim.
Susan Aplin Pogue began her career in personal development after many years focused on self-development and improvement work. Her experiences led her to discover tools and practices that she was inspired to share with other people through her blog work. Additionally, she has created and facilitated leadership trainings for executive teams in corporate and small businesses. Susan is a public speaker, and has addressed audiences on topics ranging from leadership to time management. Her mission is to share practical and powerful self-management techniques to those in recovery from any aspect of their life that has begun to negatively impact their well-being and quality of life. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a Certification in Emergenetics ® , and a Certification in DDI Management Skills ®. Her work draws upon her background in corporate training and human resource departments, as well as her life experiences. Susan’s blog work is published by The Neurosculpting ® Institute. Transform, Inspire, Thrive.