Over the months that I have been sober I have realised something…it is impossible to control your thoughts.
Our brains create millions of different thoughts every day and you simply cannot suppress what might pop up, today mine have looked a bit like this:
- ‘You need to worry about how business is performing’
- ‘You should worry more because you can’t do much to change it’
- ‘You haven’t trained today, go to the gym’
- ‘You should go and buy a new jumper’
- ‘You need to call the garage about your car’
- ‘You must book the dog into the kennels’
- ‘You are running out of episodes of your favourite Netflix show, must search for something new to watch’
- ‘Don’t forget to sort the form for your Sons school trip’
- ‘Do you think the assassin girl in Killing Eve is evil in real life?’
- ‘You haven’t had a coffee yet, best go to Starbucks’
- ‘You should message your friends and arrange a dinner, you keep forgetting’
- ‘Don’t forget those gig tickets go on sale on Friday, I bet you miss them!’
- ‘If you lived on a desert island what would you take with you?’
- ‘Where are you planning to go on holiday next year, you haven’t thought about it yet have you?’
And they just keep on coming. A mix of mental to-do lists prodding away at me like an iPhone reminder in overdrive, combined with random and bizarre thoughts that are pretty much meaningless.
You just can’t control them, your brain is spewing them out all the time. So what I have learned is that you have to observe them from a distance and don’t get emotinally caught up with whatever comes along.
A couple of weeks ago I was out shopping with my Wife for the day and we walked past a lovely looking pub, it was raining and cold and the pub seemed so warm and inviting. My brain said ‘wouldn’t it be nice to go in and have a pint of beer by the fireplace’. Now the sensible sober me knows that would be a very bad idea and I didn’t want this thought, I didn’t like the fact that I had it, but I can’t control what thoughts pop up.
When I was drinking I suffered with anxiety and would worry about the future and what might go wrong, thoughts would come into my head and I would get swept away by them, I would give them power and they would take me over. This is the worst thing you can do, the sober-journey has taught me that although we can’t control our thoughts we can see them for what they are and allow ourselves not to get taken over by them. This is really important when some of those thoughts are going to say ‘Of course you should have a drink’.
Instead of trying to control thoughts or beating yourself up because you keep having thoughts about drinking, try this approach, I found it works for me.
I view my thoughts as a fast flowing river, a constant stream of rapid water that doesn’t stop (sometimes it slows down a bit though). I am sat on the bank of the river and I am observing the water as it passes me by, I know each thought will pass and if there are any that I feel I need to act on I will fish it out of the river and place it next to me. But for the most part I let them go by on their journey to the sea of tranquility and calm.
What I try to avoid is getting caught up with a thought, especially a negative one, I see this as getting waist-deep in the fast flowing river and becoming caught in the rapids. Once you do that they will wash you away and you might get drowned in the thoughts as they take you over.
I find meditation and practicing stilling my mind helps me be able to observe my thoughts instead of getting caught up with them and I highly recommend it as another weapon in the sober arsenal to help ensure you are equipped when an uncomfortable or unwanted thought comes along.
I also like to keep a to-do list of the things I need to action, this gives me confidence that I can observe almost any thought without the need to act on it as I know I have what I need to do written down already.
I have learned that just because we have a thought, we don’t have to act on it either physically or emotionally. It is fine just to let it pass.
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