Imagine an escalator going down. Now imagine yourself trying to walk up that escalator, trying to reach the top but never getting there because each step you take, you stay in the same place. Your destination never gets closer. It’s a never-ending struggle.
I saw a post on Instagram the other day which read:
Sobriety is like going up the down escalator. There is no standing still in recovery. You are either working on your sobriety or feeding your disease.
This made me shudder. There were a few responses and likes to this post which suggested that some people were buying into this picture of sobriety. If such a negative picture is painted of what it’s like to live life sober, no wonder some people struggle with it and run away from it. Who wants to be climbing up a down escalator for the rest of their lives?
The first problem with this metaphor is that it suggests that being sober is hard work that’s never rewarded. That you’re putting effort into getting to the top that’s never paying off. Secondly, it implies that you’re always working – that you’re always having to focus on being sober and that, if you’re not, you’re doing something wrong. Thirdly, it suggests you are diseased. This is a really powerful image. Typical responses to the concept of “disease” are revulsion, fear, a sense of contagion and desire to avoid. Disease also suggests something beyond your control – something that has taken over your body or mind that you need treatment or cure for.
Quite a handy idea to promote if you’re a big pharmaceutical company or an expensive detox centre and you want to turn a hefty profit – tell people they’re diseased and they’ll pay you for treatments and cures.
Some time ago, I posted a blog titled: Here's how to make life easier if you want to stop drinking. And, this blog talked about how the picture you paint of what your sober life is going to be like, look like, sound like, feel like, etc becomes your reality. You create your own truth about sober life. If you paint a picture like the escalator one above, you make it harder to achieve effortless, easy and enjoyable sober living because you start to live your life as if the escalator version of reality is true and it all becomes hard work. It’s less motivating and it’s less easy to sustain.
If you paint a picture that's attractive, you bring that to life instead. It’s more motivating and much much easier to achieve.
So, how could we change the metaphor of walking up a down escalator into something more motivating, something that we’d actually want to bring to life and enjoy living? You might have your own ideas of metaphors that would work well for you but here's mine to get you started if you don't...
First of all I’d scrap the word disease. And, I’d probably go for something like riding a bike, rather than climbing up a down escalator. When you first start learning to cycle, you might need to do a bit of work to learn how to keep your balance, become proficient and get some momentum going, but then once you've mastered it, it’s easy. And, more importantly, fun!
There’s also an element of fear involved in learning to ride a bike and it's important to acknowledge the fear that can be present for some people when they first start to think about stopping drinking. But feeling the fear and doing it anyway adds something incredibly valuable to the experience of success when you’ve achieved it. It gives you an adrenaline rush, it gives you strength and shows you your courage.
I also prefer the bike-riding metaphor because it can feel liberating and invigorating when you’re coasting downhill with the wind in your hair. There's also a healthy amount of uphill struggle and possibly some rough terrain to navigate too - there will be challenges and bumps along the way. But all of these challenges help to develop and train your muscles and set your determination in place. They make the downhills and straights even more enjoyable because you appreciate them more.
The escalator metaphor suggests that "there is no standing still" and I agree that standing still isn’t going to get you to where you want to be, so travelling in some way is essential. But there are times when standing still is important. It’s important to re-connect with your purpose, to re-set, to check that you’re still happy with your destination and to check you’re on the right route. It’s important to get off your bike and look around you sometimes. You need to enjoy the journey and the views along the way because your destination might change or it might be a long way off.
The escalator metaphor introduces the concept of "feeding a disease" which is one of the images that makes me shudder. However, I think food and nutrition is crucial for you to have the energy to power the bike. You can get hungry for life, for freedom and for living well and you can feed that hunger. You can be hungry for the destination and the journey you’re on. Much better to feed your dreams, aspirations and future than to feed a disease.
These might seem like just words and it might seem unimportant to think about which metaphor to use. But, when you know how powerful your unconscious mind is and when you know that it's going to be believing everything you’re telling it and that it takes the language you use very literally, you can start to understand that how you talk to yourself and how you think about being sober shapes what your experience is going to be. Your unconscious mind will create reality out of what you believe. So, if you believe life sober is like going up a down escalator, that’s what it will be like. If you believe life sober is like riding a bike, that’s what it will be like.
You have the power to choose the reality you want to create.
Let me know your thoughts… What works for you as a motivating metaphor?
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