We’re approaching the weekend and I’ve just been thinking about my levels of certainty about staying sober. I’m 100% certain that I’m going to stay sober this weekend. There isn’t a vague whiff of doubt anywhere in my mind. I have no desire to drink at all.
If there was a scale of 1-6 with 1 being DOUBT and 6 being CERTAINTY, I’d score myself a 6.
I’m certain that I'll stay sober over the weekend no matter what life throws at me, how happy or sad I am or what invitations and social events might crop up. But, when I first started living life sober, there were many times when I was doubtful, especially if I had a party, a social gathering or a family meal to go to.
However, as time has progressed and I’ve got lots of sober practice under my belt, that certainty has become more set and harder to wobble. So much so that it isn’t even a thought process anymore.
So, what is it that helps you move from the doubtful to the certain end of the scale?
Well, one thing is practice. It can be tricky to imagine yourself sailing confidently through a booze-laden party or social gathering sober when you haven’t done it before and unless you plan and prepare rigorously for it. But, each time you do it sober, you’re practising the art of doing it. The more you do it, the more confident you become that you can do it. Then, the more certain you become that you’ll stay sober no matter what hits you.
The other thing you can do is to work with the unconscious part of you so that you proactively change your state from a doubtful to a certain one. In other words, to identify what being certain is like for you and to apply those conditions to staying sober. Here's an example to help explain this:
Let’s say I’m feeling doubtful I can stay sober this weekend because I’m depressed, stressed or anxious. I might have just had some bad news, I might have had an argument with a friend or I might have split up with my boyfriend. Life might have thrown me a curve-ball and I’m emotionally distressed and feel vulnerable. I know that my go-to medicine for dealing with such feelings is alcohol and I know that it works – it numbs me to my pain. I’m doubting that I can manage the weekend sober and am worried that I’ll reach for alcohol to help me through.
The first thing I can do to get my unconscious mind on board is to use my imagination to elicit more information about this feeling of doubt or uncertainty about staying sober this weekend. I can spend a few moments immersing myself into this feeling of doubt and noticing what it’s like. For instance:
Let’s say, for example, that I’ve imagined my feeling of doubt as a pulsating dark red orb in my head that’s sending out ripples of red through my whole body. The orb is the size of a small marble and it’s located in the depths of my brain. It has a pulsating energy and is spinning clockwise. It’s this spinning motion that’s sending the ripples out through my brain and round my body. Its texture is solid and shiny but membranous – kind of embryo-like. There isn’t sound that I’ve noticed but I get a kind of metallicy taste when I picture it. This is what my imagination has given me when I've asked these questions... it might have felt a little odd or weird but I've just gone with the first answers that popped into my head and trusted that my unconscious knows what it's doing and will take me in the right direction.
Now that I’ve used my imagination to create a sensory experience of this sense of doubt and I have a picture of what it looks like, sounds like and feels like, I can put that picture to one side. I now identify a situation when I was certain about something. It doesn’t have to a situation when I was certain about staying sober (although it can be), it can be any situation I was in when I was 100% certain about what I was going to do, think or feel.
Then, I can ask exactly the same set of questions about that feeling of certainty, imagining all of the details about where that feeling is, what it might look like, sound like and feel like.
Let’s say I choose a situation where I was 100% certain I was going to go for a run, even though I didn’t feel like it. I identify that that feeling of certainty is like a pillar going through the middle of my body, from the top of my head down my core. It’s a strong pillar, steely grey in colour and has a shiny texture. The more I think about it, I start to realise that it’s almost like a candle, with a flame-like light at the top. It has a vibration which sends electrical currents through my limbs and gives them energy. There is a kind of electrical buzz about it and the sound of flickering from the flame at the top. This doesn’t have a smell or taste associated with it.
What I’m doing here is allowing my unconscious to communicate with me, to give me more information about these different feelings so that I can take more control of them.
Once I know this information, I have the power to make the kind of changes that will help me.
So, now I can go back to thinking about getting through the weekend sober and re-experiencing that “red orb of doubt”. And, this is where the magic happens... I can start to make changes to that so it mimics or takes the shape of the certain feeling. I make it more like a strong, steely grey pillar with a candle-like flame at the top. I give it the same vibration, the same electrical buzz and flickering flame and currents through my limbs. I transfer all of the qualities of my certain feeling to the doubtful feeling I was getting when I think about the upcoming weekend.
What I’m left with is a link between the upcoming weekend and a feeling of certainty that I can navigate it sober. I’ve taken control over my feelings and changed a state of doubt to a state of certainty.
This is a different way of approaching tricky or challenging situations. Instead of focusing on changing your thoughts or your behaviours, you change the way you feel. This then has a knock-on effect on your thoughts and behaviours so you’re much more likely to stay successfully in control.
If you want to try this for yourself, here’s what to do:
4. Really associate into that feeling of certainty and notice all the qualities it has – use your imagination to answer the same set of questions
7. When you’ve completed all of these steps, you can test it. First of all, distract yourself – give yourself a random distraction like making a cup of tea or answering an email – then go back to thinking about the upcoming situation and rate yourself on the same scale. If you still feel too much doubt, repeat the whole process. If you’re feeling confidently certain you can do it sober, great job! You’ve done it!
With enough practice, you get to feel certain of your sobriety all the time. But you can super-charge this process and take even more control by using techniques like this one. Boosting your certainty also builds your confidence and helps you stay positive in the face of upcoming challenges.
If you have any questions about this or you’ve tried it and want to share your experience, message me in the Forum.
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