Getting sober can seem tricky, and the reason it seems that way is because we think we know it all, but we could not be farther from the truth. We figure that we’re adults and we’ve gotten this far, so we tend to rely on what we think we know to get us even further. But how is that supposed to work? At least, that’s the question that I asked myself when it was time to quit drinking for good. How am I supposed to get above relapse if I’m going to rely only on what I already knew? It doesn’t make sense.
That’s what happened the first time I quit drinking. I thought everything that I was doing was working. I had medication from doctors, and I wasn’t drinking, so I thought that I was in the clear doing the things I was doing, and with the information that was already in my head. I didn’t know the dangers of what I was given. I read about side effects and things like that, but never actually looked into long-term effects. I definitely had zero idea that Xanax is basically alcohol in pill form. It hits the same receptors that alcohol does in your brain. That’s the type of knowledge I wish I had back then but, at least now I know why it worked so well.
The anxiety that I felt caused my alcoholism was gone because of the medication, I had no need to drink, and I felt like I was in the clear. Then, with the same mindset that I had before, I decided that I could start drinking again. I wasn’t depressed or anything, but I was dating and wanted to live what I considered a normal life. I told myself that I’m not gong to let alcohol do that to me again, so I started going to a local bar after work. Like I always do, I made a ton of friends, especially with the bartenders. I’m outgoing and I tip well, but I never really had to spend a lot of money, because the bartender always knew that if he or she hooked me up, they were going to be able to put more cash in their pocket. That’s how I set it up. I’ve been doing it the same way for years.
Well… after believing that I was doing finally doing it right for almost a year, I realized that I was only kidding myself again. I had put myself in the same situation as before, only it was much worse because psychiatric and anxiety medications were added into the mix. Now, I was down the rabbit hole farther than I had ever been and still had no clue what I was doing or that I had gotten to that alcoholic status again. That is, until I was calling an ambulance to pick me up so I could detox again.
Now what? How does an intelligent, conscious human being repeat the same life threatening actions over and over? What is this cycle? It’s a cycle that many people continue to live by, and it doesn’t have to involve drugs or alcohol either. We get into repetitive actions that do not benefit our lives with food, phones, TV, internet, gambling, etc., and we think we know what we’re doing… but do we?
I don’t think the kindergarten mentality is a new idea, but it is effective. You are basically admitting to yourself that you what you have already learned may no longer be beneficial by forgetting what you do know, and opening yourself up to new ideas. The hardest part is admitting that you know very little about yourself, but that’s just your ego getting defensive. What escapes us, is if we did know more about ourselves, we wouldn’t be in the position of having to overcome these addictions. That doesn’t make anyone stupid, it just means that you’re a human being. The problem is that when we learn, we do it mostly when we’re kids, and then stop learning anything significant beyond high school or college. The most successful people in the world are constantly feeding themselves knowledge so you’d think everybody might learn something from that.
I knew that the way I was living life wasn’t working, so I had to change just about every area of my being. I also knew that I needed to learn how to be the real me again, but after thirty-eight years of suppressing my emotions, I wasn’t even sure who the real me was anymore. Using a kindergarten mentality allowed me to look at learning with a brand new pair of eyes, which helped me to re-open my mind. I had to forget everything that I thought I knew about myself, which was easier than I thought it would be.
I found that I made it easier on myself by actually learning about and paying attention to the topics that I knew nothing about, especially ones I may have had a negative opinion about before, or never really gave a chance. I gave myself push-back on things I did know, by asking myself why certain beliefs were entrenched in my head so deeply. Questions like that are tough on your ego, but when we don’t pretend like we have all the answers, they get just a little bit easier to figure out. I look at life differently now, with a lot of excitement and a healthy eagerness to live it, because I was able to start over and learn again, just like I was in kindergarten.
That is exactly how I finally caught on to meditating, which in turn, helped me learn to be more mindful of other people, my environment, my mind, and body. It’s not so hard to get back to that place of curiosity if you try and remember that most of what we see everyday is just a distraction, and if you can quiet your ego for a few minutes per day, you may realize that life can be great without all the noise of belief and opinion.
We can’t go back to kindergarten, but we can attempt to see the world with the same wonder and curiosity that we did when we were there. It’s not about being louder than anyone, or smarter than anyone. It’s about realizing that you have humbled yourself to a point where you may be out of options soon. Why not give yourself the opportunity to be successful at recovery, so you can re-enter society as a better you?
Try taking a step back from immersing yourself in your identity and the culture for a while to see who you think you really are. You might be surprised and excited to see what you find.