Recovery Pitfalls – Are They Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?

I got the most gorgeous email from DZ a couple of weeks ago. Gorgeous because the voice was so raw. And the picture she painted so vivid I could actually taste cheap white wine. DZ was in the middle of a craving that was “surging up and down her solar plexus and choking her out”. She said no amount of exercise, candy or visits with friends was taking the edge off. She wrote to ask how I handled early sobriety cravings (candy, exercise, visits with friends…).

The Way We See Ourselves…

DZ had just moved. She said in her new, downtown apartment there were temptations everywhere…. A Mexican restaurant, live music, bars and drinking, drinking, drinking.  And it made me think about how, in early recovery, we try to shake things up. Move outside of ourselves. Avoid the people, places and things that remind us of those boozy nights on the tiki-hut, the sky so loaded with stars it’s silver and everything below is a bruised blur…

It’s good to get away from a toxic environment. But, what if our thoughts about ourselves are toxic? And the relapses, pitfalls, transfer addictions and loathsome behavior are self-fulfilling prophecies? There is no question DZ was in the middle of a hate-fest, begging her “know-better self” to give her just one night.

 “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Thomas Theorem

For someone who is new to recovery, there is a lot to hate. And fear. DZ says it best:

Just one night. It’ll inspire you to unpack and organize and get used to your new… That’s what I don’t want to do. Get used to it and let the paranoid, self-loathing, unkempt drunk out. Down will go my boundaries and into my new apartment I will bring the undesirables… I will be afraid to call maintenance because I reek of a 3 day binge. I’ll have given every user in my building the green light without remembering, during one of my multiple trips to the garbage chute. Because much as I love to drink alone, the clumsier and uglier I get the more of a showoff I become…

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies…

I’ve read the above paragraph a dozed times. Clumsy, ugly, reek, garbage – it takes me back to my first sober days. When I tried to convince myself that life without alcohol was boring. When I was angry and resentful. And when instead of slugging the cheapest wine I could find, I secretly gorged on 4 for $5 boxes of Walgreens candy (if an all-night drug store could talk). Was I filling the empty hole or giving myself what I thought I deserved?

I still think of myself as someone who has an “addictive personality” even though I know that is not even a “thing”. And five years sober, I don’t have cravings for wine anymore, but I identify as someone with an unhealthy relationship to food. Maybe even more than as a person who is in good physical condition and hikes for miles, up hills.

Now I am wondering if these negative thoughts are shaping my actions…

Thomas Theorem

Thomas Theorem goes on to say that “the interpretation of a situation causes the action.… Actions are affected by subjective perceptions of situations…. ” Even when the perception is wrong.

So, if DZ sees herself as the woman in apartment 207 who spends a lot of time at the garbage chute, drunk and disorderly – or as the lonely woman salivating with her nose pressed against the window of a Mexican restaurant – maybe it will happen.

The Power of Positive Thinking is the Good News

I like it when my blog is formatted like getting fired. I start with something good (gorgeous email), sandwich the icky stuff in the middle (shit…. I’m making myself  eat 3 pints of Halo Top ice cream with my thoughts...) and end with the good news (positive thinking trumps negative thinking – but it takes time).

DZ is new to the sobriety game. I hate to say it, but it took two years before I stopped getting regular punch-in-the-gut cravings to DRINK. And a solid four years before I started getting a picture in my mind’s eye of a hiking trail instead of the brightly colored candy isle at Walgreens whenever it rained on a Sunday and I felt lonely…


I am a hiker! Hiking up huge dunes is fun!!! I am hiking with Lauren!

Not This:

I am a hiker! I love to hike!!!

Also, DZ emailed to say that she had “written herself out” of the craving and she was okay. I am going to imagine her in her new apartment, meeting desirable neighbors and visiting the garbage chute only when she has garbage to throw away – not when she is lonely…

And I am going to imagine her, two years from now, climbing a hill, writing in a journal or eating Mexican food with a gassy water chaser. She’ll be thinking about how proud she is of her accomplishments. And feeling like she’s fine – just fine – right where she is.

How’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy?

How’s that for positive thinking?

Today I’m not drinking, because sobriety is a self-fulfilling prophecy…

How come you’re not drinking?