I have two stories about going left, and one conclusion:
I was in a therapy group one time, and a woman said that if she was driving down the street toward her house and the light was green on a certain street, she’d “go left” and drive past the ABC Liquor store. Of course she wouldn’t go past, she’d pull in and start drinking again.
I think it’s interesting the way people fool themselves into drinking, or leave their sobriety to chance or superstition. I wonder what the woman was hoping for? That the light was “red” so she could pull into the right-hand lane and head home another way? Or that the light was “green,” giving her a sort of dispensation from on high, “Go ye left and drinketh till pie-eyed-eth.”
I spent this past weekend with Carrie, a friend from high school and beyond, who has also had some issues with overdrinking. After sharing stories of drunkenness and cruelty (I was not someone you wanted to fall in love with, when I was in my twenties), we decided that we may have been each other’s alcoholic fountainhead. We remembered one evening in Virginia Beach when we hit a local bar with a name that had Harbor in it, although it wasn’t on a harbor. We started drinking Harbor Lights: a concoction of several types of liquor in a decorative, lighthouse shaped glass that was set on fire. Festive and dangerous – just what we seemed to be looking for at the time.
Anyway, we got seriously drunk, but I was less drunk than she was. As I tried to drive us back to her house in her car (I was new to Virginia Beach and living with her at the time), I asked, “Carrie, which way to your house?” She just kept responding (as she thrashed around the back seat like a trapped badger), “Go LEFT!” Even I knew that turning left, over and over, would get us nowhere fast.
I’ve been reading a lot about habits recently. How a bad habit is made up of three things: cue, response and reward. How the only way to break a bad habit is to change the response. In Story One above (if you will grant me that pulling into an ABC Liquor store at opening time, salivating like Pavlov’s pups is a bad habit), the cue is the green light. If the woman could make herself drive straight through the green light to the ice-cream parlor or to a friend’s house for coffee and conversation – she would begin to rewire her brain. There is pleasure in going straight (pun intended).
Maybe the title should have been: Tricking Yourself Sober – GO STRAIGHT! But that’s kind of corny…