Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Willpower is a Big Fat Lie


This is a post I wrote and then decided not to post. But then I really like what it means to me, and I also feel like if you take it in a gentler sort of way rather than the serious way it comes off you'll understand where I was coming from. I think. 



Willpower is bullshit.

Bull. Shit.

I didn't will myself sober. I made myself sober. Willpower to me seems like deep in the sea wishing for air wearing a suit of armor and concrete sandals. Out of all the words there are in the world willpower is one of my very least favorite ones. It implies that you probably don't have any of it and you are weak and unable to even get out of bed in the morning much less change your whole life. It makes it seem like you could just drop by the store and pick some up: eggs, butter, apples, paper towels, willpower....

Mergh.

The other trouble with willpower is this: there are two sides of it. There's the will to not drink. Then there's the will to drink. Then it's a mind wrestling match and without practice we all take the easy way out. No, yes! No. Yes. NO! Yes! NO NO No no yes yes oh, fuck it. Yes.

Thanks a lot, Will Power. You officially suck.

I had to change my mind- change my thinking to quit drinking. I feel like I thought that there was a person I was yet to be, and that person was the one who could quit drinking. Just as soon as I got some willpower then I could start being that new person who could resist the lure of the wine store. Somehow I could force myself to be someone I wasn't. As soon as different than me me showed up I would be OK.

I am realizing now that the person that I am today has always been here. This woman has always been me, I just haven't always been this woman. The things that I say that I want in my head (peace of mind, sobriety, patience, contentment, well being, an open heart) are here right this second. They always have been. I only have to pause and look for them, find them. When I tell myself that I can't deal, or that I deserve things that cause me harm (like booze or too many cookies) I can change my mind. 

I can change my mind.

I used to tell myself not to drink on New Year's Eve because I believed the way I started the new year was the way I would finish it. All day I would sweat and sigh and swear I wouldn't drink. By midnight I would be wasted and give up- another year ruined. Unturnaroundable. I would make the same decision on my birthday: don't drink and I would be safe. I could be sober because it was a new year and I hadn't ruined it. Until I was drunk and wrecked my grand plans again. The first of the month worked for this too: if I could just manage to pile up some days then I would have the willpower to never ever drink again. Day one was a nice neat beginning until I had too much wine on the second.

But really all these beginnings never worked because I had already made up my mind: I was a wishing quit drinker. Plain and simple. A drinker with no "willpower". There was no possibility of revolution- the year had already started. I had already been drunk on my birthday. It was already the third of the month. I was always choiceless. I was always one hand on the glass and one hand into tomorrow- magical tomorrow when I could make that fresh start....tomorrow.

Willpower? Willpower was marathon training with an eight month old and a four year old picking up smoking again and drinking hard. Hard. I made myself do it because I couldn't not do it. I couldn't change my mind. I couldn't give the children back. I couldn't undo the promise to run a marathon. I couldn't stop drinking and I wanted to smoke. I wanted to make it as hard as I could on myself so I could try to change my mind but I didn't change it. I didn't think I had the right. I didn't think I had a choice. My willpower wasn't the right stuff. It was the total wrong stuff. Countless times. Years of times.

I didn't quit drinking because of willpower. I quit drinking because I changed my mind. I decided that drinking was not who I was, and that I was going to do everything I could to make sure I didn't drink. That did not include a lot of hoping and wishing: it included a decision. A decision that I was not a drinker. I didn't hope I wouldn't drink: I declared it. I made it a damn law. Rule number one: no drinking. Ever.

I had to see myself not as someone wishing for the willpower to quit drinking but as someone who could make a decision. I didn't need a word that was so....needy. I needed words like courage. Backbone. Ones like concentrate and pause. Handfuls of words like surrender, peace, and able. Words like safe. And loved. Tough words like surrender and powerless. Big big words like forever. As soon as I decided quitting was something I was doing rather than something I wished I could do I was there: there at the place where I quit.







26 comments:

  1. I'm dumbfounded that you hesitated posting this. I thought it was awesome.

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    1. Sometimes I worry about stupid stuff. Thanks! :)

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  2. I thought it was awesome too. And familiar. I too tried to make this so hard and unpleasant that I would have to quit drinking. Starve, over exercise, volunteer too much, over extend. None worked.

    My change has included being supremely gentle with myself. It must feel good, nurturing, positive. Or I don't need whatever it is. And that feeds the kind, loving, compassionate and sober me.

    Thank you!

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    1. Thank you. It's like, when we try to change into who we think we're supposed to be it doesn't work, but when we love the person we are we can do anything.

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  3. Yes, I agree with these comments, I love this post too. I feel like we all need to rant against this mythical willpower stuff. Because it's not a thing, it's just a reason you can give after the fact for why you could do something hard (I had willpower) or why you couldn't (had none). I feel the same about motivation--there is no thing there. There's just us people and we have to change our thinking and start doing things. And like you and Anne S say, we need to be kind to ourselves in the doing. I like your clear thinking on this for sure! xo

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    1. Oh, stupid motivation- another word I'd plop right next to willpower. "I need to get motivated" is one of the worst things to say. I'm going to try saying the thing I want to do instead "I'm going to fold laundry" or "I'm going to read my book" or "I'm going to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling". xo

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  4. Hi Amy,

    Not sure if this will work as I haven't commented before. Good to meet yr blog. It must have been hard being a drinker with 2 little kids. I am about to go onto the new website Mrs D is creating so that is exciting. It will also be the beginning of my alcohol free living. I have an aversion to the word sober, surprise, surprise! Better get used to it as I really want to make a change - it will be whatever it is but I surely know that I am dependant.

    Just wanted to say your thoughts about willpower are relevant to me because when I stopped smoking the idea that it takes willpower to keep smoking was very helpful. Alan Carr's book Easyway to stop smoking seemed to get through to me eventually, after smoking cigarillos and trying many times not to smoke. Quite an internal battle really. However his book on giving up alcohol didn't make the same impression. Maybe because we need to drink something but we don't need to smoke.

    It must be great to have been not drinking for so long, all the best to you. I will see if this gets to you as I have not registered on any blog site,
    go well,

    Songbird

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. It is great to have been sober for almost two years. It is really great. I highly recommend it. :)

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  5. Great post Amy. I'm so glad you ended up posting it. Willpower does suck! It implies that we should have the will and the power to quit, but we all know it's not that easy. When I gave up smoking I too read Allen Carr's book and it changed the whole way I looked at smoking and I was able to stop and haven't smoked for nearly 9 years. That definitely wasn't willpower! It was because I made the decision to stop and I had to change my way of thinking and doing things. I have Jason Vale's book, maybe I should start reading that again. Ax

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    1. I really liked Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance. Not sure if you've read it yet. It was a life changer for me. xo

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  6. Not sure where my comment went...

    Anyway - great post. (My other one was much more profound.)

    Sherry

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    1. Oh, blogger eats some comments for lunch. Especially the tasty ones. Thank you. :) xoxoxo

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  7. Outstaning and SO VERY TRUE!!!! Thank you!!!!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

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  9. Loved it, Amy. I think as alcoholics, we had INCREDIBLE willpower. We could get a drink any time, any way, climb over any obstacle, think it through, lie cheat and steal to get that next drink. I don't think there is anyone more determined and willed than an alcoholic or addict.

    For real.

    But turning it around...well, that's a different can of worms. for the ways you described, I couldn't will myself to stop for more than a day or two. That's because I KNEW I was going to get drinky drink at some point. I had fantastic willpower - I would just wait a day or two for my body to reset than boom! back at it.

    Change. That's the key. our perspective, our approach, our willingness (not willpower...willingness). You make great points here, and that cuts across all the different kinds of recovery out there. And that is what I love about this.

    Bravo and cheers :)

    Paul

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    1. Gah, when I think of the powerful will it took to keep me drinking even though I was suffering so terribly....

      Willingness is a beautiful word. I'll take that one anytime. cheers! xoxo

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  10. what a wonderful post. I keep coming back to re-read it and getting something new from it.

    this really hit home for me: "I feel like I thought that there was a person I was yet to be, and that person was the one who could quit drinking." yes. yes. that was how I felt. and what a damn self-lie that was. giving me eternal permission to fail. whereas the truth is this:

    "I decided that drinking was not who I was, and that I was going to do everything I could to make sure I didn't drink."

    drinking is not us. drinking is the booze in us. and the doing, the DOING is what enables us to change.

    I wrote a post a while back, about hope being a verb, which addressed some of the same areas, which I hope you don't mind me linking to here:

    https://takinganewpath.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/hope-is-a-verb-with-its-shirtsleeves-rolled-up/

    thanks again for a really thought provoking post!





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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. Eternal permission to fail is right- it was comfortable and it made sense. So there I stayed- safe in misery. Ugh.

      Please feel free to link to any post you feel has some more insight into whatever I've written or that rings a bell. :) xoxo

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  11. Willpower feels too black and white these days. It implies wrestling something to the ground and not drinking didn't feel like that at all. (or did it? I don't think so.) I like how you point out it can go both ways. Not drinking is a change, an overhaul, a law. I like looking at it this way, a cut and dry, matter of fact statement of the way I live because it is right for me. I too can't see the hesitation in publishing this (though understand the feeling) because it feels brilliant and honest. Beautiful.

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    1. It has always had to be cut and dried for me- any leeway and I'm back to boozing big time. It was always as much as possible, and now it's as little as possible. When it comes to booze for me there are no inbetweens. So I'll just be safe and stay sober. Sometimes when I write stuff I am afraid to put it out there- afraid I'll sound pious or stupid or bossy. But that's not really ever what I mean. Thank you. xoxo

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  12. This is a great post Amy - willpower is another of the great, meaningless buzzwords of the century and whenever I see buzzwords I see marketing ... so who benefits from words like willpower? The weight loss industry for sure - the more they tout willpower, the more we don't have it and the more of their product (the antidote to lack of willpower!) we buy.

    One of the things I love most about being sober is that my *resolve* to quit got me quitted. When shit seems too hard I try and use the same method, the same 'do it or don't do it - just shut up about it' way of thinking.

    Thank you for articulating so well Amy - this post would be invaluable for those with a few relapses behind them wondering if they were ever going to 'get it'.

    Thanks also for reminding me to put butter and paper towel on my shopping list - lol

    xxx Kirst

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  13. I just found your blog and really, really loved this post. I so appreciate you putting it out there for people (like me!) to stumble upon. One of the hardest parts of quitting drinking for me has been just going against what people accept as truths. For a long time i just accepted drinking as a truth of my life and the way my friends were and how vacations were spent......you're right that we as a culture just accept this 'willpower' bullshit which automatically puts us in a vantage point of weakness instead of strength and power and backbone and all the amazing parts of yourself that are waiting to be discovered.

    Again, thanks for posting. This is great inspiration and food for thought.

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