Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

The Stories I Tell Myself

I’m incredibly good at manipulating my own thinking. I’d even go so far as to say I perfected the art of distorted inner talk. I had to find a way to repurpose the facts because I was not comfortable with the truth.

When I was actively drinking, I’d look for other women who drank more than me or who were making fools of themselves and passing out. That was how I convinced myself the amount I drank wasn’t that bad and certainly not an indication I had a drinking problem.

On the other hand, and equally deceiving, I’d conduct a search and find mission looking at my reflection in the mirror. I wouldn’t stop scrutinizing until I located one bump, lump or unsmooth line thus confirming I wasn’t too thin.

Clearly neither situation was true because I did indeed drink obsessively as an alcoholic and see my body through the eyes of an anorexic. I just didn’t want to believe those facts. I was far more comfortable believing the story.

Beyond my daily tales about drinking and my weight, I’d mentally fabricate reality about other facets of my life.

In relationships, the script would cast me as the sorely misunderstood yet loveable heroine while the other person was the evil villain who anyone hearing my plight would surely be on my side.

At work the stories I weaved would rationalize why I didn’t get the regaled promotion and the corner office or why the client said no and the boss said I wasn’t meeting expectation.

These stories weren’t about defiance or deflection, they were about justification. I had to find ways to justify my actions and by doing so only made matters worse and thus set the chaotic cycle of addiction.

This went on for decades, spinning tales and recoiling from truth. Yet there came that fateful day when I was offered a certain kind of looking-glass that only reflected truth. Suddenly the stories changed from fantasy to fact.

I didn’t think I could handle this course correction in perspective. I didn’t trust myself to see the world and my part in it accurately. However I did begin to trust other people who had stood in my shoes. After first believing they believed their factual vantage point, in time I began to believe my own.

I soon realized this silent storytelling I had long engaged in did nothing other than appease my fears and avoid emotions. This is not a luxury I can afford anymore.

I cannot create stories in my head to sooth myself. Why? Because after taking a good look at the life I had led before I got sober and overcame an eating disorder, I realized how damaging living in a world of self-imposed make-believe can be. Today I chose to live honestly inside and out; being as utterly transparent as possible.

If I don’t make this conscious decision every day there’s no question I’ll soon weave my way back to thoughts of delusion, convincing myself a glass of wine or a desired number on a scale is a good idea.

And that my friends, would be a story with a very unhappy ending.
What are the stories you tell yourself? Have you had an experience when reframing your thinking helped? If you’d care to offer an example, I’d love to have you share by leaving a reply below.

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