The beliefs that I’m talking about breaking down in addiction recovery have to do with what you believe to be true about yourself. This occurred to me while being on an airplane recently. There was a time that I believed that I was terrified of flying and that I needed to take a tranquilizer (or many tranquilizers) to get myself through this horrific ordeal. If I wasn’t completely “relaxed” during my flight there is no telling what could happen…or so I believed.
Recently I experienced flying for the first time without the help of tranquilizers. You want to know what – I’m not afraid of flying. Sure I get a little nervous as I assume most people do at times, but I am able to calm myself down without the use of a mood altering substance. So why is it that I believed I was afraid of flying?
I believed I was afraid of flying because at one time I saw it as just another reason that my drug use was justified. It was yet another scenario that I built in my head which pointed to the fact that it was ok to abuse drugs. I had one slightly bad flight one time and I used that experience to judge how every experience on an airplane would be.
It was another time that an addict doesn’t stay in the here in now, they are preoccupied with the past or worry about the future. Instead of just experiencing an airplane flight for what it is, I used my experience from the past to tell me that it was a horrible and scary thing for which I needed to be sedated. So what changed?
Well one thing that changed is that obviously I no longer use drugs. So with that not being a viable option I had to figure out some other way of getting me through this “horrible and scary” plane ride. This goes for anything in your life that you were hesitant to do without the use of mood altering substances because that is the only way you had gotten through them before. I’m just using my airplane ride as an example of one of these things.
Be Conscious Of Your Thoughts
This means that while you are preparing for whatever it is you are trying to accomplish that you be very aware of what thoughts you are allowing to float around that brain of yours. For me, I had to be very, very careful about thinking of the bad flight that I had in the past. If I caught myself thinking about that past experience I would make a conscious effort to change what it was I was thinking of. After all, feelings and emotions like being scared and having anxiety all start with a single thought.
It also helps to keep your mind busy on something such as reading or watching a movie. I did both during my flight (not at the same time) and it really helped me to focus on something other than the fact that I’m on an airplane. There is just one thing, as we all know sometimes your mind can wander while you are reading or watching TV. It’s pretty unavoidable. So once you catch your thoughts wondering to places other than what you are currently doing you just need to rein them back in.
Be Proud Of Yourself
When I got up to cruising altitude on the airplane and I realized that I didn’t “freak out” like I thought I would do without any drugs, a smile came across my face. I got a confident feeling about myself because I realized that I can do this. I was afraid but I got through it on my own without my “crutch”. Sure, other people do this all the time without drugs but that isn’t what mattered. What mattered was that at one time I thought that I could not…now I know I can.
So do I think that I overcame a fear of flying? No. I don’t think I ever really had a fear of flying. What I think I was afraid of was experiencing something without being messed up on drugs. What I overcame was a bad belief that my addiction had enforced. Now that I’m no longer actively addicted I see that the fear was never based on the act of flying at all it was based on experiencing something while being sober. I overcame that fear and I’m proud of myself.
Like I said, this scenario can fit any situation that one faces in recovery. Maybe it is being around people that frightens you. Maybe you have a slight case of social anxiety and you feel uncomfortable around a group of people. My advice? Make yourself experience this without your normal aid of drugs or alcohol.
What you will most likely find is that you just need to figure out some other coping skills that can be used in these situations. Once you have figured that out, you’ll find that it’s a lot less frightening than you thought it would be. You will start gaining some confidence about what you can really do in your new sober life.