What Brushing Your Teeth and Sobriety Have in Common

I remember clearly the moment when it dawned on me that I could control my behaviour. This may sound absurd to you, but for me, at that time, newly sober and digging through the quagmire of my messed-up thinking, this idea was revolutionary. A complete paradigm shift.

Feet on barnacle-covered rock, taking a step in the right direction
Taking a step in the right direction: It’s a choice.

You see, for years, I had been trying my best to escape life. I believed that my actions, my behaviour, was something that just *happened* as a result of my thoughts, or in response to the world around me. I had **no idea** that I could actually change, control, or be in charge of, what I did. (This is somewhat uncomfortable and embarrassing to confess now, but, here we are).

The entire concept of being responsible for my actions, or being responsible in general, was not something that interested me. It seemed like some dull adult thing, much like routines and schedules. When my drinking led to me blacking out, I was THRILLED! I had finally found a way to escape while also somehow participating in life. I no longer held myself accountable whatsoever for anything I said or did while blackout drunk, as terrifying as it was to know that… anything could happen in that state. I was completely incapable of making decisions, and all of the fear and anger I held lashed out in that state (so I’m told).

Getting sober back in 2006, I was taught basic life lessons that I felt like I should have known already. I suspected I had somehow missed the day in Life School when someone explained:

You, and only you,
control your behaviour.

How does this relate to today? Well, when I walked back in the door this morning I *decided* to do healthy things to strengthen my body. I decided to skip rope for five minutes and only five minutes, to avoid burnout (I’m a newbie). I decided to do a plank workout after, now that my body was warmed up. I decided to read my daily meditations first thing this morning, to get my day started right. I decided to read my other daily course on success when I opened my phone’s browser, to get my head in a good space before looking up current news about COVID-19.

I am in charge of what I do.
Every single action we take
is a choice.

So why do we give away our personal power so often? Why do we so often say we could never reach our dreams, or “be like that”? Why do we say we’re powerless over what we put in our bodies, or the words that come out of our mouth? Well… it’s just easier, isn’t it? To give away our personal power is to give away responsibility for our actions and our lives. To just float through life, letting other people, media, advertisements, outside influences, “make decisions for us.”

Let me tell you: Not drinking alcohol for fourteen years is a choice. It’s a decision. It begins as a daily choice, making the decision every single morning, and throughout the day when temptation and outside influences arise, to not drink today. Just for today, I will not drink. And as those days pile up, it gets easier. It’s not something I even think about anymore, just like I would never go to bed without brushing my teeth. But it’s not like we come out of the womb brushing our teeth: oral hygiene is a learned habit, a daily choice, just like every single other thing in our lives.

So, you want to get healthy? Put healthy food in your body today. Go for a walk today. Say no to junk food today. Maybe try a new, fun exercise today. You don’t have to commit to it for life. Just try it out today. And if it feels good, maybe tomorrow you’ll wake up and try it again. And bit by bit, you may notice how you have a little more energy than you’re used to. How you haven’t felt down so much lately, or how things are starting to look up, or how your self-esteem has improved a bit, or hey: a number of days have piled up together, and doesn’t THAT feel good!

And what if you miss a day? Well, notice how you feel. Do you feel better for missing a day of your new habit? Probably not. The essential thing is to not throw it all away, just because of one day. Don’t beat yourself up!!! (I used to do this ALL THE TIME, it is the opposite of helpful!) Slacking off for a day or two doesn’t make all that progress just vanish. Forgive yourself, you’re human, you’re learning, and tomorrow, just choose again. Probably the crappy, sluggish feeling will motivate you even more to choose well!

Tomorrow, just choose again.

So today, I’m choosing to incorporate easy, fun exercises into my day so that I feel grounded, strong, and present in my body. I know that if I can not drink for fourteen years straight, it means I AM consistent and can consistently do other things to improve my life, too.

What choice can YOU make today, that could get you that little bit closer to your dream life?

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