Changing The Narrative

Updated: Jun 29

I know I've talked about changing associations in our brains in a different blog post, but this is a little bit different. They go hand in hand, but ultimately, associations are like sentences in a narrative; you have to change the wording to send a different message. And this is what I mean...

Being aware of the messages you receive about alcohol gives you the power to choose your own narrative. You can go from thinking "I don't get to drink tonight," to "I never have to drink again!" And how life changing is that?

One thing I've learned since I quit drinking, is that we have more control over our lives than we think we do. Or, more specifically, we have more control over how we perceive our lives, which has a direct impact on our relative experience. If you're consistently thinking negatively, your brain will be more prone to pick up on negative things, and your narrative becomes pessimistic. If you're consistently thinking about things that you're grateful for, your brain begins to spot positive things throughout your day and your narrative becomes gratitude.

A funny but relevant example is this: A few days in a row I found pennies on the street walking from the bus stop to work. Some people might walk passed the pennies, seeing no worth in 1 cent. I, however, was thrilled and thought it was a pattern since it happened a few days in a row! A few days later, I found five dollars! For the following months and still to this day, I'm like a magnet for finding spare change on the ground. Had I ignored the first few pennies I had seen, I wouldn't have been looking and finding spare change there-afterwards! I'm not actually attracting spare change, but my narrative is that I'm lucky and I find free money on the ground!

How does spare change relate to alcohol, you may ask? My theory is this...

We are complex human beings who are being thrown thousands of messages at us each second of everyday. It'd be impossible for our brains to register everything thrown our way, so naturally, our brains pick and choose the information it wants to store and process. It sounds really automatic and subliminal, but if we bring awareness to certain messages that we're being exposed to, we can actively decide whether or not we want to believe or accept that message. Think about it, how many times throughout the day are you exposed to an advertisement for alcohol? Probably more than you realize. It's always an advertisement showing people having a good time, relaxing or socializing. Ads like to send the message that every activity must be accompanied by a beer, seltzer or glass of wine in hand. And how often does your brain challenge these messages? Probably not often, if you're not paying attention to them.

On the macro level, we receive messages from sources like advertisements, the people we surround ourselves with, and society as a whole. But on a micro level, we receive messages from our inner voice. I challenge you to pay attention to your inner voice when you're scratching for a drink. What is it telling you? Is it saying that it will help you relax, or be "more fun"? Or is it telling you that you deserve one after a long day? When you start to pay attention to the messages that are sent to us about alcohol, we can begin to change the narrative.

If you find yourself thinking one day, I'm going to have a glass of wine to unwind, I dare you to challenge that. Why do you need alcohol to unwind? Sure you'll come up with plenty of reasons, but do you need alcohol to unwind? Are there other, perhaps, healthier ways to unwind? The answer is YES, and you can take back control of what messages you believe and are being persuaded by. If you constantly think that you're missing out every-time you don't have a drink, you'll always want a drink, because ultimately your narrative is loss. But if you are proud of yourself every time you drink water instead of booze, you'll start to like sobriety and your narrative becomes positive change.

Every time I see an advertisement involving alcohol now, I feel disgusted. The message I think is this: It's nauseating the alcohol industry promotes a toxic substance that provides NO benefits, other than to make a profit. Before the message used to be: Ahhh, that looks good. Now I'm in the mood for a Truly. By being aware of the messages that I receive on behalf of alcohol, I get to decide how if I want to comply or not. And frankly, I do not.

By putting effort into my sobriety, I was able to identify and challenge the messages I receive about alcohol. I've changed the narrative from it being something that I need, to something that I never want to consume again. If you want to quit drinking, you can do this too! You can get from a place of I don't get to drink (thinking you're missing out) to I never HAVE to drink again (because you realize life is better without it). But to get there, you'll have to challenge the messages your brain (and society) tells you about alcohol. Remember... you don't need it, you just want it. What your body actually needs is water. Go hydrate. I'll leave this blog post with this -

I challenge you to try something new: For three days, make a tally for every time you're exposed to a message about alcohol. This can be in a movie or TV show, on an advertisement, on social media, or even in your own thoughts. Take a second to ponder what messages are being sent on behalf of alcohol. How does that make you feel? Spend some time reflecting on what this means for you, and you might be surprised by what you find.

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