It may sound strange but forgiving yourself for drinking too much is vital to taking control of your drinking. Many people who drink too much often feel a deep sense of shame. People of my generation will also have a good ould dose of Catholic guilt, making things even worse. People think about the time they made an eejit of themselves at the office outing. Or were n’t able to bring the kids to the park as promised because of a hangover. So they become buried in shame rather then focusing on what needs to change.
Release your heavy burden
By forgiving yourself, you release yourself from the heavy burden of self-judgement, guilt or regret. It is this very burden that often makes people drink more as they try to block out these horrible feelings of shame and remorse. It literally becomes too painful to sit with the feelings so they drink to block out the feelings. So forgiving yourself correctly is key and you can also learn something very valuable too.
How to start
First of all think about the event or incident that you need to forgive yourself for. Maybe you were so lost in your own drama and suffering that you did not recognise the damage you may have caused to others. Certainly in our culture, with our acceptance of heavy drinking this may be the case. So if you did not have the insight, you have now, how could you have acted differently?
A key question
But maybe despite having insights that you’re drinking too much, you still continue to drink and harm yourselves or others. So a key question to ask is what you have learned from these “mistakes”. The ancient Chinese don’t have a word for mistakes. The closest English translation is “learning opportunity”. So referring to drinking too much as “mistakes” sets us up for a big fall. Yet, so many treatment approaches to drinking seem to punish people for making mistakes.
Many alcohol treatments encourage shame
I read a recent article on an Irish addiction treatment centre which uses the “Minnesota” model. This treatment model is based on the AA method and sees success as not drinking at all. The language used creates shame. Residents are asked to admit they are powerless over alcohol and ask forgiveness of others for their “shortcomings”.No mention of forgiving themselves. Residents urine is tested for traces of alcohol. At mealtimes, they stayed quiet, apart from one lady standing up to read a few lines about the impact of alcohol addiction.
No where in the article does it quote treatment success rates. For example, the percentage of people attending the centre whose lives are better as a result of staying in this centre.
Toddlers don’t shame themselves
Watching a child learn to walk is a good example of how we should treat ourselves. Toddlers usually crawl first, then they start taking tiny little steps. hanging for dear life onto chairs, tables, the nearest available hand. They fall down. They may cry or laugh but they get back up again and slowly they become steadier on their feet. Then they stop falling. They learn from every fall. They don’t tell themselves they’re stupid, or shameful for falling. We seem to learn that kind of thinking later as adults.
We don’t shame toddlers
When we see toddlers falling, we don’t give out to them. We praise and encourage. We help them up again. It’s one reason, why they don’t give up. They keep trying, until finally, we’re the ones chasing around after them and trying to keep up with their running.
Don’t punish yourself
So next time you drink too much, you have four choices.
- Do nothing
- Repeat too much drinking again
- Beat yourself up for not being perfect and being able to control your drinking
- Forgive yourself and learn from what happened.
Of these four choices, the one that is most likely to help you is choice 4. Forgiving yourself and learning from what happened. What happened that made you drink too much? What was the payoff or benefit to you? (We’ll cover these in a future post)
You were with friends and could not say no without feeling awkward. In this case you might find this post here useful.
If your feelings drove you to drink, you might find this post here helpful.
Or you’ve realised you can’t do this on your own and you need more help. You might find this post here helpful.
Try forgiving yourself for drinking too much
So forgive yourself, accept what happened. Then find the learning in what happened and you’ll be further down the road to controlling your drinking.