Memorial Day

You know you’re getting older when the first Memorial Day Parade you remember include 2 Civil War veterans. That was 1948 and I was 3 and I remember them riding on a hay wagon as it made its way through town.

Those were different days, of course, and holidays have changed and now, frequently, having more to do with selling greeting cards, flowers, and the Indianapolis 500 than about remembering veterans, living and dead.

I know, I know, “Get to the point, Ed, no matter how obscure.”

The point is just that “things” change. Much as we yearn for stability, we find that it is an elusive quarry.

That’s one of the benefits of drinking – the illusion of safety provided by alcohol’s protective bubble.

Of course the bubble pops every “morning after,” but one need only “refuel” to be protected from another day’s distressing realities. Or we can attend a “meeting” which has the same effect.

Holidays can provide the maximum amount of distraction, or they can also provide an opportunity for reflection. Before succumbing to the universal distractions, why not take a moment for yourself, and consider where you are in your life, where you’d prefer to be, and how you might attain that?

Benjamin Franklin said that the only 2 things certain in life were “Death and Taxes.” He was wrong – there is a third, CHANGE.

And change offers you two choices: you manage it, or it will manage you. Checking out into the cozy alcohol bubble won’t save you.

Learning alternative copping skills, activities, and other possibilities will. CBT, assertiveness, motivation management, and other useful self-management tools will free you to live an expanded life, freer of the constraints you now suffer. Why not allow for a brief infusion of help to get you headed down your own personal path?

“But I was doing so well!”

Frequently, after a few weeks or months, clients speak those words during, or after, a follow-up session.

“Why is it that I am doing great, feeling much better physically and emotionally, my family is starting to relax a bit, and suddenly I find myself at the end of a 3 day binge? It makes no damn sense!!!”

But it must make sense, and usually the unraveling isn’t all that complicated and, no, you aren’t “powerless over your disease.”

What you are doing can come down to a few possibilities which may either operate singly or in unison.

First may be the fear of success. Somewhere we believe that we’ll ultimately fail so why wait? Let’s just get it over with before the fallout gets even worse.

Next may be unresolved ambivalence about becoming more assertive – a significant departure from you old passive and passive-aggressive modes of managing your personal relationships.

Then there’s the longing, perhaps unconscious, to return to the security of familiar miseries. We, perversely, don’t just miss life’s nostalgic moments, we also miss the habits and rituals we have created, even the destructive ones. Maybe the destructive ones most – given our habitually negative outlook on our lives.

We also tend to slip back, without noticing, to the same habit patterns we have honed over the years – one of which is forgetting what we escaped. We have a wonderful capacity to put pain and suffering behind us – which is why there are families with more than one child – and move right back to the activities that caused the same problems as before.

Of course when any of these events, or combinations, find us at the bottom of the bottle, we immediately berate ourselves for “relapsing,” heap shame upon our heads, flagellate ourselves or invite the scorn of others. Where do you suppose that road goes?

Instead, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and say, “Well, that didn’t go to well.” Follow that with, “What can I learn from that so it doesn’t happen again?”

Yes, we spend a fair amount of time and effort helping clients parse out the meaning of their behaviors, and, yes, it’s a lot easier to do with a bit of help. As I have often said, (maybe too often?) “it took me 3 years to sort out on my own what would have taken 3 months with any decent help – help that didn’t exist in 1985.”

But that help does exist now – why not use it?