From The Little Paris Bookstore by Nina George.

“Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another: the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us from living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves whether we continue to enjoy doing what we do.”

The Little Paris Bookstore is one of our favorite recent reading finds and the above quote is applicable to all of us. As we frequently note, alcohol itself is fairly easy to give up, but the associated behavior patterns – habits – aren’t. And it’s these tenacious habit patterns that lead us back to drinking time after time.

This revolving door routine is why we note that you can’t just quit drinking, or any other ingrained and rewarding habit, you have to replace it with new habits.

That’s right, replacement is the approach that works. But it’s a bit more complicated than that sounds because the new habits must also be activities you like and address the same conditions you are currently medicating.

Habit keeps us smothered in loneliness, boredom, anxiety, depression, and other negative conditions and the drinking keeps us from escaping, allowing us to endure “one day at a time” until we have accumulated years of unnecessary misery.

Not exactly what you had in mind?

Of course, there are all of the usual problems associated with change but these generally come down to fear, fear of the unknown. That’s why we usually wait until our present circumstances are really painful before we venture into the unknown.

“Better the devil you know” – present misery – “then the one you don’t” – the unknown consequences of change.

But notice that this familiar excuse omits the most likely possibility, that change isn’t a choice between too devils, but rather choosing a happier life over a miserable one? That’s really the most likely outcome of opting for change.

And you are choosing to continue your misery because?

What is “normal”?

AA spends endless hours warning you to stay away from “Normies.” It’s something every cult does, of course, and it comes down to mind control. “Don’t think!” is the real message – just adhere to the craziness.

What’s more interesting, and relevant, is learning more about your “normal.”

Did you know that what you grew up with, no matter how good, bad, crazy, sane, supportive, abusive, or otherwise, is what you internalize as you own personal normal? Or that that internal compass directs any number of your choices, unconsciously, until you become sufficiently aware of what you’re doing to alter your patterns?

In working with you, we spend a fair amount of time upgrading your self-awareness so you are making conscious informed choices, “mindfulness” is a current buzz word, rather than repeating old dysfunctional patterns from the past.

Added to that is learning what “normal” actually looks like. Dr. Jane Loevinger, in her half century’s work in adult development, accidently defined normal and it’s important for you to see how you may differ from that. Most of our clients, and readers, are more mature than normal adults while almost all 12 Step adherents are much more immature than the usual.

No, this isn’t an esoteric point.

Becoming aware of how you differ from the crowd allows you to more effectively address loneliness, for example. You will find yourself less confused by other actions and decision making. It also lets you make parenting decisions which affect your children’s developing “personal normal.”

As usual, it comes down to what you want: a life diminished by alcohol abuse? Even more reduced by AA? Or one expanded by knowledge, skills, interests, and abilities?

Old habits? New choices?