Tag Archives: feelings

Sober Solutions: Internal Navigation Systems

Imagine a pilot who needs to fly to Russia but decides that he doesn’t want to check his navigation equipment because he knows which direction to go. So he just sets off in the direction he believes Russia to be.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Imagine how shocked and embarrassed he would feel if he landed in America.

A pilot flying a plane without using his navigation system, is like a person trying to live a successful and happy life without using their feelings to guide them.
That’s what our feelings and emotions are for, they are our Internal Navigation System.
They are a vital tool that we need, in order to get where we need to go.
When alcoholics get sober, they usually have no comprehension of how to get where they want to go. The place alcoholics end up in at the end of their drinking, is most certainly not where they originally planned.
If you are an alcoholic who is sober, than you are probably learning to use your Internal Navigation System for the first time.

Alcoholics drink because they don’t want to access their feelings. Which means whilst we were drinking we missed out on a lot of emotional development.

When we should have been developing emotional intelligence we were just numbing our feelings with alcohol.
Our Internal Navigation Systems are in bad shape because we have abused them so much.
For successful sobriety we have to learn how to use them for the purpose they were intended.

Because nothing is more important than how we feel.


Our whole lives are dictated by how we feel.
You only have to look at an active alcoholic to see someone who is desperately trying to manage the emotional turmoil inside of them. Chasing after stuff or people with the misguided belief that they, or it, will ‘fix’ what they feel inside.

For me, my whole life was dictated by fear, or to be honest; blind terror. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t frightened. It ruled my life and dictated every action I took and only alcohol numbed the intensity of it.
I constantly changed my outsides to try and fix my insides. I moved houses, countries, jobs and relationships all in this fruitless quest.
As alcoholics, we somehow got the faulty impression, that we use what’s outside of us to mange what is inside of us.

Did you do that?
How did it work out for you?

Let me guess, you never felt how you thought you would?
What you thought would complete you, didn’t come close?
What you thought would save you, failed?
Am I right?

We didn’t realise that human beings are designed to have mastery over their emotional lives, not the other way around.
Instead of being slaves to these feelings, they are actually designed to serve us.

We have to find a different way to live and to manage our lives (our internal life) than what we have been doing so far.
Successful sobriety means learning how to use our Internal Navigation System.
This means going within, observing ourselves with curiosity, not judgement.
Examining our feelings and asking ourselves why we behave the way we do.
And most importantly feeling our feelings as they happen, understanding the messages they send us. Using them to guide us.
Becoming fully connected to ourselves.

This was probably the most terrifying thing I had ever done. The absolute last thing I ever wanted to do was understood why I felt (and reacted) the way I did. My feelings scared me because I didn’t understand them.
They threatened to swallow me whole.
But slowly I began to see that all I ever did when I felt bad or uncomfortable, was a knee jerk reaction to try and fix it as quickly as possible. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin; I could barely stand being me for a moment longer.

Not only did I drink, I chased after ridiculous things because I thought it would make me feel better.
I could give you semi-rational reasons for moving countries, changing jobs, breaking up with someone, moving house etc.
But really I was doing all of those things, because I sincerely believed I would feel better if I did. Everything single action I ever took, was in the hope of trying to change how I felt.
Nothing worked.

Not until I discovered, that what I had been looking for, had been inside of me all the time.
Here is the amazing thing, discovering who you really are, understanding and facing up to your feelings is far less frightening and awful than we believe it to be.
It’s just the thought of it that is worse than the reality.

Because once we have done it, we then have access to this wonderful guiding instrument, that can aid us in making the right choices. Our Internal Navigation Systems can guide us to become the people we have always wanted to be.
Becoming a fully functioning human being, means I am fully connected to who I really am, I can now use my feelings to guide me.
I can go within and listen to what they are telling me.
Which means I make better choices for myself and my life is going in the right direction.
It’s true that recovery like life, is a journey not a destination.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And for alcoholics, sobriety is the vehicle that can now take us anywhere we want to go.

Sober Solutions is part of a series of posts, based on extracts from my new book: ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’ if you would like to know more about your Internal Navigation System and how to use it, you can purchase my book here.

The Power of Persuasion

What is the drinks industry selling?
Well almost, like all advertising what they are really selling is a feeling.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The drinks industry have fully comprehended that people like to drink because of the effects. People like the feeling so much that they will spend a lot of their time and money in pursuing that feeling. Which is why their marketing messages strongly imply, that drinking their brand will enable you to feel cool, connected, sexy, popular etc.
Except, with alcohol for a few hours you do actually feel something like those feelings they’ve sold you: connection, excitement, contentment, happiness, companionship, freedom etc.

The problem is these feelings are chemically induced and temporary.

Naturally we all like those feelings, they are our preferred state. Alcohol just provides us with an easy and convenient vehicle in which to reach them.

I remember an advert a few years ago by a well known beer company.
Like all good ideas it was simple in its execution.
It showed a large flock of birds that were preparing to fly south for the winter. As you watched the birds they morphed into the word ‘Belong.’ Then the beers name.

The implication is clear, by drinking this beer you will feel like you are part of the crowd, (implying that before drinking their brand you weren’t) and you will therefor ‘belong’.
If you want to belong: drink their beer.
Belonging is a pretty powerful emotion, one we all seek. We all want to belong. How convenient that they have provided us with a simple way of getting there.
So, if it is a feeling they are selling and not alcohol, and if I feel inadequate, un-confident and lost before I even touched alcohol, then I may just want to buy a lot of what the alcohol manufacturers are selling.
Because it will get me the feelings I want.
It’s not the alcohol I want, it’s the feelings alcohol gives me.

I was a prime target for this kind of advertising.
I had no idea how to manage my feelings, they were generally confusing, uncomfortable and painful, and I was always looking for ways to deal with them.

Basically I wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
I always wanted to be in the happy place but had no idea of how to get there on my own.
I had no ability or concept of how to achieve and maintain feelings of contentment or happiness organically – by myself without using substances.
I had no internal resources and no autonomy over how I felt.
My emotional life was a complete mystery to me, I was always looking for ways to numb manage it.
No wonder alcohol was addictive for me; it provided everything I couldn’t do for myself.
Alcoholics often define alcoholism as having something ‘missing’ inside them, emptiness, an essential part of ‘self’ that is absent.
This emptiness is a very unpleasant feeling, it is uncomfortable and restricting.
When something is ‘empty,’ then we are driven to ‘fill it,’ and alcohol ‘promises’ to do that.

It fills an aching hole.

With every alcoholic I have ever worked with or spoken to, they have nearly all agreed that this feeling existed prior to them drinking.
It is sometimes a feeling that has been around since childhood and without even noticing, the sufferer begins the task of trying to find something to fill the emptiness.

The search for something outside of themselves to heal the hole inside of them.
Alcohol offers a very quick, very effective way of dealing with those feelings.
This is truly the best way to understand alcoholism.
Alcohol is the solution for an alcoholic. It delivers on it’s promise of changing how we feel. We don’t care that the feelings are only temporary, they just care that those feelings are changed now, this second.
Alcohol is a cloak, it wraps you up, makes everything warm and snuggly.
Consequences are inconsequential to an alcoholic, filling the aching hole becomes so consuming, that all other matters fade away into irrelevance underneath the warmth and fulfilment that drink can bring.
All that matters is now is getting to that place as quickly as possible.

Alcohol is just a vehicle to a destination that we have forgotten the route to.