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.
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.
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.
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.