Know Thyself – But Is It Enough?

The other day, my husband, stepson and I were in the car, coming home from shopping, and we were having a discussion about why we each behave the way we do. I’m not sure how exactly we got on this subject, but that often seems to be the way that important conversations start. My stepson, whose intellect is far beyond his eleven years (even though his behavior and emotional age are happily in line with his chronological age), spoke of a situation in which he acted in a less than favorable way. He said, “I know myself, I knew what was going to happen.” He went on to say that knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t always stop his bad behavior.

Isn’t that the truth? An eleven year old just summed up my whole drinking career in one sentence! Knowing what was going to happen when I drank, no matter bad, didn’t stop me from doing it. I would like to say that when I drank I was in denial about the negative consequences, that I really thought that each time I took that first sip of booze that, “this time will be different.” But I wasn’t in denial, I was in my right mind enough to know exactly what would happen – I would drink, I would do and say bad things, I might punch someone, wreck a car, or get arrested. And yet, I drank.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says,

“The actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience.”

Big Book, Fourth Edition; Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 39

So, clearly Bill and Bob knew that self-knowledge wasn’t enough to help the alcoholic get and stay sober, and I agree. It wasn’t for me. For me it took treatment (twice!), completely removing myself from my regular life, removing triggers and access to booze, to get sober. And then it took a lot of work – the steps with a sponsor, learning honesty, acceptance, and forgiveness – to stay sober. You know what else it took? Yep, you guessed it. Self-knowledge.

Isn’t it funny how that works? The very thing that wasn’t ever going to get me sober is the very thing that I need to stay sober. I had to delve into those parts of me that I didn’t want to know and get acquainted. I had to look closely and carefully at my motivations for just about everything. I had to learn what made me tick. At times, it felt like I was meeting someone new, a stranger who I needed to get to know. Sometimes it was scary and sometimes it was comforting, but getting to know myself was the key to being able to change those parts of me that needed changing to be able tIs self knowledge enough to get and stay sober? o live a life that is happy, joyous, and free.

These days, I feel like I know myself pretty well. The things that I say and do and feel no longer surprise me. That isn’t to say that I don’t screw things up from time to time, I do. The difference now is that I am usually able to understand why I screwed up, and I am quick to try to fix it, and learn from it, so that when a similar situation comes up again – and it will – that I have enough awareness to react differently.

So no, self-knowledge may not be enough to get an alcoholic sober, but it is just what I need to stay sober and be happy.

I’m not sure that my stepson realized how insightful he was about knowing himself, but not really knowing what to do with the knowledge. What I do know, is that I will be there to help him figure it out along the way. And I can do that because I know me.























On quitting quitting…


I am a really good starter of things.  I start diets.  I start projects.  I start exercising.  I start friendships.  I start eating healthy.  I start laundry.  I have good intentions.  Really, I do.  But there a lot of things that I just don’t finish.  I have been this way for as long as I can remember, even when I was little.  When I was in grade school I started gymnastics, piano lessons, Girl Scouts.  And I didn’t stick with any of them.  As I got older I joined clubs in high school, I started college, I forged new friendships, I started therapy.  And I didn’t stick with any of them.

One of my biggest regrets is not finishing college.  I was a good student all the way through high school, and I was awarded a full academic scholarship to the local university.  I went one semester.  ONE.  Then I quit and went to work.  During the next several years I went back to school from time to time, but I never did finish.  As the semester would end, or as I would finish a class, I would just kind of give up.  Nothing horrible happened, I still had good grades, I just didn’t want to go anymore.  So I didn’t.

I’m not exactly sure why I am not a good finisher of things.  Is it because my parents never made me finish anything that I didn’t like?  Is it because when the novelty of something wears off, I’m just no longer interested?  I think that both of those things play a part.  But as I think about it, it may have more to do with how I feel about myself than how I feel about whatever it is I’m trying to finish.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with self-acceptance and self-worth.  I am only now learning, at almost 42 years old, that I do have some good qualities.  I am better able to speak the truth to myself about me, rather than feeding the narrative that I heard (or maybe even created) growing up.  I know that I am smart, not just lucky, as I was told by my mother as a child.  I know that I am not horribly ugly like I thought for most of my youth because everyone oohed and aahed over my sister’s beauty, but not mine.  I know that I have a truly good heart, despite the fact that my family doesn’t find me loveable.  I guess what I am getting at, is that, by telling myself the truth, I have begun to like who I am.  Love may be on it’s way, but it’s not here quite yet.

So what does all of that have to do with me being a quitter?  Well, I think that I haven’t ever really felt that I was worthy of accomplishment.  I didn’t deserve to be a college graduate, I didn’t deserve to have friends that love me for me, I didn’t deserve to look fit and be healthy physically.  I wasn’t worth it.  At least, I didn’t think I was worth it.

Now that I have been in recovery for over two years, and I have really examined the parts of my life that I tried to avoid for so long, I have had to take a long, hard look at myself.  What I have found is that I am worthy of those things.  I am worthy of being happy and healthy, I am worthy of being accomplished.  And I’m capable.  I can do it.  Without quitting.  All the way to the finish.

I can do it

PS-I have started a class, Contemporary Literature, and I will finish it.  I have started C25K, and I will be able to run a 5K.  More details to come….