Are you a Scientist or a Swami ?

When it comes to changing habitual patterns around drinking so many people skip the crucial first step in the process and wonder why things didn't go well.

The first step is to be clear about who YOU are in the process. That might seem a bit weird, but hear me out.

If you believe that drinking is something that "happens to me" that will define what type of help will work for you. There is a fundamental core belief here that you are not in control, therefore help will come from outside. You will need to surrender, either to a higher power or to someone you deem wiser in these matters than you are. 12 step fellowships might be a good fit.

If however, you believe that the drinking "happens because of me" you will be more inclined to go down a path of self-inquiry. You will benefit from models and tools that develop the skill of self-observation. I call this the scientist.

You can put on your Lab coat and start the experiment. You and your drinking, are the subject of the experiment. You can try things out on yourself, and observe the results. You can start to be curious about the thoughts and feelings that come before you drink. You can trial different ways of changing, controlling and moderating your alcohol intake. You can look for patterns and recurring common elements in your drinking behaviour.

Keeping notes and graphs on behaviours, mood journals, trials will help you to understand what is driving your drinking. It is possible to avoid additional personal harm using this scientific approach. There is no room for personal self-abuse talk. Failure and success are not part of the model. Shame and blame can be deleted from the experiment. There can be a cool, soothing air of detached observation. Just track results. No moralising, judging or speculating.

Lastly, if you believe "drinking is happening to teach me" you may be a swami. You can use your struggles with alcohol as a way of deepening your personal work. You may draw on the tools of meditation, yoga or other spiritual practices to frame your experiences.

Your self-enquiry can be held by the fundamental spiritual principles of compassion and truth. You too, like the scientist can hone the skills of self-observation but will use different language to frame what you are experiencing. It may be that you also include concepts of surrender, faith and connection with the unseen world in a way the scientist just wouldn't.

Of course, being the complex creatures that we are most of us are probably part swami part scientist. Either way, the bit that is helpful is to remember is to position yourself as the observer. Until you can "see" yourself it is pretty darn hard to change what you are doing in a way that is lasting.

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