I’ve never thought of myself as a shallow person so it’s really difficult for me to pinpoint the exact moment when I let myself become one. One might say that the ability to reflect clearly on one’s actions is lost when uncontrolled heavy drinking ensues, but I tend to disagree with that. In my opinion, drinking doesn’t prevent you from undergoing introspection and analyzing your actions, but rather tends to distort your perception and confers you a biased view of the results.
Alcoholism and introspection
During my years of alcoholism, I became less focused on my own thoughts and the direct outcome of my action, as I was more and more oriented towards the external factors that brought me sorrow and misfortunes. You see, rather than admit drinking had become the centerpiece of my existence and the reason I got out of bed every afternoon, I thought it was simply my way of coping with the aggravations of day to day life.
I was clearly in denial, but whenever that idea began to emerge in my mind, I would simply cast it aside like last week’s leftovers. Soon enough, the process of introspection was a stranger to me and I turned into a slave of the logical fallacies my distorted perception had constructed. To put it simply, I asserted I drank so much because everything was falling apart, rather than acknowledge that everything was falling apart because I was drinking so much.
Re-learning introspection in sobriety
In therapy, I learned that self reflection constitutes a very powerful motivational tool because it enables us to expose many of the faulty coping strategies for what they really are: pathways back into addiction. Upon a closer examination of myself and my “modus operandi”, I discovered that I had been projecting many of my problems onto others and refused to accept any part of the blame.
I refused to accept that I had my own shortcomings and naturally, the cognitive dissonance between my erroneous philosophy and the outcomes of my actions forced my brain to choose the position that would cause me less distress, however flawed that may have been.
Introspection also allowed me to be more honest with myself – inside, nobody can hear you admit you were wrong, right? – and that’s an important step in a stable recovery. You’d be surprised how many times I lied to myself before that, even regarding trivial things. Lying to yourself becomes a habit after a certain point and the only way to tear down the shroud of falsehood is to shed the light of reason upon it.
Don’t go overboard with introspection!
While my therapist agreed that I was doing great progress in terms of learning how to self reflect, she also warned me about the downsides of “excess” – that’s a word that never leaves an addict’s side for too long, as we’re all very prone to abusing a good thing. Basically, if your attention is pointed inwards for too long, you tend to lose sight of the good things happening around you.
At the same time, over-analyzing your thoughts and actions won’t allow you to be spontaneous and actually enjoy your life. That’s not only a surefire path to depression, but it can also mark a communication breakdown with your loved ones. Introspection allows us to learn from past mistakes and find the strength we need to stay sober, but moderation is key. Start reconnecting with yourself today!