What do you abstain from?
Reality check: If you’re trying to grow, you need to learn to let go of your urges. Your urges stem from emotions, which are volatile and reactive. If you are acting out of emotions/urges, you are not really in control. If you allow emotions to control you, you are not really free to live a fulfilled life. Emotions (along with its accomplice, the thinking mind) keep you in a victim state and drain you of your spirit. Unchecked emotions can lead to self-destructive urges that leave you feeling confused and drained after succumbing to them.
As Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés explains in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves (a special shout-out and warm thank you to my dear friend Marica of The Purple Kitty NY for sending me this amazingly powerful book), you have an innate predator in your mind (she likens it to the Bluebeard character, although I won't go into detail on the backstory and folklore here) that keeps you from progressing, from being your fullest, freest, purest self. As Dr. Estés explains in the book, “it is against development, against harmony, and against the wild. . . when its cutting work is done, it leaves the woman deadened in feeling, feeling frail to advance in her life; her ideas and dreams lay at her feet drained of animation.”
Think of this aspect of yourself as the part that wants you to stay in your comfort zone. It can also be what makes you indulge in food / drink, for example, or drugs, or crave for emotional highs (including social media!) instead of finishing your project, training for an event, or just living peacefully without any drama whatsoever. It may feel good or comforting in the moment, but it throws you off-track: it cancels your plans, changes your priorities, dilutes your joy and distracts you from your passion projects, leaving you drained.
How do you stop allowing this predator within to control you, keeping you from reaching your fullest potential? Identify your go-to's (coping mechanisms) and practice abstaining from them. If you can relate, I hope the steps below will help you.
Learn your triggers. Find out what causes you to get those urges. Notice the thought process. Ask yourself: what is within you that wants you to go through a high-emotion experience that leaves you drained and depressed afterwards? Take your time with this, and be radically honest with yourself.
Create space between trigger and reaction. Once you notice what your triggers are, you have the power to pause and decide how you want to react to the emotion. Put together a list of "other go-to" steps you can take before reaching for the phone/alcohol/drugs/drama. Below are some ideas of concrete steps you can take:
Drink water or tea.
Have a healthy snack.
Go for a run or exercise.
Spend time in nature.
Take a nap.
Dance in your room alone.
Watch a light TV show.
Talk to supportive friends/loved ones.
Contact support groups.
3. Be kind to yourself. No matter what, accept yourself wherever you are at the moment. We can be very hard on ourselves when we make mistakes. Bullying yourself simply makes you spiral deeper into a state of helplessness, potentially triggering you further.
4. Plan ahead. Going forward, work on minimizing or cutting out the things/people/situations that cause those triggers for you in the first place. You deserve to live in peace and you are completely capable of accomplishing that by focusing on the things that fill your soul. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you don’t want to drink, then don’t. If you want to stay home reading a book on a Friday night instead of going to a bar, lovely. Do what feels best for you and come back to yourself, the most important person in your life.
Once you learn to react in different ways (example, by abstaining), you'll notice the shift in your wellbeing. This is a practice, and a chance to get to know yourself well. Each of us is a complex universe inside and it is fascinating when we start exploring and unlocking every chamber of our psyche. A lot of people live unaware of the things that cause us to act in certain ways. Once you are aware, know that it may get uncomfortable, so be gentle with yourself always. Remind yourself: You are stronger than you think!
Let me know if the steps above resonate with you, and feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!