I am thrilled so many people found my post yesterday on the RAIN technique for learning to sit with difficult (or any) strong feelings. I have used it I don’t know how many times, and still do. I do hope you will read Tara Brach’s explanation (linked in yesterday’s post). She covers it more eloquently and in more detail than I could or did.
I’m following up today to make one point, which may sound obvious, but isn’t to many, and wasn’t to me when I first thought about getting sober. RAIN and other awesome sobriety tools work only if…you’re sober. That’s right, there are many, many paths to the sober life, but they all, without exception, have one thing in common: You have to stop drinking.
I know many of us follow the brave and heartbreaking UKAnnie over at Dappled Path. And I don’t want to pick on her — her complete honesty in talking online about her struggles to get sober have done a huge service in letting newbies see how hard it is — worth it, but really, really hard. When I was in my first thirty days of sobriety, Annie’s blog was the first I ever followed. Because of her, I didn’t feel alone. She expresses the fears and doubts so many of us had and still have. Hers was the first blog I ever commented on. Because she had helped me get sober, I wanted her to get on over to the bright side too. She deserves it! As do all the others who comment “me too!” on her blog.
So in thinking what to say to Annie recently — in trying to make sure I had shared everything that helped me get clean, every tip and technique — I remembered what a good (now sober) AA friend told me. My friend was at a meeting, complaining that he really wanted to get sober, but just couldn’t. He was drunk at the meeting, by the way, and had a bottle in his coat pocket. An old timer turned to him and said, “Well, at some point, if you really want to get sober, you’re going to have to stop drinking.”
My friend is a smart guy. But he said, that hadn’t really hit him before. If he wanted sobriety, he had to give up drinking. He couldn’t have both.
Which brings me to my present to all of those who are struggling with this — the desire to life a sober life and the equally strong, sometimes stronger, desire to keep drinking. Though this film was made in the 80s (and stars some famous folk who are looking a lot younger than they do today, obviously), the message is almost perfect (there are a couple moments that suggest relapse as an option — but in general the message is clear). Basically Ernie learns that he can’t hold onto his beloved rubber duck AND learn to play the saxophone (You gotta put down the duckie…). And we have to accept that we gotta put down the bottle, if we’re gonna live the sober life (I sing along with those words). You can do one or the other, but not both.
Oh, just watch it: Sesame Street, Put Down the Duckie