Decisions Decisions… Making Smart Sober Choices

As alcoholics we are notorious for questionable and impulsive decision-making. I’m sure the common notion is that we must wake up every day and say, “what crazy stunt can I pull today?” “Stunt-puller”- that was me in my alcohol-fueled days. My impaired-driven ideas were infinite and usually ended with me waking-up with mysterious bruises and scrapes. This is what I cleverly called my “That’s Ashley!” chapter in life. Though it was more like an epic novel than a chapter.
See, my best friends innocently coined this term for me in my early twenties when I really started to push the limitations of my imagination, sense of adventure and alcohol consumption. Let’s be honest- some ideas were fun! But some were downright stupid. I mean going to a shooting range after 5 vodka and red bulls- not the brightest. (I should add here that no one was harmed in the making of this blog). As part of my natural-defense when questioned about these decisions- I would laugh, turn on that ditzy “charm,” and say “Tthhhattt’s Ashley!”
This sitcomish calamity strung along through road trips, spontaneous boulder-hopping and even cliff-jumping. Being only in my twenties, I still had a sense of invincibility which we know (logically) could had been quickly terminated by my treacherous relationship with alcohol. Oh but “that’s Ashley!” I’ll let you in on a little secret- the older you get the less that ditzy charm works. As I neared 30, I started hearing the word “trainwreck” as my new coined description. Yikes- that escalated quickly! This is the moment you start to realize that even though it’s all fun and games for now, eventually people won’t take you seriously anymore. I was also infamous for making crazy proclamations from time to time. I would wake up, have a few drinks, and go to my parents and say “I am going to medical school!” Or my favorite- “I’m moving to CHINA!” (I mean seriously, has anyone looked at the pollution rates there? That’s nuts!)
Even when I tried to follow through with some of these absurd ideas, I was too dependent on alcohol to achieve anything. In reality, some of my ideas weren’t outlandish at all. Becoming a doctor is a great idea but I couldn’t do it in my condition. I realized if I ever wanted to get something done- I had to ditch the booze. I assumed once I got clean, the pieces would just fall back into place. Then again, we would all like it to work like magic, wouldn’t we? Do the program, get the treatment and everyone just takes us seriously again. Newsflash- that’s not the way it works.
To be honest, if being cross-examined is my biggest fear on decision-making post-rehab then life isn’t all that bad. Some people lose all trust and communication with their friends and families- so I consider myself one of the lucky ones. This leads us into addressing the realities and repercussions of decision-making in our sobriety. As people in recovery, we know that we are supposed to slowly ease ourselves back into life. No big decisions before one year. No intimate relationships. We have all heard it.
I think that being careful in new sobriety great- but we need to remember this isn’t our first time in the real world- we are not newborns coddled by society and we are not forcibly confined either. We are allowed to make decisions for ourselves, and what I think we worry about the most is failure and disappointment. That imminent fear holds us back- encasing us in doubt and self-diminishment. I can relate. That is why I hesitated about starting this blog- the fear that I would fail and that I would hear “That’s Ashley!’ or worse- “trainwreck.” Sometimes, we need to believe in our new-found selves and follow-through on our dreams regardless of that little voice (ok not-so-little) telling you that you are not going to succeed.
Well here are my tips for smart decision-making based on my experiences:
1) Trust yourself. You are not the person you used to be. You have already followed through with one of the most important self-proclamations- the decision to get sober.
2) Cross-examine yourself. Go over every possible bad outcome before you enter a new venture- play it out! What would you do if you and Billy broke up? Is that a risk you can afford right now- at this point in your sobriety?
3) Set yourself up for success. Create back-up plans. Make sure you know what you need and make it happen. If you start a new business venture- do all the research, have a plan, partner with the right people. Create an environment for success in anything that you set out to do.
4) Be Cautious. Don’t tell everyone the second you come up with a ground-breaking idea. Sit on it, sleep on it, tell the local homeless man. Make sure you still love it before you yell it from the mountaintops and think it through before you start involving others in your life and getting them on your team again.
5) Commit. We are notorious for finding an easy way out. We drank to forget and escape. Well, it’s time to put those big boy/girl pants on and give it a solid go. If you decide to move to China then for goodness sake- find a place, buy a ticket and tell Billy you are off to learn Mandarin.
My point is, we have come a long way to be here. We will continue to make mistakes. This time though, we will accomplish more than we have failed. My “That’s Ashley!” chapter has ended but I will never hear the end of it- but I just might change the context in which it’s used.

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