Monday, August 8, 2011

Worry is Action Without Direction

"Worry is misuse of the imagination" — Mary Crowley

When we are faced with an obstacle, whether we fear failure for ourselves or that the worst will happen to others, we worry. We don’t know what action to take; we don’t realize that worry itself is an action. It’s action without direction. We have created the energy to attack the problem, but we don’t know where to direct it first. This energy churns inside us seeking an outlet, and that outlet becomes worry.

One of the most common forms of worry in sobriety is the fear of relapse. The newer we are to sobriety, the greater this fear is although it can be intensified in later sobriety through stress, temptation, or Post-Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome . At one time or another, it is safe to say that every sober alcoholic worries that they will pick up a drink. The greater the temptation, or urge, the stronger the worry.

In this case, worry only adds to the problem. The energy charging through our bodies seeks, and will eventually find, release. When our minds are unsure of the outcome, it becomes much easier for that release to come in the form of a relapse. The worry itself increases the chances that what we are worried about will come to pass.

As Mary Crowley (founder of a multimillion dollar company in a time when women rarely worked outside the home) said, “worry is misuse of the imagination”. This is so true. In the simplest sense, when applied to worry about ourselves, our thoughts create our reality. If we worry that we will drink, we greatly increase the chances that we will.

So what do we do? The first and most important step is to decide what we can and cannot influence. If we are worried about relapse, that is entirely within our control. If we are worried about a sick relative, there is little we can do to directly influence the outcome.

Once we have made this division, we must put aside the parts that we cannot control. We must accept that some things are beyond our abilities and that we must redirect the energy we are spending in worry to positive action. Worrying about things over which we have no say only damages ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. It is human to be afraid of the unknown, or to be afraid of something we know is coming that we cannot stop, but we must not allow that fear to overwhelm us.

Every situation has some part of it that we can control. Every situation. In the case of a sick friend, we can at least offer support. We can help in small ways to ease their burden. This we do have control over. This allows us to release the energy otherwise spent in worry in a positive way.

When the worry is about ourselves, we have greater control. If we fear relapse, we build up extreme amounts of energy within ourselves through worry. It is imperative that we find a positive outlet for that energy if we wish to avoid the thing we fear.

The second step in eliminating worry is to identify why we are worried. Why do we fear relapse? Is it a situation, time of year, reaction to other stressors in our lives, or something completely different? It may prove beneficial to write down the reasons we are being tempted or that we fear being tempted. This in itself releases some of the energy that worry has built up.

The third step is to identify the underlying causes of those reasons. If we fear drinking at a wedding, it could be because it is traditional in our circle to drink at these events. In early sobriety, it is usually because we have so recently stopped drinking and do not believe in ourselves enough to be certain we will never drink again. Again, writing these things down releases some of the energy we need to disperse.

The fourth step is to break these underlying issues into smaller, manageable parts that we can control. We can create a plan for attending the wedding; even if we have to come up with an excuse for not going, we can decide ahead of time what our strategy will be. Likewise, if we are early in our New Life, we can plan to attend chats, post on the boards, call sober friends, or engage in activities where drinking is not possible or has never been associated with. Write these down. Put them in order of the easiest to do to the hardest.

The fifth and final step is to implement our plan. Rehearse what we are going to say, get phone numbers and email addresses, laminate a copy of the statements, create a toolbox, locate where to participate in activities. Do these things before you need them. Each positive action that you take eliminates more of the energy that is being taken up with worry. Keep your list with you at all times.

Being prepared will eliminate most, if not all, of your worry. And eliminating the worry is more than half the battle. Worry is action without direction. Once you have given that action direction, there is no longer a need to worry.

This essay is from Moving the Mountain, available from or Amazon

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