Singular Focus


Rushed home from work last night. Tried twice to stop for gas and the lines were too long to bother. The reason for this frantic pace was a phone call. I was scheduled to speak with a career counselor and I did not want to be late. I got home on time.

When I walked in the door, my son Christopher was practicing piano (loudly). He has been home from Juilliard on Christmas break and his needs and my needs often collide at this time of day. It is a time when I need quiet and he needs to practice. It activates the inner dialogue—to speak up or suck it up. Tonight, I sucked it up.

In less than one hour, eight people were arriving for dinner. I had to start preparing for the party, and I thought, “I could really use a drink.” My nerves were frayed, and I could not find my quiet, happy place. This was the perfect moment for experimental behavior modification. (I just made up that term.) I thought if I took the action of pouring a drink, it might be a suitable replacement for what I was craving, a cocktail. I got out the bubbly water and pomegranate juice and poured a tall one. Yes, that helped. I stuck with this option for the duration of the dinner party, never missing the wine that was flowing in and out of glasses.

This whole one-year experiment has taught me some thing already. The difficulty with giving up booze is in my mind. I don’t think that I had a physical dependency on alcohol. I believe it is a psychological need and specific scenarios elicit certain responses. In other words, certain situations create the desire to drink. I notice that this happens even when my mind is wondering in a daydream. For example, if I think about having a nice dinner with Philip, say at home in our kitchen, and I picture it in my mind, there is a cocktail in the fantasy–OR when I picture myself at a Leadership or Board event, I am having wine. The alcohol has a specific association. Relaxation and/or fun = drinks. It is as if I will need to record over old tapes to stop this train of thought and habitual thinking.

The technique that I have adopted to help me with this process is one with which I am very familiar. It is a way of stopping a thought process in its tracks. I have developed this practice over the years when I have had to say goodbye to certain people in my life (either they have moved away or a relationship has ended). The tactic goes something like this…

When I start to feel the wheels of desire spinning in my head, I change the picture. I notice the pain of longing and in that moment I shift to think of something else. It sounds elementary yet it is much more difficult than one might think. Think about this. We can only have one thought at a time. If we allow ourselves to dwell on what we cannot change and what we have lost, the desire will grow. If we ask that desire to “move on over”, then it opens up the possibility for an alternative thought.

In the case of people whom I miss, there is nothing I can do about them not being with me and dwelling on that fact becomes destructive to my happiness and the happiness of those around me. With people, I try to hold them in my heart, send them happy thoughts and let my mind be free to think of other things.

When I am longing for a drink, and feel disappointed and deprived, I change the focus. Sometimes I verbalize it to Philip to get it out of my head and I don’t allow myself to linger. I play it like it is a slide show in my brain. Do I like the slide I have projected on the screen? Nope? Next, please.

This is the re-posting of a blog entry from January 5, 2013. The entry was accidentally deleted by the author.

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