This guest blogger post comes courtesy of Rose. She contacted me and wanted to share her story about learning to control her impulses of life, with addiction and all areas, with a healthy balance. As you’ll read, it wasn’t until she began her recovery journey that she was able to see how her impulses were leading to and feeding her addictions.
Thank you Rose for sharing, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and insight in the future!
Impulse control was never one of my strong suits. Throughout most of my life if I had a thought I had to act on it. It was as if I had no choice in the matter and every thought that passed through my mind, whether good or bad, was acted out without much forethought or defense. It was not until I got into recovery that I began to implement some semblance of a healthy balance in sobriety. This is still a work in progress and to this day takes a lot of effort on my part but like a muscle the more I exercise it the more I grow.
This lack of impulse control lead me into my addiction and eating disorder and no matter what precarious situations my thoughts directed me to, I would always follow them to completion. Even if I knew that what I was about to do was not a good idea, I couldn’t stop the action because I felt this intangible itch that could only be scratched by following my impulses.
I’m not alone in this, as I know that many addicts and alcoholics suffer from the same lack of impulse control that I did. Many of us when we get sober find it difficult to readjust ourselves to a new way of life that requires us to deny our impulses and especially in the beginning this can be difficult.
For instance many people who are addicted in some way also really like to steal. This stealing may or may not be linked to their need of money to fuel their addiction, but many times it is just an impulsive action. They go into a store and just steal random things that they don’t need because the thought is not predicated by anything except an impulse.
My one friend told me about how when she got sober she had to force herself not to steal. Whenever she went into CVS or other stores like that, she had to consciously think about not putting make-up in her pocket and she said that it was difficult at first. She had to struggle against the impulse to steal.
This is what I have found in my own sobriety as well. When I first came in I didn’t know that impulse control was something that could be nurtured and developed. I didn’t realize that just because I had a thought, didn’t mean that I had to act out on that thought and since learning to cultivate my impulse control, the results I have found in my life have been astounding.
I would like to say at this point that while drug addiction and alcoholism were affected by my lack of impulse control, these diseases run deeper than just an ability to say no or to redirect my thinking in another manner. In order to have the impulse, or rather compulsion, to drink and use drugs removed I had to do work within a 12 Step fellowship and also seek out treatment. That being said though, once I was sober I was then able to work on my ability to control my impulses in other aspects of my life.
One aspect of my life that has been greatly improved by having impulse control is with my words. In the past whenever I had a thought I said it. There really wasn’t a choice in the matter and especially if my emotions were running high, whatever I thought I said. This usually resulted, as you may have guessed, in my hurting the people closest to me and ruining relationships. The thing of it is that before I got sober I didn’t really know how to censor myself and I lacked the sort of self-awareness necessary to realize that I was not the center of the universe and so therefore I didn’t need to voice my opinions at all moments.
Once I got sober I began to learn that restraint of pen and tongue can often go a long ways in helping to foster better relationships and keep me from hurting those around me. This wasn’t really easy at first but I learned that by pausing, something that I was completely incapable of doing before I got sober, I was able to control my impulse to lash out with my words and in doing so I have saved myself a lot of pain and amends.
Having this ability to pause is really what has allowed me to stifle my impulsive nature and control the intrusive thoughts that want to me harm others and myself. It has been a great blessing in my life and sometimes it is easier than others, but through consciously remembering that most of the things in my life do not require me to act instantly, I have gained the ability to step back and view situations objectively and then act responsibly. Sometimes this means that I have to reach out to others and ask them for their opinion on what I should, while other times it means that I have to get quiet and pray, asking for guidance in the situation. Both of these actions were things I would have never dreamed of in the past, but they have truly saved me on a number of occasions.
Getting sober also taught me that I am not my thoughts. This is was news to when I was first coming in, because for so many years I believed everything that my mind told me. It was forever moving and thoughts seemed to fly in out of nowhere and when they did I would follow them. Coming to understand that I was not my thoughts changed my entire life and allowed me to see that just because I think something doesn’t mean it is true, and doesn’t mean that I have to partake in whatever it is telling me.
So while I am not perfect in my ability to control my impulses today, I have surely come a long way. I am no longer ruled by the impulse to drink or drug myself to death, I am no longer controlled by my impulsive need to eat, and I can think and ask for guidance before I act. I do not lash out at people as much and whenever I am feeling worked up and wanting to act impulsively, I take a step back, calm down, and try to act from a rational place, rather than from my emotions.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.