Sobriety: learning to live life as a left-hander
Updated: Jan 14
Published statistics vary slightly, but it is reported that over 90% of the population is naturally right-handed (as are Mike and Glenn). We are no scientists and don't even play them on our weekly sobriety podcast. Still, we have learned that handedness has something to do with genetics, environment, hemispheres, cortexes, interbrains, chromosomes, genes, or MTV. LOL.
What we do know with great confidence is that if we were in a life-or-death situation that required a rapid response, we would instinctively use our right hand as we are most assured and comfortable with that reaction. An example would be; If somebody is drowning and we had access to a life raft, we would impulsively use our right hand to throw the preserver to the one in crisis as this is the hand that has worked for us our whole life. The right hand is our go-to.
Save the crisis scenario; our entire life has us reinforcing our go-to at every turn. We have trained our brains. We have spent decades associating and reinforcing our right-handedness. And for Alcoholics, our right hand picked up the drink. Alcohol became our go-to. Look, booze worked for us until it didn't. It was with us at most twists and turns in our lives through good times and bad times through celebrations and crises. And we continued to fortify and manufacture these associations with each sip.
Successful recovery demands extreme change. Some try to repurpose their old go-to into a revised go-to. I.e., “California Sober,” Non-Alcoholic (NA, which in fact contains alcohol), or even habit-reinforcing mocktails. These are cliffs that we recommend one not approach.
Sobriety requires us to find a new go-to. Recovery has us learning to live left-handed.
This is where real work comes in, as the depth of the struggle can be quite uncomfortable as we fight our manufactured instincts. The complexities of the inner brain, those cemented memories, will not stop just because you have made a new decision. Accept that. Plan for that. One needs conditioning to create a new go-to.
Glenn does 22 things to re-train his brain. He has those action items to find and baked into the blueprint of his days. His left hand is becoming stronger and, more naturally, his go-to.
For certain, life is going to continue to throw stuff at us. Some significant and some not so; A death in the family, the loss of a job, illness, a broken relationship, etcetera. How will we respond? If it comes at us fast, our brain will want to put the right hand up. The drink may be our first thought. The lead memory will probably be the sexy, soothing flashback, not the puking, remorseful recall. Our physical and mental response will depend on how much practice we've put into using our left hand.
Like any change, it is most difficult early on when it is uncomfortable and deliberate and then becomes easier as it morphs to natural as the brain and body are reprogrammed and retrained. Learning to live left-handed will take time. Progress is the goal. Perfection may forever elude us, but the learn will prove to be the reward.
What we know today, the facts that we have seen played out is that the more diligent we are using our left hand, the more we commit, the more we surrender and say “hey, I'm a left-hander”, the better things get.
Are you ready to switch?
Ideas and thoughts for this blog post were taken and built upon sober.coffee podcast Episode #15 Titled: “Sobriety - Learning to Live as a "Left-Hander" The podcast dropped on 7/14/2021 click here to hear the podcast
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions do not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be thought of as a substitute for the advice of healthcare professionals. The author's advice and viewpoints are their own.