A double negative is not nearly as effective as a positive. I’m an eternal optimist, so as someone who is perpetually fixated on the positives, I should know the difference. Less (negative) of a bad thing (negative) is not nearly as awesome as a good thing. And this, my friends, is why our traditional addiction recovery system doesn’t work. I should probably do some explaining.
Let’s start with some tangible examples. Which of these food consumption opportunities would more effectively turn your crank?
In scenario one, you see a rotating hotdog cooker in a convenience store with a processed meat tube that’s been spinning for so long it looks like dehydrated leather. In this scenario, I tell you that you don’t have to eat it. It looks bad (negative), and you don’t (negative) have to put it in your pie hole.
In scenario two, you are invited to dine at the finest steak restaurant in town, and you get to pick your favorite cut grilled to your desired level of doneness and perfection.
Which scenario gets you excited? Are you more incentivized to not eat the shoe leather, or to eat the mouth-watering steak? The steak gets your juices flowing and your taste buds tingling, right? If you are a vegetarian, substitute a perfectly ripe mango for the steak, and dehydrated seaweed for the hotdog. You get the point, right? Humans are far more excited for pleasurable experiences than we are to take a pass on displeasurable events.
What makes you excited about the weekends? Is it because you get to sleep in, go for a hike, spend time with your kids, watch sports, play sports, read, grill out, bike ride, take walks, otherwise enjoy nature and stay up late watching movies? Your excitement from the weekend doesn’t simply emanate from the fact that you don’t (negative) have to go to your job that you don’t like (negative), does it?
We anticipate the good. We don’t sit around anticipating the absence of bad. As a drinker, I perfected the skill of anticipating, with excited joy, my next drinking session, no matter how messy my life had become. I never looked forward to not (negative) drinking because drinking had become a problem (negative).
Two negatives might equal a positive in logic class, but in human reality, the positive is where the power of motivation lives.
So when we build our entire approach to treating a disease with over 15 million active American victims that takes over 3 million lives a year worldwide around a double negative, why are we surprised we are losing the battle with alcoholism and the treatment isn’t working?
If alcohol is causing problems in your life (negative), they’ll teach you how to not (negative) drink. In traditional methods of recovery, they’ll help you count the days since you last messed up, let you absorb the shame of starting over again at day one complete with a chip to remind you of your failure, and then send you on a step-by-step path of apologizing for your mistakes. Shame, blame, remorse, failure, restriction and acceptance of weakness. I don’t even know how many negatives that is, but are they supposed to equate to a positive somehow? Am I supposed to feel better? Is that supposed to get me excited?
The reason people relapse at such a high rate (I’ve read studies that estimate the success rate of twelve step programs in the low teens to single digit percentage) is because there is nothing exciting about not eating the dehydrated, leathery hotdog. If we want people to get excited about recovery and sobriety, we need to fire up the grill and get some steaks sizzling.
I know plenty of people in recovery who, even after years of sobriety, still wish they could be moderate drinkers. Even after a considerable record of successfully dismissing cravings, they have done nothing more than accept their fate that they can’t have what they want. What a terrible way to live! It’s both sad, and a miserable example to which sobriety newbies are supposed to aspire. There’s no sizzle. We make sobriety look like a less dramatic version of the bad of active alcoholism.
I know all about it, because in early sobriety, I was stuck in the cycle of making my life less (negative) bad (negative). My life changed – really, really changed for the much better – when I became deeply convinced that alcohol was a poison without any benefits to humans. When I really thought about what it meant to catch a buzz – that taking of a healthy and primed brain and inhibiting its function with a toxin – I was no longer jealous of moderate drinkers. What really cemented my belief that there is no safe or admirable quantity of alcohol was when the depression, anxiety and need for control just evaporated out of my life once I got over a year into my permanent sobriety. Then I understood. Then I saw the positive, and stopped depending on the double negative for incentive.
I was free. I didn’t wish I could drink alcohol anymore than I wished I could drink Drano. I wasn’t embarrassed to not be drinking alcohol in social settings. I was proud and enthusiastic about my alertness during all the conversations I had while cracking jokes and making decipherable comments to friends who drifted slowly into zombie-like oblivion. Early on in sobriety, I was jealous of their lack of inhibition. Now, I just feel sorry for them.
Do you want to aspire to feeling not (negative) embarrassed (negative) when in public, or would you rather be proud? Traditional methods of alcoholism recovery will help you feel like you’re not alone in your deformity. I’d rather help you see how lucky you are to be one of the few living your best life, poison free.
I need your help. I need us all to view this as a much bigger topic than just individuals stopping (negative) a bad (negative) behavior. Frankly, this isn’t about you. It isn’t about me, either. It is about changing our culture. It’s about adjusting our warped societal view that alcohol is a positive and facing the fact that just like asbestos, lobotomies, cigarettes, leather pants and the confederate flag, alcohol is just a bad idea that we used to think served a purpose.
We need to stop viewing sobriety as the punishment for the weak and willpowerless. We need to view sobriety as a sign of intelligence and enlightenment. We need to evolve.
I don’t want to help people to stop (negative) doing something that’s bad (negative) for them. I want to help people see the glory and the sizzle of an enlightened sobriety. Let us eat steak (or mango) in celebration of our soberevolution!
If you are ready to leave the shame and negativity behind, I hope you’ll check out our SHOUT Sobriety program. Sure, we’ll help you get alcohol out of your life, but SHOUT Sobriety is about so much more than that. You’ll help us, simply by the example of living your best life, to convince others that a positive is much better incentive than a double negative. For more information about SHOUT Sobriety, click the link below.
If you believe in our mission to crush the stigma of alcoholism, and you want to be part of this soberevolution, please consider making a financial contribution to our fully-tax-deductible nonprofit, Stigma. Please donate now!