same old me, or not

I’ve been busy, busy, busy this week. In a good way, to be sure, but it doesn’t leave me much time for thinking about moderation and related topics. My approach to moderation has been to focus on operant habit-building, which takes a ton of effort at the beginning, but almost none to maintain (once a habit is established). As I’ve said before, my approach has its drawbacks, but it’s convenient for times like this, because the routines of regular life just pull me along and I don’t need to pause and think through things. But I was reminded recently that pausing to think also has its place.

I went out for a nice evening with my partner last night, spending some time together in the midst of one of those times where we both seem to be in constant motion. At one point he sat back and mentioned how much he likes the way we are now that we’re drinking less. Then grinned, and pointed out that he liked me before too, he just meant he appreciates the small, subtle differences that have emerged over the last ten months. The things I celebrate here — better sleep, better evenings, better mornings, doing more, being more present — are things he notices too. I appreciate positive feedback whenever I get it, and I agree: I like the new me too.

It’s also true that I don’t feel like a whole new person, nor do I really wish to be. I liked the old me too, in a lot of ways. Drastically cutting back on my drinking hasn’t really changed who I am, nor has it suddenly made me the grown-up I sometimes wish I could be. I still leave the bed unmade, I still procrastinate, I still get hit with an occasional bout of depression that makes getting through a regular day seem like an impossible task.

I’m the same me, but it’s like I’ve reset the difficulty setting for playing this game called “everyday life,” making everything about 5% easier. I’m just a little more likely to laugh off an annoyance than fixate on it, a little more likely to say “yes” to a new adventure, a little more able to get more done on a regular basis. Underneath this, and harder to describe, I think I’m taking responsibility for myself in a different way. It feels good, and it’s nice to know that at least one other person is noticing too.

It also tends to just feel normal, unless I force myself to pay attention. It’s so easy to adjust our baseline, so that the way we feel today seems like the way we’ve felt forever & ever. One of the many reasons I decided to try blogging about my first year of moderation was to ensure that I noticed things, so that I could celebrate them (or learn from them, as the case may be). It’s easy to focus on what we get wrong, but if we really want to change our behavior over the long term, we have to learn to focus intensely on what we get right, whether or not that feels natural. I still feel just like myself. And also better.

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