How I Freed my Elephant
I never spent much time imagining what life would be like sober. It was a given that people drank. All the older kids I looked up to did. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol was a rite of passage, a link to all that is cool and mature.
The perception that I needed to drink to be cool became the reality that I needed to drink to be social.
Not sure when that transition happened, but moving the story forward to my early 20s found me a social cripple when sober. I perceived to need my social lubricant in increasingly non-social arenas. How did I convince myself I needed a drink to watch TV with my friends? Eventually, I needed a drink to socialize with myself — I just needed a drink or drug to be, to exist.
A colleague told me a story about elephant training in Southeast Asia that helps explain:
In order to tame elephants, handlers tie them to a thick chain when the elephants are young. The young elephant learns that when tied up, he cannot escape. As the elephant grows older, the chain becomes a rope. Eventually, an elephant will believe that it cannot escape if the lightest of strings is tied around its leg.
One of the world’s strongest animals contained by something a child could break apart. I was the elephant, believing I was tethered to the dainty lie that I am incomplete without drugs or alcohol.
Recovery is when other elephants pick up the string and show you how dainty it is, and you simply walk away.