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.

12 Responses to “How I Freed my Elephant

  • Great analogy. I think it can be used for most of the things that tie us down.

  • Love this Mark. : )

  • Awesome blog. Can totally relate. Thanks Mark.

  • Love it. In my affection for the great grey ones, it feels good to imagine the recovering community to have trunks. 🙂

  • I love it!

  • Brittany Shelton
    11 months ago

    I had a similar experience but have learned that in my case, it was more about becoming comfortable and accepting that maybe, I was just a rather quiet and more introverted person, as that is just who I am…and that’s okay. 🙂

    I really like the connection with the elephant/chain story. Indeed, we are our own worst enemy and we also hold the key to choosing freedom.

    Excellent article.Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for stopping by Brittany. Acceptance is so clutch. I thought I needed to drink to be social, like even to have friends. I’m also in the process of accepting my introverted side. And discovering that I can be pretty outgoing without being drunk at the same time. Your post on those photographs you came across was really powerful. Thank you for being so open and honest.

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