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.

14 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
    2 years 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.

  • “Perception is reality.” If the elephant truly believes he cannot escape the shackles of a light string, he really is forever trapped. Same for addiction or anyone who feels trapped by their situation and their struggles. The hardest part in helping someone who feels trapped is convincing them that they have the power to pull themselves out of it.

    Yes, I’m aware I am commenting on a super old blog post. No, I’m not a stalker, just an avid reader. 🙂 Have a good day.

    • Nicola! Seeing your name pop up on these comments is a total joy for me.

      I hope you’re having a good day as well.

      Thank you for nailing this metaphor down. That’s what it means exactly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: