Overcoming Obsessive Thinking

The word obsess comes from the Latin word obsidere, one meaning of which is “to besiege.” Being someone who has, at times, obsessed over something, I can say that if we’re not careful, thoughts can besiege our minds, take us out of the present moment, and rob us of any enjoyment we might otherwise experience. In my drinking days, I often obsessed about one thing or another, and depending on what it was, I could find myself filled with such emotions as resentment, anger, self-pity, or anxiety. This was always wasted time on my part; I never looked for solutions if there was a problem. And nothing I obsessed over was ever as bad as I originally thought it was. But mostly, I simply could not stop thinking about something once it became ingrained in my thought processes.

Fortunately, I learned how to turn these types of thoughts around, so to speak. Whatever it was I started to obsess about, with practice, I was able to keep it to a minimum and eventually stop thinking about it altogether. The practice I speak of was to literally redirect my thoughts to something else, something fun, or telling myself how pointless it was to keep thinking about it. And I often talked to someone about whatever I was obsessing over. It took time to break free of obsessive thinking, but it was never as bad as the days when all I could think about was getting drunk. That obsessiveness almost always led to the same conclusion: my mind besieged with worry, distress, and often hopelessness after a night out drinking.

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Introduction to Facing Our Fears

“If you’re reading this something must have caught your attention—and maybe there’s even a reason for it? My hopes are that whatever the reason, the words alcoholic and god don’t deter you from reading the entire book. This is because my story isn’t about alcoholism and addiction and has nothing to do with the God of the Bible. In its most basic form, this is a story of change through growth, both spiritual and personal, and how it helps us become more confident in ourselves, to love ourselves, and to finally be happy with who we are.”                —Darryl Duke

“Is there a god?” and “Why are we here?” are questions I’ve heard answers to many times throughout my life. Some came from people of faith who said there was a God and that we’re here to do his will, while others came from people without faith who said there isn’t a god and that life is what you make out of it.

Although I was never religious, I guess I always believed there was some kind of god who helps us in our lives and never worried about anyone’s answers until I was forty-one years old. That’s when, with everything going good in my life and me being happier than at any other time I could remember, I started doubting this belief and soon found myself feeling sad and afraid. One morning in particular, while feeling depressed and unimportant, I began wondering about my purpose in life, and it occurred to me that maybe there wasn’t a god. A fear like I have never experienced before came over me, and I began to feel empty inside. With help, I was able to overcome the fear I felt, and the emptiness would go away. But over the next few years, the doubts in my belief would still sometimes surface and make me feel afraid. Finally, one day while full of doubt and fear, I decided to seek reassurance that there was some kind of god and a purpose to our lives. Now, at forty-four years old, although I’m still not entirely sure why we’re here, I try to believe that something created life and the universe for a reason, and I talk to it in the shower.

Through that time, I found that reading nonreligious books on what others believed about a god and our purpose in life would bring me some relief from the fear I felt. But because none of those books gave me the total reassurance I was looking for, I eventually turned to science to try to find some kind of proof that there was a god. Several things I read actually caused more doubt and fear when it raised the question, “If there isn’t a god, does life still have meaning?” However, as I continued my search and acquired more knowledge about life and the universe, that question was replaced by these: “Does a creator help us in our lives? And, if so, will it help me end the doubts I have and overcome my fears?” And now, with those questions slowly being answered, not only do I believe more in the possibility of a creator, but I also believe more in myself.

I wonder sometimes, though, if this need for reassurance really did start three years ago, or if it actually began the morning of April 27, 1996. That’s when, hung over and on the verge of losing my family, I decided to get sober and prayed to whatever god I thought there might be for help. When I drank, my life would slowly get out of control, and no matter how much heartache, sadness, or worry this would bring, I couldn’t stay sober on my own. Once, when I was thirty, I even asked a former drinking buddy for help, because I knew he had been sober for a while. He told me that the reason he no longer wanted to drink was because of a more spiritual lifestyle he now tried to live. He also told me there was a possibility that I was an alcoholic and that maybe spirituality was the answer for me too. I tried it. But after only eight months, I decided to drink again—why? Did God let me down? Or did I let myself down? Maybe I just wasn’t ready to quit and live like my friend did. But after several more years of drinking, and more heartache, came that frightening morning when I knew I couldn’t go on living the way I was.

Today, no matter how unfavorable my current circumstances are, I try to believe that everything will be all right and remain grateful for what’s good in my life. And I also have a lot more confidence in myself now than I had before. I do wonder, though, what’s been different this time than when I tried to stay sober before. Has some kind of god finally decided to help me now that I’m trying to lead a more spiritual life? Or have those things come about because of my own ability to create them? My hopes are that the answers to these questions will unfold as I write this book and try to achieve other things I want in life. For example, I want to try to love people even if I don’t like them. I want to keep growing spiritually and as a person, and become less fearful and insecure. I also want to be OK with not having all the answers to life and enjoy it even more. And finally, if there is something to explain our lives after we die, I want it to help me explain to you why I’m searching for reassurance and purpose.

So, if you’re like me and don’t believe in the God of the Bible or a devil or hell, then read on. And if you’ve also been searching for something more in life, then please read on.

This isn’t an autobiography, but it does contain the parts of my life that helped shape who I am and filled me with the hopes and beliefs I have so far—ones that make me realize that although my journey from fear to belief in myself has been a long one, it’s far from over as I set out to find my purpose.

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Relapses Of The Emotional Kind

Although statistics show that less than half of those who remain sober for a year relapse, and less than 15 percent relapse after five years of sobriety, you should still realize that it is a possibility, especially if one is prone to having relapses of the emotional kind. This is when our thoughts and behaviors become similar to the negative ones we had when using a substance and we find it hard to reverse them. Personally, I don’t worry about drinking again when I have an emotional relapse—my behaviors aren’t nearly as bad as they were back then, and I’m able to change my thoughts to more positive ones. And although I do have a healthy fear that under the right circumstances, I could find myself thinking about getting drunk, it would take a lot for me to do so. Along with some huge resentment, tragic circumstance, or complete nervous breakdown, I’d have to entertain the thought of drinking for a long time first, and then decide to drive to a bar, go inside, order my first beer, and then actually pick it up and drink it.

I’m not trying to be arrogant here. I’m fully aware that some drugs are more addicting than others; heroin and prescription painkillers come to mind, as do the unfortunate deaths that can occur from abusing them. However, I don’t believe that relapse is a part of recovery but a part of addiction. It’s a part with the power to kill, which is why I believe it’s important for people to hear that not only is recovery possible, but so is finding greater happiness in life. Today, I know that drinking wouldn’t make one thing better in my life or replace what I’ve found in my sobriety.

I also know that even after all these years sober, it still doesn’t make sense to me to have only a few beers, so I’m sure I’d get shitfaced right from the start.

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