Early in a human being's development, they accept a truth or belief that is based on a rational or irrational fear. One learns not to touch a flame for fear of getting burned. One learns not to get out of bed at night for fear of being eaten by the monsters hiding under it. Over time, the rational fears stick with a person and hopefully their irrational fears fall, once they gain some wisdom and experience. Or they beat the stuffing out of the monsters under the bed and finally get some peace at night.
Often, a person becomes set with their ideas about life, the universe and especially, themselves. That's why the expression "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" has had such staying power. Every once in a while, though, something can happen to a person to make them question those ideas and beliefs, in order to try to understand the motivation behind them; sometimes with the hope of changing themselves for the better. That's happened to me a number of times in my life. For example, that questioning occurred when I wrote the list of things I want to accomplish last fall. I took a number of firmly held beliefs, questioned their rationality, found them to be based on fear, and decided to challenge those fears in the hopes of overcoming them.
Well, last week, a simple question was posed to me concerning some of my other firmly held beliefs. A friend just asked, "why?" Specifically, she wondered why I limit myself to only three alcoholic drinks in an evening and why I will not ingest any mood altering drugs.
In the past, I've always answered this question with the assertion that I have no desire to ever lose control of myself. I have no desire to experience the consequences that are commonly associated with excessive drinking or recreational drug use. I don't want to find out what kind of a man I am while drunk or high.
I thought about those statements for a bit and for the first time in my life, I found them lacking. I haven't been seriously intoxicated since I was six years old (I was falling down drunk after sneaking sips of wine at a party). However, if I'm sitting around with my friends, with nowhere to go and I'm presented with a fourth glass of wine, I would normally refuse it. Why? What is the harm in taking that fourth glass? I think by now I would have found myself with alcoholic tendencies if they were there. Is there a reason for me to stick to a hard rule, a hard belief, a hard limit that I set for myself when I was 18 years old, even when there doesn't seem to be any apparent harm?
By creating that limit, I stopped myself from making an informed, mature decision concerning my actions, which appears irrational and a bit childish. My limit creation was based on an irrational fear of becoming Mr. Hyde. But I'm reminded of the quote, "a life lived in fear is a life half-lived." Needless to say, I won't be satisfied with a "half-lived" life.
However, getting trashed on a nightly basis is still unappealing, but going beyond my three drink limit shouldn't be a cause for excessive consternation. Especially if that drink won't place me in a dangerous or regrettable situation. I just need to trust myself to make good choices.
Ultimately, I need to apply this type of self examination to other parts of my life. In this case, my fear based limit is rather easy to overcome, unlike my paralyzing fear of dancing. One would think that the easing of my alcohol limits would help defeat my dancing phobia, but I hope never to employ liquid courage in this lifetime. I need to start dancing while stone cold sober, damnit!
Eventually, I hope to whittle my list of irrational fears down, in the hopes of becoming a better person with a more fulfilling life. One day, I may even face those monsters under the bed too.
Posted by Mr. Eff on 07/01/2004