My decision-making skills are levelling up as I grow. I have come a long way in making better decisions as my experiences and perspectives mature over time. When I decided to quit drinking, this was a decision that wasn’t made overnight, it was a culmination of bad experiences and mounting health issues that led me to decide. But not everything in my life was decided as so. Some of my decisions demand quicker responses, some need critical and deep assessment and some decisions are made for me without my control.
Here are some things to consider when making decisions that have guided my own decision-making process.
Give Yourself a Timeline
When my husband and I decided to quit drinking it was never a good time. There was always a birthday coming up, a dinner or a holiday. We simply just decided on a day and stuck to it. We gave ourselves this day so that when the day came, we were prepared to fully step into the new. It was easier to make the decision because we had each other for accountability. If you make a decision create a timeline for the action and ask someone in your life to hold you accountable to that action.
Align the Decision with your Values
Values are very personal and unique to you. They are what drives your motivation and sets priorities and goals in your life. What are values you ask? Things like honesty, integrity, authenticity, safety, taking responsibility and the list goes on. Core values are the foundation your life stands on. If you haven’t figured out what your core values are you aren’t going to make decisions that are best suited for who you are and what you truly need out of life. Ask yourself what is important to you so that you may determine what guides your attitude and actions. Health was one of my core values that I felt like I wasn’t honoring when I was drinking. So, when the decision was made to quit alcohol, I felt amazing that I was finally living in alignment with one of my core values. The decision was easy to make and even easier to stick with because of my awareness and dedication to my values.
Stop Second Guessing your Decision
When you second guess your decision, you don’t make a commitment to the outcome. This is a demonstration of fear and not owning your decision. Asking for feedback regarding a decision is great but it could also lead to externalizing responsibility of your decision-making process to other people and undermines your ability to understand who you are and cope with the unexpected. I know I have made some regrettable past decisions, and this sometimes leads to second guessing myself today and undermines my confidence in making good decisions. I commit to my decision by weighing the pros and cons and accepting the unexpected outcome. I can’t predict or control everything in my life, so I trust my instincts. A lot of decision making is based on guess work and guessing to the best of your ability and staying flexible is the only thing you can do.
Saying no to people and to myself doesn’t come easy. I like to be a yes person. Always stacking too much on my plate. Draining my energy. Looking for room to always say yes to something or someone, thinking I’ll miss out if I don’t agree. This changed when I started becoming more mindful of my energy and my time. When I put my health first, I also scaled back on agreeing to every request that came my way. It was just physically impossible to do it all. I tended to my body and my well being first before anything else and then noticed I was putting up a wall and not setting healthy boundaries. I didn’t know how to express my wants without coming off as rude or annoyed.
I had some really big expectations of people. My annoyance came from the position that people should know what I am feeling and anticipate my needs and wants.
Of course, why wouldn’t someone know exactly what I am feeling that day??
Oh wait, stop! Here comes my ego once again. My insistence of people knowing how I felt and my expectation of them to read my mind created distance. Instead of simply expressing my needs and wants with words, walls were built instead. As more situations grew to be worse than better from building these walls, I realized that one core element was breeding this behaviour. My lack of assertiveness and low self-esteem. This was especially true when I was younger. I was unable to simply say no without feeling guilt and dread. I didn’t have the power to take responsibility for my emotions and express what I really needed. I learned over time that taking responsibility of my emotions and expressing my needs despite the feedback I might receive, actually benefits all parties involved. Meditating helped with this notion.
Meditation sucked the first few times I sat on the cushion. I battled the process. I didn’t want to do it. I really didn’t see a point to it. I felt sorry for myself, that I had to sit on a cushion in silence and do nothing for ten minutes. The victim part of me came out and threw me a ten-minute-long pity party. Slowly, over time the victim disappeared and got replaced with a more self-confident, assertive person the more I meditated. I created some distance between my negative thoughts and negative self-talk. I was able to step into a place where I was more aware of my own needs and emotions. This allowed me to make a blueprint of what I wanted out of my relationships and set some standards for the things I needed from the people in my life. This map helped me navigate healthy boundaries in relationships, so I am able to build relationships as they grow over time. For the first time I was able to achieve intimacy in relationships. Instead of attaching unhealthy expectations, attachments, and unrealistic standards on people, today I take responsibility of my own needs and wants and the rest falls into place. My relationships grow organically. Some stay and some don’t.
Building healthy boundaries takes practice and patience. Something I still struggle with today. Nowadays I do say no without guilt more often. I do speak my mind as situations arise in my life. I do find that I receive push back from people still, mostly from those that have not set healthy boundaries themselves. There really isn’t anything I can do for anyone else’s development in seeking healthy boundaries as long as I can express my boundaries to the best of my abilities my wish is that at least maybe someone can learn a new tool to use to get what they need out of life through the way I conduct myself. I will not please everyone and will probably hurt some feelings along the way and know that I cannot determine how other people feel. I don’t want to control anyone’s emotions but to support self-actualization and growth. This is key to healthy boundaries.
When I started my self care journey, I started noticing some character traits about myself that I haven’t paid attention to before, like being a very serious person. Taking things personally at every turn. I felt like everything was an attack on me.
So I explored this further by asking myself why my life was so self-centric. I realized I wasn’t really of service to anyone or the community. I was just for me only for me. Until about the age of 24 my ego was enormous. Alcohol inflated it. Many of my relationships, prior to quitting drinking were very one sided, and superficial. I didn’t allow true vulnerability to get in the way of my fun. The lack of honesty with myself and compassion for other people did not contribute to any healthy relationships. So I had scarce relationships even less healthy ones at that. This made me defensive about the way I treated people and the way people treated me. I really didn’t know why I was taking things personally, but it was definitely due to a lack of self awareness.
I wanted to change, so I joined a non-profit that provides local art platforms for underprivileged youth. I met a wonderful woman who herself has faced adversity in her own life, overcame these challenges and started a non-profit to give back to the community she was able to heal her own past at the same time. It was a beautiful cycle of reciprocity. I knew then that this was my way of stepping out of my head and allowed myself to be of service and dropped the ego. It was hard for me to see how self interested I was until I started volunteering. Even today I sometimes need a reality check and sit in gratitude rather than throw myself a pity party.
With volunteering I started stepping out of my defensive mode and became more aware of the vulnerability of myself by allowing others to show me their stories. I listened, I related and understood that with listening and not imposing myself on the world I opened up a space in me for other people. I became less judgemental, I took things less personally. I became less heavy and less serious.
If you think you need an ego check or feel like you take things too personally, try volunteering or being of service to someone for a day. To help and service the community allowed me to listen with no judgment and helped me to listen through an open vessel that I didn’t tap into before. Sometimes we all need to do something for each other unconditionally and in turn this helps us do for ourselves without judgement and criticism. I think this is a win-win situation.
It was spring 2016 when my husband and I decided alcohol is no longer going to be part of our lives. I didn’t know where this would take us but the decision was made, and life went on.
That first summer was challenging. My husband and I love to indulge in food and drink and without that we didn’t know what would fill the space that occupied this. So I signed us up for a variety of activities. My husband did rock climbing and I started Yoga. At first I enjoyed the movement of my body and how healthy I felt, as well as, the break from my husband as these were separate activities we were doing. But to be honest, we were both feeling a little irritated. I didn’t realize how much alcohol eased my anxiety and then fed my anxiety and then eased it again, a vicious cycle.
I broke the cycle by removing the booze. Alcohol did more than just give me liquid courage and entertain me on the weekends, it also numbed me to any little annoyance in my life. This was a big step in my awareness of my dependency on alcohol to ease my anxiety and cope with daily life.
I started to meditate and embraced buddhism and mindfulness. This was a pivotal point in my alcohol free journey. I really didn’t know how to cope with anger, stress, my excited feelings, my depressed feelings, my overwhelming overabundant feelings because they were being dulled by alcohol. That summer was a steep learning curve of feeling everything again and I felt alive. I had to be honest about my feelings and admit them to myself even if I didn’t like them. That was the hardest part. Being ok with not being ok in every situation. What did that mean for my life? I questioned whether I was actually happy. What does happy look like now that everything felt different? What did feeling happy actually feel like?
I deconstructed many perspectives that I thought were true that summer and went from there. I relived some of my traumas while meditating and that was ok. I confronted some of my bad behaviours, mended some relationships and ditched some relationships at the same time. Since that summer not drinking alcohol got easier and more challenging all in one fell swoop. As new life challenges came up I looked to numb in other ways, food, vacations, self-help books, binge watching Netflix, anything really for a distraction, an escape from feeling. What I know now is that feeling uncomfortable or feeling in general is such a blessing and nothing to run away from. It means I am alive and here. That is good enough. I am not perfect and I’m ok with that. I am thankful to alcohol for introducing me to the curriculum of my life. To feel and be with what comes up.