Mindset shifts are hard. One week you know exactly what kind of headspace to be in to get where you’re trying to go. And the next? Well. There’s a hiccup. Somehow you slip, backslide, get thrown off your game.
You catch yourself midway through a depressive spiral wishing desperately to go home to your mama even though you are also a mama and staring 40 in the face. Everything’s upside down. Wobbly.
That’s where I’ve found myself the past few weeks. But through whatever power (if you believe in such things), I found myself buried in a book that gave shape and meaning to all those upside down feelings I’ve been battling. And then, the gut punch.
There, on the page, the author called me out.
“You have to do the work. You have to show up. No exceptions. DO. THE. WORK”
Why Showing Up Is So Important
I’ve known this with sobriety for awhile. I show up for my sobriety every single day. But in other aspects of my life, not so much.
So in the middle of wrestling with depression, loneliness, and isolation – eating my way through all of it – I forgot to show up for myself.
Much like in my relapse days when I desperately wanted sobriety, but did no REAL work towards that end, I’ve caught myself flailing miserably in my physical and mental health. It’s not for a lack of know how. Hell, I study and write about this stuff for a living!
But I haven’t been applying the tools because I’ve been too busy drowning in my depression and desperate attempt to hide behind copious amounts of ice cream and other sugary things.
Oh, and feeling sorry for myself.
Identifying The Problem
There’s a point in your addiction – whether it’s to alcohol, food, nicotine, whatever else – where you realize that in a lot of ways, you are imprisoned inside your own brain.
You’re having an entire lived experience between the ears but in reality, you’re not really DOING much to make life better.
Sometimes it takes reading a book or hearing it from someone else to snap out of it. You shake the cobwebs from your brain and say, “Duh! I know this! Why aren’t I doing it?”
It’s a critical lightbulb moment when you understand that your current efforts aren’t working. Or that you’re not really TRYING at all. You think you are because it’s consuming your energy and mental space, but actually you’re just paralyzed by all the thinking.
What are you DOING? Out there! In the actual world!
Probably very little.
Changing How We Approach The Problem
That’s where showing up comes in. Showing up for sobriety or anything else in life worth doing, involves having a plan and sticking to that plan no matter what.
It’s not enough to say, “I want to quit drinking” or “I want to lose weight.” HOW do you plan to do that?
I’ll use myself and current situation as an example.
Depression and anxiety are part of my life. To my knowledge, there’s nothing I can do to vanquish them completely. Lord knows I’ve tried.
So then, it’s my responsibility to manage my day-to-day routine and behavior in ways that will provide me the BEST chance to avoid mental health spirals and/or deal with them effectively should they occur.
(This is very applicable to the various mental torments of addiction by the way.)
How do I (we) do that? It certainly isn’t by hoping for the best.
Making Big Life Changes
We know what works because we have a bazillion different programs and successful people who all tout some version of the exact same thing: have a routine and stick to it relentlessly.
My mental health is strongest when I do the following:
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep
- Make an effort to get out of the house
- Eat well and avoid caffeine and sugar
- Turn off distractions like too much social media or online time
Every single day.
This is what “showing up” looks like for me now. If I was still doing daily battle with my alcohol addiction and new to sobriety, I would add meetings or counseling to that list.
But the addendum to all of that is this: consistency is really, really hard. For everyone. Even people who are amazing at it. EVERYBODY has days when they do not feel like it or can find an excuse to not get it done.
Why Inconsistency Kills Our Ability To Change
The vast majority of us do cave or skip a day, let things slide here and there until we find ourselves back down at the base of the mountain, despairing.
If you’ve done that with drinking, you are certainly not alone. Maybe you, too, started off strong. You went to yoga class or started walking in the morning. Every night, you wrote in your journal. You attended counseling sessions on Mondays after work.
Things were looking up.
But then something happens that challenges your ability to stay consistent. Maybe it’s a bad night’s sleep and a betraying inner voice that says, “Hit the snooze. You’ll go for your walk tomorrow morning.”
Or maybe it’s that same inner voice that says, “Ugh, it’s raining outside and I’ve had a long day. I’m going to cancel my session with Dr. Greene.”
Every time we fail to show up, we slide backwards just a little bit. Eventually, you’ll slide so far, you’re right back where you started – staring down at a half drunk bottle of Jack wondering where you went wrong.
Because relapse is like that.
Sometimes a big wave comes by and swallows us whole. A parent dies. Or a relationship ends unexpectedly.
But more commonly, we relapse because we stop showing up.
And every time we don’t show up, we slide backwards. And these absences accumulate. They knock us off our game and infect our inner world. We start to believe terrible things about ourselves again.
Our mindset shifts the wrong way.
I’ve noticed how it’s like this with everything. Oh, I’ll just order in tonight because I don’t feel like cooking. It’s only $14. Not a big deal. Until you realize that $14 here and there several times per month starts to add up and it becomes clearer why your broke ass is, well…broke.
Or perhaps it’s just one piece of cake. But it isn’t. Because you just gave yourself permission, which means it will be easier to give yourself permission the next time, and the next. Until one day you have to buy the next size up because nothing fits anymore.
And maybe it’s, oh I’ll just go to happy hour for thirty minutes to say hello to everyone when you KNOW your plan does not include going to bars yet. But what could it hurt? Until you get there and then the narrative changes to, “I’ll just have one drink. It’s just one. It’s fine.”
Discipline Isn’t All Bad
Maybe the thought of sticking to a strict regimen every day, stacked with non-negotiables feels restrictive. Militaristic even.
But honey, that laissez-faire approach to life hasn’t done us any favors.
That’s also where mindset comes in.
Showing up is a GOOD thing.
It’s easy to forget that sometimes. We get so in our heads that we forget our own power, that we have agency over our lives.
I’ll use myself as an example again.
It’s realizing that you’ve been extraordinarily down lately and packing on the pounds (or kilos). You feel terrible about both. There’s a direct correlation between how many times you’ve dropped the ball on getting the workout in or making good food choices and how much worse things have gotten.
And now it’s the point where you spend most of your time feeling BAD. You’ve left no room in your brain for solutions.
You’re stuck inside a very dark, and powerless inner world.
Learning How To Show Up Again
The way you beat that is to step back. See the situation for what it is and acknowledge that you actually have the power to change this. It’s not easy, for sure. But it’s completely doable.
You just have to decide. And then you have to show up.
But first, figure out what that looks like.
Again, I’ll use myself as an example. You can go through a similar exercise with your current situation.
- What’s contributing to your problems currently? I spend too much time in the house which makes me feel lonely and isolated. I’m too sedentary and I compulsively order or purchase food I know is bad for my waistline. My exercise ranges from inconsistent to nonexistent.
- What excuses are you using to stay stuck where you are? It’s 42C outside with humidity and heat indexes that push the real feel temperature closer to 50C. My toddler isn’t sleeping well at night. My husband works long hours and is rarely home to help out with our daughter.
- What can you do to show up and turn things around? I’m going to go to the gym every single day. Even if it’s just for ten minutes. My ass will be there. I’m doing a weight loss meal plan delivery service for one month to reboot my nutrition. Before it starts, I’m tossing out any junk that would tempt me. I’m going to go to bed when my daughter does. If that means we sleep at 8:30, then that’s what I have to do until we can get her back on a proper schedule.
Everything I listed in #3 are actionable items.
I’m a firm believer that actions will impact attitudes and not the other way around. I’ve spent YEARS trying to do it the other way – focusing on my attitude and beliefs and hoping they would translate to different actions.
It has never worked for me. We have to prove to ourselves that we can change. To show up every single day until your brain starts to say, “Oh hey! We aren’t the flakey, quitting type after all!”
It’s also incredibly grounding – to have a plan for showing up every day.
Feeling out of sorts? Ask yourself, “Did I show up today?”
Owning Your Circumstances
I do not enjoy feeling depressed or having my daughter giggle at the rolls on my tummy (well I don’t mind her giggle, but I certainly don’t like feeling like the Pillsbury Doughboy).
HOWEVER, I am not powerless against either condition.
I can DO things to make my situation better. When you feel depressed and/or hopeless, you have to remind yourself of that fact. It isn’t always obvious to us during difficult times.
Sobriety was the same way for me. I recreated a life that supported not drinking and stuck to it as religiously as I do bathing and brushing my teeth.
Now I’m re-learning how to do that with weight loss.
And that’s what this journey is all about, honestly. Learning to show up for ourselves, getting it right, and then having the wisdom and humility to start over when the next challenge knocks you for six.
Let’s Be Accountability Partners!
I’m showing up from now on and I want to encourage you to do the same.
Join the Soberish Facebook Group if you want some accountability partners (It’s private, so nobody on your timeline will be in your business).
I’ll be posting there for my updates because I want everyone to hold my feet to the fire. Let’s help each other out.
We can do this!