"Kill Something!" "Eat It!"

Our Reptilian Brain

In our fat heads we have what some call a reptilian brain.  It doesn't think.  It doesn't know right from wrong.  It just reacts to stimulus.

It's that part of the brain that initiates fight or flight.  We see fire--we run.  We see an enemy--we attack.  If there is no stimulus to wake that part of the brain up, it just sits there dormant.

There is cartoon showing how this reptilian brain works, I'll call it the T-Rex Day Planner.  On it are the entries: "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"  --  "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"  -- "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"

That part of our brain wakes up whenever we notice a "trigger."   "See something!"  "Act out!"  --  "See something!"  "Act out!"

The see something is the stimulus and the act out is the food it consumes.

And because that part of our brain is so powerful (used for flight or fright), it takes over the rational thinking part of our brain and says, "Shut up!  I'm now in charge!"  So one of our goals should be to keep negative stimulus away from our reptilian brain and keep it asleep as much as possible.

That's why we have boundaries: "I won't take my phone or tablet into the bathroom or bedroom with me."  "I won't listen to that music!"  "I won't go to YouTube!"  or whatever our personal boundaries happen to be. What we are trying to do with our boundaries is eliminate or at least reduce the stimulus that will wake up that reptilian brain.

But there is a catch. That brain may not know right from wrong, but it does have a memory.  And it can wake itself up to eat based on what you have pre-programed it to do.

Here are a couple of examples:

"I need to stay sober so I can go to my sister's wedding"  What that brain hears is, "Go to sleep till the day after his sister's wedding, then you can eat."

"I need to stay sober so I can baptize my son."  What that brain hears is,  "Go to sleep till the day after his son's baptism, then you can eat."

"I need to stay sober till my wedding date."  You know the answer.  And that list goes on and on.

Another version of that is "I have been sober this time for 12 days, I at least need to make to 13 days next time."  

So what does that brain say to itself?  "I can wait for 13 days, no problem. But then I will eat." "And then next time I'll wait for 14 days.  I like this pattern. I can depend on it."

Does this sound familiar to any of us.  It sure does to me!

Where Does Satan Fit In?

What I've listed above is based on psychology and physiology.  But we also have a spiritual side to our lives.  And that's where Satan comes in.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  

He knew us before we came to this earth and he can remember where we can't.  He knows how our brain works.  

So when we say, "My goal is to stay sober till July 15" Satan will make a note of that.  He may even reduce your temptations leading up to July 15 just to make you become more complacent.  

But he will hit your with a temptation out of left field on July 16 that will wake up your reptilian brain with an unusual hunger for the addiction.  So when we actually set a date that we want to reach, he might help us reach that date knowing full well that he can keep this same cycle going for as long as we allow him to.

Relapse Is Just Part of Recovery -- WRONG!

Sometimes we accept statements that are just not true, like the statement "Relapse is just part of recovery."  That's not true!  Relapse is part of addiction not part of recovery.

Here is what is being given to our wives and girlfriends who attend the the Women's Support Groups. This quote if found in the Spouse and Family Support Guide.
"Because relapse is so common, some may rationalize that it is part of recovery as long as they are doing their best. However, it is important to remember that relapse is part of the addiction process, not the recovery process. We should be careful not to condone our loved ones’ excuses or justifications for their poor choices. . . . If our loved ones try to minimize the seriousness of a relapse, our clear and honest perspective can help them see that they are deceiving themselves and need additional help."

So what should be our reaction to relapse?  And how does relapse relate to full recovery.

Some well-meaning individuals will have you believe that a relapse is inevitable.  I don't believe that.  I believe that it's entirely possible that any one of us could go to the end of his life without another relapse.  Do we really believe in the atonement?  Really?  Then why do we discount that the Savior can keep us from relapsing?

I know of some guys whose current goal is to "minimize the negative feeling of a relapse."  That way they can continue to look forward to future relapses and not feel bad about them.  I don't think that's a worthy goal.  Sure, if I do relapse, I want to get back on my feet as soon as possible and move forward.  But that is not the goal of ARP.  If that is our goal we have our ladder leaning against the wrong wall.

I honestly feel all of us could go the rest of our lives and never act out again. Relapse is not necessary -- only a possibility!

What if your first day at an ARP meeting you found out that over half the group had over 250 days of sobriety.  What might your expectation of yourself then be?  I find this to be an interesting question.

Our Extraordinary Group

I attend an unusually supportive group!  We really do care about each other!  But what should our goal be?

Our goal should be to support each other in obtaining FULL RECOVERY -- without relapse.  Our goal should not be to just minimize the pain of relapse.

Please keep in mind that just staying sober should not be our goal either.  Sobriety is just one step in the recovery process.  If you get the chance check this out: Sobriety is to Recovery as Confession is to Repentance

So let's set our sights higher. Let's make sure our ladder is leaning against the right wall and let's not feed our reptilian brain.

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