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Your Brain Is Kind Of Stupid

I had done it. I had finally stopped drinking. I leaned over the sink of my bathroom and waited for a rush of that warm ecstasy that only defeating an internal battle could produce. Any second now. I had watched videos and interviews of people I looked up to who had chosen the world of sobriety, a difficult endeavor in an alcohol-friendly world. It’s a great social gel and I’ve had some of the best nights of my life with a drink in my hand. And also some of the worst. See, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, or at least that’s what Einstein said.

For a lot of my friends, drinking was a pleasant escape. I, however, was blessed with the genetic lottery ticket marked “O.C.D”, or obsessive compulsive disorder, a fancy term for intrusive thoughts and anxiety. It took a while for me to catch on and do a little research, but it became apparent that alcohol made me irritable. Not all the time, though. It was a real gamble. 9 times out of 10, it’s nothing but fun. 1 time out of 10, and I’m the worst version of myself.

Not a great gamble in a society obsessed with first impressions. I can’t have 10% of my social interactions at the mercy of what alcohol I chose to drink, and whether or not it’s going to make me want to laugh, cry, or fight on that particular night. And before I go any further, let me address the fact that I know I’m talking about alcohol like it’s some kind of poison. And while technically that’s true and kind of proves my point, your non-asked, hypothetical statement is fair; I’m just explaining how drinks in my body make me act.

Alcohol is great in moderation and I still drink occasionally, but the cat-and-mouse game had to end. So I stopped, cold turkey, and went from a regular 4-6 drinks a night to a strict 0. Not a sip of any form of alcohol for twenty weeks. Doesn’t sound like much, but once your body and mind become accustomed to things, especially with O.C.D., it’s hard to stop anything at the drop of a hat, let alone something as inciting and socially-accepted as alcohol. I already have an addictive personality, a reason I can’t touch nicotine anymore. I was born with the Midas touch for getting hooked on stuff, a cool personality trait seen in workaholic CEO’s and heroin addicts!

So I stopped on a Sunday night and didn’t look back. And I waited. And waited. And waited. For that feeling. The feeling I had seen and heard in the sobriety videos. The feeling of peace. For my soul to finally rest. Because, I had done it, hadn’t I? I went against the grain. I gritted my teeth and did what no one around me was doing. I was fixing my life up and making good choices! So then, why didn’t I feel any different. I mean, I obviously felt better from not drinking a little, I guess. Clearer in the morning, whatever.

But where was that real feeling, you know? The one where I slowly look up from the sink and catch my own eye in the mirror. I smile slightly, knowing that the sun is now setting on my motivational horizon, my mission complete and my life fulfilled as I can rest in the calming meadow that is soberness.

Yeah, there was none of that. I sort of just looked up from the sink and was like “Good job, man.” It was like I was patting myself on the back for taking a shower, or for brushing my teeth. It just felt so mundane. My brain was being so annoying. First, it told me to chase this because this is what was needed to feel good and whole and new. And I did it and NOW it’s changing its tune and telling me “Oh congrats, you didn’t get wasted for a few weeks. Anyways, you’re late for class.”

My absolutely brilliant mind had just convinced me to climb the mountain of sobriety and then kick me in the motivational-groin once I reached the summit. It’s like my own mind didn’t want me to win.

Well, it kind of doesn’t.

You see, it took me a long time and a lot of painful experiences to finally understand what no self-help book or motivational speaker will ever fully explain to you: your brain is kind of stupid. Because we are in our own minds all the time, we assume that we are our minds. That each thought we have is us, each thing we think about doing is something our unconscious self might secretly want. For me and a lot of people I have met, it is so easy to get caught in that way of thinking. Now, O.C.D isn’t some enlightening mental-state, but rather a mental illness. However, as I’ve learned to navigate what it means to live with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I have found one crucial axiom that has oddly helped: I am not my thoughts and my brain is kind of stupid (and that's OK!).

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