Let’s play out a hypothetical scenario, shall we? Imagine you’re canoeing through alligator-infested waters & start sinking. Is your time best spent A) figuring out how to survive or B) asking yourself why you ended up there?
A clarity statement: for the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re not passively suicidal & haven’t been yearning for a moment like this.
Most of us are going with A, right? It’s what anyone with basic survival skills would do.
So why bother asking the question? Because we’re now going to apply the logic to another life-or-death scenario: imagine you’re struggling with a potentially fatal chemical or process addiction & seek treatment. Is your time best spent A) figuring out how to survive or B) asking yourself why you ended up there?
A little trickier, huh? (Alert: we just self-sorted. Those of us who’ve struggled with addiction are saying, “That is indeed a trickier question.” Those who haven’t are shouting, “NOT TRICKIER. THE ANSWER IS STILL A.”)
Why do those of us who have struggled think it’s trickier? Because, at least in the early days, we’re obsessed with asking why: Why am I like this? Why did I end up this way? Why? Why? Why?
I suspect it has something to do with the shame that accompanies addiction. And that perhaps we’re all a bit passively suicidal & lack basic survival skills in the early days.
But, if we’re going to make it, we can’t spend all our time asking why. We need to free up time (& mental space) to figure out how to survive.
However, simply telling our brains to “stop asking why” doesn’t work. Has telling your brain to “stop thinking” anything ever worked for you? Another assumption: your goal wasn’t to think about it more.
So I’m going to share a little trick that works for me: whenever I need to focus on “how” but can’t stop asking “why,” I respond with the phrase, “some combination of nature & nurture.”
Why am I like this? Some combination of nature & nurture. Why did I end up this way? Some combination of nature & nurture.
Why __? Some combination of nature & nurture.
It’s not a cure-all. It’s not supposed to be. It’s just supposed to buy me time. Want to survive a hungry gator? Throw it something to eat. Want to survive a “why” hungry brain? Throw it “some combination of nature & nurture.”
P.S. Giant thank you’s to Cheryl, Jackie, Jamie, Mark, Judy and everyone at The Refuge and Mountainside Treatment Center who helped me survive. Mostly for not kicking me in the teeth when I responded to questions like, “How are you going to stay sober when you leave here?” with “What do you mean how am I going to stay sober? Aren’t your priorities confused? We haven’t even figured out why I’m like this yet!” But also for teaching me to take things one step at a time.