Cognitive Dissonance – A Sober Person’s Early Warning System

Humans prefer consistency in what they perceive. Feeling uncomfortable between what a person knows (believes) is not good for them yet their wanting of this whatever sets in motion cognitive dissonance within me.

Simply put for this recovering addict and alcoholic my belief system in recovery kicks in when I bump into an internal sense of such and such or this or that is making me inaudibly uncomfortable.

An obvious circumstance is another person puts me down and this other person is someone I thought genuinely loved me. Inside pulses of discord alert me to a possible threat to my sobriety. The danger could be as simple as this insolent comment made by a loved one or far more intense and complicated. Maybe I am totally in love with someone who daily drinks. Cognitive recognition as a vital value of recovery would step center stage. The committee of two meets, and one hears, “Bonnie, what is happening here? You want to risk your sobriety by involving yourself with someone who drinks every time you cyber chat?”

There are three possible answers to this cognitive dissonant situation. There could be more, but I am not hip to more than this trio. Here we go: One, I do an about face and say sayonara and not be involved with this person, at least this lifetime. Two, I rudely realize I am actually not threatened because communication is digital meaning I cannot smell the alcohol nor have access to it plus I can click off if the person’s behavior becomes uncouth or insulting. Three (my choice after 28+ years being sober and clean) is say how I feel to the other person and talk about my own former problems with substance abuse. Putting aside lovey dovey stuff in favor of a reality check for both of us takes courage and is not for he newly minted recovering person. The risk is his denial gets on its high horse and tells innocent me to buzz off.

Denial is conniving, deceitful, and certainly not easily changed. A protective nature of the slogged drinking mindset is to excessively lie to oneself. “What do you mean I drink too much? I only drink a bottle of wine at dinner. I can stop any time I want to. I just prefer to drink because it is fun and help me write.” There are several versions of this classic statement of refutation.

So, Professor have I defined cognitive dissonance in an easily digested vegan ceviche?

What is evident is we receive internal messages when our belief system is in prickly contrast to an outside happening perceived to not align with our perceptions or principles we need to be as the best person we prefer to actualize. We experience a level of uncomfortableness, this dissonance alerts us to consider the situation with a heightened sense of awareness, and this in turn activates behavioral decisions and/or attitude changes.

In my cyber lover example I waiver around the flame of certainty yet by not abandoning myself (and my feelings) I express intrinsic generated factual unemotionally charged concerns. This is tantamount to affecting an attitude of positive change leading to right action. I am not responsible for anyone but myself. Simply stated, I am the only one who can change me. I have zip control over another’s use and abuse.

Now, the sincerely sad reality is too many under a constant mood altered influence on a need another central figure in their dishonest drama. A kind person willing to enable the drinker’s self-defeating self-destructive course fills the bill. This individual is addicted to the person drinking fed by a religiosity holy grail of action and belief contending they are helping. The nastiness of this upside down soap opera is the enabler lovingly assists the drinker and/or drug addict usually to their death. Those who die brain dead as bums in back alleys are the minority who suffer from the disease of addiction. Enablers are killed off my their own acts of kindness and they try every which way to get the drunk/addict to stop drinking. Eventually, enablers become more mentally and emotionally dis-eased than their focus of obtuse attention.

While the blotto lion is sitting at his or her computer in the kitchen drinking and cyber screwing the enabler fitfully sleeps or is forever praying for tomorrow to change for the better because it must. Love conquers all. Unfortunately, this crappy scenario is not about love even though it may begin with this benevolence. What occurs is a corrosiveness of the soul. The spotlight dysfunctionally becomes capturing and controlling the love of their life. The enabler’s inner voice of cognitive dissonance is not activated. No Zen brass bells ring within to awaken the control freak. After all, are we not taught to love by giving our body soul spirit? Yet, what the enabler sacrifices is their whole self at the alter of John Barleycorn.

 Again, as usual, I digress from the assignment. Citing what I know and have witnessed is at times a lesson in ten thousand sighs. As I finish this writing, I feel no better for its revelation. In fact, my heart is leaden knowing how hidden the gunk at the bottom of the Dixie Cup becomes as denial drives the drunken carriage.

As Val says, “How much we can see if we only look up.”

To Hoopoe, quality of life is sharply or vaguely defined by the optic deployed. We make our jasmine beds and pass out in them, sometimes tied to the bedposts and at other times buried under the pillows. There is one ultimate weapon against denial – a sober mature friend shielding no agenda while hanging onto the wild mane of the knight’s stead before horse and drunk go over the side into the abyss. Miracles are not human made. They are pieces of art, created for our souls.

I was saved from my covert overt defiance by folks I did not know – from Solomon, or Eve. This is the admittance annunciation of grace. A decidedly luxurious style for me to keep my sobriety is to pass along my gift of grace to those still suffering. I am exceedingly picky. Arthur, my husband taught me (as a funny boned power of example) to choose carefully with no forbearance. Sometimes, I think Arthur selected Hoopoe for me to earn my international disclaimer stripes.

Here Hoopoe take these ancient wings. They are an extra set with your name imprinted on them. I found them in the jungle under a Ceibo tree. I think they once belonged to a man-sized Sacred Ibis so they should align perfectly across your outdated living by a river in Egypt shoulders.Image

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