The Philosophy of Ever After

The Greek Philosopher Aristotle worked out there were four aspects of human nature that we should all follow in order to flourish in life.

These were, in no particular order;

1. Caring for our bodies by eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest

2. Finding Emotional Balance by avoiding things that make us unhappy and doing more of the things that make us feel good

3. Humans thrive in groups so we should live and socialise with others to develop our individual happiness

4. Learn, create and express ourselves

Now, it’s hardly rocket science is it? And nearly 2,500 years ago when Aristotle was alive and kicking he said as much himself. The four aspects he mentions are accessible by the many not the few. We can achieve this wherever we live in the World and regardless of how rich we are (to a degree).

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that when we look for self improvement, whether that be recovering from addiction like me or maybe somebody who has just come out of a long term relationship we could do a lot worse than to look at the philosophical teachings of an Ancient Greek with a curly beard.

I write regularly about mental health and even without alcohol in my life I still have periods of struggle. It’s no surprise that when I’m regularly exercising, getting food quality sleep and eating nutritiously I feel better mentally. I think when I first stopped drinking I naively thought it would be a significant enough change alone to make me feel so much better day to day. Sure, as the days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months you feel and look less bloated. Your sleep improves and you have more energy in your day. Your thinking becomes less cloudy and your anxiety levels reduce – but if you continue to eat poorly and avoid exercise you’ll struggle to shift that feeling of fatigue and before you know it you’ll be substituting your once unhealthy consumption of alcohol with food equivalents. I certainly saw my appetite increase in the months after I got sober and developed a sweet tooth (which I’d never had before) – your body misses the sugars alcohol gives it.

Aristotle talks about emotional balance too. I think this is very true. Think about it simplistically for a moment. You are invited on a work night out. You don’t really socialise with your work colleagues and you aren’t a big drinker plus the function is in the City Centre on a Saturday night. You get anxious about it all week leading up to the event. You are only going because you feel obliged to go.

Now imagine how you feel if you politely decline the night out – you aren’t the only person who can’t make it. You choose to order in some food and have a night in watching a film with a friend. After all, you work hard all week so it’s a treat to chill out with your favourite food and a film you’ve been wanting to see for ages!

Whilst Aristotle isn’t saying avoid things for the rest of your life (being out of our comfort zone can be good for resilience and confidence) we shouldn’t over analyse all of our day to day life events. Most of the time the other people involved won’t care half as much as you are catastrophising and worrying about it. I’ve noticed that with me not drinking. I thought I would stand out on nights out and people would be quizzing me about not consuming alcohol but it very rarely gets mentioned – and even then I get the standard response of “Good for you, wish I had your strength”.

Humans are social animals. We have been for thousands of years. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your own company or not like living alone. Aristotle doesn’t mean that. But look at it from another angle. Would you be happy without engaging with another human being all day? Every day? No contact through social media, texting, on the telephone or face to face? Control how often you socialise but make sure you do. The chemicals in your body will thank you for it.

Ever get that warm feeling when you finish a book? The enjoyment you get from successfully finishing a crossword or answering a question correctly on TV’s University Challenge? Aristotle encourages us to explore, create and learn new things. On our terms. I ran my first Trail Race last year and started Yoga classes. I began to read more often. All of those things make me feel happy.

I’ll certainly continue to bear in mind Aristotle’s four aspects of human nature as I move forward. It’s certainly one of the easier parts of Philosophy to remember!

And so I’ll leave you with one last piece of Philosophical Thinking for today whilst I’m in this type of head space. I think it is so ‘me’…

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” – Aristotle

The 11 A’s of AVRT

By now you will probably know what AVRT stands for (unless this is the first time you’ve read one of my Blogs!) but beyond the word ‘Addictive’ there are some valuable ‘A’s’ that form part of the wider Rational Recovery / AVRT programme.

Today I’m going to share these eleven suggestions that Jack Trimpey, founder of Rational Recovery encourages us to action as part of our Big Plan – living indefinitely without alcohol. Our families and friends are impacted by our alcohol and drug abuse so they naturally form part of our new life. To enable this we need to make changes and close some difficult doors.

Before I start let me remind you that I’ve written about what AVRT is, how it works and why it may work for you. These blog posts are available here

Your 11 A’s

1. Approach each person in your family (and those friends closest to you) about your drink or drug problem. Don’t wait for them to say something

2. Admit your role. Listen to what your family and friends have to say about your behaviour. Tell them you became more devoted to drink / drugs than to them

3. Acknowledge the hurt you have caused others. They would have been frightened, angry, disgusted and hurt at times. But you are sober now so you can move forward with you life

4. Apologise by saying sorry. Words might mean little to your family and friends by now but start with an apology and your actions will make the difference in time

5. Absorb their anger. Your family and friends got fed up of your using and behaviour long before you did. Let them be angry. Absorb it. It’s the least you can do

6. Ask how you can help. We can’t undo what is done but we can be involved in how we shape our future relationship with those closest to us

7. Assert your love by expressing your feelings towards them. Tell each person how much they mean to you. Again, we can’t change what is done but this is the rest of our life now

8. Anticipate mistrust. Don’t expect your family and friends to believe you when you say you will never drink again. Expect continued mistrust and in time, well… prove everybody wrong in a good way!

9. Accept that you are fallible. Don’t expect others to make you feel better about yourself. You need to develop your emotional independence so start working on you and what you can do to make you feel good about yourself

10. Adventure. Explore new activities, interests and take your family and friends along for the ride. New relationships will blossom in time too

11. Abstain from alcohol. Period.