Our brains lie to us.

It’s not malicious; they’re just constantly scanning for danger in an effort to keep us safe.

Totally cool when we lived in caves and we could be eaten by a predator at any moment. Less cool now that our survival isn’t constantly threatened and this scanning is leaving us wanting to numb.

Here are a few ways it plays out:

Catastrophizing: For me, this is the mother of all thinking errors. Instead of seeing a variety of possible outcomes I focus on the worst possible one. The other day I had to pay a small amount for something I didn’t anticipate. Within 60 seconds I was thinking that if this kept up I would never be able to put my kids through college, retire, etc. I can laugh about it now but at the time it felt totally true and irresponsible to think anything less.

Filtering out the positive: 9 good things happen in a day and 1 bad thing and all you can focus on is the latter. You see your entire day as horrible and grab a drink for relief.

All or nothing thinking: You count your non-drinking days and reset to zero if you slip. You don’t look at far you’ve come or how much you’ve learned. You tell yourself you failed and you’re hopeless. No room for shades of gray here.

So what to do about these pesky thinking patterns?

Notice them. Which one(s) are you prone to? In what areas do they show up? What feelings do they provoke and how do you act as a result? Are you wanting to numb for relief?

Challenge them. Start to look for shades of gray. Make a conscious note of the positives and use them for contrast with the negatives and the setbacks. Consider possible outcomes other than the doom and gloom ones. Could it be true that one of these less catastrophic outcomes might happen?

Be patient with yourself as you try to rewire your brain. It takes lots of repetition, but eventually, you’ll start to see that maybe that thing you’ve been trying to escape with a drink isn’t the dangerous predator you thought it was.