How insecure must a bottle of liquor feel when it’s waiting to tackle the drinker in a supermarket aisle… like a football player waiting in the entrance tunnel in the darkness to enter the game for the god-knows-how-manyth day. Last night went well, thankfully, but now it has to do the same tonight, to maintain its perfect record. The pressure is tremendous. Let’s just try to imagine what must go through its mind as it waits there.

The price of liquor is quite high. Would he really want to spend on me that much? There are sooo many snacks and meals he can buy with just half of what he pays for me. And they market them to him like crazy. SO many varieties he can choose from. Meanwhile, I taste like crap. Also, these days, there are so many interesting things to do instead of drinking. Like, how am I supposed to compete with stuff like freaking video games? Have you seen the graphics on the latest ones? It’s insane! Sure I give a good sensation but at the end of the day I’m just a glass bottle filled with a pale colored liquid. And, sooo many information and stories about how alcohol screws up his health. He is constantly bombarded with them on the internet. He doesn’t actually read them but he notices. He’s not dumb. He knows what’s up. AND I know for a fact that he feels pressured to look slim and get healthy. He’s got a dietician for Christ’s sake! My days are numbered… I can feel it.

The Feeling You Cannot Not Feel

I have a close friend who is addicted to alcohol. He cannot not feel the appeal for it. He mentally magnifies the sensation it brings, over the fact that it’s just a glass bottle filled with a mix of mass-produced chemical and water, and that it costs him a good chunk of his income, screws up his health and appearance, and puts him in humiliating circumstances that damage his dignity. Once that validation is flipped, he can no longer feel the appeal. Even if he tries to, he wouldn’t be able to REALLY make himself feel that uncontrollable desire to gulp down bottles of liquor.

There are reasons both for and against the desire of drinking.

On the one hand, it gives you a good sensation and makes you forget your depressing issues for a short while. And it doesn’t kill you instantly. Also, what if you abstain from drinking to preserve your health for the future but get hit by a truck tomorrow and die? Wouldn’t that mean you kept yourself from experiencing a desirable pleasure for nothing?

On the other hand, it majorly screws up your finances, health and relationships. Makes you feel guilty afterwards. Provides no real solutions to the problems.

There is no true quality to alcohol (just like everything else) that exists independent of the observer (drinker). What is true to you will depend on which aspects you choose to validate over others. And based on that, your “true” perception of the bottle will change. No matter how many good things you hear about it, you may not be able to see it anything other than bad. You would feel like a father trying to sound convincing while telling his kid their terrible drawing is not that bad. And no matter how many bad things you hear, you may not be able to not see it as awesome… therefore not be able to stop yourself from consuming it. You would feel like a person standing in front of David of Michelangelo, the statue, and telling his friends “I mean, it’s not that great. I bet I can do that”.

Whatever you try to tell yourself, you cannot not feel what you truly feel about something. The beauty of reality is that, the father and the museum goer could both be looking at the same piece of art… the same thing that makes you truly feel a certain way strongly can make someone else feel the opposite way just as strongly. And it could even be the same person at different times of their lives. This is discussed in more detail in the lesson “Business Lessons From Your Blunder Years”.

For a given person, at any given time, only one perception exists. It can and will change over time, but you cannot convince yourself whatever feels true to you is a lie. You cannot escape your guilt. It would be as true to you as the heat you feel from a fire burning close to your face. It’s one or the other. And it is true to you, until whenever it becomes not.

Whenever you cannot stop yourself from experiencing a certain perception, but you want to, because it’s causing you pain and sadness eventually, that’s addiction. What my addicted friend should do see is simply switch to the other side. Then he will switch from telling himself “I’m not addicted. I can quit anytime. I swear I’m going to stop… after this final shot” to “Come on, you can do it, it’s not that bad if you do it in one big gulp and hold your breath in”.

And there is a way to switch.

What he should do is become the bottle in his mind. And try to promote it to the drinker (himself). Then he will have to stretch the positive outcomes he gets by paying for and consuming liquor, trying to hide all the negative ones. As he feels guilty about trying to make the negative outcomes seem small and invalid, he will start to feel like they really are not so, and are quite huge, valid and significant. It would feel like trying to push a balloon underwater and holding it there… and telling himself “No, this is not going to come back up, it’s going to stay there,” while knowing full well that the moment he lets go of it, it’s going to come up. Let’s just say he would not feel confident about his bet on the bottle in a battle against himself. It would feel like betting on a baby to win a fight against a grizzly bear.

If we take the balloon rising up as a metaphor for my friend winning the battle against the bottle, what he is now trying to do is holding a half-inflated (with air from his lungs, not Helium) balloon in his hand, in regular atmosphere, in a place where there is no wind blowing, and telling himself the balloon will rise up to the sky when he lets go of it, knowing deep inside that it is going to slowly descend to the ground in a sad fashion.

Now, this should not be seen as trying to see a balloon that is actually in regular atmosphere, as one in underwater. Because this is not that. Where the balloon exists really and actually depends on the observer. If you see it as one underwater, then that is what is true to you. If you see it out in the open and poorly inflated, then that is what is true to you. Neither one of them is more real than the other.