I once heard about something called the Hedonic Treadmill. My understanding basically comes down to, in terms this old brain can understand, the inclination to return to a relatively stable emotional level following positive or negative events in life.
So, I am told I received a raise and I feel good. But after a period of time, the thrill fades and I feel the way I did before the good news. The same was true when I learn my car needs an expensive repair. My anxiety goes up, the car gets fixed, the bill is paid and eventually my feelings return to their normal level.
That all sounds pretty normal to most people. As I look back, it was a little different for me. My drinking developed into a problem when time and time again I decided to drink when any change occurred in my life. A raise would make me feel happy so I drank. The car having issues made me anxious so I drank.
Looking more closely at this there was one subtle change that occurred in me that eventually resulted in me thinking I needed a drink. I stopped being able to identify the emotion I felt when some change entered my life. A raise would not cause me to be happy. Instead, I recognized a difference in my life which I identified as wanting to drink. The car breaks down and oh my, I need drink.
The significance of this is that without being able to identify the way I felt, I could not deal with whatever was going on. My Hedonic Treadmill never had a chance to take effect. My emotions never returned to a normal level. I taught myself to recognize that any change I encountered meant I needed a drink. There was no feeling anymore. My Hedonic Treadmill had evolved into a cycle of addiction.
Of course, at the root of my problem was failing to trust in God. When the raise came up, I patted myself on the back and forgot to be thankful. When the car broke down, I ignored going to God asking for his help and trusting he would work things out. I had my own way of handling changes in my life and that was to dive back into the bottle. I can only think now, “So how did that work for you, John?”
So now I am in recovery for 33 years and have this all perfected. I have learned to identify my emotions, analyze the possible solutions and then move on with a successful choice. It would be nice if that was my reality. I do not remember the last time I thought, “I need a drink.” But I do need to remind myself to slow down my reaction to changing times in my life long enough to do one thing before I act.
That one thing is asking the simple question, “Now what God?” It helps when I remember the part of Isaiah 40 that tells me:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
The God who sent his Son to die for the sins of the world proclaimed those words. That is love for me an undeserving sinner. No matter what my emotions are telling me, the message is clear – I can soar like an eagle when my hope is in Him. He alone understands all my emotions and still my Savior loves me. I never have to feel like “I need a drink” with him at my side. (But if I would, he would give me the strength to make a better choice.)
Writing this made me feel pretty, um, fulfilled? Ok. I am still a male and you know males and emotions. Come on back, maybe I can share some more of my feelings. Well, at least I will try.
I will wait you.