It’s not realistic to stop drinking – we need to learn from the ancients
The Cherokee First Nations people’s fable of the Two Wolves, provides insight of what denying the “bad” can do.
The tale, told by a grandfather to his grandson, speaks of two opposing forces engaged in perpetual internal warfare; the white wolf and the black wolf. This is analogous to the Christian story of having an angel on your right shoulder and a devil on your left.
The grandfather tells his grandson the wolf that wins the battle is the one you feed. He then qualifies that if you exclusively feed the ‘good’, white wolf, you will be constantly on edge, because the ‘bad’ black wolf will be starving in the shadows, awaiting an opportunity to feed and express its negative qualities.
Total denial of the black wolf means you need constant vigilance to defend from its attacks. You become prey to lashings of the “bad” qualities associated with that aspect of the personality.
Instead, the grandfather recommends, you can feed them both in the right way. A way wherein both aspects are satisfied.
Feeding, by acknowledging and managing, the black wolf’s desires for drinking alcohol, and feeding, by prioritising and growing, the white wolf’s desires for clarity, contentment and self-empowerment, means there is no need for perpetual vigilance. Rather, there’s authentic, evolving wholeness.
This is moderation.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare calls alcohol the “most widespread drug used in Australia”. Our culture is drenched in alcohol, and some suggest many environments are “alcogenic” encouraging and normalising drinking.
For many people, stopping alcohol can lead to isolation and imbalance.*
On the other hand, evolving a healthy relationship with alcohol is inclusive, empowering and health building.
A good relationship isn’t detrimental. In a good relationship you don’t feel like you need to defend or deny yourself.
A good relationship is enjoyable, relaxing and nourishing; it builds well being and supports authentic evolution and growth.
Taoism offers a similar dose of wisdom, conveyed by the ancient Yin Yang symbol. In the black half, there is a dot of white, and in the white half, a dot of black. This expresses the confluence of opposites; the yin merging into the yang, and vice versa. Despite their polar opposition, they are not divided as black and white. They exist in a state of harmony. Within that state is ongoing interactivity. This is a delicate, truthful balance.
We run into trouble when we stop alcohol without finding alternative actions to meet the needs that alcohol habitually fills.
Commonly, alcohol is used alleviate boredom, manages stress (ANU 2020) or to help us feel more connected to the group. Without meeting those needs in new ways, rebound is all too common. Binge drinking episodes and regretful excess tipples are common events, which leads to reduced confidence in our capacity and agency to create real, sustainable behaviour change.
Join an exploration into building your healthy relationship with alcohol – one that is based on compassion towards yourself and draws on solid traditional naturopathic tenets.
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* If you are currently drinking 20 or more standard drinks every week, or feel unable to stop drinking once you start, abstinence from alcohol is likely needed.
It’s important to also get in-person, professional help to reduce adverse withdrawal symptoms and help you to develop appropriate support structures – to start you can check out Sober in the Country, Hello Sunday Morning or Alcoholics Anonymous. As a psychoactive, legal and acceptable drug, alcohol is commonly involved in psychological mechanisms that protect from emotional pain. This setup requires delicate therapy and support systems like counseling or professional psychological therapy. Alcohol Free in 14 days can provide additional tools for your journey, but is not a stand alone solution for you.
NHMRC guidelines – https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia/contents/drug-types/alcohol (Accessed May 24 2022)
Australian National University 2020 – https://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/alcohol-consumption-increases-during-covid-19-crisis (accessed May 26 2022)
Tale of two wolves – Feed them both – https://www.deanyeong.com/article/fight-two-wolves-inside