• Alessandra Toscanelli

Small Decisions - Big Consequences

It’s easy to look back on your past and see how big decisions have changed your life. What’s harder to do is look back and realize how all those small everyday decisions have impacted you.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

Basically, put simply, a very small change can create a significantly different outcome in how you feel about your life and the choices you make - positive or negative.

The tiny decisions you make on Monday make you more likely to commit a similar behavior on Tuesday because behavior feeds on itself. This is the problem with addiction.

Famous journalist, and award winning author, Maia Szalavitz writes, “Addicition doesn’t just appear; it unfolds, with many influences.”

During the process of sharing publicly about my experiences in early recovery, I came to realize society harshly judges people with addiction issues and those same judging people believe addiction is a choice.

Seriously??? No one chooses to be an addict. I didn't wake up one morning and decide to become a person with a food addiction any more than I did an alcoholic. One day of drinking - or drugs, pornography, gambling, etc - or use does not mean addiction. As one day blends with the next, the days accumulate and the characteristics of addiction emerge. Consequently, a person who never chose to be an addict ends up an addict. Similarly, someone who has a second helping of dessert every night ends up twenty pounds heavier than he or she had planned.

For me, food and alcohol were used to cope with painful feelings such as anxiety and Complex-PTSD after seperating from my violent abuser and ex-husband. For a long time, eating was my drug of choice. However, after surviving extreme domestic violence and years of traumatic experiences, alcohol finally became my form of self-medication.

The self- medication theory of addiction suggests that individuals - like me - with deficits in emotion-regulation skills (i.e., skills relevant for modifying emotional reactions and to tolerate negative emotions) use substances in an attempt to manage negative or distressing emotional states. Research tells us that individuals with histories of exposure to adverse childhood environments (e.g., physical and sexual abuse) tend to have diminished capacity to regulate negative emotions and cope effectively with stress. My negative coping style become a learned and nearly automatic behavior.

All in all, the choices I made that create an undesirable way of life were made one day at a time. They were not made at the level of a long-term lifestyle consideration.

These choices were shortsighted and initially inconsequential decisions, but in the end they paved the path for a big decision... To drink and gorge myself on my favorite binge-eating foods or to begin the journey to recovery and change the way I handled life's big and little stressors?

There’s a great quote by Wayne Dyer that says, “Our lives are the sum total of the choices we have made.”

Today, I choose to live without alcohol to numb my anxiety...

Today, I choose to live without eating my emotions away...

Today, I choose to fully live life in recovery...

Today, I choose to remember, "It is much easier to stifle a first desire than to gratify all those that follow it." ~ La Rochefoucauld.

Living "one day at a time"is committing to living today sober. It also means I am committing to doing all the things that staying sober entails throughout the next 24 hours. For me, these small daily commitments include:

  • Relying on my Higher Power - God - rather than myself

  • Keeping a positive attitude

  • Taking on one problem at a time

  • Expanding knowledge in some way

  • Having a focus on loving myself

  • And a willingness to step outside of a comfort zone to try new things

Whether you are in recovery or not... The question deserves an answer: What kind of life are your everyday decisions making?

#lifestyle #decisionmaking #recovery #addiction #mentalhealth #learn2loveYOU #LiveYourAloha #MySweetestAloha #AlessandraToscanelli

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