Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War, referred to his level of periodic and hard biting depression as the “black dog.” As a metaphor, the black dog could refer to the vicious addiction present in your life. The dog owner may be consumed in thought with the demanding and seemingly insatiable needs of the black dog. “Should I feed the black dog, pet it, or take it for a walk? or “Why is the black dog growling?”
Thinking about Drinking
For the person struggling with chemical dependency, the black dog might be alcohol. He thinks about buying alcohol, going to the bar, or having friends over for the game and serving alcohol. He thinks about alcohol and drinking all the time. It’s on his mind; he feels consumed with and consumed by it.
Then imagine one day, amazingly, he quits drinking – totally and completely – yet discouragingly, he remains black dog focused with a dramatic shift. He begins to think about “not the black dog.” Internally he says “don’t feed the black dog, don’t pet the black dog, don’t walk the black dog.” He is still consumed with the black dog yet now it is in reverse. Now he is intensely focused on “not the black dog.”
Being Black Dog Focused
While he’s in the middle of his addiction, the alcoholic’s life is centered around his addiction. As he quits drinking or using, he becomes oddly “not” black dog focused. He may think almost endlessly about using while he is using.
Then he quits and thinks almost endlessly about not using. He may find himself thinking about not going to the bar, not buying liquor, not having friends over for the game on Sunday, making efforts at refusing a drink, and getting rid of paraphernalia and trappings in his home that remind him of his alcoholic lifestyle. Mental energy is better spent giving yourself something positive to think about.
Your White Dog
Find hobbies, interests, and activities you enjoy. Give your mind something to work on. Developing these interests will allow you to be more active, become more social, reduce your focus on the addicted lifestyle, and increase self-esteem.
Watch for the almost instant return to the default setting of thinking about the black dog or not the black dog. The recovering addict who is thinking about drinking or about not drinking; getting a drink or avoiding a drink, is still on shaky ground.
Being “not negative” is not the same as being positive.
Hone your skills at getting, feeding, and caring for the white dog. The new or revived interests, hobbies, and activities quickly become the building blocks of your new life. As you make stronger sober connections, your life turns in a new direction.
Your mind has the power to invent clever strategies to move you toward relapse or design and build a life of recovery. As you make consistent right choices you will gain momentum. You will grow in confidence and inner strength.
The black dog becomes weaker and its growl grows faint. To the degree that you consistently feed it, the white dog gets stronger. Your recovery gains strength and vitality with each positive thought and confident action.
Don’t grow weary and never give up.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!