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The “unbreakable promise” - for all practical purposes

Old 04-02-2018, 02:03 AM
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The “unbreakable promise” - for all practical purposes

I want to revisit something I posted elsewhere yesterday.

“ I have spent a bit of time over the last ten days trying to figure out how I could break my promise to myself to never drink/drug again, and for the life of me, I just can’t figure it out. Every possible scenario I come up with, I keep remembering my promise and hit a brick wall. Nor can I come up with the conclusion that I was lying to myself when I made that promise.”
This is undebatable. It’s what I know about myself.

But, now that it’s April 2nd, I want to lay open for debate something else I said yesterday that I actually don’t believe.

it must be important to emphasize that there is no such thing as an unbreakable promise in the context of ending problematic drinking.
Why would it ever be important to emphasize that a person wanting to end problematic drinking cannot make an unbreakable promise to never drink again, when FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES, it is patently obvious that he or she CAN make that exact promise? I will never drink again!
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Old 04-02-2018, 02:25 AM
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I believe that everyone CAN make & keep that choice/promise; whether they WILL or not is a different matter entirely.

people make promises they believe absolutely that they'll keep all the time, & then break them - look at marriages! it's great that you've made the promise & can't imagine ever breaking it. however, your seeming inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to understand that others might not feel similarly, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, seems somewhat obtuse.
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Old 04-02-2018, 04:05 AM
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Originally Posted by andyh View Post
I believe that everyone CAN make & keep that choice/promise;
Thanks Andy for kicking off this discussion, and for mentioning and agreeing with the background premise above.

whether they WILL or not is a different matter entirely.

people make promises they believe absolutely that they'll keep all the time, & then break them - look at marriages!
Yes, this relies upon “knowing” that someone else, by stating a promise, has actually MADE that promise; and/or upon the idea that someone can lie to themselves. And these “knowing” assumptions are the hair-pulling, aggravating, frustrating conundrum for those authorities and service providers dealing with alcohol/drug dependent people. Did they really make the promise, or didn’t they? (These conundrums do result in quite a bit of service providing.)

Well, in fact, there is NO way of truly “knowing” if anyone but yourself makes, for all practical purposes, an “unbreakable promise”. Nevertheless, as time passes, lack of future evidence of drinking CAN be good indicator, and trust can be rebuilt over time.

it's great that you've made the promise & can't imagine ever breaking it. however, your seeming inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to understand that others might not feel similarly, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, seems somewhat obtuse.
This last part of the quote, instead of taking a position on whether it is important to emphasize that, for all practical purposes, there’s no such thing as an “unbreakable promise” to problematic drinkers seeking a means of recovery, simply suggests that my initiating this thread “seems somewhat obtuse.” (Obtuse = stupid, slow-witted, slow, dull-witted, unintelligent, ignorant, simpleminded, witless)
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Old 04-02-2018, 04:38 PM
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The denotation of the word "promise" is "a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified". So, technically speaking, it goes without saying that that's considered binding and therefore "unbreakable". I mean the word actually means unbreakable, so yeah unbreakable as an adjective for promise is redundant.

People do "break their promises" and "change their minds" all the time though. I think that's because people omit that a promise means "no matter what". It doesn't mean "right now" I feel this way. It means "no matter what". It means even when I don't feel the way I feel when I made the promise.

In both examples given (a vow to never drink again, and a vow to be married forever) I also think that social mores have brought about a different connotation. In the 1950's, fewer people walked away from marriage because they saw their vows as binding, as truly for better and for worse. Today society has made it easier to break that vow because it's more important to be "happy". I also think that droves of ppl took vows of abstinence and kept them because a promise is a promise. Today, it's easier to "change your mind" because society tells you that relapsing happens, that you are powerless, or otherwise unable to keep that promise. Never say never, things change, no one knows the future, blahblah...all these are very powerful messages in the world today.

In terms of ending an addiction, I think it's important to know that you will likely feel like drinking after making the promise that you will never drink again. Changing your mind about feeling like drinking is not the same as changing your mind about your promise never to do so.
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Old 04-02-2018, 06:18 PM
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I think everyone can chose to never drink again, at any stage, and stick to it. Question is, how badly do they want to. Some folks need a period of abstinence, even forced abstinence (a residential treatment place, even jail) to be able to think straight enough to make and keep such a promise to themselves, otherwise they're just mouthing words and lying to themselves. But it does come down to commitment, do you or do you not want to stop drinking. If you do, you can.
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Old 04-03-2018, 12:06 AM
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When I make a “promise” and state it out loud or in writing to others, I already understand the complexity and uncertain outcomes that might occur in relation to follow-through necessary to keep that “promise”. I’m not alone in that sort of understanding, it’s common sense.

For instance, while I don’t remember the touchy-feely wording of my quite short marriage ceremony, I did know that it represented significant legal changes in my societal status regarding taxes, property, earnings, children, etc, etc., along with the expectation of some new and various behaviors and behavioral boundaries - complex, for sure. I considered my marriage ceremony to be better described as not containing a marriage vow, but an agreement - more like in the term “prenuptial agreement”.

When I think of my “unbreakable promise” “I will never drink/drug again.” I become immediately aware of my mouth, my hands, and my skin. This immediately reminds me of the degree of control I have over swallowing or inhaling a prepared substance or puncturing my skin with a needle. My mouth is one inch from my nose and two inches from my eyes. My hands only function right in front of my face. Getting alcohol/drugs into my blood is the most deliberate and conscience-connected type of behavior possible.

Promising to not put alcohol/drugs into one’s blood is such an extremely specific and narrowly defined INACTION requiring only a split second of thought, that it can be very comfortably and redundantly stated as an “unbreakable promise” - even within a culture that tries to emphasize the opposite - thinking it is important to tell drunkards seeking a method of recovery that there is no such thing as an unbreakable promise.

I’m reminded of the story Horace Greeley told. As a teetotaling teenager, he was attacked by several of his peers and physically forced to swallow alcohol. That anecdote is symbolic of anti-pledge-taking forces from the 1820’s all the way up to the present day.

My conclusion here, then, is, what post #2 presents as two similar “promises” worthy of some sort of equivalence is actually a straw man - that people breaking a marriage promise is like people breaking an abstinence promise. People know from the get-go their marriage verbage is more “agreement” than “promise” due to so, so many conditions needed for making it work. They were not lying to themselves in their ceremony if they ended up divorced.

Getting divorced is thousands of miles apart from “Oh, screw it. FORGET QUITTING! I’m going to get a six pack. I can manage it. It’s Friday. Here we go. I’ll bring it back home. Three cans tonight, three cans tomorrow.” And then my mind would absent itself from the universe, and my altered mind would return into existence and decide on a case for the weekend, minimum.

“Was I lying to myself?” NOPE. Been there, done that. “I knew I SHOULD never drink again.” And “I sure didn’t want to feel this painful wiped out type of hangover ever again.” until several days later when recalling the pain sensations had diminished.

It took the Big Plan, an “unbreakable promise”, to finally and quickly end it. End what? Ending the most narrowly specific, deliberate, conscience-laden, in-my-face type of behavior possible - getting mind-altering chemicals into my blood.
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Old 04-03-2018, 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by GerandTwine View Post

My conclusion here, then, is, what post #2 presents as two similar “promises” worthy of some sort of equivalence is actually a straw man - that people breaking a marriage promise is like people breaking an abstinence promise. People know from the get-go their marriage verbage is more “agreement” than “promise” due to so, so many conditions needed for making it work. They were not lying to themselves in their ceremony if they ended up divorced.

Getting divorced is thousands of miles apart .......

Amen to that !

An abstinence promise includes only the self , ...... a marriage promise involves " us " ,... "our " lives . Thankfully the constraining state marriage laws have progressed over the last 200 years ,....thanks in part to a natural extension of the suffrage movement .
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Old 04-03-2018, 11:07 AM
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A promise is, by definition, breakable.
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Old 04-03-2018, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by RecklessEric View Post
A promise is, by definition, breakable.
Because delivering pleasure causing substances into my blood has a 1 - extremely specific, voluntary nature, 2 - in-my-face deliberateness, and 3 - conscience-laden awareness, I relate the following two promises as very similar in regards to their actually BEING “unbreakable”.

A. I promise I will never drink/drug again.
And
B. I promise 4 will never be a prime number.

Anyone who doesn’t like the fact that they are unbreakable, will just have to live with it.

I know absolutely that A. is true for me (and I must know because I can’t lie to myself (I’ve tried over and over to tell myself a lie, but every time I know what I’m doing and cannot progress further into believing it.))

Some people get stuck on the fact that, even though I promised “I will never drink again” and I know I cannot fail to keep it, there is NO WAY they or ANYONE ELSE can ever truly know whether or not I made that promise, partly because so many people do lie about having made it.

Other people can grow to accept its possibility over time and trust may return.

Instead of believing that people can change their mind about any and all promises imaginable, in a quick and permanent recovery from addiction it is very useful to know that there are promises that are “unbreakable”.
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Old 04-03-2018, 01:24 PM
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For practical purposes, as per the title of this thread, it seems like an exercise in futility to discern whether an ‘unbreakable’ promise is, in fact, ‘unbreakable.’

I suppose, in the context you state, since you believe it wholeheartedly, and intend to stick to it, it’s unbreakable. I also suppose that an AVRT exponent would assert that the aforementioned conversation is, at least in part, the lexicon of the AV.
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Old 04-03-2018, 01:53 PM
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if a promise was unbreakable there wouldnt be so many divorces.
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Old 04-03-2018, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by tomsteve View Post
if a promise was unbreakable there wouldnt be so many divorces.
See post #6 for explanation.
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Old 04-03-2018, 02:02 PM
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so theres conditions on what the promise is about then?
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Old 04-03-2018, 02:23 PM
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GT,

I think you are convinced that you will never drink or drug again. Great. I won’t either.

Personally I see nothing valuable in drinking ethanol. It disgusts me honestly. I’ve developed an adversion to even the smell. But it isn’t because I made an unbreakable promise, which is specious on its face as all promises are breakable, it’s because I hate drinking alcohol. And for me that is enough.

You do seem to be obsessed with this point though.
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Old 04-03-2018, 03:22 PM
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As a self identified pledge/promise maker , quat individual, I understand GT to be making a point , not expressing an obsession.
Outside of recovery circles I would be surprised to see debate on what constitutes a promise or a pledge and whether or not people are able to hold themselves to account.
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Old 04-03-2018, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by daredevil View Post
For practical purposes, as per the title of this thread, it seems like an exercise in futility to discern whether an ‘unbreakable’ promise is, in fact, ‘unbreakable.’

I suppose, in the context you state, since you believe it wholeheartedly, and intend to stick to it, it’s unbreakable. I also suppose that an AVRT exponent would assert that the aforementioned conversation is, at least in part, the lexicon of the AV.
In strict language and logic terms it’s totally clear to everyone that “I promise that 4 will never be a prime number” is an unbreakable promise, so the question is not “to discern whether an ‘unbreakable’ promise is, in fact, ‘unbreakable’. We know they exist. It is to try to prove that an ‘unbreakable’ promise may be, in fact, ‘breakable’.

In regards to a Big Plan, I cannot prove mine to anyone else, and anyone else cannot disprove mine to me or anyone else. Nevertheless, The Big Plan has incredible utility - as an “unbreakable promise”. And I speak from experience, as has been noted.
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Old 04-03-2018, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ru12 View Post
GT,

I think you are convinced that you will never drink or drug again. Great. I won’t either.

Personally I see nothing valuable in drinking ethanol. It disgusts me honestly. I’ve developed an adversion to even the smell. But it isn’t because I made an unbreakable promise, which is specious on its face as all promises are breakable, it’s because I hate drinking alcohol. And for me that is enough.

You do seem to be obsessed with this point though.
Making an "unbreakable" promise sounds like giving yourself an ultimatum. And we know how people react to ultimatums. Anger and contrary behavior. It's a step away from "You'd better not drink again, or..." Or what?

I didn't make a promise to myself to not drink. After a period of forced abstinence...well, ENforced abstinence (inpatient rehab....and I could have left at any time) I came to a place of understanding that I could never control my drinking and drugging and such behavior is ruining my life (Step 1) and that I didn't WANT to do that anymore. Not that I COULDN'T. At that point, drinking is just off the table. I can't imagine any situation where drinking would ever be a positive force in my life, or at the very least one that wouldn't be dwarfed by the negative consequences of addiction.

It's a subtle difference. I pretty much know that I will never drink or use cocaine again.

Sober recovery and my therapy fills in some of the emotional holes that drinking did until I find healthier ways to do so. Which is already happening. When my course of therapy ends, if I still feel that way I will probably return to 12 Step meetings. My reasons for continuing to drink over the years were from unresolved issues deep in my psyche. Hurt. Pain. Loss. Trauma. People normally learn to process these memories and emotions and live with them. Addicts use substances to avoid feeling them. Using isn't a strategy to deal with negative stuff. It's not that it doesn't work. It's that it works TOO WELL. If there were no negative consequences to using...then hell, why stop? It works. I stopped because the negative consequences become untenable. What I was left with, at first, was abstinence. Which is all of the pain and none of the numbing. It's like living with a raw wound.

SO I won't do it again, and to make myself feel better I'll continue therapy or some sort of recovery program. Not forever, just until I feel good enough that I won't need it anymore. It's insurance. It's called sobriety rather than abstinence.

If living well is the best revenge, living a joyful fulfilled life without substances is even better.

THIS is why I don't drink. Because I don't want to. Not because I've made some promise.
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Old 04-03-2018, 05:25 PM
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promising that4 will never be a prime number is a category mistake.
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Old 04-03-2018, 05:25 PM
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But what if you do want to , at some point ?
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Old 04-03-2018, 07:28 PM
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This all seems confusing and over complicated. I guess it's debate for the sake of debate. I was always good at over analyzing everything to death and stressing myself out over the unimportant details. That's one reason I drank and had a hard time initially with getting sober and recovery programs.
I finally realized that sobriety is not that complicated. I just don't drink. The consequences far out weigh any short term enjoyment or high. I don't need to make any promises, plans or prayers. Now it may not have always seemed that way, but it really is that easy.... at least at this point in my life.
Whatever keeps you happy and healthy!
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