When I first started in the substance abuse counseling field, we used to play this old video made specifically for agencies that did counseling. In the video, it showed a middle aged man who had stopped drinking. One night he was really tired, walking home from work and he walked by a bar. He looked inside and saw people laughing, drinking, and having fun. He envisioned going in and joining in on the party - seeing himself sitting at the bar having a grand old time with the other patrons - downing booze, telling jokes, cheering at the game on the tv.
Then he hears in his mind, his counselor’s voice saying “play the tape through”. He then envisions himself still sitting at the bar, long after others have left and getting into a drunken argument with he bartender. He then sees himself stumbling out the door and violently puking in the bushes. He sees himself going home and getting in a screaming match with his wife and out of the corner of his eye seeing his daughter hugging her Teddy bear as she watches her parents fighting.
In the video the guy pulls his hat down and keep walking past the bar - making the right choice.
It was a badly made, lame ass video with bad acting. But the message of playing the tape through is one well known in the field of counseling and one that I have repeatedly used with my clients - not just in terms of whether to use drugs and alcohol or not, but their whole behavior.
And I found myself this week, needing to play the tape through. Wednesday, I walked into the staff break room to use the bathroom. The room was empty and there on the table sat a danish cake. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those pre-packaged, highly processed Entenmann’s cake things.
I stared at it - it was about ½ gone and the knife to cut off a slice was laying there.
So instantly I wanted to cut myself off a chunk. I knew what it would taste like - crappy, artificial, dry cake with a sweet processed frosting on top. That I still wanted. And so the internal debate began with Fat Jen trying to convince me to have “just a tiny sliver” and Thin Jen telling me that it wouldn’t be worth it - that it wouldn’t even taste that good. And I forced myself into the bathroom.
As I peed (yeah I know TMI!) I began playing the tape - watching myself cut a small slice and eating it and it not even being that good, but then cutting yet another piece and shoving it in my mouth. I envisioned myself after eating it and how I would feel guilty. I played that tape down the road of me sitting in my office later that afternoon feeling like a failure for only being able to be on track 2 freaking days before blowing it. And knowing that this type of behavior and ensuing guilt often leads me to the FUCK ITS - where I think I’ve screwed up today anyway, I might as well go whole hog and going home and starting to dip into peanut butter and other foods that would just fill me with calories.
When I left the bathroom I looked at the danish. I’d love to say that I easily just trotted by it and felt oh so proud of myself. But instead I reluctantly walked by it and made a conscious choice not to have any. Don’t get me wrong, later I was glad that I hadn’t eaten any of it. Giving myself a minute to play the tape through definitely helped me make the right choice. But it was not easy. I don’t think it ever will be for someone like me.
It’s like any other choice I make on this journey. Last night I was tired and pouty from the shitty ass weather we are having. And I was COLD. So I wanted to just cuddle up on the couch in PJ’s. I played the tape of how I would feel going to bed having not done a workout. So 7 miles on the treadmill it was. It sucked for at least the first 2 miles. But after, eating dinner, I was gratified that I had done it.
I am an instant gratification person. So playing the tape through is very foreign to me. I talk without thinking and start projects without reading the directions. So sometimes I won’t play the tape through - or sometimes I will and still will make the wrong choice. But I think trying to stop and think can definitely help!