Maybe I’m on Pinterest too much. Or perhaps Google has noticed that I do research into things like EFT and essential oils and how they affect the brain in terms of recovery. Whatever it is, the “algorithms that be” keep throwing out suggestions for the Law of Attraction. And while it makes me cringe slightly to admit this, yes I have tried it. Not for getting initially sober, as I got sober before I knew about LOA, but during what was a very tricky time in my sobriety. But I still thought it was an interesting question – can the law of attraction help you get sober? Well like most things, it’s a mixed bag, but I feel it’s ultimately dangerous for those seeking, or in long-term recovery.
Many people got exposed to the idea of the Law of Attraction in 2007’s “The Secret” by Ronda Byrne. This theory states that everything we experience, we get because we attracted it to us through the vibration of our thoughts. And that we can effortlessly create (aka “manifest”) the life of our dreams just by changing our thoughts – and hence their vibrations.
The basic instructions are:
- Figure out what you want. Be specific.
- Ask the universe for it.
- Believe you can have it.
- Be grateful for it immediately. This will tell the universe you already have the thing you desire, and it will manifest.
I’m trying to imagine how this would play out with my toddler if it were true. I’m pretty sure the world would end and it would somehow involve cookies and legos. We are not meant to have every single thing we want, just because we want it badly enough.
I tend to be a skeptic – to a fault. I lived in Manhattan so long that when I moved to a friendly little town in Brooklyn, I initially ignored anyone who said “Hi” to me because I assumed they wanted to scam me in some way.
Yet somehow, after seeing a friend post about a few things that she had manifested, I decided to give it a go. This was a smart person whom I respected (and still do). If she believed in it, hey, maybe there was something to it! So I dove into it obsessively. I wrote gratitude lists, I said affirmations, I listened to podcasts about LOA (law of attraction), I read books. I did all sorts of visualization exercises.
Wishin’ and hopin’
So what flipped the switch? Why was I suddenly obsessed with something I thought of as ridiculous because my friend managed to find a crate for her art project? I was still a rational person. But I was one who’d just been laid off. As such, I was terrified. I had major financial fear and I was thoroughly unsatisfied with the idea of using the serenity prayer and “turning it over” to a higher power. Unless that higher power planned to buy me some groceries, I needed to be more proactive.
I was already applying to nearly 20 jobs per day and doing phone interviews for many of them, but it wasn’t happening fast enough and I was a combination of bored, scared, and ashamed that is particularly dangerous for anyone trying to stay away from a drink. In a word – I was vulnerable.
Objects In Mirror May Be Farther Away Than They Appear
It took six months before I managed to land a job. It was not manifested by any means. Like so much of my life, I went into it kicking and screaming, and it turned out to be the right thing for me anyway.
I kept the LOA practice through about four and a half months during my unemployment before I gave up on it. And while I believe I would have been much better served by getting my butt to a meeting every day for some wisdom, compassion, and connection, instead of wishing alone in my room, I did get a few positives out of it that I think are worth adding to your toolkit.
I am normally one for leading with the positive, but I think it’s important here to show up front why I think it’s best to avoid this particular landmine. So without further ado…
String [me along] Theory
One of the things I liked about LOA initially was the talk of vibration and quantum physics. That made sense to me. In retrospect, it just sounded good. I may be smart, but I don’t know a quark from a lepton, so I am not in a position to critique the claim. Yet I have heard multiple times that Stephen Hawking has confirmed it. Yet the quotes I read where people indicate this, Hawking is often talking about the observer effect, which is from my understanding, physics’ way of saying, “Things change when you look at them.” That’s cool, but hardly a smoking gun. Forgive my being crude, but I find it hard to believe he is confirming the law of attraction – where you can have whatever you wish for – from a wheelchair, dying of ALS.
So here is the thing that made me say, “Wait, WHAT???” and walk away.
The Law of Attraction is based on the works of Esther and Jerry Hicks. The basic tenets are set forth in their book “Ask and it is Given” as well as “The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham“. I didn’t know this when I started. I googled “How to manifest a job” and got bombarded with articles on LOA. After reading blogs and listening to podcasts for a number of weeks, I kept hearing people referencing Abraham. Abraham says this, Abraham says that… So I decided to look good old Abe up…
According to Esther and Jerry Hicks, “Abraham” consists of a group of entities which are “interpreted” by Esther Hicks. Abraham have described themselves as “a group consciousness from the non-physical dimension”. They have also said, “We are that which you are. You are the leading edge of that which we are. We are that which is at the heart of all religions.” Abraham has said through Esther that, whenever one feels moments of great love, exhilaration, or pure joy, that is the energy of source and that is who Abraham is.
This is from Wikipedia but is a paraphrase of what is on their website here.
So basically this lady Esther gets on stage and channels spirits/God. She and her husband made millions off of this. And I don’t think they manifested it.
This was edited out of the film “The Secret.” Smart marketing team.
Where There’s A Will
Throughout this, the concept of “taking back my will” kept haunting me. This is AA-speak for thinking that you are in charge of everything (or should be) and getting pissed off when things don’t go your way. It’s one of the main reasons they advocate finding a higher power. Because if you haven’t figured it out yet, life isn’t fair. But our brains really don’t like that. So we need something to help us come to terms with the hard moments in our lives, instead of looking for the way out through a bottle.
I never thought I was the center of the universe – far from it. But I was a control freak. And there is a certain amount of ego involved in thinking you know best how everything should operate.
Beyond it just being a nutty premise, the idea that you are in control of everything and all should go exactly the way you want is a dangerous one for an alcoholic. Because if you can control everything, maybe you can use the secret to control your drinking! You’ll just wish to be a normal drinker now, and poof – all fun, no consequences!
The last podcast I listened to, a woman actually said that addicts/alcoholics could absolutely be cured in this manner. And I was done. I decided this wasn’t a safe thing for me to be listening to anymore.
No Negativity. (Oops. I Failed Already.)
Along with the ideas of “anything you desire is possible” and “you create your reality” is the implied opposite. That if something bad happens, you brought it upon yourself. Not that you meant to – you were just too negative.
I am by no means suggesting pessimism or encouraging negative thoughts – quite the opposite in fact. But I also believe no one lives a pain-free life, and to suggest that anything bad that happens is their own fault is cruel. You are responsible for your behavior and its outcome. You are not responsible for random twists of fate.
My final issue is that I think this line of thinking breeds denial and halts self-discovery. You can’t improve yourself unless you are willing to examine the good and the bad in yourself. You can’t do that if you are trying to block all negative thought. Sometimes we need to allow the negative. You want your foot to hurt if you step on a nail so that you stop putting pressure on it. If you somehow block the pain, the injury will be much worse.
Metaphorically wandering around with your fingers in your ears saying, “LA LA LA EVERYTHING’S GREAT! I AM TOTALLY IN CONTROL HERE!” sounds a lot like one thing to me – active alcoholism.
All this said, I did get a few really great tools from exploring the subject. I had never been unemployed in my life and I was flat out terrified. Here’s where LOA helped, and what I try to keep going:
Find a better feeling thought
This was a phrase that was helpful to me when I had a lot of negative self-talk going. I was doing my damndest not to wallow and to trust that the situation wasn’t forever. I liked the idea of finding a better feeling thought, not to keep me from facing hard truths, but to remind me that beating myself up wasn’t making the situation any better, and while I couldn’t change the situation, maybe instead of repeating “No one likes me in person” I could think about puppies or something for a few minutes.
Rubber Band Girl
“Contrast is like a rubber band.” I heard this on a podcast and immediately loved the implications. “Contrast” is LOA-speak for things not going the way you want. It’s not so much that you are guaranteed a positive event immediately following a negative one. Rather it’s more the idea that the negative situation is stretching you, in order to propel you forward.
When I think of the best things in my life, most of them came after a fair amount of struggle. You don’t grow when everything is going perfectly. Why would you? You’re happy and want to maintain the status quo. But when life gets uncomfortable you have to adapt. It’s no party, but it’s what’s necessary to get to your next level.
How Could This Be A Good Thing?
Based loosely on Byron Katie’s self-inquiry method, which she calls “The Work”, I have come to rely on this question in troubling moments. When something bad happens, I try to ask myself, “How could this be a good thing?” or “What’s good about this situation?” For example, with being unemployed, I tried to focus on how I was able to be outside every day during a beautiful spring and summer.
Somewhere, I read that eliminating tolerations could raise your vibration. I have no evidence that it did that, but it was a useful exercise in realizing how many things I allow to stick around even though they bother me. Once I heard this, I started noticing how I would see something like a cobweb in my room or a scrap of paper in my hallway and tell myself I’d get it later. But it would take me days because I was always focused on something else. I didn’t realize how little things like that, a leaky faucet, or a hangnail were subtly grating on me. Now whenever I realize I’m tolerating something unnecessary, I handle it then and there. If I physically can’t, I schedule it in for the next day, even if it’s only going to take five minutes.
I don’t believe that being grateful in advance for something will make it poof into my existence. But I do believe that the more grateful you are, the better your life will be. We spend so much time focusing on what we want, we are really putting our emphasis on what we don’t have, rather than appreciating what we do.
I’m not suggesting it is possible to walk around wanting nothing and being grateful every second of the day, but it makes for a better life to practice gratitude as much as possible. Many people suggest writing down five things you are grateful for each day. I am a fan of this as well, but LOA did teach me a way to juice it up a little:
- Do this in the morning to set the tone for your day, and list TEN things you are grateful for.
- List not only what you are grateful for, but WHY. Always have the word “because” in there. (e.g. I am grateful for the fact that the weather is beautiful today because it makes me feel excited for spring – my favorite season.)
- Reread the list once a day.
Despite having disdain for “The Secret”, I have actually more or less stolen the above from “The Magic” also by Rhonda Byrne. Yes, it has some LOA stuff in it, but at its core, it is a short book that leads you through a fun 28-day gratitude practice. I think it’s great to mix it up a little and try different gratitude exercises just to keep everything fresh. It has made a huge difference in my life when I do practice it. I’d much rather spend more of my time thinking about all the things I am so lucky to have because we really do take so much for granted.
So can the law of attraction help you get sober? Sorry. I’m afraid it’s not that simple.
Proponents of it probably think I’m just too negative but I did give it a solid shake. And like everything, it has good points and bad. You take what is useful and leave the rest.
While I’m sorry to say that it is impossible to wish away an addiction, I am in some ways grateful for it because it brought me to recovery, and in doing so I got to learn so many lessons. I appreciate my life more now. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve learned in order to be able to drink the occasional glass of wine. This sounds insane to anyone just starting out on their path to recovery, but I promise it’s the truth. Yes it took some work, but on this, I’m glad not to have had an easy way out.