The "Upside-Down Triangle"
The Categories We Choose To Use

by John A. Tuttle (12-08-03)

Just about everyone has heard about the song "Alphie", in which the question is asked, "What's it all about?" Man has struggled with the 'Meaning of Life' ever since he realized that it's terminal. Having pondered the question on numerous occasions, I never found a reasonable answer until after I chose to get straight and sober. When you break it all down, 'Life' is all about "Choices". That's it!

The choices we make fall into only one of two basic categories. They are either "Good" or they are "Bad". Notice that I didn't say "Good" or "Evil". That's because man doesn't really know what is or is not "Evil". He only thinks or believes he does. (We can debate the topic at a later time. This recovery method -or psychology- has absolutely nothing to do with religion, and can therefore be used by everyone, regardless of their race, color, or creed.) However, what is 'good' or 'bad' for each of us is always realized at some point in our natural life. At any given moment in time we can look back at a particular choice we have made and say with some confidence that it was either good or bad. This is because every choice we make has at least one consequence. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we know if the choice we made was good or bad by examining the outcome of that choice. Whether or not we will feel the same way about a choice or the outcome in the future is irrelevant because we have not yet reached that point. Things can and do happen that change our perspective on life. What is important is how we categorize the outcome of each and every choice we've made. Another way to look at this basic fact of life is to imagine an Upside-down Triangle that has a line running through the middle, from the bottom to the top. At the very bottom of the triangle is birth, and at the very top of the triangle is death. On one side of the line are the good choices, and on the other side are the bad ones.

At the beginning of life, we are incapable of making any choices. In fact, we are merely observers. And, using our five senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing), we begin collecting information. The choices which affect our life are made for us by others, and, in a very real sense, those choices establish the basic foundation upon which most of our future choices will be based. As we grow, we are given more and more freedom to make our own choices. However, very early on we learn that life is devided into two basic categories; good and bad. As we continue to grow, life becomes more complex and every successive choice is based primarily on the ones we made previously. Obviously, the events we experience and the individuals who enter our life can and do have an influence on the choices we make. This is because our most basic instinct is to survive without pain or discomfort and to please those around us. Unfortunately, some of us make bad choices in the effort to survive or to please, and sometimes we are not aware of the consequences of a particular choice until many years later.

Some people would have you believe that the line between good and bad varies from time to time depending on the circumstances in your life. However, that is far from true. The fact is that we alone decide when to cross the line. And when we cross the line into the bad side, we justify our bad behavior by making excuses.

For all of us, there are certain things that we tell ourselves we would never do. That is because we have rationalized that doing those things is potentially harmful or even deadly. Each of us make our own choices about thousands of potentially dangerous activities, and just as no two people are exactly the same, the categories into which each of us place various activities is never exactly the same. What might be seen by one person as "fun" can easily be viewed by another person as "dangerous". So, to 'protect' ourselves we categorize every activity as either good or bad.

Many people have asked me how I was able to free myself from the bonds of drugs and alcohol with relative ease, and I readily admit that it was quite difficult until I realized that I had placed drugs and alcohol into the category of "fun". On top of that, alcohol is 'legal', so it fell into the category of "good". A few weeks after I stopped drinking and doing drugs, I realized that if I was going to stay away from drugs and alcohol forever, I had to change the way I looked at them. So, I simply placed them into a different category. The category I chose was, for me, quite easy to figure out. All I had to do was find some activities that were in fact both "fun" and "legal" that I would never consider doing.

After just a few moments of thinking, I came up with three activities that are both legal and considered fun by many people. They are "Climbing Mt. Everest", "Skydiving", and "Bungy Jumping". In my mind, all of those activities are extremely dangerous, and one would have to be somewhat of a fool to engage in them willingly. So, I simply placed drugs and alcohol into that category, and ever since then I've had absolutely no problem staying away from the two substances that at various times in my life proved themselves to be dangerous to me.

Since explaining my 'technique' for staying clean and sober to various professionals, it has become apparent that it can be used by virtually anyone who is struggling to overcome some adversity in their life. All one has to do is identify their problem and explain to themselves how that problem negatively impacts on their life. From there, they have to pick three activities that they would never consider doing and then place their negative activity into that category.

In closing, I know that many will say, "This is too easy. It will never work." All I can say in response is, "Try It! You have nothing to lose but your unhappiness."

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This web page was put up on the Internet on March 10, 2004. I am John A. Tuttle, a recovering alcoholic/drug addict. I have been clean and sober since November 24, 2003, the day after I crashed my pretty white 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis into a tree at about 70 mph. Had it not been for the Grace of God, my passenger and I would have been killed instantly. It is my sincere hope that these true stories will help other people avoid the horrors I have experienced as a result of drugs and alcohol.

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