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“Stinkin’ Thinkin’” — Time to stop either-or thinking

Lynne Thompson
2 min readApr 22

I grew up in an alcoholic household. I am the child of an alcoholic. My father was what you call a “functional alcoholic,” whatever the heck that means. But he lived to be almost 89 and was drinking until the end. He did seem to cut back as he got older, but he drank every day.

Anyway, I also lived with a young active alcoholic in college. She got sober and went to meetings while we lived with her. We went to some AA meetings with her. It was educational for me. Everyone smoked, drank a lot of coffee, or both. The mood was supportive and friendly. My roommate and I celebrated her 1 year of sobriety.

I have read a lot of books and articles about alcoholism, about co-dependence, and about addiction in general. I think AA can really work for some people, but others object to it’s “higher Power” references and insistence to “Let Go and Let God.”

I like how it identifies “Stinkin thinkin.” It is a colloquial way to name behaviors and thoughts that need some work. One of the ways of thinking that really “stinks” to me pervades our society. And I believe its root is in dysfunction. I think a lot of people are from dysfunctional families and that colors our whole society.

Some people in our society echo the “stinkin’ thinkin” kinds of things that AA warns against. Specifically, there is a tendency to think in absolutes. You are either sober or you have failed, you are either successful or you have failed — you get the picture.

Thinking like this — in a binary on/off view of the world — helps no one. Most things are a process, a continual re-positioning, a series of pivots. A lot of people who are recovering alcoholics, for instance, need to try to stay sober more than one time, they learn as they go and eventually they stay sober.

I myself tried to quit smoking multiple times. Each time, I learned something and got “better” at quitting. Eventually I gave up cigarettes altogether.

Yet a lot of people talk about these things like if you relapse, you failed. When actually this is normal on a path to recovering. The path to success is much the same, ask any entrepreneur: you have to fail and pivot several times to reach success. Failures are merely stones along the path to success. The only failure is giving up. As long as you don’t give up, you are on the path.

We need to have more compassion for each other. And stop judging so quickly in this “black and white” “on or off” kind of way.

Lynne Thompson

I always wrote (first poem at 6 years old). Tech writer by trade. I have a podcast The Storied Human: see my linktree — https://linktr.ee/StoriedHuman