My mother was fond of urging her sometimes unruly offspring to "rise to the occasion." (This exhortation would be accompanied by a gentle smile, a lifting of the chin and a slow swoop of her hand upward, as if by these demonstrations she could elevate our behavior. Poor woman, she generally had a better grasp of reality than that.) It was her version of "act as if" as in, "Please try to act as if you're not a pain in the ass spoiled brat right now."
"Acting as if" as in "acting as if you are calm, serene, sober -- okay" is a smart strategy when you feel like your insides are unravelling, the black hole is sucking you down, and each breath wants to turn into a panicked gulping of air. "Acting as if" is not being dishonest, or phony. It's a coping tool to use when going to pieces is only going to make things worse.
And this is an important distinction for me: It's not stuffing how I feel (a dangerous thing for this alcoholic to do) so much as it is consciously deciding to stand firm in maintaining a calm demeanor, and not be swept away by the titanic tsunami of Freak Out surging inside me.
This challenge -- and this idea -- is hardly unique to alcoholics, nor is it the sole provenance of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I think, though, that alcoholics are the one group who believe we deserve a medal every time we do it.