At the end of last year I decided to stop drinking for 90 days. I'm not a big drinker, I never binge drink and a big night for me would be 2 glasses of wine instead of 1.
I was however becoming a habitual drinker.
I'd get to the end of a day and I'd start craving a glass of wine. I wanted that feeling of relaxation that came when I poured a glass.
I knew I didn't want to stop purely using willpower though because as a limited resource willpower quickly wears out. Instead I wanted to change my mind.
I wanted to change the underlying assumptions driving the behaviour.
By doing it this way, by replacing the assumptions it's been surprisingly easy to stop. I haven't wanted to drink. I haven't felt like I was missing out or that I was being deprived.
To get an understanding of the assumptions I needed to first get clear on what I wanted and why it was important to me.
I wanted to be alcohol free for at least 90 days.
That was it. Simple. Clear. Measurable.
I then asked myself 'What am I assuming that is making me want a drink at the end of the day?'
My top 4 assumptions were:
- It would relax me,
- It would stop me from feeling stressed and tired,
- It's a 'grown up' of treat (i.e. I deserve it after being with the kids all day),
- and ultimately in some way I'd feel better.
I thought through each of these and asked myself: 'is it true, that I'd feel more relaxed, less stressed, rewarded, and generally better in myself?'
I didn't rush this process. I read up on the subject, I sat with it for a while, I connected with other people who had stopped drinking and I really thought about times in the past when I'd felt relaxed, at ease and happy and I realised none of them had involved alcohol.
One piece of information changed everything for me.
It was learning that you can't numb the bad feelings without also numbing the good ones.
So, whilst I might get an instant feeling of relaxation there was a pretty good chance over time that I'd also be numbing my capacity for joy, pleasure and happiness. Ouch.
I formulated a powerful incisive question for myself: 'If I knew by numbing my stress and tiredness I was also numbing my capacity for joy and delight would I want to drink?'
For me the answer has been a resounding no.
So, in the past 90 days I've done yoga almost every evening. I have more energy. I wake up refreshed. I feel more accepting of the good, and the not so good days. I feel really able to deal with the challenges in my life.
None of this is new to me. I generally feel good. I normally feel in control but something has shifted. Not drinking and not having to think about it has freed up both time and space for me to be more fully present every day.
Will I drink again?
Probably, when there's an occasion or a reason to.
Will I drink at home because I've had a hard day? No.
I'll do the things I know will make a difference. I'll talk with my husband. I'll roll out my yoga mat or go for a run. I'll remind myself of the things that did go well in the day and that I'm grateful for and I'll probably get an early night.
Your bad habits might be very different to mine but the steps I took can be applied to any habit, not just alcohol.
When you change your mind, you don't need willpower or discipline. Once you've shifted the assumptions the gap between decision and action is almost invisible.
So, what habit would you like to break in the next 90 days?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and l'll happily help you craft your own powerful behaviour changing incisive question.
A few articles and people I've found really helpful:
One Year No beer: https://www.oneyearnobeer.com/
Annie Grace: https://thisnakedmind.com/annie-grace/