It’s a Habit!

Most of us are confused by the difference between an urge to drink and the urge to maintain a habit pattern. That understandable error in thinking occurs because the pattern leads to drinking.

A business newsletter I occasionally read noted recently that success and failure are both the results of following predictable habits. Good habits lead to success, bad ones to failure. The same is true of ending your alcohol abuse.

Let’s take a moment to examine your particular habits, ones that take up about 90% of your waking hours and decision making. Think about how much, or how little, thought you put into what you do from the moment you wake up (including what determines when you wake up).

Most of us may consider what we’re going to wear but not the order in which we don our clothes or our various grooming rituals. We don’t think much about what we eat, how we drive, the route our commute takes, or where we park.

That’s not a bad thing since who needs, or has, energy to burn on routine matters? That’s why they are routine matters. Habit patterns save us time and effort that we need for when we do have choices to make.

Really, most of our habitual choices are benign (how we drive), a few are positive (going to the gym at 5:00 a.m. three mornings a week), but a few are malignant (wine before, during prep, with and after dinner).

The surprising fact, to most of us who haven’t thought about it, is that alcohol itself is relatively easy to give up. It’s the associated habit or behavioral patterns that trip us up time after time.

It’s also why “just say no” or “don’t drink, go to AA” is such counterproductive advice. Those directives are, after all, directed at building a life around not doing something. How do you suppose that’s actually going to play out (one clue: most people who join AA drink far more after they join than they did before).

Consider for a moment two real considerations. First, over indulging in alcohol is a symptom, not a disease, and indicates that your life is out of balance. Second, it’s not the drinking, it’s the habits that lead to it – that keeps us from fixing the conditions that lead to continued drinking.

It is also a problem that drinking is easy, fast, effective, legal, socially promoted, and ubiquitous. Good habits require effort, a degree of deferred gratification, some initial discomfort, and the loss of our current “security of familiar miseries” for an undefined, if supposedly better, future.

We understand that all of us like predictability and the thought of engaging in an experiment with an unpredictable outcome frightens most of us away. Or we can’t imagine making the effort. Or…..

Given that, we suggest the following: that you only sign up for 6 months of attempting to create a “new normal” with new habit patterns that address whatever you’re medicating. That’s it. 6 months.

If at the end of 6 months you decide that you prefer drinking then you are, of course, free to resume. And you can do so comforted by the thought that you are joining 98% of the people who tried AA and came to the same conclusion that, drinking is better.

However, over 70% of our clients decide otherwise. That not only are their newly defined lives better, they’re a lot better!

What have you got to lose?

The Benefits of Drinking

In a typical cost/benefit analysis exercise you would be asked to consider the “benefits of quitting” and the “costs of drinking,” as if you weren’t acutely aware of those already. Not to mention that that exercise is meaningless, boring, redundant, and, frankly a waste of any effort put into it.
Therefore, let’s move along to the one question that actually matters: “What are the benefits of drinking?”
Again, if there weren’t benefits you wouldn’t be doing it or, at least, stopping wouldn’t be a problem.
And there are obvious benefits. For example, alcohol is the best anti-anxiety drug ever discovered – which also explains much of its popularity.
Continuing that theme, it’s also good for loneliness, isolation, and, supposedly, depression.
Add to the list that it “cures” sleep problems, hormone imbalances, social phobias, sexual dysfunction, boredom, and warts. Well, maybe not warts – but at least you won’t care about them.
Note that this is a pretty long list of benefits for a drug that is legal, readily available, socially sanctioned and promoted, and……. That’s another long list.
Now the real problem with quitting should be obvious. What am I going to do without all of these benefits?
This is also known as “The Cost of Quitting,” that no one else even mentions, much less addresses.
Now what are you going to do about anxiety, loneliness, depression, isolation, sleeplessness, pain, role loss, hormone shifts, ageing, retirement, sex, and so on?
The answer is, address them instead of avoiding them.
How do you do that?
That’s what we spend the first 5 days figuring out. It’s also why we work with you as the individual you are, not some so-called “alcoholic” destined for initiation into a childish cult.
If you consider whatever it is you, personally, are medicating you will recognize that your “mosaic” of benefits is made up of a number of fragments. It’s some of this and a little of that but not much of one thing and more of another. But it is your personal, individual, mosaic of benefits.
That’s really, really important – because it means you also require an equally individualized “mosaic” of alternatives.
And no group is ever going to allow you that.
But we will, and we do. That’s why we follow our rules: one new client a week; our undivided attention; absolute confidentiality; and the creation of a plan which is based on your interests, strengths, and abilities, not some mythological “disease” which only a door knob or a wolf-dog, or magic can “cure.”
Do you want a solution or snake oil? As always, it is your choice, as is doing nothing and maintaining your current benefit package. Many do, and we won’t fault you for that, as long as you acknowledge that it is a choice and it’s the one you have made.