And Another Year Slips Away…

We don’t pay much attention to New Year’s Resolutions. Many make them, but few are kept.

We once belonged to a gym that tracked members’ attendance. In December there would be the same dozen or so of us showing up as usual. In January that number would swell to 50 or more. By February the number would shrink to perhaps 3 dozen, by March, 2 dozen, and by April we’d be back to the same dozen plus two or three “newlies” who’d still be around in December, having joined the ranks of the regulars.

There is actual research as to who stays the course. Two items are simple geography: is the gym close to either work or home? Not a big mystery there. The more effort it takes to show up the less apt you are to do so.

Next comes your approach. Do you say to yourself, “I’ll go to the gym 3 times a week!”?

The problem with that is that it resembles, “I’ll lose a little weight!”
With behavior change, loosey-goosey is not the road to success. Specificity is.

So, you don’t decide to “lose a little weight” or “go to the gym 3 times a week.”

Instead, you define your goal as, “I will lose 20 lbs. by June 30th.” That goal, well defined by time and amount, allows you to plan, track progress, adjust as necessary, and know when you have achieved what you set out to do.

The gym works the same way: I will go on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoons at 1:30 for 70 minutes.” That particular schedule suits my personal preferences for an empty weight room. For a decade, under different circumstances. Mary Ellen and I did Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:00 – 6:30 a.m.

With regard to gyms, here are 2 more factors: It needs, to be successful, simply what you do, no decision or discussion. At this time, on these days, for this amount of time, I am at the gym!

Second, it really helps to have a training partner. On those days when one or the other of us really just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep we’d get up and go because we each knew the other expected us to show up. A little assistive guilt is a good thing.

And what’s this got to do with my drinking? You may reasonably ask.

Mitigating the drinking means adding new habits and activities. You do that by getting very specific about what you are going to do during what used to be your drinking time. Before too long these new habits replace the old ones and you have created a different set of urges – urges to see just how much more you can lift if you pay attention, how much better you do at those bridge games, how much better you feel when…

Yes, I’ve been using the gym as much as an analogy as much as a suggestion. Also reminding myself that after several years of injuries and other medical issues, this year I can finally go back to the gym. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it as hard as that may be to believe.

But I Don’t Have Any Interests!

Another side effect of using alcohol as your go to companion is that you have lost all interest in doing much of anything. That’s partially because everything else takes some effort and partially because alcohol is a depressant. Down a steady stream of a major depressant and, no, you’re not going to feel like doing much else.

Yet most of us, if we think back, can remember when we did stuff just because we liked the activity. Remember those days? You know. Before golf and tennis weren’t just “drinking at the club?” Fishing wasn’t “drinking in the boat?” Same for sailing?

That list of activities that became cover stories for drinking is both endless, but reversible. Remember when you liked and enjoyed sex with a partner who was there too?

Remember when reading meant remembering what you read? And being able to discuss it? And when book club wasn’t just the women’s chardonnay society?

You may have let any real interests fade away into an alcohol fog, but these too can be revived or created anew.

Recently a woman emailed a copy of her pistol shooting target. 6 rounds from her newly acquired 9mm Glock, all in the bull’s eye. She added that to her new interest in strength training and kick boxing. What do you suppose the odds are of her be mistaken for a vulnerable victim again?

Much of this newsletter comes down to the basic idea that if you want your life to change then start spending your time with people whose lives look like the one you want and start doing the sorts of things they are doing. Stay away from drunks, current and former.

To a degree, we are all influenced, even if unconsciously, by the people we surround ourselves with. Pick carefully. Don’t wait too long.