Updated: May 29, 2021
If you have to "make it through" something you are most likely using willpower. Resisting. Gritting your teeth. That's why it’s hard to keep it up - the just saying "NO". Your using all this emotional energy to say NO.
We have a limited supply of willpower. There are many reasons to quit over drinking. Here's how it usually plays out. When you make that decision to cut back you begin to mentally ramp up your willpower. There are all sorts of tricks up your sleeve to avoid and resist the temptation. The bottom line is that your desire is still going to be there. When you eventually tire from willpower the desire will surface and the cycle continues.
Understanding desire is the key to understanding why you over drink. I completely understand wanting to lose the desire to not only not drink but to not WANT IT any longer.
Over the years of me trying to stop drinking or stop over drinking always fizzled out because I was only using willpower. I would resist and grit my teeth to say no to an offer of a drink. I would avoid social situations and be a hermit just so I wouldn't have to face the temptations. I would start to feel like I was missing out. These behaviors tired me out and the desire would always win in the end.
I began to think something was wrong with me and I just had a higher desire for alcohol. I never took the time to learn about desire. Finally, I heard something that I never heard before and that was:
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.
To this day that is my saving grace. Once I heard that I was open to learning that I actually just didn't know the science behind desire and how our brains work.
Desire was something I taught my brain. I repeated the same behavior and gave my brain an intense reward day after day. My brain was so used to the intensity of the reward that it thought it would perhaps die if it didn't receive the high dose of dopamine that it was used to getting everyday at dinner time (my habit was to pour a glass of wine as I was preparing dinner for my family). As I was ramping up to finish the day (I always called it the bewitching hour because I had ran out of fuel to deal with the busyness of having three kids) I wanted to create a mental bubble, I wanted to numb the feeling of exhaustion. I would do an inventory on how much wine was in the house and if I had enough to drink to get me to the place of numb (but without seeming out of control). This habit was so automatic that I didn't even question it for some time.
Then, I slowly started to realize this is not what I want. I'd wake up groggy, headaches more often than I can count and I would promise myself not to drink tonight. Then, as always the day would wear me down and I'd give in and feel as though I just can't avoid the wine. I actually needed it and it was ok because I deserved it because my day was so tiring. It was my "reward".
Once I learned that there were cues around me that created thoughts that lead me to pour the wine is when the light turned on and I started to "stand" outside of myself to see what was really going on inside my head.
It’s easy to say I’m having a tough day and have thoughts about that tough day. The reality is, is that those are just thoughts. I started to change my outlook (little steps at a time). I realized that a "day" is NEUTRAL and it was my THOUGHTS that defined my feelings. I learned about the THINK, FEEL, ACT, RESULTS cycle that we create for ourselves. If I had a THOUGHT at the end of the day, "I'm worn out", "I deserve a break" then I would generate a FEELING of relief (only a temporary feeling, mind you). I would then give myself the reward -ACT- (wine) and I got my dopamine hit and yes, felt better, but only temporarily. My RESULT was always feeling bad about myself, having a headache, feeling disempowered the next day and then ultimately making a bad food choices, being lazy about productivity, and the biggest was beating myself up ALL DAY LONG! UGH! What a crazy roller coaster of a life.
You probably are used to paying attention to your thoughts in a way that gives you perspective. You probably just listen to the loudest thoughts that want the biggest reward (alcohol). But there are other thoughts that you have that give you reason to not pour that drink. For now answering those thoughts seem too difficult. I guarantee that if you started to really look at the thoughts that come to the surface and put pen to paper to acknowledge all of your thoughts you will start to see the pattern. You will have a reference point to this cycle that you can pay attention to.
You might think that you just like to have a drink. But, if you pay attention to your thoughts when you don't have the drink that is when the magic happens and you start to interrupt the reward and desire cycle. It's the thoughts when you don't have the drink, the emotions around the unanswered reward, that will show us the way to stop over drinking. The feeling a anxiety, loneliness, the missing out that trigger the desire to win. You very well could be avoiding those emotions.
Desire is something that you learned. You had a thought, it created a feeling, you decide to act (drink) so you get a huge reward (dopamine).
You need to bring conscious thinking back to the surface. You need to wait for the desire to appear. Then pause. You need to delay the drink. You delay the reward. That delay will let your thinking come to the surface.
The reason this will work is because you haven't done it before. You are used to doing the opposite. You will delay the reward for thirty minutes before having the drink. That is a good amount of time to begin. In that time delay is when you need to pay attention to your thoughts. You can't distract yourself. You must let the thoughts surface. You must stay present. Write down your thoughts.
The best news is that alcohol is NOT creating your desire. It is your THOUGHTS.
✅ P.S. Need a simple to follow step-by-step process to drink less? Check out my signature programs HERE.