My purpose in life is to be an amazing example of being a human.
I’m always trying to uplevel my life to do this better. Not because it makes me more worthy, but because it’s fun and that’s how I want to live.
As part of this purpose, I decided to quit drinking recently.
Hence, this super new and fun blog post.
My goal with sharing this with you isn’t just to talk about my story (although I’ll give you all the details you want), but to teach you how to drink consciously.
My goal is not to tell you how much or how little to drink. Only you know what’s best for you.
So whether you want to quit drinking, have one or two drinks on occasion, or drink an entire bottle of wine tonight, you’ll learn how to do it more consciously in this post.
First, a little background…
If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — I Quit Drinking Alcohol .
My Story With Drinking Alcohol
I decided to quit drinking alcohol not because it was a problem or because I wanted to be healthier or because my dad was an alocholic.
I quit drinking because in all my letters from my future self, she was a non-drinker. This planted the seed that I wanted to take a break from drinking. There was no real reason other than this.
These letters included my future non-drinking self for years.
Then I a couple months ago, I invested thousands of dollars in a coaching program and I just said, “You know what this is it. I’m done.” It was October 2019, on my walk home from working in the middle of the day during Thinking Time. I just decided in that moment I was done. I was ready to be a non drinker.
Prior to this, I drank socially. I didn’t have any problems with it… although I’d been drinking since age 15 (that is 18 years of drinking!). I grew up with an alcoholic father who died from it. He passed away one month after I quit drinking from cirrhosis of the liver. I’m sharing this because I’m familiar with AA and Al Anon and all of that.
This post is for the social drinker who is curious about alcohol, why you drink, and whether you want to in the future. This is not for people who identify as addicts or alcoholics.
So, on one walk home, that was it. I just was done.
I didn’t want to do a 30 day cleanse because you don’t go into a new identity of growth that way. You know the end is coming and there’s a lot of resistance and chatter.
The first week or two was HARD. I had soo many urges to drink. Then after that it was remarkably easy. I stopped drinking two months ago and I really have no desire to drink at all.
I don’t identify as “sober” and I don’t rule out drinking alcohol in the future. I identify as someone who prefers not to drink.
I still have wine and beer in my apartment for entertaining. I’m not avoiding bars or places where there is alcohol.
I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I still have fun. I still leave open that I could drink again some day.
Right now, for me during this season (and I think probably forever), I just prefer not to drink. And I know my future self is so happy about this.
I choose to think about this as a season that is now complete.
Reframing: My Experience With Alcohol Is Complete (Nothing Is Lacking)
When something ends, I choose to think of it as a chapter that is complete. This applies as much to relationships as it does to drinking booze.
- I talk at length about this in the Leave When You’re Happy Podcast
After 18 years of drinking, that chapter of my life is complete. It’s not something that is missing or lacking, it’s just a completed part of my life. I’ve had enough.
I think my life is so much richer and fuller because I’ve had so many experiences with drinking. I’m glad that was a part of my life. And now I’m excited to complete it.
By thinking of my experience with alcohol as being completed, I reduce the longing and open up a new way of thinking and feeling that is steadier and feels better. (You can do this for anything you want to end aka complete in your life.)
So, why do this at all?
Let’s take a look at why we even drink in the first place.
Why We Drink: Desire And Dopamine
The short answer to why you drink is that it makes you feel good.
The “motivational triad” is the reason for this. Your primitive brain will seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be as efficient and quick as possible. This is the most primal animal part of your brain.
I have some good news though!
You have another part of your brain that is a responsible adult. It’s your prefrontal cortex. It’s the planning, future focused brain that makes rational decisions. This is where you increase your consciousness and can change.
Culturally, we have all been conditioned to use alcohol to make us feel better. This is because when you drink alcohol, you get a dopamine hit.
We as humans have no purpose for alcohol. We don’t need it for our survival at all. Drinking alcohol is something we’ve normalized.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that feels really good. You feel pleasure. Then, you train your brain to do it again to get this pleasure hit.
- More on this in Increasing Your Happiness With Brain Chemicals Podcast
By giving into anything that gives you a dopamine hit, you program your brain to think it’s necessary for survival.
The more you do it the more you need to get the same hit.
Nothing is wrong with you. You aren’t diseased. You have a human brain.
If you are feeling down or bored or any other negative emotion, your brain will pull from the past to get a dopamine hit the best way it knows how. Often this is through drinking alcohol.
What’s really happening when you drink alcohol is that you’re not only getting a dopamine hit but you’re inhibiting your brain activity. Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system. It causes impaired body movements and slurred speech.
You know this, but have you ever thought about it?! I didn’t until I did research for this post!
You put liquid in your body to impair your brain and get a hit of dopanine.
We say there’s something wrong with you if you can’t do it normally. This is actually insane. Your brain is wired for addiction. There is nothing wrong with you.
This is really all about conditioning (enter: Pavlov’s Dog).
Pavlov’s Dog Experiment (Classical Conditioning)
Back in the day (like in 1897!), Pavlov would ring a bell and feed his dogs. Eventually, the dogs started salivating when they heard a bell ring. The bell ringing is neutral. The dogs were conditioned to salivate when they heard it because they learned the association of bell ringing and eating. In case my bolding here isn’t conveying the message: this is really significant!
But it gets even better!
After bell ringing for so long without feeding the dogs, they stopped salivating. This is even more significant! It means that not only can you create a conditioned response, but you can decondition your response.
Here’s the point.
We’re conditioned to drink. The desire for alcohol is learned. It’s cultural. It’s not innate.
A kid doesn’t come home from school and say, “oh man, I need a drink, that was a tough day” but we say that we want a glass of wine because we had a hard day at work. This is just conditioning.
You innately want to eat food from birth. That desire is biological.
You want to drink alcohol because you’ve conditioned yourself to desire it because of the dopamine hit.
The thought is “I want that.” Feeling is desire. The more you think this the more you create it.
You can unlearn the desire to drink just as you have learned the desire to drink. You can decondition yourself to remove desire.
However, there is one small little caveat that I need to mention… you’ll create an emotional withdrawal when you try the first time. This is why alcohol feels so powerful.
I have the solution for you, though. It gets better. Promise!
How To Become A Conscious Drinker
You need to decide consciously what you believe and what you want to train your brain to desire. You’ve done this unconsciously. My challenge to you is to do it consciously.
Here’s how to become a conscious drinker:
- Plan your drinking ahead of time by at least 24 hours.
- Follow your plan no matter what.
- Allow urges
Planning 24 hours in advance is from your prefrontal cortex (your adult brain) instead of your survival brain (toddler brain).
You can plan to drink 12 beers, 3 bottles of wine, or 7 mixed drinks. Just ALWAYS plan it ahead of time.
And… NEVER drink more in the moment than you plan. This is conditioning yourself to give into false pleasures in the moment and takes you out of consciousness. You end up doing what you don’t actually want to be doing.
What you’ll find is that you’ll have urges to drink more.
You have to ALLOW the urges.
When you decide to become a conscious drinker, there are going to be times when you want to drink in the moment more than you planned.
You’ll have the urge to drink.
This is where the real work comes in.
You have to allow the urge without responding.
If you drink, you satisfy the urge.
If you resist it, you’ll create anxiety and increase the urge.
However you can do the third option and allow the urge.
Notice it as a negative emotion. You don’t try to make it go away. Just be with it.
This is a SKILL you can get good at. This is what I coach my students in Grow You (how to process negative emotion to move you to growth).
You’ll find that the urge is harmless. It’s only a problem when you give in or resist it.
Become The Watcher
A little hack that I want to leave you with is to “become the watcher.”
As a human you can watch yourself think and feel without reacting.
This is unique to humans (lucky us!).
You can do this and feel tremendous relief.
You become the witness to yourself having the urge.
You can learn how to do this. It’s super powerful.
Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Own Drinking
Finally, I came up with a list of questions that will help you think about your own drinking more consciously.
Remember… that’s my goal here! It’s not to get you to stop or reduce your drinking. I don’t care what you do. I care that you are doing what’s best for you, and only you know what that is.
Drinking alcohol is so culturally ingrained that we do it without deciding on purpose.
Alcohol doesn’t make things better. It dulls your senses and it makes the experience SEEM better. The person isn’t actually hotter. You experience them differently because your senses are dulled.
When you stop drinking you reveal the truth about what you think about your life or the event you’re going to or who you are. What makes an event good is how you show up and interpret it.
Okay, so here is a list of questions to ask to increase your conscious around drinking alcohol…
- Why do you drink at all?
- Are you drinking because of unconscious programming?
- Are you drinking because you’re trying to escape your life?
- Are you drinking out of habit and the desire being there?
- Do you like these reasons?
- Do you want to plan when and how much you drink?
- Do you want to overdrink?
- What value does alcohol add to your life?
- What does your highest self think about you drinking?
- What would your life be like without alcohol?
A Final Note!
Bringing awareness to your life allows you to live intentionally and create something more amazing than you’ve ever imagined.
Drinking alcohol will either add to or take away from your dream future.
You can decide which it is. But do so intentionally.
Your future self will thank you.
Up Next – watch the YouTube video…