Take a Break
I Almost Got Drunk Last Friday
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You’ve been there. A no good, very bad day occurs and, seemingly out of nowhere, a voice in your head urges you to pour a drink. Yet you don’t abide.
You might be surprised by the ease at which you respond to such a moment of temptation. But then again, you know that developing a lasting change to your drinking requires an understanding of what that drink truly represents.
This week you’ll hear a story about how not accepting the false narrative that breaking the habit is a life-long battle can make saying “no” so much easier.
What You’ll Discover
How to achieve lasting habit change by understanding the ins and outs of your brain.
The false narrative too often applied to changing your drinking habit.
Why your brain might try to trick you into believing an outdated framework about your drinking.
Featured on the show
You are listening to the Take a Break podcast with Rachel Hart, Episode 357.
Whether you want to drink less or stop drinking, this podcast will help you change the habit from the inside out. We’re challenging conventional wisdom about why people drink and why it can be hard to resist temptation. No labels, no judgment, just practical tools to take control of your desire and stop worrying about your drinking. Now, here’s your host, Rachel Hart.
All right, welcome back, everyone. Today, I decided I wanted to share an email that I wrote a couple of weeks ago for my newsletter. I decided to do this because more than anything I’ve written, and let me tell you, I have written a lot, this email really struck a chord with people.
In part, because I was being vulnerable. Although, if you read my book, if you listen to the podcast, being open and honest about my struggle with drinking, and my many, many, many, many failed attempts to figure it out, is kind of par for the course.
But I think the reason why so many people responded to this email, was because I was portraying something that we don’t hear a lot about when it comes to anything that feels compulsive, much less drinking. What I was talking about was ease.
The ease at which I responded to a moment of temptation. Not just the temptation to drink, but the temptation to get drunk. So often, the framework we have for change is one of STRUGGLE, in all caps. So, even if you stopped drinking, it will always be a struggle. And even if you change your relationship with alcohol, it will always be a struggle. And even if you cut back, it will always be a struggle.
I get why we have this narrative; change is not easy. But change isn’t easy precisely because we haven’t equipped people to understand what it is exactly that they’re trying to change. It’s like asking someone to fix a car who has no idea how an engine works.
Change, sustained lasting change, is a lot easier when you know the ins and outs of the brain and how habits form, and the think-feel-act cycle that’s driving your behavior. But we don’t do that.
We tell people who struggle, “Oh, well, your brain is just different from others. So yeah, if there’s something wrong with you, and something wrong with your brain, then yeah, you always need to be on the lookout.” But not only is this wrong, it’s not all that helpful.
I also think that we have this narrative of lifelong struggle because our understanding of desire, of urges, of the things that we want and feel compelled to have, this narrative is all about being in battle with ourselves. So, you must wage war with your desires. And you must always stand guard like a century and be ready for a sneak attack.
Just talking about it that way makes me feel exhausted. Again, I think part of why this happens when it comes to temptation, is that it truly feels like you are waging a war because we’re all taught to examine temptation only through the narrowest of lenses.
So, we have this thought, “I want to drink. Therefore, my desire is only about the drink.” Except there’s always more to it than that. That’s what I’m always talking with you about on this podcast. There’s what the drink represents.
There’s looking at the drink and believing that what you see is the answer to connection or relief, or giving yourself a reward, or making things more celebratory, or finding a way to escape, or a way to pass the time, or to alleviate pain or quiet anxiety. I mean, the list goes on.
The urge you have is trying to reveal something to you. It has an intelligence, it’s here to help you. And when something is here to help, you don’t need to wrestle it into submission. In fact, that is the last thing that you want to do. Because when you do that you’re going to miss the wisdom contained within it.
So, yes, with this very narrow lens, and this lack of information, saying no to a drink will feel like you’re constantly at war with yourself. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. Even when your brain offers up a thought that you haven’t had in probably a decade, which is what happened for me, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a fight or a struggle. It doesn’t have to mean that anything is wrong with you. It can just be easy to say no and then move on with your life.
Okay, so here’s what I wrote: I almost got drunk last Friday. This is not supposed to happen. I should be impervious to temptation. My urges conquered into submission. But that’s not what happened. I had a horrible, no good, very bad day. I was far from home. I was away from the people I love.
All day, I had tried to keep it together. More than once I had excused myself to go to the bathroom and cry. I was in a full-on shame attack. And the moment I walked across the hotel lobby, I thought to myself, “Let’s get drunk.”
I have obeyed this command more times than I can count. But that night, after my horrible no-good, very bad day, I heard those words and thought, “Oh.” That’s it, one simple word, “Oh.” That’s all I needed to say to myself, because that ‘oh’ contained multitudes; the knowledge of what was happening.
My brain was trotting out a long used coping mechanism for a shame attack. The awareness of tomorrow. I knew any reprieve would be temporary, and I would wake up in an even deeper shame spiral. Compassion for a younger version of myself. She was truly doing the best she knew how, when she looked at the hotel minibar and saw the solution to her problems.
Acceptance that the appearance of this thought did not mean I was forever broken. And, the faintest bit of humor surrounding the cliche of my situation. All of this was inside my silent, one-word response. “Oh, let’s get drunk,” didn’t turn into a foregone conclusion. There was no internal back and forth about what I should do. I didn’t have to wrestle my urge into submission. And, I wasn’t fearful about my future.
There was instead, a knowing deep in my bones that the thought, “Let’s get drunk,” holds no sway over me anymore. Even when I’m away from home, far from the people I love. Trying to stay afloat, while drowning in shame after a horrible, no-good, very bad day. Because I knew in that moment, I had every tool I needed to see myself through.
Alright, everyone, that’s it for today. I hope just the idea that this doesn’t have to be a struggle for you, that saying no can be easy, that having an excuse like that come up and not have it be a big deal, is something that gives you a little bit of hope for what your future can look like.
I’ll see you all next week.