Why You Need to Make the Commitment to Yourself First.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Don’t get me wrong. Wanting to quit drinking for a loved one or a family member is a very good reason to explore the path of sobriety/cutting back.
However, if this is your only reason and you haven’t yet come to grips with yourself of WHY it is important for you to make this change, the chances of your success will be sliced thinner than that pancetta you had last night at your local tapas spot.
The reason for this is that alcohol has such a strong effect on your psyche that if you haven’t convinced yourself that you shouldn’t excessively drink because of all the negatives effects it has on you mentally, financially, and physically, then you are much more apt to fall back into temptation down the road.
If you decide to quit drinking because you want to make someone else feel better or to save some type of relationship, but deep down inside, you haven’t accepted you may have a problem, then the internal cravings and external triggers that will eventually come will be way too much for you to handle.
To understand why, you have to understand a concenpt known as liminal thinking. Liminal thinking was coined by Dave Gray and basically means that the only way to ensure that you can truly be in control of any change you make in life is to change the way that you think about it first.
Liminal thinking is the underlying way in which your mind automatically works based on the habits that you have performed in the past. These habits have created triggers in your mind that flip the switch to remind you of certain things that you are supposed to do based on what you’ve done in those same situations before. This is also known as your subconscious thinking.
This goes back to how dopamine teaches you to do things based on receiving pleasure or pain. When you receive pleasure, your body tells you to do more of it. When you receive pain, your body tells you to do less. Liminal thinking is a result of this.
Whenever you try to change these behaviors without first doing the necessary work to change your thinking to disassociate these triggers, you then have two voices in your head arm wrestling to take control of your decision — one being the new, feeble, “Steve Urkel arm” to stop the behavior versus the mature, muscular, “Arnold Schwarzeneggar arm” to keep exercising the same option it’s been executing for years, even decades.
This stacks the odds of success against you.
To stop liminal thinking and increase Steve Urkel’s arm size, you have to do what Dave Gray calls, “turning off your autopilot.” What this means is that you have to stop these natural feelings and responses in your mind and body that have been created over years of drinking and create new responses that you can then use to resist the temptation to drink when it arises.
This is the reason that the six-step process I shared on how to quit drinking involved the step of education BEFORE deciding to quit or not. You have to do a deep-dive into your brain and rewire the way you think about drinking to make it almost repulsive to your liminal brain for you to be able to change your response to it.
An analogy that could help you understand how liminal thinking works and why you must first convince yourself a change is needed is the day to day activity of driving your car to work.
For years, you may take the same route to work that involves bypassing lots of traffic by taking a service dirt road. You are so used to it that you don’t even think about whether it’s good for you or not; it just seems to work.
One day, someone tells you it’s not good. They say something bad is on that road, and you should take a completely different route to work that you think is out of the way and not very efficient at all. However, you love this person and if this is going to make them happy, then you’re willing to do it.
A week later, however, there is a major accident on the new road, and you can A. wait for the new road to open up or B. just take the road you’re used to taking. Since you were never really convinced there was anything bad down there in the first place, you think “why the hell not?” Option B.
You begin using it again without telling your loved one because you were never really convinced this wasn’t the way to go, but you just did it to make that person happy.
You continue to travel down the road with no issues. Months past and you still don’t see anything negative happening from traveling down the road. A few bumps and rock scratches on your car here and there but nothing major.
All is well until one day, your car breaks down suddenly. You’re confused as to why until you take it to the mechanic. He tells you that because of the almost imperceptible dust that has built up over time in your car’s exhaust, the engine is completely destroyed and it is a lost cause.
You’re now forced to buy a new car way earlier than you should because you were never convinced there was anything wrong with the road in the first place.
Stopping drinking for others isn’t as silly as this analogy, but there is that same sense of needing to do the work first on yourself to COMMIT to a decision versus only doing it for others who have encouraged you to.
When you only do it for others, (more times than not) whenever something happens that challenges your commitment, e.g. vacation, birthday, BOGO on 12 packs of Miller Lite, you are less likely to stick to this commitment to not drink.
When you make such a commitment but haven’t done the research to truly rewire your liminal thinking as it relates to alcohol, then that commitment is probably not going to last.
By educating yourself on the true long term effects of alcohol and understanding the numerous underlying risk of excessive drinking, you are turning your autopilot off for a second and ingesting new information that will increase the chances you can take that new path when you are put in a situation to make a choice.
Through this research, you’ll become more aware and conscious of drinking’s effect on your mind and body. But this doesn’t take place overnight. Just like your drinking triggers were created over time, your mind’s rebirth will have to take time as well.
How do you do this?
Read…read…and read some more.
To ensure you are quitting for yourself and not only quitting for someone else, the first thing you need to do is to find as much information as possible about drinking and how it affects you. There is a lot of content out there to choose from. As shared in this Thinking About Quitting Alcohol? — Why You SHOULDN’T Immediately, Annie Grace’s, The Naked Mind, is a great place to start.
By taking the time to do the research, when the thought of drinking pops in your mind, you will look at it differently based on your newfound understanding of how it’s affecting your life and mind long term. This will slowly change your mind’s subconscious affection towards it.
Instead of being that magic elixir that makes everything better and all your problems going away, you’ll recognize it as the brain slower and thinking impairer it truly is. While you’ll be able to recognize the (seemingly) helpful effects of alcohol to make you not think about your problems anymore, you’ll also be able to assess whether the tradeoff is worth it.
This assessment is what you can then use to decide whether you should continue to drink and travel down your current path or if it would make sense to try something different to create a different destination for your future.
Others can encourage you to travel down this path or even be the reason that you start thinking you should look at a different path.
In the end, however, it has to be YOU who makes the decision to stop the car and turn down the new road.
Because if it’s not truly YOUR decision, then you’ll never truly be the one driving the car…alcohol will.