Are You Part of “The Governed”?
“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…” — Tara Brach
What if I told you that a recent study by the former drug tsar to the UK ranked the top 20 drugs in the world by the harm they cause the individual who takes them as well as the harm this person then causes society, had alcohol ranked as the top drug for damage across the board.
While you might think that drinking is just a natural part of life and you need to live a life of enjoyment and excitement, the truth is that alcohol might be the one thing standing between you and everything you could ever want.
Not only is alcohol just harmful to your health by shortening your lifespan and being linked to a myriad of other major health issues, but it is also the cause of a number of hidden issues that you probably don’t recognize as holding you back from achieving your goals.
The reason for this is that most people would consider themselves as an “under control” drinker. They would not see themselves as anything close to an alcoholic and would not say that alcohol is, in any way, destroying their lives.
The reality, however, is that very few people are actually in control when it comes to drinking. Right now, it is estimated that 70.1 percent of the U.S. population say they have had a drink in the last year, while only 5.8 percent of the U.S. population could be categorized as having an alcohol abuse problem.
What this leaves is a lot of people (64.3%) who drink and don’t feel as if they have a problem of any kind. And while there are surely a number of people in this group who have absolutely no issues with drinking alcohol, as it doesn’t affect their personal or professional lives in any manner, there are a whole lot more individuals whose lives are “governed” by it every day.
Governed is the term I use for the individuals that fall between the “not affected” group and the “lives completely destroyed” group. This is the group of people who have a ceiling placed on what they are able to accomplish in life because they believe that alcohol has no negative effects on their lives.
This term is derived from the word “governor” referring to a speed limiter or a controller that is used to regulate the speed on an engine of some vehicle. This device is used to regulate the speed of certain vehicles under restriction for use on public roads, e.g., mopeds, public services vehicles, and heavy goods vehicles.
In life, “the governed” refers to the group of people who go through life striving for success but can’t quite achieve it or those individuals who are just upset that their lives are not in a much better state than it is. However, these people refuse to look at the one thing that is probably holding them back: alcohol.
To understand why this is the case you have to understand the numerous negative effects alcohol has on an individual’s life, and why so many people just don’t think it’s that bad.
WHY PEOPLE THINK IT’S OKAY
If you are interested in the science behind how alcohol affects you and MAKES you become addicted to it over time, check out this article in AINYF, The Science of WHY You Should Quit Drinking Alcohol, in which I discuss this in detail.
For this article, however, we are focused on how alcohol holds so many people back and why so many people think they can be successful without considering giving it up.
Let’s start with the mindset of WHY you think it’s okay. The main reason you probably feel this way is you see so many people who ARE successful in life who still drink alcohol. You look at your favorite movie stars, musicians, or athletes and think if they can live that lifestyle and STILL make the money they desire, then surely there is nothing wrong with this.
The flaw in this thinking is related to a few things:
One, many of these individuals developed skills very early in life. What this means is that when their brains were very much still in the highly developing stage (from 10–25), they were honing their craft.
This solidified their mastery of these skills at a more subconscious level and thus lessened the effect of alcohol impairing their ability to continue to develop as time progressed.
However, if you tried to pick up a skill at a later age WHILE drinking, the chances of you reaching a level of high proficiency are not very good.
As shared in How Alcohol KILLS Your Ability to Learn and How to Fit It, the science around this centers on how alcohol affects your memory and learning. This makes it almost impossible for you to truly LEARN anything new as you get older and continue to drink.
The second flaw in this thinking is that just because others can partake in alcohol and still prove successful doesn’t mean YOU can.
The effects of alcohol on one’s memory, cognitive skills, and motivation make it difficult to daily commit and follow up on the activities that are typically going to make you successful at anything.
And while there are others who can drink a lot, sleep little, and still attack the next day at close to 100% (Diddy is one of the first people who comes to mind when I think of this phenomenon), the majority of people just do not have this ability.
The percentage of millionaires in the U.S. is roughly 5.8%.
Could it be possible that the individuals who are in this small group of people either A. learned their skill at a young age and therefore aren’t affected as much by alcohol, B. Don’t drink that much at all or started drinking later in life AFTER they achieved their level of success, or C. Just fall into that special “Diddy-like” category in which they can drink and party and still achieve everything they want?
And of course, there is D. Inherited it from their parents, but we’re not talking about them.
Most people would like to think they fall into category C. I would let your current assessment of your life be the judge of that. If you have everything you want, then perhaps. Yet, if you are missing anything in any way that will not allow you to live the life of your dreams, then the odds are not quite in your favor.
HOW IT HOLDS YOU BACK
For many, alcohol is at the base of what I would say is an upside-down triangle of potential success. Your ability to reach your potential will be completely based on your ability to develop alcohol-conscious in that base.
Alcohol-consciousness doesn’t mean you NEVER drink. Instead, it means you have a healthy relationship with alcohol and you don’t allow yourself to drink more than the daily recommended minimums consistently. This could be complete sobriety for some, while this may not be necessary for others.
With alcohol-consciousness at the base, you will build everything else on top of that: Your commitment to your exercise program to get in the best shape of your life. Your focus to read more to improve your knowledge for business. Your awareness to treat your spouse better by being more understanding and slow to anger.
If you’re able to stay alcohol-conscious and in control, you can build your success on top of this. Remove alcohol-conscious from the base, and everything will crumble.
To give you a sense of why this is, let’s just use a regular Friday night as an example. You told yourself you were going to work on your entrepreneurial idea this weekend and will use Friday night to do some research on finding a graphic design artist on Fivver.
On your way home, your friend, Chris, calls and asks you to come to get some drinks for happy hour because it’s Friday and “why the hell not?”
You tell yourself it has been a long week, and you could use a little “something-something” to make you feel better, so you call your wife and ask her if it’s okay for you to meet Chris for a few drinks. She says sure, as long as you’ll still be home by 7 pm for dinner.
You say, “of course” thinking that gives you two solid hours of drinking. After you finish your second drink after an hour, you start thinking the next hour is going to come FAST, and you’re just getting “warmed up.” (If you want to know the reason you set really yourself up for disaster, check out this AINYF article about how moderation is ALMOST impossible for some).
You text your wife to ask if it’s okay to stay out a bit longer. She texts back “okay,” but you can tell by her tone, that you probably shouldn’t push it too much.
You keep drinking and a cute brunette next to you engages you in conversation. You decide to entertain her a bit because the two drinks have already impaired your prefrontal cortex’s ability to help you make good decisions and the next thing you know two more hours have passed.
You leave the bar and drive home, clearly a bit over the .08 limit. When you get home, you can tell that your wife is NOT happy, and this creates tension between you two. You try to explain yourself but decide you’re too tipsy to make any good sense, so it’s best to leave it in the morning.
You pass out in a deep sleep.
The alarm blares at 6 am for you to wake up and do your Saturday morning workout, and you think, “there’s no way in hell that is happening”. You proceed to skip the workout and not get up until 10 am, at which time you and your wife get in an argument about why you didn’t come how earlier and why you shouldn’t have put yourself in danger by drinking and driving.
Your find your mind floating back to the brunette at the bar who seemed to like you and who probably wouldn’t be arguing with you like this right now.
Do you see where this is going?
How many arguments in your life have been related in some way to alcohol? How many commitments to exercise, study, or overall self-improvement have you broken because of being hungover or because the allure of drinking won out? How many decisions have you made that were based on alcohol that in no way got you closer to your life goals?
It’s for this reason that if many people can control their alcohol intake and become alcohol-conscious, they will eliminate so many “unforced errors” in their lives.
The elimination of these errors will be replaced with the positive compound aspects of keeping their commitments, not putting themselves at risk of getting arrested, and not arguing with their spouses.
This will eventually build upon itself over time to greatly increase your chance of success.
To be clear, however, there is no way stopping drinking can fix ALL of your problems, as some deep-rooted things may need to be handled with counseling and therapy, but it will definitely help more than hurt.
And while there may still be a chance that you fall within that small group of people who can drink as much as they want AND be successful (Group C), if you haven’t seen the success you want up to this point, what do you have to lose by seeing what happens if you take your governor off?