A Thought on not Drinking by Leigh Martinuzzi
I often feel like I am trying to offer others or suggestions on how to live life more correctly. Honestly, that is not my wish even though some people have told me at times I comes across that way. I hope that in reflection and introspection and I can share different perspectives that challenge the way others think.
Here is my thought on drinking inspired by a conversation I had with my brother. It is relevant in our attempts to remove all those habits that are non-conducive to a life of deeper happiness. It starts with knowing our ‘Why.’
I had to find my ‘why.’ I’ve been searching for a long time to discover my reason to give up drinking. It has been a big part of my life, something I believed I loved doing, and perhaps still do. I began to notice the pain of drinking was starting to outweigh the pain of not drinking. At some point, I think we all start to see the habits that slow us down in life, that cause more pain than good. You may be experiencing it now.
For ages, I knew drinking bought unnecessary pain and suffering into my life, but no matter what I tried it seemed that the pleasure and thought associated with drinking always claimed victory.
Even when I was feeling sick, down, sorry for myself and regretful about drinking too much the night before or for many nights in a row, I still found myself heading to the shops to get some more beers.
Initially, it helps, as the joy masks the unease of life. And then quickly turns into regret. I became pissed off and annoyed with my lack of self-control and discipline. I felt weak and unworthy. It’s easy to make ourselves feel shitty and even easier when we are not healthy and clear.
What I started to realize is that if I kept drinking, I would never be able to live my dreams and accomplish my goals. I thought I could live an okay life, and be reasonably happy but that wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t ready to accept that life.
I knew deep down that drinking was affecting my health, both mentally and physically, and for as long as it did I would always be mediocre. I am not sure I think there is anything wrong with mediocre or average but I know that ordinary people often don’t get to live their life on their terms and that is not the life for me.
That was when I finally said enough was enough. I still drink like a stupid teenager, but now I don’t find the need to do it as much as I did. I am not perfect, and I still fall into the trap of my old patterns. But I am kinder to myself.
We do not defeat addiction or break bad habits with an iron fist. Addiction is won in awareness, compassion, and separation. We are not our addictions, we are not our Self, we are the consciousness that observes it all, and it is surprising and fascinating to watch as you begin to stop.
Stopping wasn’t easy, but after the first few weeks, it was a little easier to avoid cracking those first beers. Those are the ones that always lead to many more. After a couple of months, I don’t even think about it. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate.
I still think about it. I still think about smoking cigarettes and going out partying, too. I haven’t fully recovered from separating such thoughts from behavior.
Maybe there is always this underlying sense of suffering in life no matter what the conditions we create for ourselves. I suffered because I was drinking and smoking and having too much of the good thing and now that I am without it I am suffering because I am not. Can’t win.
The main difference is that now I get to choose which level of suffering I want. I control the conditions, and in awareness, the pain that is a cause of those conditions are easier for me to live with and handle.
It is not about choosing pleasure over pain. It’s not about dissolving all suffering in this life. It’s about being confident and comfortable in living fully through each moment regardless of the pleasure or pain. And personally, I like to have a little more control over the type of desires or suffering I bask in.
If you wish to stop drinking, it’s best to connect as best you can with why you want to stop. Ask yourself, “Why do I no longer want to drink?” And then when you answer that question ask yourself in response to that answer, “why do I want that?” Keep going until you can dig no deeper.
Then set a date to stop. As of Monday the 15th of December I will stop drinking. It doesn’t have to be a conclusive statement. Give yourself a period. I always find 30 days is a good benchmark to try something.
It may be okay if you drink after the 30 days as long as you don’t set your reward on completion as a night out on the booze. I tried that, and it didn’t work. I would reward myself with those habits I was trying to give up in the first place – smoking and drinking. What happened when I did that was that I would be waiting in anticipation to meet that reward. Focusing on how I would feel rather than how I felt at any given moment. It is not a technique I would recommend.
The point is that it’s never a good idea to reward ourselves with those things that we wish to avoid and equally it’s never a good idea to beat up on ourselves when we do it again, whether we reach the goal or not. That will prevent us from trying again. It is likely once you reach the goal you’ll feel so good that you won’t want to do it anyway.
I think that the aim is not the reward itself, nor the end point we reach but rather the progress we have no matter how large or small. The purpose is the increased sense of clarity, insight, and awareness we gain as we deal with all the challenges within the pursuit.
I found if ever I slipped as long as I got back on track quickly I would be okay. Extending our errors or slipping into old patterns for too long makes it harder to bring back the motivation and focus.
At these times I also find it more beneficial to think about how well I am doing rather than think about how much of a “fu*k-up” I am. If you think you’re a “fu*k-up,” you will convince yourself that you might as well continue those that your fu*ked-up-Self likes to do.
It’s also good to find other activities to occupy your time. When you have that feeling come on, be aware that this as it is your trigger. The next thoughts and actions are critical. It only takes a moment to decide to do something you don’t want to do. And because our brains are designed to follow the familiar more prominent paths we will likely act in favor of the easy options than those which we are unfamiliar.
In those moments we must check-in with why we don’t want to do the undesirable behavior and then move, sometimes with control, force and against our will, towards new activities that will distract and remove us from everyday temptations and environments. I found this easy in Japan because my environment and surroundings were all new and lacked most temptations.
Go after activities that are of interest, aligned with your passions, that make you feel good (without the downsides), or that are physically/mentally demanding. I found if the alternative to drinking weren’t as rewarding as drinking itself I’d always choose or revert to drinking.
I am not perfect, but I am learning, and with that, I believe I am progressing. I still love a drink. I hate feeling like I am missing out. I often wonder if “balance” is possible and if it is, is that even a good thing for such poisonous behaviors?
I feel much better when I am not drinking. I am more productive, capable, motivated, clear and happy. As a consequence of not drinking, it’s now becoming a harder to drink. It sounds funny saying it, but it’s true. However, I am also very aware of how easy it is to derail my progress, and I am happy with that because I believe in awareness I can win.
Changing our habits doesn’t change who we are. It does, however, change what we are capable of doing. If what you are doing, if how you are living your life, isn’t as you desire than it is worth trying.
Further Reading and Resources