I realised that I am past the 15 year anniversary from when I last drunk any alcohol. The process of how I changed this behaviour is a lesson in retraining your mental and neural connections. Like most rugby players I would drink on weekends after the games and drunk a fair bit during university. In 2004 I was in a Brighton for New Years Eve and said to a mate I would go and ‘chat up’ a girl after a couple more beers. It was at that point I thought, “why do I need to be drunk to do this?”. I made a pact that I would not drink next year until I could chat to women in bars sober.
My next drink was in April, four months it took before I was comfortable not drinking in a night club, however, it was not the chatting bit that was difficult. It was the dancing sober part. The first time I danced sober it felt SO uncomfortable, then over time it got easier. The chatting to women part wasn’t actually that hard as I am fairly talkative. The process took four months and a few uncomfortable feelings but it was game changing. It removed 80% of the reasons I drunk. It was the beginning of the end of my drinking. I rarely drunk again in the UK after that unless it was a stag doo or wedding. I did drink a lot when I went travelling for 6 months in ASIA though.
Then in 2007, approaching New Year’s Eve, I was travelling in South America and got drunk in Cusco, Peru. It was a fun night mixing with some of the many revellers as fireworks were launched past your head in the main square. When I woke up the next day to do some tourist sightseeing a voice in my head said, “I won’t drink again”. This was not a hungover induced praying type statement to take your headache away, rather, this was the realisation that I had done all I wanted to do around drinking. I didn’t need it to party, socialise or relax. I don’t like the taste of any alcoholic drinks and I didn’t want to get drunk or out of my mind. That was the end, never have I been even close to being tempted to drink since, and can’t see that changing going forwards.
What Does This Mean For You?
I am not overly against alcohol despite not drinking myself. I have seen many clients get great results while still drinking, including getting drunk every week. Health wise, the government advice is fairly clear on it and it would be wise to try and limit how much you drink.
The real take home message for you should be that your behaviour around drinking, like all behaviours, is heavily reliant upon prior conditioning and neural circuits. Most people when they stop drinking, hide away from all social events as seen in dry January each year. This is good as you have reduced your alcohol intake but it has not retrained you around your drinking behaviours. As I went to the locations where I most wanted to drink I retrained my brain. This meant over time I did not need any willpower to not drink as the desire to consume alcohol just disappeared. I changed as a person.
During this process I remember watching a Welsh rugby match in a pub and I drunk 6 pints of water, which was the exact amount of beer I would have probably consumed. I could see my arm was trained to drink that much while watching a game, it was like it had a mind of its own. The next game I drunk nothing and that soon broke that connection also.
Since not drinking I have travelled alone through Central America, lived in Brazil, been on stag doo’s, enjoyed the Brazil carnival, been best man at two weddings, dated women, broken up with them, been to birthday parties, group holidays and sadly funerals. There is no desire within me to drink in any situation. This is not from willpower but from mental conditioning. The point of my example is not that you need to give up drinking, just that you do not have to drink in any situation, even if it feels that you do.
The same applies to food and eating. You can change how you feel in any given situation and therefore who you are as a person through simple repetition and patience. The other side of this is a whole new level of results. To get their though, it is helpful to know the answer to; Who would you like to be as a person around health & fitness?
Photo – Some photos from my travelling and drinking days.
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