Back in April, I decided to indefinitely quit drinking altogether, for many reasons. I had started to develop a mental dependency on alcohol and found myself drinking too often; I thought it wise to quit for a while, and assumed I had a drinking problem. I came up with a list of reasons for why quitting would be beneficial. One reason was that I was spending too much money on drinks. Another was that I was increasingly choosing bars over the gym, making it harder to stay fit. Why not just eliminate drinking, and solve all these dilemmas in one fell swoop?
What happened after I tried to quit, however, was quite unexpected.
Instead of getting MORE fit, the opposite happened- I gained weight. I quit drinking, only to discover my body craved sugar. For days in a row, I stuffed my face with disgusting amounts of junk food- I could eat a whole tub of cookies in one sitting! It felt as if I needed a replacement for the drinking.
I felt so naïve for thinking cutting out drinking would solve all my problems- in actuality, it only served to bring the real issue to the surface. Or more like shoved it in my face, waved it around, and slapped me with it. Drinking wasn’t my issue…my issue was self control.
I became pretty depressed because things were not at all going how I wanted. Feelings of disappointment, self loathing, and utter helplessness overtook me. Soon I stopped going to the gym altogether.
The lesson to be learned here?
When it comes to self-inflicted problems, simply trying to get rid of an external behavior or habit will not eliminate the problems.
The problems only go away when you identify the root cause and why it’s there in the first place. It’s a heart issue- usually the problems are caused not by what you’re doing, but by why you’re doing it.
My attempted drinking fast taught me the importance of looking within and digging beneath the surface. The entire time I had been pointing my finger at drinking, accusing it of causing my problems, when really it was my own lack of self control. Everyone struggles with self control in some way, but I only worsened my self control issue by constantly gratifying my cravings.
After getting out of the country for a while, I was able to clear my mind of distractions, and most importantly, slowly start to alter my mindset. I trained my mind to think, “I want a drink right now, but do I really need it to survive? No. Can I actually use my will to exercise self control and turn down a drink? Yes.”
One way I motivated myself to exercise self control, was by comparing the first- (immediate) and second-order (longer term) consequences of my decisions, terms used by Ray Dalio in his insightful book Principles: Life & Work. My conversation with myself went something like this: “I had a rough day at work. If I go to happy hour now, I experience the first-order consequence of feeling buzzed and temporarily forgetting my stress. If I don’t go to happy hour now, I’ll experience the second-order consequence of staying more fit in the end since I wouldn’t be drinking and eating at happy hour. Which do I want more?”
By tackling the root issue of self control and changing my mindset, I eventually climbed out of that low point in life. These days, I’m happy to say, I don’t feel drinking is necessary. I drink way less often, and am back to prioritizing the gym over the bar. I now have more money to spend on other things, including investing in my future. I am freer, and have a clearer mind to focus on self education and working towards the future that I want.
(That’s not to say I did it all myself. Being a person of faith, I believe God helped me through it, and I’m very grateful for everyone’s support and prayers! I also understand not everyone shares my faith, so I simply wanted to focus on one important lesson I learned through this experience).