Purpose vs. Punishment-How to Cut Down on Alcohol Without Feeling Miserable
Have you ever felt miserable just thinking about the idea of cutting down on alcohol? Do you feel that quitting drinking is like a punishment? If your answer is “yes,” you are not alone. Rarely did I, if ever, meet anyone who was thrilled when they felt that they had to give up or set a limit on alcohol. But cutting down on alcohol does not have to be so miserable, in fact, it can even be rewarding when it’s done right.
The Importance of Free Will
Let’s not talk about alcohol for a minute. Let’s talk about the idea of “having to do something.” The words “have to” are almost a sure way to take the joy out of anything. Whether we are five or fifty-five years old, when someone tells us, “You have to do this,” we often automatically want to say “No.” On the contrary, the words “you shouldn’t” or “you can’t” often suddenly make even the dullest things seem attractive.
With cutting down on alcohol, so many people, in one form or another, are either told, “You have to stop drinking,” or “If you don’t stop, you will…” The ultimatums could come from a loved one, a doctor, an employee, a judge, or ourself. It really does not matter whose voice it is, part of us often feels that our freedom is under attack, which leads to an instinct to restore that lost sense of freedom. In psychology, this instinct is called reactance, which is “an unpleasant motivational arousal that emerges when people experience a threat to or loss of their free behaviors.” In other words, when a person feels that their freedom is at risk-such as when they are told that they have to or they can’t do something-they are motivated to rebel to restore their free will.
Fear Can Only Get Us So Far
When a well-intended person tells us, “if you don’t…, you will…” they are essentially trying to motivate us with our fear of losing something of value to us. Of course, the fear of losing someone or something we treasure could be a powerful motivation for a person to change their behavior. However, there are some downsides to fear-based motivations. First of all, fear-based motivations induce stress and sometimes shame, both of which often lead to a person wanting to drink even more. The key to a long-lasting new relationship with alcohol is to be driven by reward rather than by potential punishment. Once you are able to uncover your own internal motivation to change your relationship with alcohol, cutting down becomes your choice, and even the hard work can feel rewarding.
The reality is you don’t have to cut down or stop drinking. In fact, you can drink as much as you want – there may be some consequences that come with drinking too much – but no one can tell you or make you stop. The real question is what you really want.
Get in Touch with Your Purpose
To help you get back in touch with your purpose, I invite you to a mini-writing exercise. (If you have been reading my blogs, you may already know that I am a big fan of writing exercises because magic happens when we think on paper. The writing process forces us to make sense of our ever-changing thoughts, which could often lead to new insights. In this exercise, I invite you to focus on your dreams, goals, and aspirations and become curious about how sobriety can bring you closer to your deepest longings.
Imagine a year has passed, and you have been able to drink in moderation in the past year, no longer feeling compelled to drink excessively or as frequently. How do you imagine you would you feel and look differently? How would your life change? Here are some areas to explore:
Relationships with family, friends, and loved ones
Whether you have realized it or not, we all come to this world to fulfill a purpose, including you. We are all born with dreams, aspirations, and potential. Years of heavy drinking tend to give a person tunnel vision and make them lose sight of their true self. If you find it hard to get back in touch with your dreams and goals right away, it’s okay. Be curious, be patient, and remember you don’t have to do it alone. Join my Sober Curiosity Conversations, where you will be heard, understood, and supported.
Sober curiosity is not just about re-defining your relationship with alcohol but also about re-discovering yourself and your true purpose. Fear can only take you so far, but your true purpose will take you as far as you want. Saying “yes” to sober curiosity is about saying “yes” to becoming curious again about who you are, who you want to become, and who you were born to be.