Why taking a break from alcohol needs to be an autonomous decision based on self-compassion
Taking a break from alcohol is so much easier if it is your own free choice to do so and it comes from a place of self-compassion not deprivation. Here is why!
We need autonomy (meet your inner rebel!)
Rules about what we can and cannot do particularly around something like alcohol use which is so culturally ingrained with virtually everything we do interferes with our autonomy and independence and triggers our inner rebel.
Put simply, we do not like being told what to do! As an autonomous individual you want to make your own choices. So if you initiate your break from alcohol because somebody else has told you to stop drinking or you have set yourself this rule, you are setting yourself up for a difficult ride.
Being rebellious and needing autonomy comes from a healthy and strong part of you that needs to weigh up the pros and cons and make decisions that are rational and considered. Autonomous decision-making is not made in reaction to other people or in an effort to please them but is made because you consider it is right for you. These decisions make you feel good!
Have a think about moments when you acted rebelliously as a child. What did you do in these moments? What were the consequences? How did you feel after rebelling? Did the consequences outweigh the benefits? Reflect on the role that rebellion may have played in your drinking behaviours to date.
I know that for me, as soon as a rule is set that restricts me from doing something I immediately feel like rebelling! I want it!
However if I approach it from the angle that it is my free choice not to drink and that this comes from a place that puts my health and self-respect above a few hours of fun I feel an immediate internal shift that makes it all so much easier. I have honoured my inner-rebel.
Free choice diminishes alcohol’s ‘allure’
Being denied something you really want by someone else or by yourself creates an increased desire for that thing that you cannot have. That thing becomes the “forbidden fruit” that is elevated to something alluring and special. You then think about it all of the time.
Your imagination starts creating stories that if you have that thing, you will feel amazing, happier, relaxed or numb the uncomfortable feeling you are experiencing.
I know that if I tell myself I cannot have the chocolate in the cupboard at all costs as a strict rule I will think about it all day and night. On the other hand, if I tell myself I can have it if I want, but I know I will likely want more afterwards and I am probably in need of a walk and lunch, that allure will fade and I will feel better in the long run.
Likewise, I know that my choice to go alcohol-free works because I no longer believe alcohol serves me or gives me anything but stress and fatigue and because it is my choice to be hangover free the next morning and feel better in the long run. I tell myself I can drink anytime but I choose not to right now. It can sit in the fridge and I do not give it a second thought.
Deprivation and ‘last supper’ consumption
If you are starting a health kick that involves a break from alcohol or moderation, then “last supper” behaviour can kick in. Can you relate to this feeling? You might think “I’ll be alcohol free starting Monday so I may as well go all out tonight and have fun for this limited period?”. You may have felt this in respect of food and diets as well.
Forthcoming deprivation triggers your instinctual desire to reach for the thing you are telling yourself you will not soon be allowed to have. Often last supper consumption makes people consume the restricted thing in much larger quantities than usual which can be both dangerous for your health and shame-creating. As soon as you create rules, then that feeling of deprivation (anger, sadness, frustration) starts to creep in triggering a rush to drink. This behaviour also tells yourself that you cannot be trusted leaving you feeling depleted of empowerment and strength that you make healthy decisions. We need empowerment and trust to succeed!
Again, when starting a break from alcohol tell yourself this comes from your own free choice. Go further even and tell yourself that you cannot wait to feel energised, look and feel better and remind yourself that you know the science and alcohol’s 20 minute ‘pleasure’ it is just not worth it.
When kick-starting your break from alcohol or if you are struggling with urges and cravings remind yourself that this decision is an autonomous decision made from your own free will.
Acknowledge you are the expert when it comes to making decisions in respect of your life and that you are in the driver’s seat. Remind yourself that you have determined to break-up with alcohol after weighing up the pros and cons of alcohol use, learning the science behind what it does to your brain and body and you have decided that it no longer serves you. This is your choice.
Try thinking: “I can drink if I want to but that glass will give me 20 minutes of relief, followed by hours of restlessness and fatigue and based on prior experience I will consume much much more than I initially set out to do. I choose not to go there.”
In making this acknowledgment you give a nod to your inner rebel!
This simple but crucial mind-shift helps diminishes the allure of alcohol and sets us up to feel that this decision is derived from a place of self-love, compassion and preservation and not deprivation!
|For support on how you can change your relationship with alcohol, email me at [email protected] or schedule a breakthrough call on my web to discuss how we can make this mind-shift together.