Audio file can be downloaded here. http://www.evergrowthcoaching.com/Podcast%20Files/Evergrowth%20-%20Taking%20Away%20the%20Numbing%20Agent.m4a
I've written about my habits of numbing and self-medicating before. For a lot of my life, I would seek to better understand my patterns. "Why am I doing this?!" I would ask myself, often after the fact, maybe after a night out with friends when I'd had too much to drink (or worse yet, a night in, playing video games, when I'd had too much to drink).
I was recently reading Mike Hrostoski's blog about a challenge he took, where he'd given up drinking, sex and masturbation for two months. I've done similar experiments in my past too. In one month, I gave up drinking, caffeine (excepting tea), and sweets (cakes, candy, chocolate, etc.).
Because of one of those experiments, I gave up drinking caffeinated coffee, along with any kind of energy drink, completely (haven't had any for over four years now).
The pattern always seemed consistent with alcohol though. I'd give it up, have a difficult first week, then things would get easier for the rest of the month. And then the month would finish and I'd come back to it with a vengeance. The 32nd night was always a party, and the 33rd day was always misery.
And as I started to think about this recently, it makes a ton of sense. It's the same reason people taking diets inevitably put the weight back on, and new year's resolutions last only 6 weeks: no fundamental shift has occurred. All we're doing is addressing the doing. We completely ignore the being underneath. We ignore the underlying causes, beliefs and relationship to ourselves that causes the problem in the first place.
So the whole idea of a cleanse, be it liquor, sugar, gluten, smoking, or whatever, is really kind of self-defeating. It's really like going away on vacation from ourselves for a month. When we come back, all of our stuff is as we left it. We haven't really changed any thing new, we've just taken a vacation.
This has been on my mind a lot since I wrote that post I linked to above. I'm more clear than ever before what drives my stimulation-seeking behaviour (chief of which is drinking). And as a coach, I know that insight alone is merely interesting. It doesn't create results, no matter how much I hope it will. (Have you caught yourself hoping for the same thing? "Maybe if I could just understand why I'm doing that thing, I would stop doing it". "Maybe if I understand why I'm scared to do this thing, I'll be more inclined to do it". (You won't)).
So, I could take off a month again. I've started to shift who I'm being about it, and I've got a ton of new awareness thanks to all the work I've been doing in this area. But that still feels like the same old. That predictable cycle really pisses me off.
And here's the thing — I don't actually want to feel the need to drink. I know that I'm awesome, and yet, I kept finding myself reaching for that bottle. I don't even care if it's one bottle. It's not the quantity that pisses me off. It's the assumption. It's the implied state that at the end of the day, I grab a drink. That really pisses me off. I'm not interested in playing a game where I have automatic behaviours that I just learn to live with — that I just get better at justifying. I'm interested in a life of complete presence.
On some level, any degree of automatic behaviour is at odds with who I choose to be.
So, the approach started to become clearer to me as I thought about it, and not surprisingly, my resistance to that approach got stronger.
A month is easy to wait out. It's why cleanses are so popular. It feels like we're doing something good for our bodies, and we can handle a month. We don't really have to change much about ourselves (secretly, we hope that this will be the start of something new).
But ways of being aren't something you create with shock treatments lasting 30-days. They're patterns that you forge into your daily life, and commit to.
No, a month was too easy. Too easy for me to defeat. Too easy for me to outlast.
Well, what about two months, like Mike's practice? No, I could do that too.
I was just dancing around the challenge at this point.
It had to be a year.
It had to be something long enough that I couldn't just wait it out. Long enough that I couldn't just sit back and daydream about the 32nd or 61st day.
I haven't wanted to share this with you, because then it makes it real. Like, as soon as I write the words, it immediately calls forward my integrity.
Ironically, my integrity is on the line the second I created the thought that it had to be a year. But now my thoughts and my words are in alignment, and the only thing remaining is my actions. The only difference is that if I haven't spoken my truth, it's easier for me to hide being out of integrity from you. It still has an impact on me — it's just easier to keep hidden.
So, let's put it out there — that's the challenge.
It's easy for me to create concerns and solid, reasonable objections to a practice like this:
- I have friends that I love having a drink with
- My Dad and I like drinking scotch together
- I love the taste of beer
- I'm literally bottling two batches of beer on the day I write this. They won't last a year!
- Why not just have a hard limit, like one drink a week? Then I could still enjoy it!
It's kind of funny if you replace drinking with smoking crack and then look at each of those objections again.
And all of these things are made up anyway. Sure, I have friends that I love having a drink with, but is there something magical about that drink that means it's impossible to connect with my friends any other way? (and if so, what's up with that friendship?).
What I don't want to share with you is that I included masturbation in my commitment too. As it turns out, when drinking isn't an option to relieve boredom, a fast (and sometimes furious) orgasm is the follow-up option.
Here's something else I don't want to share with you — I drafted this post up yesterday, and then went out and drank beer while bottling it. Already I'm out of integrity with my commitment. You know what you do when that happens? You own the damn thing and move on.
Since I made the commitment, some funny things have happened:
- I look for other habits to fill the boredom with (see the paragraph above). I've been binge-cooking like crazy. Our fridge is filled with calzones, stir-fries, and our freezer stocked with pizza dough.
- People make it mean something about them when I share this with them. They start explaining to me why it's okay for them to have a drink, or why their relationship with alcohol is fine. (Okay, but who are you trying to convince of that fact, and why?)
Here's two of my favourite things I noticed. First, I always found the first ten minutes or so of a social gathering awkward. Any time I met up with someone, things would be a little tight from about the time we sat down to just after the first couple of sips of beer.
Much to my terror, that was every bit as present when I met up with someone sober. But here's the cool thing: IT STILL GOES AWAY AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME. Falling in to that state of comfort isn't a factor of liquor, it's a factor of time. Groundbreaking awareness.
Second, I noticed that after we get over that initial hurdle, I'm still a blast to be with. One of my colleagues (the powerful and amazing Jodi Larson) once told me, in response to me sharing my fears that I was awkward and uncomfortable to be around, "Adam, trust that you're a gift".
In a way, letting go of this crutch is in service of empowering that trust.
So, what I want to know is:
- What are you unwilling to let go of, that you know is a bit of a crutch for you? Are you willing to share it with us?
- What would be possible in your life, if you let go of that thing completely — if it wasn't a necessary or automatic component in your life?
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I love you. (I really do!)