Formalizing a Tally Clicking 90 Day No Alcohol Challenge

The biggest problem with my food was controlling drinking. I’ve discussed quitting – or at least severely curtailing – drinking for a long time. In An Identity Approach to Alcohol: Parts I and 2 I discuss how willpower-eroding it can be, and how counterproductive it can be in developing skills. I discussed pretty much the same thing almost 6 years ago at the very beginning of this project in Habits of Omission. I even successfully completed a 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge.

Back then, I didn’t understand the unmatting process or have the tally clicking system. Now I do.

IMPLEMENTATION INTENTION

Anytime I have an urge to drink alcohol for the next 90 days, I’ll click.

At the end of the day I’ll record the total number of urges for the day.

This is to satisfy my curiosity for the question “How many clicks does it take to remove the habit of wanting to drink alcohol?”

MENTAL CONTRASTING

A) Positives
Separating out the triggers regarding drinking will let me understand how to truly control myself. I think it will help foster greater skill in things like socializing. I think it will also help me make better gains in fat loss. I think it will make me feel better overall, and will help me sleep better. It will help cement the tally clicking process as one that’s replicable and highly efficient. I’ll finally be able to have true control over a habit I just fell into. And I won’t feel like I’m using it as a crutch, either for socializing, having a good time, relaxing at the end of the day, or just feeling bored. I think it will also help me shift to becoming a more active person, perhaps even a morning person, or an outdoor person. It’s a key component of a family of behaviors that will eventually result in a massive identity shift. I think if this works, it will have massive implications in helping other people with their own lives and addiction patterns.

B) Obstacles
Boredom, especially the feeling of release triggered by drinking a glass of wine or going out to a bar, will be a big obstacle. As will the connection between celebration and drinking. I’ve conditioned myself to think that those are all one and the same. I have fear of missing out on unique drinks or experiences. I think it feels like I might have a more difficult time building a community because most of the people I have met or socialized with in the past have been when alcohol was around. I’m worried that it may be awkward.

B-1) Workarounds
I think treating this as an experiment that can always be changed is a good safety net for me. I also think the reintroduction phase of clean eating - namely the potential for having one cheat day a month - offers a psychological respite from the odd fear of never drinking again. I also know that the craving mind isn’t the same as the one that will emerge after 90 days, when the majority of urges will subside.

I think coming up with a list of alternatives for getting out of the house is important. Gong for a walk or a dip in the pool, for example, would deliver a similar hit of joy, contentment, and activity. Honing a nightly ritual might not only give me that similar feeling of release, but also become the beginnings of a sleep ritual for better sleep hygiene, something I’ve also wanted to work on.

I’ve got my spreadsheet ready, let the challenge begin!

An Identity Approach to Alcohol - Part II - Potions, Pleasure, and Skill

Alcohol as a Potion

What ratchets everything up is that alcohol erodes that self control. I think I just don’t think about this enough.

Imagine the opposite. If there was a potion that magically imbued you with a top up on willpower with no real downsides, why wouldn’t you drink it?

By this logic, why would I drink a witch’s brew that leaches self control every time I sip at it? And because of my progressively lower tolerance, that factor is progressively increased. It seems totally and utterly counter to this project more than any one thing.

I never drank until I turned 21. When asked “why not?” I would reply “I have little enough control over my life as is, why would I want to give up more?” What changed my mind was a fusing of two distinct sides of my self. Socializing becomes one with drinking, and I think this is quite normal in adults. As I delve into habits I realize just how fused some of them are, and that improvement involves an uncoupling.

Hedonism

How do you socialize without a drink in hand to lower the awkwardness and anxiety of interacting with new people? I had this conversation recently with a friend who was quitting for a month - he had done this the last few years and was thinking of making it permanent. 

It started with him waking up with to a bad hangover, and being struck with the visceral realization of it simply being chemical. Why would he choose to feel bad based on a few hours of fun?

The Greek hedonists talk about how certain sacrifices are needed to extend and deepen the joys of life. We could choose to go on a drug and booze fueled bacchanalia, but for how long would that last before we cut short life? How many conversations are forgotten? How many true relationships do you have rather than a filler person that’s simply there? I think I haven’t truly explored what fruits that trade off would entail.

For my friend, it just wasn’t worth it. Sure, he said, he might have moments of awkwardness, the moments of feeling like an outsider at social situations. But in knowing a bit of skill acquisition in social dynamics, I know that’s a pain period that gives way to true social skill - after all, I interacted plenty enough with people before I took a sip of alcohol.

Years ago I was talking to another friend who was having problems socializing. He was reading quite a bit of existentialism, and we were talking about feelings of isolation in crowds  -  in the midst a party. I told him that when I felt that rising isolation I imagined the party as a ritual. In order to gain connection  you have to wait, you have to sip the libation of the rite in order to gain its rewards. It was a combination of all of it - a bit of drink, waiting in awkwardness, and then it usually comes together. It was more of a begging thing, you see. I wanted my friend to stay out, I didn’t want him to be alone and sad like I had so often been.

I’m now beginning to see many sides to that dance. I’m beginning to believe another sacrifice can be made -  greater awkwardness in lieu of the drink in order to gain even more - deeper connections that last beyond the rite.

Skill

Oddly enough pickup artists are perhaps the greatest advocates of not drinking in social scenarios  Initially the subgroup focused specifically on seducing women, but it has grown to cover all elements of social behavior, from business networking to forming a social group in a new city, for the purposes of being a more whole, fulfilled person. Pickup artists treat socializing as a skill to be learned like any other. 

Most adults never learned social skills in a methodical manner. We happen across our skills, and so very often we grab for the glass as a crutch to lower inhibitions and loosen tongues. To become truly skilled is to execute behaviors without any such aids.

In this manner I see actually learning social skills methodically as an answer to the awkwardness. Focusing on skill sets rather than any given interaction also means that awkwardness becomes a pain period on an ascending path of refinement rather than you as a person being odd. It’s less personal. And it works a lot like vipassana, where precise noting of the details of a painful experience pushes you to master it.

Potion by Roberto Milloch, Dionysus by Derek Key, monks meditating by Renee Barron

An Identity Approach to Alcohol - Part I

Intro

At several points in this project I’ve dabbled with the idea of giving up alcohol completely. This point reared its head again a few nights ago when I came back home after drinking more than I usually do for an outing. I managed to make a pepperoni mushroom and blue cheese pizza with a herbs de provence crust from scratch, which was funny, messy, and also not at all in my eating plan. I woke up late. I was slow and less than optimal with some of my habits. I almost completely forgot to do one. I had a hangover and drank coke to make myself feel better.

Of course drinking “too much” for me isn’t really an accurate description. Nowadays if I go out my limit is usually one drink, maybe two. Anything more and I’ll start to feel it in the morning. I had a few extra at a nearby craft beer place nearby, so I wasn’t exactly smashing windows and starting fights.But the more I think of it the more I realize that drinking alcohol is a very subtle habit that sinisterly winds itself, much like eating, through many parts of my life in an often detrimental manner for my purposes of self change. 

A Tangled Web of Identity

In moving towards an identity model of self improvement, I’m seeing interconnections between certain habits, and the futility of trying to treat them piecemeal rather than as a matrix. One subtle winding of alcohol starts with my social life. When I meet up with people it’s usually at a bar, especially abroad when I don’t know that many people very well.

This all usually occurs at night, often precluding morning activities with morning people. Morning people tend to be outdoor or active, and it’s hard to get the gumption to get out when you’re sleeping the last night off.

This is about percentages. Of course there are hard partiers that go on morning hikes. But is it as likely? My intuition says no. If I’m shifting a paradigm, drinking seems to be, upon analysis, very much like eating in its impact on other behaviors.

Future Projections

How does alcohol affect me as a developing person going into the future? Socializing as a skill should be done without alcohol, according to all the social dynamics gurus. Financial control would advocate lowering expenditures, a complete eating habit would advocate dropping most types of alcohol, advanced meditation starts set meditation periods onwards to life in general, which requires full time control. And again, in general the movement should include the types of people I associate with, namely migrating to ones that have more control of their lives, not less.

wine glass by Alex Ranaldi, knots by Olivier ROUX, human evolution by Bryan Wright

July 4th and Rising to the Challenge of Habituation

On July 4th I had a party at my house. Lots of grilling, beer, etc.

What was interesting is that I felt the whole thing was a challenge I was rising to meet.

I didn’t drink and I actually viewed it as a challenge. You see, on Habit RPG I actually get bonus points if I don’t drink at a party. I actually feel so much better about going to a bar or whatnot because I know I get more points in game if other people are drinking around me and I’m not. In specific, I’ve coded the game to give me more points at my moments of greatest weakness.

The other day a friend made some comment about going out for a drink, but not wanting to ask me to go because I won’t drink. I actually encouraged it, because I knew I’d get double points, hahaha. And that’s great - the whole point of this is to be more engaged in life, to do more rather than avoid situations completely.

And before this gamification, I did view parties and bars as huge temptations - and it is hard to stay sober when everyone else is drinking - it’s social pressure. This is the first time I’ve viewed it as a challenge - I actually want to get into those situations because it gives me the opportunity to get more points. This is a huge reframing.

Back at my July 4th party, I actually took about half an hour out from the party to go to my room and write so that I could fulfill my 750words.com mission for the day.

After I finished a guy messaged me, giving me a hard time about not doing my writing and posting it like I usually do - I got a huge kick out of messaging him back to check again.

And that mentality is what I want to cultivate - that evil grin you get when someone is expecting you to completely fail, but you know you’ve got the proof to show them that you have risen. It’s a surge of power knowing you are crushing their expectations. I should really come up with a word for this powerful mindset and cultivate it even more.

I am very curious how this dynamic, which is valuable in and of itself right now, will affect me over the long term while adding other types of discipline to  my life.

Habit RPG and Habits of Omission Part 2

image

I’ve decided to not only NOT drink alcohol, but also coffee, which tends to make me worried and nervous.

I’ve done this by having a DAILIES - not drinking coffee/beer for a day. This section in Habit RPG is a daily task that gets more and more difficult - so in the game your score gets higher and higher the longer your streak is.


I’ve also created HABITS - specific tasks. I wanted ways to conceive of tasks that are positive rather than simply getting docked for failing to NOT do something.

So every time I refuse a drink, I get points. Every time I don’t drink an alcoholic drink at a bar or social event, I get even more points ( I’ve gone into the advanced features to weight the task as “difficult” thereby giving more points for every successful completion).

According to The Power of Habit, it is easier to replace a task than not do it - so I also get points every time I replace coffee or alcohol with water - and I might also include a replacement with any positive activity, like going for a walk.

Lastly, I’ve decided to use a technique in meditation to fight any cravings. My addiction isn’t physical, it’s more a social habit based on the experience and the art of a finely crafted drink amongst friends, etc. There is a specific technique to bring about a feeling - normally irritation or anger - and then calming the self as a way of practicing avoiding the pitfalls of actions that come from anger.

In this way one instance of practicing bringing about anger/irritation and quelling the emotion is like one rep. I’ve gotten a lot out of that technique when it comes to emotional management, and see no reason why it wouldn’t work with any other emotion. So I’m doing it for alcohol.

I’ll look up pics of drinks or situations, feel the cravings enter, and then practicing dealing with them by relaxing my mind and unhooking the feeling of a stimulus with the craving. I’ll go into more detail on this in another post.

In Habit RPG one “rep” of this will also be a HABIT and I will get points from doing this too.

So far here are the specifics of the game:

-Not drinking a margarita at a Mexican place (Just came up with this one recently) - MEDIUM difficulty, cause I associate the two
-Drinking water as a replacement for alcohol/coffee - Easy
-Not drinking coffee - Easy - not sure if this should be replaced with the later or not
-Not drinking at a bar - DIFFICULT
-Not drinking at a non-bar social event - DIFFICULT
-Not drinking coffee/alcohol for the day