I am 35 days into the commitment I made to myself of giving up alcohol for 40 days. For those of you following my 40 day sojourn here, you'll recall that my story left off with me heading out with friends to celebrate. We had a wonderful time celebrating our friend’s new corporate offices in Georgetown by the Potomac River (which is a very cool and hip part of our nation’s capital). The night was kicked-off by us visiting one of the most exclusive places to have a drink in DC, The Rye Bar.
And that is when I dropped the bomb on our four person party that I decided to give up alcohol for 40 days. Everyone may as well have sung Kenny Rogers' "You Picked A Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille" with that announcement. But after the bomb was dropped, we had a great discussion about why I was doing it and how my experience had been so far. It was incredibly interesting and actually grew my relationship with my friends. Up to this point, I had focused mainly on what I was giving up. But that evening reminded me that being real and authentic with people can quickly draw relationships to a place not otherwise reached.
The last handful of weeks have given rise to an abundance of opportunities to drink alcohol. There was opening day for The Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore, more nights out with friends, the visit to the in-laws, and (of course) that alluring glass of red wine at the end of a particularly long day. But I began noticing that each time I was able to persevere and keep my commitment to myself was a time that I got even stronger to keep that commitment to myself in the future.
In the big scheme of things, my little journey here includes just small baby steps and I get that. But they are steps in a direction that I am liking a lot. They are steps that tell myself (a Rewiring of the mind, if you will) and others that I can actually make and keep a commitment. And it is becoming clear that keeping commitments is like building muscle during weight lifting -- meaning that the more you do it and the more you increase the weight (or the level of the commitment) in small increments, the more you can lift. Since I have been successful in keeping this non-drinking commitment to myself, I wonder what other commitments I have made over the years that I am now strong enough to tackle?
I want to close this post with some questions that I asked myself over the last 35 days. I was a little embarrassed initially that I felt compelled to even ask some of them. But I've learned that our ability to ask (and try to answer) brutally honest questions plays a role in our success or failure. I think they can be helpful for you if you're embarking to change something that you're really familiar with.
- Do I actually have a drinking problem? Probably not, but something for me to be mindful of for the rest of my life as it seems I could quickly slip into having an issue with alcohol without this mindfulness. Where might you land on this question with your habits?
- Am I going to have a drink on day 41? Probably. But I can tell you confidently that if I don’t, it really won’t be a big deal.
- Am I just being disciplined for 40 days so I can tell you and others about it? What I have found here is that we all need each other. We need relationships to help each other and strengthen each other. Without you reading this and the encouragement of my friends and family, I’m not 100% confident that I would have been able to keep this commitment to myself. So the answer to this question is that I am grateful to you and to those that surround me and encourage me. Thank you.
- Did I kick the drinking habit and can you too? For now, I say "yes." I kicked it and kicked it hard.
- Can it come back? Yes (Bah!). But with continued incremental commitment keeping and my circle of influence, it will be hard for it to come back. The same holds true for you and your habits. Give them a kick, let others know that you are kicking, and then keep on making small kicks. This will lead to the rewiring that you desire with these kinds of habits.
That's it for me as I head into the final days of my giving up alcohol for a season. I'd love to hear about what you've given up for a time and (most importantly) what you're learning as you do this. Drop me a line in the comments section!