The eventual outcome of this process does not involve controlling your drinking or living with constraints. Instead you’ll be moving towards having a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards alcohol where with just a little bit of attention and awareness, it’s natural to drink moderately.
However en route to that state, you’re going to have to live with some constraints.
I’m going to explain how to set good constraints that are
Easier to stick to, and
Provide valuable learning experiences even when you don’t stick to them.
Good constraints have the following aspects:
- They should be REALISTIC. Meet yourself where you are. You have to create the habit of setting constraints, and you want to win most of the time so that you’ll keep doing that. If you’re too ambitious, you won’t keep it up.
- They should be IMMEDIATE. Instead of setting up rules like ‘I’ll only drink on weekends’, every day you should decide how much you’ll drink the next day. Be realistic, take into account what you know about tomorrow's schedule, and set your limits accordingly.
- They should be PRECISE. Don’t tell yourself that tomorrow you’ll have 2-3 drinks in the evening. Instead specify that you’ll have 3 drinks, not starting before 6:00 PM and not continuing after 10:00 PM.
- They should be set from a place of LOVE, compassion, and even appreciation. Constraints set from a place of self-loathing, urgency, or contempt will feel like punishment and they won’t stick.
When you set a constraint, you’re setting up a transaction between two versions of yourself separated by time. The best transactions occur between two parties who know and trust each other. These 4 parameters will maximize that know/trust factor and will be far more powerful than setting up rules like ‘I”ll only drink on weekends’ or ‘I won’t keep it in the house’.
Finally realize that the purpose of constraints is not ONLY to help you drink less. Constraints set up according to these parameters give you excellent opportunities to pay attention and learn about yourself, to get a deep understanding of why you drink. Often the best learning will take place when you fail to meet your constraints.
In the previous lesson I described how and when to observe yourself in relation to your drinking so that you can get insight into the specific factors that cause you to drink against your will. When you face a PRECISE constraint, that’s the most crucial time to engage in this self-observation.
Looking again at the example of a constraint of 3 drinks between 6 and 10.
If you’re considering having a drink at 5:00, and you violate your constraint, clearly your discomfort was high. You need to figure out what’s going on to cause you to break your commitment to yourself so that you can develop strategies to react differently in the future.
Similarly if you’ve had your allowed 3 drinks and are considering a fourth, you want to understand exactly why.
You’ll get this understanding by increasing your attentiveness as you face your precise constraint.
Click here for a specific protocol with daily worksheets you can use to implement this process.