‘Alcohol is my reward’: Fact or fallacy?May 31, 2023
Beliefs are tricky things. At some point we take them up and then they can sit in our subconscious for decades, quietly causing all sorts of problems.
We can have helpful beliefs but we often have decidedly unhelpful ones that are well past their expiry date and may never have been relevant for us.
The good news is that they are surprisingly straightforward to overcome and will often evaporate under the spotlight of our awareness when we take a moment to examine them.
In Step 5 of the Wise Monkey Way program, we look at limiting beliefs – beliefs that limit our potential and prevent us achieving our goals.
Click through to read about some of the most common limiting beliefs around alcohol and how to overcome them.
Most common limiting beliefs around drinking
Here are some of the top limiting beliefs around alcohol – they’re not the only ones, but may inspire you to think of some of your own.
- “I need alcohol to have fun”
- “Alcohol helps me relax”
- “Drinking makes me more confident”
- “Drinking is the only way to fit in”
- “Alcohol helps me cope with my problems”
- “Alcohol helps me sleep”
One of the most prevalent ones that come up in the Wise Monkey Way live groups is this: “Alcohol is my reward”.
Sometimes it's a reward for getting through a tough day without a melt down. Sometimes it succeeding in finally putting the kids to bed or, ironically, managing to string together a good streak of alcohol-free days.
In the live groups, some participants who have gone months without drinking still cling to this one and hold out for a birthday glass of bubbles, even though it goes against so much of what they have been working towards.
Overcoming a limiting belief like this requires a combination of self-reflection, mindset shift and practical strategies.
Below, I share some steps you can take to help you get over this and other beliefs that are holding you back.
Want to work with me? Join my Self Study program to curb your urge to drink and see how consistent meditation will change everything for you.
Recognise it as a belief
Acknowledging that you hold this belief and that it’s a belief and not some sacred universal truth is a great start. Already this brings the belief out of its hiding place under the stairs in your subconscious into the light where you can take a good look at it.
Recognising something as a belief already diminishes much of its power. Unlike a sacred law or fact, it's more like an opinion, something you can take or leave.
Understand the consequences
In the Wise Monkey Way, we focus on carrots rather than sticks in terms of motivation. But to move past this kind of belief, it can help to reflect on the negative consequences of viewing alcohol as a reward.
For me as a binge drinker, I used to reward myself for getting through the work week by going straight to the pub at 5pm on a Friday and staying there till 11. I’d have god knows how many drinks – and maybe a slice or two of pizza if anyone was sensible enough to order some.
The consequence of this was that my well-earned reward of not having to work on Saturday was ruined by having to deal with a hangover.
What kind of reward is it to give yourself a hangover?
If you're a more moderate drinker, what kind of a reward is it to disrupt your sleep or divert vital bodily resources to expelling the toxin of ethanol from your system?
What kind of reward is it to disrupt your health goals or to divert precious resources from your bank account?
It’s a helpful and quick strategy with any limiting belief to turn it on its head or reverse it. You can take “alcohol is a reward” and flip it so it becomes “alcohol isn’t a reward”.
Does this second statement hold as much truth as the first? Is it more truthful?
For a scientific perspective on what alcohol really does, check out this excellent podcast by Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman: What alcohol does to your body, brain and health.
Find healthier rewards
Once you accept that alcohol is a problematic-at-best reward, you can start exploring alternative ways to reward yourself that promote wellbeing and growth.
People often get stuck by trying to come up with dazzling alternatives to having a drink, but don't overlook simple pleasures.
Do things you enjoy – watch a movie, take a bath, spend sober time with friends. All of these are great rewards and will leave you feeling much better than any amount of alcohol.
Experiment with different rewards and find what works for you.
And for those of you clinging to those studies which suggest moderate alcohol has some benefits, the latest scientific consensus is that there is no level of alcohol consumption that is safe for our health.
Spend time with likeminded people
If most of the people around you also see alcohol as a reward, it can help to seek out others who share the views you want to embody. Spending more time with more moderate friends or joining groups like the Wise Monkey Way Live Online Group will help provide encouragement, understanding and accountability.
Meditate for mental clarity
We meditate to change our mood – to go from stressed to not stressed; to go from frazzled to calm. But a great by-product of removing stress and mental clutter is that we have greater mental clarity.
We're more able to see the unhelpful patterns in our lives – even if we stumble into them a few more times after first becoming aware.
Meditation is the number one way to break old habits and belief systems. It rewires your brain and sets up new neural pathways for healthier beliefs and habits.
Learn from setbacks
A huge step forward that people make on the road to alcohol freedom is to stop viewing setbacks as failures. When we stop the blame game, we can take learnings from missteps and improve our habit systems for the future.
If you slip up and find yourself relying on alcohol as a reward, view it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure. Reflect on what triggered the behaviour and how you can better prepare yourself in the future. Remember that setbacks are a normal part of the process. Persistence is the key – if you stay in the game long enough, you will get the results you want.
Letting yourself fail, letting yourself be a beginner again is one of the best ways to make progress.
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Want to work with me?
Join my Self Study program to curb your urge to drink and see how consistent meditation will change everything for you.
Start improving your life now. Meditate more, drink less.