“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all“ – Dale Carnegie
(Previously Published as: https://rachelhart.com/the-forbidden-fruit/)
Dry January is so much more than a month of saying no. No matter your goal, time away from drinking is the perfect opportunity to redefine your relationship with alcohol. But as with any journey, you can’t plot a destination without first knowing your starting point.
This is where your alcohol mindset comes in. It consists of all the beliefs, conscious and unconscious, that you hold about alcohol and what you think it means to drink, drink too much, or say no. Examining your current belief system is the first step in redefining this relationship.
Everyone has an alcohol mindset, whether or not they choose to drink. From a young age, we absorb messages from families, friends, and advertisements. The books we read, the shows we watch, and the songs we hear all influence our thoughts about alcohol.
Perhaps you’ve heard someone say the following:
I don’t trust people who don’t drink.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
Beer before liquor.
You shouldn’t drink alone.
Don’t be such a buzzkill.
Alcohol is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
It’s bad luck to toast with water.
Whether or not you agree with these statements, the point is that they are just the tip of the iceberg. We are surrounded by subtle and blatant messages about alcohol all day long. Yet, most people never sit down and decide what to think about the subject. They simply absorb the ideas around them without giving them much thought. And this is the problem. Because the beliefs you hold aren’t benign, they influence your drinking habits and your attempts to change.
Your current relationship with alcohol is formed by what you think. That’s why Dry January can be so powerful. It’s a clean slate to decide what exactly you want to believe. Stepping away from drinking helps to give you a new perspective on alcohol and your habits. But saying no is just the first step. If you want to change your drinking, you must also change your thinking.
Let me be clear. I’m not talking about demonizing alcohol or regarding it as poison. I’ve watched this approach backfire too many times. Alcohol becomes a forbidden fruit, which only increases your desire.
Equally problematic is praising yourself for being “good” when you say no. Of course, there is a lot to celebrate when you give your mind and body a break from alcohol. But if turning down a drink becomes a sign of your “virtue,” don’t be surprised when, after a stressful day, you decide you deserve to be a little “bad” and rebel by opening a bottle.
What I’m suggesting is to strip away everything. At its core, alcohol is just one oxygen, two carbon, and six hydrogen atoms. Most everything else isn’t the capital T truth. It’s just stories made up by the human mind. Alcohol isn’t good or bad, and drinking (no matter how much or how little) reveals nothing about who you are as a person.
Most people never uncover, much less challenge, their alcohol mindset. They unquestioningly adopt the stories they were taught to believe. Because of this, they miss the opportunity to challenge their thinking and, by extension, the habit. Drinking isn’t a sin, and abstaining isn’t a virtue. There’s no right or wrong. There’s just deciding what works for you.
I encourage you to spend Dry January not just focused on saying no but uncovering your alcohol mindset. Be curious—question everything. Decide what you want to believe. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover that turning down a drink is a lot easier once you drop all your stories.
Post Submitted By: Rachel Hart
Rachel Hart is a master certified life coach, the host of the podcast Take a Break from Drinking, and the author of the book Why Can’t I Drink Like Everyone Else?: A Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding Why You Drink and Knowing How to Take a Break. You can learn more about her work at rachelhart.com.
Suggested NA beverage: Blood Orange Mocktail