Changing beliefs and behaviors to quit drinking

Once I combined these two activities, quitting was a lot easier

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Once I started questioning alcohol, there was no going back. I needed to learn more about what alcohol was doing to my body and why it felt like it was the source of so much pain. I did what I always do and started with information. I found books about alcohol and began my search to learn the truth about this substance, the alcohol industry, and the culture surrounding alcohol. I learned very quickly that there’s a whole world surrounding this topic and it’s aptly named “quit lit”. So cute 🙂 

I knew from previous behavior changes I’d accomplished like health journeys and career reinventions, that behavior change comes easiest and most successfully through identity shifts. We mistakenly assume that if we want to change a behavior, we need to lean on willpower. Take for instance a health journey, if we want to lose weight we just think we need to eat less and exercise more. This might work for a couple of weeks, leaning on willpower to get us to the gym and put down the sweets but once the willpower wears off, and it always does, we give up. Willpower only lasts for so long and once it’s gone, our plan is tossed out the window.

There’s a better way to approach behavior change and achieve your goals and it’s what I used to quit drinking. The process is two-fold and includes shifting beliefs and taking action.

Here’s how it works, let’s say you want to write a book or run a marathon. You’re going to have to do two specific things: begin doing the activity that’s required to reach the goal AND start believing you’re someone who achieves the desired goal. In the case of the book, you will need to start writing and begin thinking of yourself as a writer or an author. In the case of the marathon, you will need to start running and thinking of yourself as a runner.

Imagine trying to write a book or run a marathon while thinking, I’m not a writer or I’m not a runner. You’re probably not going to get very far, and your thoughts alone will self-sabotage your efforts. On the flip side, thoughts alone won’t get you to the goal. It’s when you combine thoughts and consistent effort over time that you can create true change and accomplish some pretty inspiring goals.

The foundation of my career as an entrepreneur and many personal habits have been built upon this process of changing beliefs while consistently acting out new behaviors. Here’s where the magic comes in, when you’re doing the activity and settling into the new belief, you actually start to become the goal. Your entire identity shifts to become what it is you want to achieve. You can imagine this in the case of running and writing, now apply that same idea to quitting alcohol.

This was the process I undertook then I started diving into quit lit. I began reading books and learning about a world I didn’t have experience in, the world of alcohol-free living. While reading I began implementing recommendations from the books, whether it was going without alcohol for a period of time, journaling on my beliefs about alcohol, or noticing all the alcohol-related messages around me on a daily basis. I started consistently doing the work along with shifting what I thought I knew about alcohol. I sloooooowly but consistently started thinking of myself as someone who didn’t drink alcohol.

In this process of uncovering the truth about alcohol, I noticed that my mindset and beliefs were changing. I went from imagining alcohol as a sophisticated adult beverage to seeing it as the same ethanol we use to fuel our cars. I’ll be honest, this was not an easy shift, this process took years. My beliefs didn’t change overnight and some ideas I read about in books I first strongly rejected. The first time I read the idea that alcohol doesn’t actually taste good, I dismissed it. I loved wine and no one could convince me otherwise. Then I combined action with the new belief. I went for 50 days without drinking and when I came back to wine and took my first sip, I was shocked to find that it tasted like nail polish remover. I was floored! How did that happen? That experience taught me that sometimes what we think we know, isn’t always accurate. This same process repeated itself with other beliefs such as:

  • I can’t have fun without alcohol.

  • Wine makes food taste better.

  • Life would be boring without alcohol.

  • Alcohol in moderation is good for you.

These are just a few but these ideas were foundational in the way I viewed alcohol. I won’t go into the details about these beliefs now but what I’ve learned has completely shifted what I used to believe. Here’s the exciting news, changing our relationship with alcohol doesn’t have to be this hard, white-knuckling process. Change can come by exposing ourselves to new beliefs (like you’re doing by reading this newsletter) and trying out new behaviors. These beliefs reinforce the behaviors and the behaviors reinforce the beliefs. I am asked regularly what resource I recommend for those starting out on this journey. The three books below are a great place to start when you’re just getting started.

  1. Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind is probably considered “the bible” of quit lit. This is one of the most recommended books in this space and dives into radical truths about alcohol such as alcohol doesn’t actually taste good. I needed to read this book multiple times to let the ideas permiate my beliefs and begin shifting how I viewed alcohol.

  2. We are the Luckiest by Laura McKowan might be my favorite book I’ve read in this channel so far. True to the title, Laura helps paint a picture of a better life without alcohol. This book helped me to realize that I was lucky to be on this path and I was going to be better off without alcohol.

  3. If you like strong, don’t take sh*t from anyone kind of straight talk, you’ll love Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker. Holly helped me see this decision to go alcohol-free as radical and rebellious, not weak willed or submissive. If you like Glennon Doyle, you’ll love Holly Whitaker.

My top three quit lit recommendations for anyone getting started.

Until next time friends.

XOXO - Jess