How times change! At the same time, how some things just remain the same. One of the biggest insights that I got into my own mind, and my own habit formation processes, was going back to my original drinking roots in Ireland… It really knocked me back, being back on the old turf, walking down the same old streets, meeting up with some of my old drinking buddies… How much was the same? How much had changed? How much had I changed? And what lessons to learn?
Today’s topic is about my recent visit back to Ireland with my Son and Granddaughter and the things I’ve learnt since I’ve come back.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about why I reacted the way that I did. I felt such an overwhelming, despondency, at certain times. It was as if I was in two different worlds. In one I was with my Son and Granddaughter and I felt an overwhelming sense of joy. We had some lovely moments and that was my general overall feeling, I generally felt joy. In the other world, during times when I visited places that I used to work in and places I used to go to, I felt almost depressed.
I have been thinking about this a lot, over the last couple of weeks since I’ve been back and one of the things that I’ve learn is that – change happens.
People in your life can change, situations and places can change places; or you can change and a lot of the things about my personal changes were highlighted by going back to Ireland.
That has happened to be when I went back to Ireland on another occasion. After my Son was born we went on a visit back to Dublin. We had been living in Halifax, in West Yorkshire in the UK for a while. During the visit I met one of my best mates who I’d grown up with. I hadn’t seen him for ten years and when I met him, he was exactly the same person as he was when I left. That made me feel despondent at the time as well, because the last time we spoke we were teenagers and meeting up again some time later, I was in my late twenties, he hadn’t changed at all and still had a childish streak in him.
Going back to Ireland I noticed how many things were the same, especially the people. The streets were obviously going to be the same, that wasn’t much of a change, but overall it was the people that were the same.
My drinking buddies were drinking the same amounts if not more than they were before. They were a little bit older but they were still talking along the same lines. “We went out this day and that day and spend this amount of time of and we’re doing this and doing that”. The same shit that they were doing five years ago. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, if that is your cup of tea, I just couldn’t relate to it where before I could.
I had nothing in common anymore, with these people that I used to call friends. I’ve said this a few times, but if your relationships are based around alcohol or if alcohol plays a large part of your relationship with someone then unfortunately some of those relationships are going to disappear, because they are just not compatible any more.
If they are still drinking when you’re not and if the relationship evolved around that one thing, once that one thing has gone it is difficult to keep that friendship and relationship alive. I was surprised how much I’d changed and that was a good thing in a way because it highlighted how much progress I have made during the last four years.
It’s five years since I left Ireland but it’s four years since I’ve stopped drinking and that brings me to the other point which was – it highlighted how hard it is to kill some habits.
When I went back to Ireland and we were driving up from Dublin to Limerick, I was looking forward to seeing my Son and we got there we went out and had a meal and went back to his house and it was nice. The next day, we went down town and I went to some of the old Forestry haunts that I used to work in. I was fully intending on doing a least half a dozen videos and I ended up doing three, but it was surprising how quickly my brain slotted back into my old thinking.
Not my old drinking, thinking, there was no way that was going to happen, but it was as if I had never been away from the place. It would have been so easy to have just slotted back into that same life style if I was still drinking.
It goes to show a lot about moderation as well. When you moderate and you try to moderate, it is always in the forefront of your mind. You use a lot of willpower to moderate and a lot of resources when you are trying to keep away from the alcohol and once you let down that guard again, the natural tendency of your mind is to slip straight back into the old routine and the old routine is the one that you have been doing the most.
In another Video this week I talk about how simple and easy it is to get ritualised and loose connection with the motivations behind why you drink and that it becomes just a habit and a ritual and something that you do because you do it, but that’s basically how I felt.
I could see that if I was still drinking or if I’d gone back after I’d just changed my drinking habits, how easily I could have gone back into my old routines of drinking so much Guinness and not really caring about anything else.
That was worrying but it also highlighted a lot of what I have been talking about and it confirmed what I have been learning about habits. The habit doesn’t actual disappear and the behaviour doesn’t disappear, it is more about the alcohol.
It’s more than just one isolated thing, it’s a lot of things that come together and form a bedrock of the behaviour itself and form this kind of step by step ritualistic process that we all go through, that makes up the behaviour and that behaviour then forms the habit.
As I said earlier on one of the most despondent things about it was that my old drinking buddies, hadn’t changed themselves. They were exactly the same. I was almost as though they were stuck on an endless loop like a broken record, repeating the same thing over and over again.
When I say there’s no chance of them coming out of it, I don’t know if they wanted to. As I’ve said before about myself, there were many times during my own drinking journey where I didn’t realise I had to change. I didn’t realise there was anything wrong with what I was doing.
I always thought cigarette smoking or a least when I’d got into it for a couple of years and knew I was hooked on it and tried to give up, I knew that it was something that I didn’t want in my life and wanted to stop but I never saw that with alcohol and so maybe my friends didn’t see an alternative to what they were doing.
And that was another thing that I saw back there, that the old routine and the behaviours and parts of me were slipping back into my old habits. My brain wanted to slip back into the old way of looking at things.
Part of me realised that this was a place that made me want to drink in the first place. The environment, people, it’s what you’re used to. It’s your rituals and your actions and your behaviours that all play a massive part in any habit breaking.
If there is nothing else on offer or if you perceive that there’s nothing else on offer, then you are going to do the thing that you’ve always done; the thing that is done by a lot of people around you; the things that are done that people are used to doing; the thing that you’re used to doing.
You are going to revert to that all the time because the comfort zone is a much easier place to be in than trying to change things or to do things differently.
Ireland wasn’t the only thing that made me drink but in order to change things in life you’ve got to change things by looking at things from a wider perspective. Look at how many different influences there are on your life, on your habit, on your behaviour and try and isolate the things that are influencing that behaviour, that habit and you’ve got to change those bit by bit and gradually.
You’ve got to build a new life. So, part two of the first one, how do you know what to change?
At first it is difficult to tell, you have to go through the whole process and push yourself into day one, day two, week one, week three and so on and so forth and then gradually these things will pop up, the things that you need to change will make themselves known to you because you will see the difficulty in pushing through certain areas of your life.
You will see the difficulty of being with certain people and being in certain environments. You will find different thoughts popping up in your head that you’ve got to deal with and all of these things take time.
At the beginning, you don’t know what to deal with because you are so used to doing things with alcohol, you are so used to the habit that it is difficult for you to see outside of that habit. It’s almost as if you were brought up in a Country which you’d never been out of and you had never seen anything from outside of that Country. I would be difficult for you to imagine what it is like to be in another Country, even if you’ve seen pictures of this other Country and you’ve seen pictures of the world outside your own Country, it would be difficult to know what it is like to actually be there.
You can have romantic notions about what it might be like or a certain fear of what it is like and might be like in certain situations but until you actually go there and experience it first hand you are not going to have that knowledge. Even if other people tell you about it, it’s from their experience not yours.
And it is the same thing here. A lot of people can tell you this is what it is like to stop drinking and this is what you will go through in day one or day two physically or mentally. This is what you are going to have to change in your environment and this is what you’re going to have to do there but none of this counts or can substitute for your own experience.
So it is only my going through it and putting up with your own discomfort, working through these issues one by one as they come up, that you can not only distance yourself from the alcohol and the alcohol habit and also put yourself into a position where you are encouraging growth in your own mind and forward momentum and once you get that forward momentum you start to build something which is worthwhile and I could talk for hours on that subject alone.
Finally, the one big lesson that I’ve learnt is that none of it really matters. Whether a habit comes back or whether you think that a habit is coming back or you are slotting back into an old way of thinking or whatever it is because once you can use you own brain, the tools that you’ve got.
Once you use certain techniques and like I say when I was back in Ireland there was no chance that I was going to drink. It was the first time in a long while that I’ve been confronted with my old friend the pint of Guinness and it was sat on the table beside me and I didn’t feel anything. It was just another black liquid in a glass and there was nothing there.
There was no way that I was going to do drink that pint of Guiness, because of all the things I have learnt and how much I have moved forward in the four years. If you’ve spent the four years, five years, ten years, whatever it is, thinking about how much you miss alcohol or thinking about how much you are an alcoholic and still only one drink away from being that person, then I don’t know what would happen then.
I am not that person and don’t think that way. I believe that alcohol for me was just a way of life that I don’t do anymore, I’ve escaped from that. I’ve left that behind and built something new and much more worthwhile.
Most of the people that I know who are successful in doing this – and I’m not talking about just getting off the alcohol but getting away from the alcohol thinking and getting away from believing that alcohol can be a part of their lives – those people who are successful, have deliberately build something better for themselves, they have a big reason why they want to stop in the first place and they have so much determination to succeed and to forge themselves that new life, that there is no way they are going to go back.
I’m not talking about somebody who has never had a thought about drinking, I still do have the odd thought about drinking a glass of Wine – “wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of wine now? and it was like I said, momentary thoughts can cause a physical reaction sometimes, it can cause your mouth to water or to think about it in a certain way, but at the end of the day you are going to get thoughts and it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do, what you act out on, whether you act out on these thoughts that really matter.
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“Study the Past if you would define the Future”
“The Secret of Change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new”
Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!
Hi Kevin, great video. I liked the connection to the broader picture of change and places and so on. Makes me think, wherever you go, there you are.(Not my line.) Change starts in our minds.
Yesterday was my 1 year sobriety, yes 365 days, and l would just like to tell you that l could not have done it without you or your Facebook Page, Onwards & Upwards, l placed a b4 and after video on there yesterday and quoted your analogy of the brand new car you get on your 18th Birthday, and the group loved it, l think that is the easiest way to talk to people about thing is to bring it back to where they can relate to the issue.
Once again Kevin, a big hug and big thanks to you, you’re a “Champ of the Sober Ones” O&U17
I read your comment and just wanted to say WELL DONE!!! It gives me huge inspiration to continue on my own journey. I am only a couple of weeks shy of a year myself. It has been a great/challenging experience and like you Kevin and his videos have been key to the mission.
Onwards and Upwards for sure.
Congratulations on your first year… Thanks for you kind words…