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How to Change Your Alcohol Addiction | What Does Habit Change Involve?

by | Stop Drinking Alcohol | 7 comments

Today, I just want to talk about ‘what does change involve? What does change involve when you’re moving from being a drinker to being a non-drinker?’

To me, change comes in two different parts.

First part is the immediate change, those immediate changes that you have to make in order to get yourself across that starting point, in order to go from where you are now, being a drinker to being a non-drinker.

To actually go ‘this is my first day without a drink, this is my second day without a drink, this is my third day without a drink…’ those short term changes.

The second part of this that you have to do is to change the long-term view of yourself, how you look at yourself, how you label yourself, what it is that you think, who do you think you are. We all have a core of ourselves, we’ve got this identity that is the centre of everything that we do. It’s that identity that you have to change.

You’ve also, as a third part, got to change all the parts of your lifestyle that used to be involved with alcohol, that used to surround alcohol; that core of alcohol is the centre of all this behaviour.

You have to change that.

When you take alcohol out of your life, I’ve spoken about this a few times, the alcohol leaves a behavioural vacuum, and you can’t have a behavioural vacuum, it’s just impossible to have that.

So, once you take the alcohol out, the parts of your life that’s left, you have to fill those.

What are you going to fill them with?

That’s the second part, it’s deciding, hopefully in advance of anything else, what’s going to replace the alcohol.

Most of your life is filled up with behavioural sequences, habits, things that you get up in the morning, you do a certain thing, then you do another thing, and then you follow these sequences throughout your day.

Most of us are very upset and feel like crap when something unexpected happens, and the reason why we feel like crap is because it takes us out of these sequences, and we all of a sudden have to think about what we’re doing.

And all that thinking is tiring. Your brain uses a lot of energy to think.

It’s a lot more efficient for your brain to go ‘’you do this often, you do this all the time, so I’m going to make this into a habitual behaviour.

We’re going to make this automatic so you can do it like a robot, just follow the sequence, you don’t have to think about it. You go from a to b to c’’.

This happens throughout your day, throughout your life.

And, most of the times that you drink, most of the occasions that you drink, most of the thoughts about alcohol are related to these sequences.

So, they’re automated sequences triggered by day to day events.

You might come home from work and it triggers a desire to drink alcohol.

Now most of these day to day triggers, because they happen so frequently in your life, these are going to disappear or change very rapidly, because you do them every day.

You come home from work every day, and that same trigger is going to go off every day and it’s not going to be reciprocated by an action.

So, the trigger will fire off if you don’t take a drink. That means that every time you don’t drink, the trigger gets weakened.

So, after 30 days of this, you’ll start to notice the difference.

The trigger won’t be firing off after 60 days.

Some habits, I think they say between 18 and 254 days, that’s when the reckon the behavioural plateau is, so it’s very difficult at the beginning to get up to the top of this bell curve, but then once you get to the top it’s like…you know you get up really slowly for the first 3,4 weeks and then when you get to the top, it sort of levels out and then starts eventually to go down.

It could be 254 days, this is all just speculation, they’ve gone through a lot of research and various studies over the years by universities and stuff.

I think it gives us a general idea of where people are, and it gives us a general idea of what makes people tick, but at the same time, they’re very sterile environments, universities.

Some guy sat with a computer and some keyboards and he’s talking of figures and stuff like that.

It’s not real life, but I suppose in real life, a lot of these things pan out.

I can see how after a year of me not drinking I just didn’t think about it anymore.

After 6 months of it, you still have the occasional thought, because these times are coming up in your life.

Birthdays only come once a year, that kind of stuff.

There are so many celebrations that only happen every so often, these are still going to trigger you to want to drink alcohol.

I sort of call them habit memories because the habitual part of your brain, because it hasn’t been stimulated in a while, that part of it, you’re still going to be susceptible a little bit to it.

I don’t know if I’m making sense there.

Bottom line is that your day to day triggers will resist strongly in the beginning, but after a while, these triggers are going to weaken.

Sometimes your choices, your choice to quit drinking for instance, these are tough choices to make not only from a personal level but also from a level of people that are around you.

Most common questions I get, most common concern is when somebody quits drinking and the other people in their lives, their partners don’t really want to quit drinking, or actively resist the person quitting drinking.

This is tough. I’ve spoken about this recently.

You can’t really bring everyone else into the equation with you, you have to do this on a personal level, it’s your personal responsibility to yourself.

You can’t force other people to follow your route if they don’t want to do it.

It’s their body, it’s their life, they can do whatever they want.

But, you’re also affecting other people’s picture of you.

What they think about life and how they envision you as part of their lives.

This has all been altered.

We want to do most of the things in life on automated pilot.

We want to have behavioural habits and routines and sequences that we follow because this is the easiest way to live, it’s the most efficient way for our brains to deduct and to perform tasks that we perform on a regular basis.

So, when we do something new in our lives and we start changing things in our lives, it makes us sort of have to think about things, and that thinking is tiring.

It’s tasking on our brains and bodies because it’s all linked together.

It’s the same with other people.

That sort of tasking comes with a bit of conflict, but you have to ride through the conflict.

If you prepare in advance, you should be preparing other people as well and talking to the people that are closest to you.

Make them see that a change is happening.


Changes are necessary.

Like I said, you don’t have to tell people that you’re quitting drinking.

You don’t have to focus your energy on that.

What you focus on, other people around you are also going to focus on.

If you tell people ‘I’m stopping drinking alcohol’, guess what?

They’re going to focus on the alcohol.

Not only the alcohol, but you as the alcoholic.

That’s our biggest problem, we look at alcohol as being this isolated part of our lives that has to disappear and that’s bullshit.

It’s not just the fucking alcohol, it’s the whole lifestyle that supports the alcohol.

There is a framework.

That’s why it’s so much, I talk about these gaps in your life.

There are so many gaps in your life that happen when you stop the alcohol, but not because of the alcohol but because of the surrounded framework that holds up the alcohol.

It’s not because of the alcohol that you have this problem now, it’s because of that framework, it’s because of the way you think about alcohol.

It’s because of the way you think about your life in general.

That it’s okay to go through instant gratification to get your needs met.

To go home and go ‘well, I don’t really want to make an effort at changing the way I live, because it’s too difficult. I don’t want to change the way I think because that’s also too difficult. All I want to do is the same thing I’ve always done which is come home and crack open a couple of beers’

The only problem is that those couple of beers are the same couple of beers you cracked open when you were younger, and don’t give you that same satisfaction anymore because your body has gotten used to it.

So, that’s the type of thinking that you’ve got to bring when you’re communicating your thinking with other people.

That, it’s nothing to do with alcohol and alcohol is only part of the problem, and you’re trying to change your life for the better.

One of those changes that you’re going to make is quitting drinking the alcohol.

You might also say ‘I also want to start changing the way that I eat, I want to stop smoking, I want to stop swearing so much, I hate fucking swearing’, you know, whatever it is that you want to bring into your life.

You’ve got to say it like this, like it’s all part of a big package, then you won’t get the big thing where they’re going ‘are you an alcoholic?’ because that’s not the same thing.

The whole point here is to communicate your intentions, to say that these things are going to gradually happen over time, you’re not going to all of a sudden change on Day 1.

On Day 1, you’re stopping drinking because you believe that’s one of the biggest health sucks in your life.

It’s one of the things that is taking away from your health.

From the other side of the coin, you can’t control how other people respond.

If they see this as a conflict, what are you going to do? All you can do is your best. To get across that you’re the one changing, and you don’t expect them to change, that you don’t expect the world to change, and the world is always going to be the same.

Some people are going to help you, and be only too pleased and go ‘I’ve been thinking about this as well in my own life and I’m glad you’re saying it to me.

I want to make changes in my life and I’ll be only too happy to go along with what you’re saying about yourself. I’ll start thinking about what I can do in my own life and what I can do to help you’

There’s gonna be other people who are going to be completely threatened by what you’re doing, and again, you can’t help that.

There’s nothing you can do.

All you can do is try your best to explain the situation but for some reason, if somebody gets the hump and doesn’t want you to change…which a lot of people won’t want you to change.

If you’ve got a drinking buddy, for instance, and he’s your best mate, and all of your drinking happens down at the pub and you two meet up whenever.

You stopping drinking is totally ruining his fucking life.

Do you know? He’s bound to be pissed off.

Especially if he’s not thought about quitting drinking before.

He’s thinking ‘’what the fuck am I going to do?’ This is what you’ve got to be prepared for. And what I mean by prepared is stick to your guns.

Don’t be scared about what other people want because what they want is conflicting with what you want, and what you want, that’s all that matters in this instance because you’re talking about something which is good for your health.

This is the only body that you’ve got in life and you have to treat it like you would a Rolls Royce.

That’s what it is.

This is your vehicle through life.

Once it is shagged, your life is shagged, you have no life anymore.

You have to treat other people as hostile.

If they create conflict with you, if they disagree with you or try to stop you, however much they might put a smile on the front of it, behind it all is hostile intentions.

It’s their intention to stop you from doing what you want to do because of what they want.

So, you have to be prepared for that.

And that’s regarding any changes in your life whether it’s alcohol or not.

If you try to make a big change in your life, you’re going to have some hostility from people.

They don’t want to change themselves, they are jealous of the changes that you are making in your life, they might be jealous of the person and they don’t want you to become better than them.

They see you as being the same as them or them better than you.

I remember going back years ago and people talking about ‘I can drink 20 pints and you can only drink 4, you’re a pussy’.

It’s that kind of bullshit playground thinking that a lot of people still have in their heads as grownups.

You’ve got to be careful with that.

Another part of this change, where you’re going to make this change that is most influential, is in your head.

Changing your stinking thinking, as they say.

It’s changing yourself away from thinking of yourself as an alcoholic, or believing that our core identity is of a drinker, and unto being a non-drinker.

From thinking ‘tonight I’m going to relax by drinking’ to ‘I’m going to relax by…whatever’.

Changing all those things, it all starts from up here.

If you conquer your thinking, you conquer everything else.

If you do your brain properly you have your whole life done.

There’s no aspect of your life that can screw around with you if you’ve got your brain wired properly.

Another aspect of this is your environment.

There are two different types of environments, your home environment that you can control, and your office.

If you live with someone else, you’ve got a little bit less control.

If you want to quit drinking and they don’t, obviously you can’t get rid of every drink in the house but you can sort of talk to the people, talk to your spouse and say ‘can you drink in a certain room because I don’t want to drink anymore and I really want to do my best and keep out of temptation’s way’ and stuff like that.

You can say ‘I like doing it, it’s part of my life but I don’t want it to be part of my life anymore so in order to do that, I’ve got to make these little changes’

Change involves very different aspects of your life.

It involves your mind formally, then it involves the people in your life and your environment.

In order to make the change stick, you’ve got to do most of the changes in your head, some of the changes in your environment and some people around you.

You’ve got to change your life structure, how your life is built, the framework of your drinking.

This framework has already been there before you started drinking.

It’s the same framework that says it’s okay to eat junk food.

In my personal life, it was the same framework that made me want to eat junky hamburgers and fried foods and smoke cigarettes, drink beer, take any of the other drugs that I took, drink tea, coffee, all that kind of stuff.

This is all the framework that has been there and built up from the time that you were born.

There are certain parts of that framework that you have to change to get the alcohol out of your system and any habitual behaviour that you don’t like out of your life.

Some of that is going to change your core identity and that’s okay.

Your core identity is a part of who you are now, you’ve got a core identity now and it’s not going to change instantly.

One minute you’re drinking and the next you’re not, that’s not how your core identity works.

It’s a gradual process.

That’s why I say you have to move towards a goal, you’re going from a to b, then to c and d, then onwards and onwards and onwards.

Onwards and upwards all the time, that’s what it’s all about.

It’s that process, it’s the journey that makes a difference, it’s the journey that is going to change that core identity.

You’ll wake up one day and realise that you’re just not a drinker anymore.

You don’t think like a drinker anymore and that’s just not you.

That’s what I want for everyone who is listening to this, is just to have that feeling because it’s such a great feeling.

Such a free given freedom.

It’s absolutely boiling out here today, it’s 40 degrees Celsius, I should be wearing my hat…

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you, what change means to you, what you’ve had to change.


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Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!

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  1. John

    Another good vid,thanks mate.I have been off the booze for 4 days,so far so good.The gaps that are left appear as boredom however I think its serenity and I have never experienced much of that,so its a good thing.I am eating more however have started topping up with carrot,apple celery juice.It helps,last week it would have been a pie or a sausage roll because I was hungover.The framework you mentioned is everywhere especially in Queensland Australia,the rugby final is on tonight and its built totally around beer.I must say my big dog is happier,she likes me sober.Cheers big ears. Pav

    • Kevin O'Hara

      Good for you Pav…I can see your dog smiling at you 🙂

  2. Carol


    Thank you so much for all you do to help us. I started drinking again 3 years ago tomorrow….in Spain…after more than five years off it. I plan to quit …..hopeful that 2mw will be first day free of alcohol. Have to make my plan. I didn’t really enjoy sobriety last time….endless AA meetings…no fun etc….but I must stop or something awful will happen..soon. I am..strangely…really into health/healthy eating/exercise etc!! All pluses. Thanks again. I have been brainwashing myself with ur videos and ebooks re addiction etc.

    Carol (Dublin)

  3. Jack

    Soo enjoying the videos before bed. 9 days sober and feeling fantastic. Sleeping great and eating very well. My time filled with all the things I neglected…my art..reading..and lots more.
    Thank you Kevin

  4. John H

    Great thoughts Kevin, 13 days in and my booze brain wants to get some booze..,told it f*** off and that habit memory is now a bit weaker than it was! Really inspiring.

  5. Marty

    Hi Kevin,
    Really enjoying, and learning a lot from your videos. I have watched a bunch, and have liked each and every one of them. I believe you are performing a great humanitarian service. thank you for all you do and please keep up your good work.


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