“Complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained” Vladimir Nabokov
Complacency is a danger to any alcohol user.
It’s dangerous to think that just because you feel no bad symptoms from your drinking that you are never going to feel any bad symptoms.
It’s dangerous to presume that just because the people who love you and are at this moment content to accept what you do to yourself and happy to stay with you, that they will always be there for you, that they will always put up with your drinking.
It is dangerous to think that just because your drinking is having no consequence now, that there will never be any consequences.
It’s complacent to think that just because you are handling your drink now, it doesn’t mean that you will always be able to handle your drinking.
Complacency About Your Life
Activist and Humanitarian, Benjamin Mays said, “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.”
I wanted to talk today about complacency while you’re drinking alcohol or even once you have quit.
It’s very easy for heavy alcohol users to become complacent. for many of the same reasons I’ve talked about in some of previous videos about the benefits of quitting the booze.
There’s only so many hours in the day, you can’t be in two places at the same time, nor can you do two things at once.
While you’re getting drunk, while you are drunk, or while your body is recovering from the battering of the poison, you can’t also be doing the important things that make your life worth living.
While you’re getting lost in that perpetual drink-drunk-recover cycle, what are you missing out on?
I’m talking from a lot of personal experience here.
My drinking has certainly affecting my life.
It affected many of my most important choices, who I was, and who I was going to be.
With an average lifespan of roughly 27,000 days, the more days you spend locked into the drunken spiral, as Allen Carr called it, the more days you lose to possibilities of participating in the things that create a life worth living.
Drinking alcohol prevents us from achieving many of the things we want in life.
Complacency prevents us from reaching our true potential.
Of course, you can always say that you are still getting to your potential.
And you would be right.
Your potential is what you are capable of achieving.
And you are still capable of achieving a lot of things while you’re a drinker.
Alcohol is not that powerful.
Alcohol is more of an insidious destroyer.
It takes a long time for the effects of alcohol to become apparent.
While we’re drinking, we have no sense of urgency.
Everything can be left until tomorrow.
However, the more you drink, the longer the cyclical recovery takes, the more time and energy your body needs to overcome the consequences of the alcohol poisoning.
So that thing that was initially left until tomorrow, now needs to be left until the day after tomorrow, or the day after that.
Maybe it just needs to be left, full stop, never getting done because the pile of things that need to get done keeps expanding.
There’s an old saying that tells you that in order to get the best out of your life, you should live every day as if it was your last.
What would you do if you knew this was going to be your last day on earth?
Would you really want to buy a case of beer or wine and get drunk?
Complacency of Society
It’s not only us as individuals that are complacent.
The society that we live in is also complacent about alcohol. One of the most reliable ways of reducing the harm of alcohol in our society is to put up the prices.
Charge more for the alcohol through taxation and the levels of alcohol will inevitably fall.
There’s ample evidence that this strategy will work.
It has worked for smoking.
There are far fewer smokers today because of high tobacco and cigarette prices.
Instead, with alcohol the price has fallen.
It’s also easy to get on our high horse about illegal drug users.
Drugs like heroin are not used by the vast majority of our politicians, police, doctors, journalists, and teachers.
These are the people who set the rules.
It’s easy to outlaw something you don’t use
…but very difficult to call attention to a killer habit that you’re playing a part in proliferating.
The majority of our society uses alcohol.
The majority don’t have a problem with it, they don’t see it as a drug, they don’t see it as harmful, and they don’t want to stop drinking it.
That’s democracy in action, however ludicrous it might be.
And think about the amount of revenue alcohol taxation brings into government coffers.
No administration is going to abandon that easily. Talk is cheap. Doing the right thing often exacts a high cost.
Complacency in Moderation
Complacency is also a danger in alcohol moderation.
How many people first try to control their drinking before deciding that they want to quit?
Over most of my adult life.
I didn’t see alcohol as being wrong.
I really thought it was my attitude towards alcohol that was wrong.
For years I had believed I didn’t have the kind self-control that it took to truly moderate.
I had gone through a lot of attempts to quit smoking and failed every time.
So that really dented my confidence.
I’d try to moderate, succeed for a couple of weeks, and eventually fall back to my old drinking patterns.
Then I’d justify my failure by reworking my thinking to suit my drinking.
I’d defend myself by telling myself that…
I deserved the few pints at the end of the week
…that I deserved the couple of after-work drinks.
I needed to relax after all.
I validated my high alcohol consumption while conveniently ignoring all the signs of my body telling me that I was doing myself a lot of harm.
At the end of the day, I never wanted to quit drinking because I didn’t see the connection between the drug and the existence living that my life amounted to at that time, just doing enough to get by, doing enough to continue with the habit.
My self-image was of a proud working-class man who enjoyed a few pints after putting in a shift of work.
Complacency After You’ve Quit
Finally, complacency is dangerous to the person who has finally seen sense and stopped drinking alcohol.
He pushes himself through the first weeks and months, enjoying his new found freedom, feeling great about his achievements and how far he has come.
Then he arrives at month two or month three and he starts congratulating himself about how good he’s been at controlling the urges.
As he works these things through his mind, he conveniently forgets all the pain of drinking, all the reasons he stopped, and he pats himself on the back at how easy it is for him to not drink!
This is easy, he tells himself.
For the most part, he doesn’t think about alcohol at all now.
Then he starts to ponder about alcohol control.
He feels strong.
He feels in control.
Could he control his urges?
He thinks he could.
He contemplates what would happen if he had just a couple at the upcoming wedding.
What would it be like to have a glass of wine for Christmas dinner, just the one?
Some people call it the alcohol voice.
it’s a pipe dream!
And it’s a problem many people seem to have.
Be careful that you remember the reasons why you are stopping drinking in the first place and somehow keep these reasons up front in your mind.
Habits are built over a long time.
Drinking habits are built over years.
The alcohol propaganda has been built up in your mind from way before you ever started drinking and it is going to continue way after you stop.
Propaganda is good at what it does
…convincing Joe Public that there’s nothing wrong with responsible drinking, convincing you that drinking alcohol is great.
The alcohol using habit can only be broken down by replacing it with something else.
You can’t rip out that old habit and just have fresh air where it used to be.
So you’ve got to replace it with something else.
Here you have the ideal opportunity to replace your old drinking habit with something healthy, something that contributes to your life, and above all something that you can sustain.
You need to have something in your life which is diametrically opposed to alcohol.
For me, it’s looking after my body.(Better late than never, right!)
I am doing my very best to educate myself about how my body works.
I’m 50 this year and I haven’t felt this good about myself since I was in my twenties.
I think about the food I’m eating and what it’s doing to me.
I think about exercise, or lack of it, and what that’s doing to me.
This makes it almost impossible for me to drink alcohol again because I know it’s a poison.
If I’m consistently pursuing the goal of taking out all the shit from my diet, concentrating on making myself the best version of myself that I can be, how has drink got anything to do with that… It hasn’t.
It has no place in it.
Another element of my life which stops me from drinking is my son.
I don’t want to encourage him to drink alcohol any more, I’ve done that for way too long.
There’s a great book written by the late psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, it’s called Man’s Search for Meaning.
The book is a memoir that describes life in the Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.
Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl was in four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
Both his parents, his brother, and his pregnant wife were killed.
Based on these experiences and the experiences of the others who shared his life at that time, Frankl says that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, to find the meaning in that suffering, and to move forward in our lives with renewed purpose.
His theory, known as Logotherapy, says that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
Here’s a couple of quotes from the book:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
So between the urge to drink and you taking the action that you’re about to take, there is the space where you get to choose your response.
Do you choose to give in to the urge and take a drink?
Or do you choose to stay on that better path that you’re laying for yourself?
It’s all about your choice.
And, going back to what I was saying earlier, about building new healthier and more life sustaining habits, Frankl says,
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
If you have your why to stay away from alcohol, your meaningful reasons to stay away from alcohol, you will be able to deal with anything that’s thrown at you.
You’ll never drink again.
Remember, just because alcohol is not causing you problems now, doesn’t mean that’s always going to be the case.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves – Viktor E. Frankl
Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!