A common reaction when I tell people that I haven't touched alcohol for several months is "Wow, you have amazing willpower!"
For a few moments I revel in the impression of myself as a woman of substance. With backbone. Serious inner strength. I pity mere mortals and their lack of gumption.
Then I remember that, in truth, I have the willpower of a moth, constantly flying into a hot lightbulb. I am almost entirely willpowerless.
You see, we drinkers - I believe - are natural hedonists. If we like doing something, we like doing more of it. We do not like to deprive ourselves.
We give our wills free reign. We let them go crazy. We don't believe in keeping our wills, or anything else for that matter, in check.
This makes us really fabulously interesting and exuberant people. (See Why Ex-drinkers Rock). But it does also get us into a lot of trouble. Eventually.
If I did, actually, have a great deal of willpower then I wouldn't have to give up drinking. I would be able to have a glass of wine, once in a while, and then stop! That's what willpower is about.
Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, argued that the 'test' for alcoholism wasn't whether or not you could quit drinking for a week, or a month at a time, but whether you could drink just one drink then stop, every evening for a week. Now that takes willpower.
That I could not do. (See Am I an Alcoholic? Part 2)
The problem with constantly having to assert willpower is that it is exhausting! Because the more you concentrate on not doing something, the more you want to do it.
You live in a constant state of denial and dissatisfaction. You use up loads of space in your head, fighting with yourself, leaving you little room for doing anything more constructive.
It's a truly miserable way to live.
That's why quitting drinking is a vastly better idea than 'moderating.' Because if you're 'moderating' you have to use your willpower ALL THE TIME. But, if you quit altogether, then, after a while (about 100 days), you no longer have to use any willpower at all. Or hardly ever. Because you no longer want to drink.
And that, for we wonderful, pleasure seeking hedonists, is a great relief.
So whenever I get complimented on my amazing willpower, I just smile enigmatically, thinking "oh you ignorant, ordinary normie. If only you knew...."
But you do know, don't you?
Love SM x
Related posts: Moderation. Is it Possible? and Moderation. Is it Possible? Part 2