Break Your Habit of Drinking in Four Steps
Change Your Cue, Craving, Response + Reward Cycle
Have you been trying to break your habit of drinking using willpower, positive inspiration or negative, fear-based motivation by trying to avoid negative consequences?
If you haven’t been successful in your attempts to stop drinking using this approach it’s actually not your fault. Instead you’ve likely just been trying to make a long term behavior change in all the wrong ways.
There are easy ways and hard ways to break a habit, and research into the science of behavior change shows that willpower just doesn’t work in the long term.
In this episode I’m going to talk about how to break your habit of drinking in four simple steps – without relying on willpower or hating the process.
We’ll dive into:
- The four laws of how to break a bad habit and how to build a new one, as outlined in Atomic Habits by James Clear.
- Why understanding your personal habit loop of cues, cravings, responses and rewards is critical to helping you stop drinking without relying on willpower or hating the process.
- How creating and sharing an implementation intention is fundamental to succeeding in change where you have stumbled in the past.
- Why environmental design is key to achieving your goals. Making small changes to your physical and social environment will make it easier to break the drinking cycle.
- What has likely tripped you up in the past and practical and specific ways to set yourself up for success, not self-sabotage.
- What you should learn from times you’ve tried to stop before, without shaming yourself for going back to drinking.
What is the habit loop?
It’s a four step pattern that’s the backbone of every habit you’ve ever formed.
A cue is the first step in the habit loop. A cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior.
A cue is a bit of information that predicts a reward. Because the cue is the first indication that we’re close to a reward, cues naturally lead to craving.
Cravings are the second step of the habit loop.
Cravings are the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation or desire, without a craving to change, we have no reason to act. And what you crave is not the habit itself, but the change in state it delivers. So at the basic level you actually don’t crave drinking a glass of wine, you crave the feeling of relief it provides. If you’re with a bunch of people, you don’t actually crave drinking a glass of wine, you crave the feeling of being included and doing the same things as other people. The sense of belonging.
The third step in the habit loop is the response.
The response is the actual habit you perform. So this can take the form of a thought or an action. It’s the buying the wine, the pulling the wine out of the fridge, pouring a glass, taking a sip. That’s the response. And whether a response occurs or doesn’t occur depends on how motivated you are to do it, and also how difficult it is for you to complete the behavior.
The fourth step is reward, rewards are the end goal of every habit.
The cue is about noticing the reward, the craving is about wanting the reward and the response is about obtaining the reward.
The first purpose of rewards is to satisfy your craving. If you open a bottle of wine and you drink, you are satisfying that craving. The reward delivers contentment, and relief from the craving.
The second thing rewards do is they teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. Your brain is a reward detector. As you go about life, your sensory nervous system is continuously monitoring which actions satisfy your desires and deliver feelings of pleasure or disappointment. Those are part of the feedback mechanism that helps your brain distinguish useful actions from useless ones.
There are four laws of how to break a bad habit and how to build a new one
First, start with your implementation intention. It’s a stated plan to solidify your plan to be alcohol-free for a specific amount of time.
The first law of how to make a new habit stick is to make it obvious. The more visible and available a habit is, the more likely you are to stick to it.
The second law is to make it attractive. The more appealing a habit is, the more likely you are to feel motivated to do it.
The third law is to make it easy. The easier, simpler, more convenient and frictionless a habit is, the more likely it is to be performed.
And the fourth law is to make it satisfying. The more satisfying, enjoyable, and pleasurable a habit is, the more likely it is to stick.
Are You Ready To Stop Drinking?
I invite you to take a look at my new on-demand course, The Sobriety Starter Kit.
The Sobriety Starter Kit is the online, self-study sober coaching course that will help you quit drinking and build a life you love without alcohol.
The course is based on the sober coaching work I do with my private clients and is available at a cost that’s significantly more affordable than 1:1 coaching.
Plus the Sobriety Starter Kit course is online, ready, waiting and available to support you anytime you need it.
In the Sobriety Starter Kit you’ll learn the framework, plus all the skills + strategies you need to stop drinking and build a life you love without alcohol – without white-knuckling it or hating the process.
And I’ll hold your hand each step of the way.
Click here to get all the details on The Sobriety Starter Kit.
Atomic Habits links and resources mentioned
Grab a copy of Atomic Habits by James Clear
Episode 34 – The first episode on using Atomic Habits to Quit Drinking with Identity Based Habits
Podcast episodes on how to prime your mindset, physical and social environment for success in quitting drinking
Episode 2 – 5 Mistakes Women Make When Quitting Drinking
Episode 3 – 7 Strategies To Get You Through Your First Week Without Alcohol
Episode 10 – 10 Things You Need In Your Sober Toolkit
Episode 23 – Feeling Bored In Sobriety? Things To Know + What To Do
Connect with Casey McGuire Davidson
Get support during the holiday season from women who are on the alcohol-free path with the guide on How to find and join my Favorite Private Sober Facebook groups
Connect with Casey
Take a screenshot of your favorite episode, post it on your Instagram and tag me @caseymdavidson and tell me your biggest takeaway!
Want to read the full transcript of this podcast episode? Scroll down on this page.
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Break The Habit Of Drinking With Cues, Cravings, Responses + Rewards I Atomic Habits I James Clear
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SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson
Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a bus, how to sit with your emotions, when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. Before we jump into today’s episode, I wanted to tell you about something that I’ve been working on for a while now. And it’s going to be available on January 1 of the new year and just in time for a fresh start to 2021. And for Dry January, over the past year, I have spent every free moment I’ve had creating an online course, one that will help you get out of the drinking cycle and start to feel better right away. It’s called, The Sobriety Starter Kit. And you can go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com to get on the waitlist, I’ll let you know just as soon as all the details are available, so you can check it out and decide if it’s the right fit for you.
The Sobriety Starter Kit is the online self-study, sober coaching course, that will help you quit drinking and build a life you love without alcohol. And you’ll be able to do it without white knuckling it without relying on willpower or hating the process. It’s the opportunity to get all of my coaching on how to stop drinking, and how to change your relationship with alcohol without working with me on a private one on one coaching basis. The courses based on the framework I use and the work I do with my private clients, all the lessons, the strategies, the skills and tools I share with my 1-on-1 Coaching clients, but wrapped up with a pretty online boat and video lessons that you can work through at your own pace, and available at a cost that’s significantly more affordable than 1-on-1 Coaching.
And it’s available to access online anytime you need it to give you guidance and support in a way that works with your life and with your schedule. And you can access it from anywhere in the world, in a go at your own pace way in private without raising your hand or going to meetings or anything else. Plus, for my podcast listeners and my email subscribers, you’ll be able to save $100 on the course, if you buy it in December, it’s at the lowest price this course will ever be offered. So, if you’re interested, go ahead and go over to sobriety starter kit.com. And just sign up for the waitlist and I will send you an email just as soon as the requirement is open. So, you can save that $100 on the course, if you enroll in December. This podcast episode is all about how to change your habits and how to create a life you’d love without alcohol, and how to get out of the drinking cycle without feeling deprived or defeated. And in the sobriety starter kit, we go deeper into helping you make this big change. And this important change with me holding your hand and walking you through how to do it each step of the way. So, if you’re interested, go to www dot sobriety starter kit.com to learn more. And if you’re my private coaching client, don’t worry, I know that you’ll get the full course in January at no additional cost as part of your one on one support from me. Alright, let’s get on to the episode.
Welcome to the Hello Someday podcast. The podcast for busy women. We’re ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids by stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week. I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a bus, how to sit with your emotions. When you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst-case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. Welcome to Episode Two in a three-part series about how to break your habit of drinking based on the research into what works and changing behavior for long term success, and how to do it without relying on willpower.
In this episode, I’m going to take you through how to break your habit of drinking in 4 simple steps. And we’re going to talk about what’s been tripping you up in the past, and about the way the habits cycle of queues, cravings, responses and rewards have been influencing your habit of drinking, plus practical, effective and specific ways that you can change your ingrained habits and set yourself up for success and not for sabotage. If you’ve been trying to stop drinking, or honestly changing any other behavior that isn’t helping you live your best life for a while now. And despite your best efforts, and you keep going back to the old habits that are dragging you down, you are living a life where you are constantly letting yourself down, and it sucks. It’s a really shitty way to live. But here’s the thing, it’s not your fault, you’ve just been going about making a behavior change, making a behavior change that’s actually sustainable in all the wrong ways.
And in this episode, and in all the Coaching work I do, and my goal is to teach you a different approach, a way to change your habits and help you stop drinking, without relying on willpower, or blaming yourself for not succeeding. And if you’re interested in taking action, and making the changes you want in your life in a sustainable way, I want to invite you to check out my online self-study course, that’s launching on January 1, you can sign up for more information right now at www sobriety starter kit.com. Or you can just go to my website. And the link to the online course is at the top of each page. Alright, so let’s do this. Let’s get into the step by step way to break your habit of drinking once and for all, based on the research into the Four Laws of how to break a bad habit and how to build a new one, as described in James Clears’ book, Atomic Habits.
I hope you’re in a place right now that you’re ready to take some good notes, and to take some action, because you’re gonna get so much from this topic today. And if you can’t take notes right now, that’s okay. Just come back to the show notes of this episode. You can find it at hellosomedaycoaching.com/35.
For all the highlights, I’m going to translate the Atomic Habits Framework and the system into practical step by step ways you can take to stop drinking, by replacing your cues, cravings, responses and rewards in a way that’s easy and rewarding, not hard and painful. As James says in the book, you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. And what he means by your systems is the collection of daily habits that will get you there, get you to your goal, get you to your desired outcome. So, it might be that your desired outcome when you’re thinking the way I’m drinking is unsustainable, might be pretty basic, like your desired outcome is to stop feeling like complete and total shit. Or your desired outcome is to stop drinking too much to stop thinking about drinking or thinking about not drinking all the time to stop thinking about if you have enough wine at home, to stop waking up with a hangover or to stop feeling so tired.
Or your goal might be something you really want rather than what you don’t want. For example, your goal might be to be a healthy, happy, confident, inspiring woman who doesn’t drink too much, who doesn’t wake up with a hangover. Or you might want to be a motivated and energetic and proud woman, proud of your decision not to drink without longing for wine, or missing drinking anymore. And likely your goal, your desired outcome is a combination of those two, with what you want to stop doing and feeling now, and also what you want to start doing and feeling in the future. And it’s so true. So, I want to say it again, you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your daily habits.
So, I gotta tell you, there are 1000s of women who have that same goal, who want to stop drinking too much and who want to stop waking up with a hangover who want to feel healthy and proud and comfortable not drinking. We all have those same things, goals, but what makes us be able to achieve them and be successful or not. And be sabotage is your daily habits. It’s what you’re doing right now. So, if you can approach your daily habits in a different way, than what you’ve been doing before, you’re gonna see big results. Creating the right habits is way more powerful and way more effective than relying on motivation to reach your goal.
And there’s a whole bunch of research and studies that show why motivation isn’t the key to helping you achieve your goals and offers a simple strategy that actually works better. The research study, when they did it was around exercising, and they found that motivation had no significant effects on your actual behavior. That’s because lots of people start out with the motivation to exercise more and to get healthy. But only some of those people actually succeed in doing it long term. And a big part of the difference is following up that motivation, with the right habits, but also actually creating and stating and sharing what’s called an implementation intention. So basically, what the studies have found, is that if you state your intention to implement a particular behavior, you’re usually between two to three times more likely to actually follow through. And so they found this to be true for your likelihood to do a whole bunch of things, to go to the polls and to vote to whether you get your flu shot to whether you’re willing to stick with exercise each week, whether you recycle, quitting drinking, and all kinds of other habits, you don’t need more motivation.
The first thing you need to reach your goals is that you actually need a stated plan, you need to solidify your intention and plan to be alcohol free, you need to do it out loud, to yourself and to someone else. And you need to make your implementation intention for a specific timeline. So, here’s what that might look like when you’re quitting drinking. And this is something I suggest you actually do tell someone and by the way, you get extra gold stars. By telling someone you live with that, you’re going to take a break from drinking for a set period of time, starting on a specific date. So, I recommend picking something like, 100 days. 100 days is long enough. So, you can’t white knuckle it, but it’s not forever. And I’ve talked about before a couple different times, but specifically in the episode about the 5 mindset mistakes that most women make when quitting drinking, how telling yourself you will never again drink or that you’re not drinking for the rest of your life is a huge mistake that can trip you up. So, don’t say you’re never going to drink again. But say I’m going to take a break from drinking for 100 days. If 100 days is too big, if you think I just won’t start if that’s the goal. Okay, start with 60 days. And the thing is that, a lot of people set a goal for 30 days. And most people can white knuckle it through 30 days, if they really grit their teeth. And here’s what happened, the first 15 days of the 30 days suck, they are the hardest time period you will ever do in early sobriety.
Now, I’m going to talk about how to make those 15 days a whole hell of a lot easier. But they’re not easy. And then for the last 15 days of your 30-day commitment, and you’re probably just hanging on until you can drink again, you’re already counting down the days until you can drink and so it’s not really a habit. But if you can go for longer, if you can go for 60 days, or 90 days, or 100 days, then you’re actually able to implement the behavior change through the system I’m going to talk about in this podcast, you actually have to figure out how to live without using your negative pattern of drinking to respond to every situation. And every emotion. If your goal is for 60 days or 100 days, you’re not just enduring your time without alcohol. So, state your implementation intention. Tell someone you’d live with that you’re taking a break from drinking for 100 days, and then tell a few friends or your coworkers and you don’t have to tell them much at all or attach any negative connotation to it. You can just say I’m doing a health challenge where I’m taking 100 days away from alcohol. And I’m super excited to see how healthy I can get. You could also mention it to your workout group. That’s what I did when in the beginning of sobriety because we were all trying to get healthy get fit.
So, I was just like, hey guys, as part of this, I’m also not going to drink for 100 days. And you can tell your kids are great at holding you accountable and noticing when you said you’re going to do something and not doing it. So again, don’t have to tell them all the details and just tell them, Hey, I’m taking a break for drinking from this period of time. And then it’s going to be harder for you to open a bottle of wine and have one at dinner, because your kids are like, what you are doing, Mom, I thought you were taking a break. So when you set your intention to not drink for 100, continuous days, instead of what you’ve likely been doing, which is starting and stopping all over again, or trying not to drink tonight, or this week, or even for 30 days, you’re going to build that habit of not drinking.
So, the first thing you need is your implementation intention, get that done. And then it’s time to go into the Four Laws of behavioral change. And the first thing I need to do is to touch on the habit loop, because it’s super important for you to understand. And this information, again, is outlined in the Atomic Habits book by James Clear. So, if you want to go deeper into this stuff, just buy the book or listen to it. The habit loop is the 4-step pattern. That’s the backbone of every habit. And your brain runs through the steps super-fast in the same order each time. So, first, there’s a cue, the cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It’s a bit of information that predicts a reward and your mind is continuously looking for hints for where rewards are located. Because the cue is the first indication that we’re close to a reward. Cues naturally lead to craving. cravings are the second step of the habit loop. And cravings are the motivational force behind every habit. Here’s the thing without some level of motivation, or desire, without a craving to change, we have no reason to act. And what you crave is not the habit itself, but the change in state it delivers. So, you don’t actually crave drinking a glass of wine not at the base level, you crave the feeling of relief it provides or if you’re with a bunch of people, the feeling of being included or doing the same things as other people it provides. You’re also not motivated by brushing your teeth, you’re motivated by the feeling of a clean mouth, you’re not motivated to actually turn on the television, you are motivated because you want to be entertained, every single craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state. And cravings differ for different people. In theory, any piece of information could be a cue, that triggers a craving. But for you, if you’d like to drink like I did, a cue that triggers a craving might be the time of day. So, it’s the time of day when you usually start drinking or start thinking about drinking. A cue might be leaving work and driving towards the grocery store where you usually stop to buy wine, it might be walking into your house and immediately scanning for the wine bottle, it might be opening the fridge every evening, if you have a bottle of Chardonnay in there. Cooking is often a cue that triggers a craving, it’s any piece of information that for you triggers a craving and cues are absolutely meaningless until they’re interpreted.
So, it’s all about your personal history, your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, those are what transforms a cue into a craving, because I want to give you this example for someone else driving down the street, which happens to be towards the grocery store. If they’re not a big drinker, or they don’t usually buy wine there, that doesn’t trigger a craving to go buy wine. They’re simply driving down the road going north. It’s your personal experience, your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, those are what turn driving down a road, which might be completely neutral, into a cue that leads immediately to a craving to buy wine. The third step in the habit loop is the response. So, the response is the actual habit you perform. So, this can take the form of a thought or an action. It’s the buying the wine, the pulling the line out of the fridge, the pouring a glass, the taking a sip. That’s the response. And whether a response occurs or doesn’t occur depends on how motivated you are to do it, and also how difficult it is for you to complete the behavior. Right? How much friction is there between you and the response? So, if doing the response, if opening the wine if getting the wine requires more physical or more mental effort than you’re willing to expand, you won’t do it.
Finally, the response to livers of reward, rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward, the craving is about wanting the reward and the responses about obtaining the reward. So, the first purpose of rewards is to satisfy your craving. So, if you open a bottle of wine and you drink, you’re satisfying that craving, at least for the moment, the reward delivers contentment, and relief from the craving. The second thing rewards do is they teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. So, your brain is a reward detector. As you go about life. Your sensory nervous system is continuously monitoring which actions satisfy your desires and deliver pleasure and feelings of pleasure or disappointment. Those are part of the feedback mechanism that helps your brain distinguish useful actions from useless ones. And let’s be clear drinking alcohol overloads your brain with dopamine, and also reduces your brain’s dopamine receptors in the process. So, when you first stop drinking, the lack of dopamine and the diminished receptors, those can lead to feelings of sadness, and deprivation.
In This Naked Mind, Annie Grace writes that it’s the physical withdrawal. We are happier when we take a drink, not because drinking makes us happy, but because the drink relieves the withdrawal, the drinking cost. So yeah, your brain absolutely gets that reward when you have a drink. For awards, close the feedback loop, and complete the habit cycle.
Alright. So now, let’s talk about how to actually break your habit of drinking and replace it with a satisfying habit of not drinking. Basically, if you want to have it to stick you need for things to happen, there are four levers that you can pull to make it easier to stick to a new habit or break a bad one. And this can be used for anything, any habit you want to create, or any habit you want to break any habit you want to create, or any habit you want to break, I’m going to use specific examples of how to do it to break the habit of drinking. So, the first law to create a new habit and make it stick is that you want to make it obvious. And the more obvious, the more visible, the more available the habit is, the more likely you are to stick with it. The second law is to make it attractive. And so, the more appealing the habit is, the more likely you are to feel motivated to do it. The third law is to make it easy. So, the easier, simpler, more convenient, less friction a habit requires, the more likely you are to perform it. And the fourth law is to make it satisfying. The more satisfying or enjoyable habit is, the more you get a sense of pleasure from performing the habit, the more likely that habit is to stick as well. If the habit is actually satisfying, it gives your brain a signal that says, Hey, that was really good. Let’s do this again in the future. And when I think about this, I remember when I worked at L’Oréal, and they made it available to employees, they started bringing in an awesome woman named Julia to give 20-minute chair massages on Thursday. Now, we had to pay for them. But it was so worth it. And after my first chair massage, I was like, Damn, that was awesome. repeat that again in the future. Soon the day of the week, which was Tuesday when she came in, that was a cue. And I immediately started craving a massage. Like I’d be like super upset if Julia schedule was awful, and I couldn’t get in. And I was like calling the receptionist and being like, hey, ping me right away, if there’s a cancellation, I was trying to move meetings, if I couldn’t get in, like I wanted that reward, then the sign that the massage room door was closed was a cue that created a craving, the scent of lavender essential oils, all of that I was like, Hey, I see that cue, I crave that relaxation. I want that reward. And when I got it, it was satisfying. And so those four, make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying, those are the four laws of behavior change. So that’s the framework for how you build a good habit or habit you want to repeat.
And don’t worry, we’re going to break down each of those in a lot more detail and talk about how to do specific things to apply this framework to stop drinking. And there’s also a high-level framework for breaking a bad habit like drinking. What you do is you just invert those four. So rather than making it obvious, you want to make an invisible, you want to hide it make it less likely to be seen, rather than making it attractive. Want to make it unattractive. Rather than making it easy to perform the habit, you want to make it difficult, you want to increase steps, you want to increase friction. Rather than making the habit satisfying, you want to make it unsatisfying, you want to add a cost or a consequence, you want there to be some downside to the behavior. And so, by inverting those four laws, you have the framework how you break a bad habit.
So, let’s talk about this in the context of replacing your ingrained habit, your behavior of drinking. So, number one, rather than making the cue to drink obvious, make it invisible, hide it, make it less likely to be seen. And probably right now you have very obvious cues that start the habit loop cycle. cues lead to cravings, which lead to your response, which leads to you feeling the reward, these cues are all around you. So instead of having these queues be obvious, and trying to rely on willpower not to drink, you need to make the queues invisible. And there are a whole bunch of ways to do this. But here’s the most impactful place to start. And you probably know what I’m going to say, Get rid of the alcohol in your house. And you can do this. I know some of us don’t want to ask our partner, we think it’s all about us. We think that it’s our issue that we should be strong enough to just not drink, we don’t want to inconvenience anyone else. Or maybe we don’t want to say anything. Because we don’t want our partner anyone else to know that this is actually a big deal. We just want to you know, be cash. But remember, you’ve been going around trying to stop drinking using willpower and it hasn’t worked, you’re going to start doing something different. And you’re going to start doing something that works long term to build the habit of not drinking. So yeah, get rid of the alcohol, give it away, ask your partner to take it away. Also ask your partner not to buy you alcohol, or to bring it home, don’t have wine on your counter. Don’t go to a bar or restaurant that you drink at often in the early days. Those are all really powerful cues that are going to lead to a craving that are going to make you want to do the response. Maybe drive a different route home. So, you’re not going by the same place. You’re not driving towards the grocery store, where you always turn to buy wine. Just driving down that road is the cue that leads to your craving that wants you to do the response. You can unfollow all social media accounts and email lists that highlight collide.
In early sobriety, I had to unsubscribe to our local tasting room that was just three miles away there 90 wine tasting rooms three miles away from my house and it’s a town called Woodinville, and I used to get the Woodinville wine country newsletter, I needed to get that email out of my inbox so I wouldn’t see it so that that cue wouldn’t leave to a craving. All of these actions will help meet the cue to drink the habit that you want to break more invisible. And after you make the drinking cues invisible, you need to make the cues to drink something else. The new habit the new behavior you want to do obvious, you want to replace that ingrained habit with something else that is more aligned with your goal. So, stock your fridge with a ridiculous amount of other yummy nonalcoholic drinks. So, when you open the door to the fridge instead of thinking, oh my god, there’s Chardonnay in there. And I said I was going to drink tonight. But my brain is fucking lighting up. And I really am craving it and I want to drink it. Instead of that. You open the door and you’re like Whoa, look at all this Lacroix, and kombucha and groobie nonalcoholic Prosecco and I got sparkling grapefruit juice and all this other stuff, which I’ll bet should I have tonight. Or you could switch your habit to drinking tea in the evenings. So, if you want to do that and make it obvious, you buy yourself a new electric tea kettle, you buy yourself a beautiful selection of teas, you put them on your counter, so you see them every single day. That’s your cue to drink tea. And before you know it, it’ll lead to a craving.
If your cue when you’re leaving the office is to go home and cook and drink, go for a walk instead and pick up takeout on the way home or go to the gym or to a yoga or to a meditation class. A day or two a week, go to a bike ride. I had a friend who signed up for an 8:30-workout class at night. She’d never done classes before, but that would take away her time after dinner when she usually sat on the couch and drank. And it’s super important to know here the power of context. So, habits can be easier to change in a new environment. It helps you escape the subtle triggers or cues push you towards your old habit. So that’s why it’s great to create a little escape, maybe in your bedroom or your bathroom, and go up there right after dinner instead of hanging around the couch for us to drink. Or it’s great to go to a different restaurant on a Friday night than the one where you always went and ordered that giant glass of wine, or the fancy cocktail.
So, for me, I started going out for sushi with my husband Instead, it was like easier to not be triggered to get the giant glass of wine at an Italian restaurant. If I was at a sushi restaurant. For me, I was never big on Saki. And I found sushi restaurants have absolutely crap red wine. So, the green tea goes really well with sushi. And it was easier for me not to drink at a sushi restaurant. So, I still got to go out. But I was replacing the habit of grabbing red wine at an Italian restaurant to get in green tea at a sushi restaurant. All right, that was law number one, and how to invert it to break a bad habit. Law number two is to rather than making drinking attractive, make it unattractive. And you can flip that around to so make your new habit, your habit of doing things that aren’t drinking really attractive, make them irresistible. And there’s a specific strategy to implement when you’re dealing with things that are called habits of avoidance, which are basically things you’re not doing. So, a habit of not buying things you don’t need, or not drinking, because the challenge with those with those habits of avoidance is that nothing really happens when you don’t go to happy hour or when you don’t buy the thing, right. It’s hard to feel satisfied when there’s not an action in the first place, when literally what you’re doing is not doing something. So, in order to make not drinking attractive and irresistible you bundle habits. This is where all the soul retreats come in.
So, I learned this from my Coach who is Belle Robertson tired of thinking about drinking, I learned about the importance not only of getting yourself treats every day in early sobriety, and honestly getting yourself treats often. Even after you’ve been sober for a while, I still get myself sober treats. So, not only do you need to get them, but in bundling them. You also need to tell yourself as you get them, this is my treat for being sober. Remember how I just talked about the 20-minute massages with Julia in my office at L’Oréal. Each time I booked one each time I got one I would literally say to myself; this is my treat for being sober. I would get myself a pedicure on Friday night, instead of a bottle of wine and said, this is my treat for being sober. So, unbundling the habit of not drinking with the massage with the pedicure with the sushi dinner. I would wake up early on a Saturday morning and drink coffee with not a hint of a hangover in a quiet house and say this is my treat for being sober. I would take a nap just because I was tired and not feel guilty because I wasn’t overcompensating so no one can tell him how over and I would tell myself, this is my treat for being sober. I buy dessert after dinner when I hadn’t done that in years. Because I was, “saving my calories” for wine. And I would say to myself as I ate that dessert, this is my treat for being sober.
This is why it’s so important to get yourself sober treats and to indulge in self-care and to repurpose all that money you’re going to be saving by not poisoning yourself on things that make you feel true comfort and pleasure and joy and you do have the money to do this. I saved $550 in my first 30 days not drinking. So even if you don’t have a ton of money, take a little bit, take a little bit of that money you’re saving, not drinking, and please take it towards sober treat, because they’re important. They’re not an indulgence. This is not the time to white knuckle it. You don’t want to sit there surrounded by alcohol in your home and drinkers and just sip on water. No, you are eating ice cream and going on bike rides. You are taking yoga classes, you’re taking naps, you’re getting massages and pedicures, you’re buying yourself fun makeup and good books. You’re drinking all the amazing outfit. You’re not just sitting there not drinking. You are making the habit the behavior that you want to repeat.
You’re making not drinking attractive. So, want to go to bed early. instead of staying on your couch where you want to drink. Make it attractive, read or watch a show in your bed and relax, take some time to make your bedroom a place you really love. Make it lovely, clean it up, add some new pillows and a cozy blanket, getting a central oil diffuser, or use lavender essential oil to put on your temples and your wrist. I actually bought this linen spray recently, that’s lavender and Eucalyptus, and I spray it on my pillow before I go to bed. And it is heaven, I feel like I’m at a spa, load up your iPad with movies in your queue that you’re excited about as someone else for binge worthy show ideas. So, it’s super attractive to go to your bedroom to chill out to relax, because you’ve got shows you want to watch that’s very attractive or make a list of novels you want to read and put one on your bedside table. So, the other way to make it attractive to do your new behavior, which is not drinking is to join a group where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. Because right now, you’re trying to not drink in a world if you’re surrounded by a lot of drinkers which most of us are, where your desired behavior is not the normal behavior. So, if you’re trying to make your new behavior a habit, you want to be around people where that behavior is the one that’s celebrated and reinforced and encouraged. And this is even more important, if your spouse drinks and most of your friends drink, because you’re likely not getting that positive reinforcement, you’re not getting the high fives you deserve just for not drinking, which by the way, is fucking hard and fucking amazing. And so, you need to get those to get that positive reinforcement and encouragement from people who get it.
So, if you’re not already a member of any of these groups, I’ll put a link in the show notes to my free guide of how to find my favorite free private, sober groups. Alright, let’s go on to law number three. Rather than making it easy to do the behavior that you want to change, you want to make it difficult. So, I talked about earlier how the fewer steps that are between you and any behavior, the more likely it is that you’re going to follow through with that behavior. So if you want to stop drinking, if you want to stop any behavior, you no longer want to do, you need to increase the steps, you need to increase the friction and the difficulty of giving in and drinking at a weak moment. Because you are going to have weak moments, there are going to be hard days there are going to be days that you want to check out and relax, there are going to be Friday nights, which are cued to drink. And so, any friction you can add, which can be difficulty, awkwardness, accountability between you and the ease with which you can pick up a drink makes it less likely that you’re going to do that.
So, we talked about a couple things before, a great one is stating your intention out loud to someone close to you. So, if you’ve told your husband or your kids that you’re not drinking, and if you told your husband in advance, when you were telling him your implementation intention that you know you’re going to have weak moments, and you’re going to ask him to buy you wine, and you want him to please not do that. It’s a lot harder to go buy that bottle of wine and open it up and pour glass and sit down to dinner, you’re going to feel guilty, you’re going to feel like you need to explain what the fuck is going on. So that adds friction, it makes it more difficult and awkward for you to do the behavior that you’re trying to break. Another way is before events, before parties or get togethers or barbecue. Sometimes it’s great to text someone to tell them that you’re not drinking. And somehow, a lot of times it’s easier to make it casual. And to just let them know without a big conversation.
So sometimes, if I’m going somewhere, I’m like, hey, excited to come. By the way, I’m doing a challenge. I’m not drinking for a while. So, I’m going to bring these out Babs, whatever you’re going to bring. Or if someone’s coming over to your house, you can text them and be like, super excited to see you. I’m actually doing a challenge where I’m not drinking for 100 days. And so, I’ve got all this Lacroix and ginger beer and other drinks on hand whatever you have, but if you want to drink, just BYOB, no problem. You can go shopping earlier in the day, and don’t go down the aisles and maybe bring your earbuds and listen to this podcast, while you are grocery shopping. It will make it more difficult to put wine in your cart. If you have me in your ear telling you all the reasons that not drinking is awesome and that you should do it. You could not bring your credit card or money to work if you always stop by and buy alcohol on the way home. That is adding friction and difficulty between the behaviors. You want to not do, don’t go out to dinner in the beginning, don’t go out to places that serve alcohol, maybe go to breakfast, or brunch or coffee, instead, take the opportunity to get takeout and have no wine at home, or go out for a scream with the kids.
Here’s something I want you to take away. self-control is a short-term strategy. It’s not a long term. And here’s one more reason to actually take action and look really hard at how easy or how hard you’re making it for you to drink, and why you need to add friction and steps to that process. So, there have been studies looking at people who seem to have incredible self-control. And it turns out that those individuals are actually not that different from people who are struggling with self-control. Instead, the discipline people, “are just better” at structuring their lives in ways that don’t require heroic willpower. They don’t require self-control. Those people just spend less time in tempting situations. So again, rather than making it easy to take part in the behavior you want to stop, make it more difficult. I Coach a lot of women who are like, I want to keep my life exactly the same as when I was drinking and not drinking. And sure, long term when not drinking is just part of your behavior, you’re super comfortable with it, you’ve changed the cues in your life, yet, you can be a lot more comfortable going out to dinner all the time, or I’ve even gone to bars and listen to music and just had nonalcoholic beer. And it was not a big deal to me. But in the short term, when you were just trying to get out of the drinking cycle, when you were trying to change your cues. So, you don’t have the cravings. So, you don’t do the response.
Self-control is not the strategy you want to use. willpower does not work. Using willpower is a short-term strategy, not a long term one, you’re going to have a weak moment you’re going to want to drink, and it’s going to be harder to start again. So again, people who seem to have incredible self-control, they’re actually not that different. They’re not more disciplined than anyone else. They are just better at structuring their lives in ways that don’t require heroic willpower, they spend less time in tempting situations. So, what you want to do is you want to spend less time in tempting situations. And this is all part of making it easier on yourself, not just trying harder.
Alright, let’s go on to the fourth law of behavior change, and how to break a bad habit and how to build a good one. So rather than making it satisfying, you want to make the behavior unsatisfying, you want to add a cost, you want to add a consequence, you want to have some downsides to a behavior. Okay, so you would think that having a brutal hangover or throwing up or a splitting headache or forgetting CIT, you would think that consequence would be enough to break the behavior of drinking. But clearly, it is not. We have all had those consequences and kept on drinking. And that is because again, you have all the cues, you have the cravings, you have the ease of doing the behavior, and then you have the response rate. So, it’s super hard to just have the negative consequence, stop the behavior. That’s why you need to do the first things. First, you need to work on the cues, the cravings and the ease with which you can perform the response. But number four, is making the habit of not drinking satisfying, and making drinking unsatisfying. So, I’m going to talk about two ways to do this. The first one is the reason that I really like counting days and setting milestones. And I know that counting days is somewhat controversial, right? Some people hate doing it, because they’ve tried it before, and it hasn’t worked. And they feel like they’re going back to square zero. And you’re not, you’re not starting over. But if you’re doing things differently this time. If you’re applying the laws and behavior change, just try what I suggest, which is set your implementation intention. Say it out loud, say it to yourself, put it on your calendar, mark off day 10 and day 20 and day 30 on your calendar, tell someone else about it. And your goal is 60 or 100 continuous days. This time, you’re doing things differently.
And if that’s your goal, count your days and set your milestones. Because continuous days instead of starting and stopping and starting again. That’s pretty powerful in making this not drinking thing, an actual habit. It makes not drinking done day over day without going back and starting over, it makes it something that’s automatic. So, choosing a nonalcoholic option, instead of an alcoholic drink is just something you do. You’re super comfortable with it, you’ve done it before, it’s no big deal. So, I like building up those continuous dates and making that important for that reason. But I also like building up days towards a milestone and tracking it. Because tracking those days building them up that’s satisfying and breaking your streak and starting over on day one. That is fucking unsatisfying. Drinking has a downside. In that case, when you’re tracking days, and you’re on day 64, you don’t want to go back to day one. No, you are super close to day 70. And that is amazing. So, because you’re working towards a milestone, drinking has more of a downside, even more than the hangover and the feeling like shit. So, if you’re actually tracking continuous days, and you drink, you have to start over, you have to do the first three days again and five days again. And that’s a downside to going back to your old habits. I used to think when I was not drinking, and I built up like 40 days, and it was hard and good. And I wanted to drink. I told myself, I have not come this far to only come this far. I want to see what 100 days feels like I want to see how good that feels.
So, even though I want to drink today, on day 40 I’m not fucking stopping at day 40 I’m not just only coming this far, I want to go forward. So that’s what counting days helps you do. And so the other thing about making your new habit, which is not drinking satisfying, day counters day counter apps are awesome, because not only do they let you track the number of days you haven’t drank, which sometimes is like when who gives a shit, right? You can also track dollar saved; calories saved, hours not wasted. And seeing that add up is super satisfying.
So, in my first month, yes, I did not ingest 40 bottles of wine in 30 days. And that is crazy. But in addition to that, I saved $550 and I saved a ton of calories. And that also is super satisfying, right? I’m like 550 bucks, that’s a lot of money that I can do something else with. And that also is why I love the online not drinking groups, because you get to celebrate wins and milestones there. And that, again, is satisfying, you’re doing the behavior that you want to do. And you actually go to a drinking event, and you don’t drink, and you post and tell them about it. And you get all the positive feedback the way to go the virtual high fives, the You are a badass, the by the way, you so richly deserved. When you hit 30 days, you get a virtual parade, right? Everyone is like, congratulations, that’s amazing, you are the best. When you get to 100 days, you’re a fucking rock star in those groups. And so, make it satisfying by tracking your milestones and celebrating them. Also, I really suggest getting yourself a gift to celebrate 30 days and 60 days and 100 days, so that you have something to look forward to that satisfying for reaching that milestone. And I love suggesting to my clients that they get themselves a bracelet was sort of an engraving underneath, in the inside, like a cuff or necklace, saying something that’s meaningful to you about the path you’re on. Because it’s the touchstone then, and you can touch it and remind yourself, if you go out to dinner, or there drinks all around you or you’re bored, you can be like, yep, that you’re touching your bracelet, you’re like fucking doing this, I did not come this far to only come this far. And then you can also make it satisfying for other milestones.
You can take a day off of work for 60 days, you can get a massage, or do a spa day, you can do a weekend away at 100 days an adventure, or just a relaxation weekend, you get to plan it, you get to look forward to it. So, you make hitting those goals, breaking the behavior of drinking, you make it satisfying, and you make drinking, the behavior you’re trying to break. That is unsatisfying. So that’s one strategy. But in the short term, when you’re starting out, we all like immediate gratification. And that really helps you stay motivated. So, a habit has to be enjoyable to be repeated. So, this is where you go back to the soap retreats, I talked about before. Eventually the intrinsic benefits of not drinking. They become the reward itself right. You get to sleep well and feel proud and happy, have energy and do all the things you said you were going to do, and you look better and you have more confidence, and you’re less anxious, all of those intrinsic benefits, suddenly become super motivating, to just keep going, not drinking. That’s why you get to 100 days and you’re like, oh my god, I feel so good, I want to keep going. But that honestly takes out. So, in the short term, get yourself the sober treats, right? You’re bundling the habit of not drinking with something that is super satisfying, and you’re training your brain, right, this is my reward, this is my treat for being sober.
So you can use the money you’re saving, not drinking, for a new gym membership, or babysitter, so you have time to do things you want to do or just relax, you can spend that money on a milkshake or a cozy blanket or a new outfit. All right, those are the four laws of behavior change, and how to apply them to break the habit of drinking. If you take one takeaway from all of this, I want it to be that if you want to drink less, and live more, the key strategy you need is to stop relying on willpower and motivation. And instead, to focus on your habits and your environment.
And in the beginning of this episode, I mentioned that I like the phrase James uses, which is we don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems, we fall to the level of our daily habits. And that point is not saying that your goals don’t matter. Goals are super useful. But it is not the goal that changes things. It’s the habits you follow. The goal is your desired outcome, the system is the collection of daily habits, that will actually get you there. And if there’s a gap, if there’s a difference between your daily habits, basically your system, and your desired outcome, your daily habits will always win. The system will always overpower your goal. And here’s something to look at.
Right, you could say that your current habits are perfectly designed to deliver your current results. That’s what’s happening, right. So whatever results you have, right now, they’re a byproduct of the system you’re running. They’re a byproduct of the habits. So, if you want to stop drinking, and you haven’t been able to do it, it’s what you’re doing every day, that’s delivering your current results. So, if you’re drinking, and you want to stop drinking, and you know that feeling like crap, and letting yourself down daily, that isn’t what you want. The problem is not that you need to get more serious about your goals, that you need to be harder on yourself. The problem is your habits, the way you’re setting up your cues, you’re being set up for sabotage. So, based on what we talked about above, the advice I want to give you is this, think about I want you to ask yourself, what is the system I’m running right now? What is the collection of my daily habits? And the real question to ask is, can my current habits carry me to my desired future? Because if they can’t, then something needs to change, there is a misalignment between the system you’re running and the goal you want? And if the answer is no, and you say, Oh, actually, I need to do things to change my system, then you can start to use all the other things we talked about today, you can make the habit you want obvious, and the behavior you don’t want, which is drinking, you can make that invisible, you can make the habit you want easy and attractive and satisfying. They don’t actually require huge changes, they just don’t, they require you taking some steps that add friction between you and drinking, changing some things in your physical environment. And adding social supports. You know, they say that Environmental Design is the most important thing in indicating what behaviors you’re going to pursue. So, the first realization has to be that your system and your goal need to be aligned and that your daily habits and your desired outcome. They have to match up. And if they’re not matching up, then something needs to change. Alright, this was the second part of three podcasts I’m doing on using the science of what works in behavior, change your atomic habits, and applying them to help you stop drinking in a way that doesn’t rely on willpower.
In the last episode, which was Episode 34, I talked about the first part of the framework and how to quit drinking using identity-based habits or who you believe you are. We talked about focusing on the fact that every action you take It’s like casting a vote, that you are, in fact the person that you desire to be that it’s evident in that moment that you are a healthy and happy person who doesn’t need alcohol to have fun or to cope in life.
And I want to give you a preview of my next episode, which is number 36. I’m going to talk about the habit tipping point, the thing that we all want to get to the point, when all your habit changes that actually influence your longer term behavior changes, they’re going to hit the tipping point where they actually become an identity change. So, at that tipping point, you just are, you just are a happy and healthy nondrinker, you’re not trying not to drink anymore. Not drinking is just something you do. Because not drinking is in alignment with the person you are. So I hope when that episode comes out, you’ll listen to that one too, because it really closes the loop on how to do this work, and why it’s actually very important, and very effective, and also a lot easier and more long lasting, to change your behavior than how you’ve likely been trying to stop drinking before.
And before I end this episode, I just want to circle back to where I started. So, in the beginning, I jumped on to tell you a little bit about my new online course, the sobriety starter kit, which will help you stop drinking and feel really good about the process. The courses based on the work I do – 1-on-1, with my private coaching clients, it’s the framework and the system you need to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. But I know that for a lot of people, and maybe for 90% of the women who listened to this podcast, you may not be ready or able or interested in working 1-on-1 with me. Private Coaching is expensive, I get that. And it requires a big step and being vulnerable and opening yourself up to someone else. The accountability and the personalized feedback and me holding your hand. That’s amazing. But it’s also a commitment. My private coaching, clients and I work together, we create in depth relationships and friendships, over four or five months of working together.
And so, since I know that private coaching isn’t for everyone, I’ve spent every free moment I’ve had creating the best possible on demand self-study program, to give you the tools and the skills and the strategy and the framework you need to stop drinking. Even if you’ve tried and failed before the sobriety starter kit is on demand, its go at your own pace. It’s a self-study program of taking you step by step through the process of stopping drinking and building like you actually love without alcohol. It’s actually not like other programs, this isn’t a 30-day challenge. It’s not an alcohol experiment. It doesn’t require you going to in-person meetings. And it’s not about in any way, shaming or blaming yourself or labeling yourself.
The Sobriety Starter Kit is positive and practical and empowering. And it’s a coaching approach to quitting drinking, and totally private. So, if you’re interested in learning more about it, I really invite you to go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com. And also, I wanted to mention that for my podcast listeners, and my email subscribers, you’ll be able to save $100 on the course if you buy it in December. It’s the lowest price this course will ever be offered at. So right now, I have the waitlist open, enter your email address there. And as soon as the enrollment page is ready, where I’ve got every single detail and every question you might have about the course, I’ll send you an email, you can take a look at it. And just decide if the sobriety starter kit is something that might support you. I have to tell you the giving yourself more support to stop drinking and get unstuck.
Whether it’s through meeting my course or anyone else is the best possible gift you can give yourself this holiday season. I always say that, hiring a Coach to help me stop drinking was the kindest thing I’ve ever done for myself. So, give yourself the gift. You totally deserve it.
So thank you for coming on here. I couldn’t appreciate it more.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about me or the work I do or accessing free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol, please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it and join the conversation about drinking less and living more.
ABOUT THE HELLO SOMEDAY PODCAST
The Hello Someday Podcast helps busy and successful women build a life they love without alcohol. Host Casey McGuire Davidson, a certified life coach and creator of The Sober Girl’s Guide to Quitting Drinking, brings together her experience of quitting drinking while navigating work and motherhood, along with the voices of experts in personal development, self-care, addiction and recovery and self-improvement.
Whether you know you want to stop drinking and live an alcohol free life, are sober curious, or are in recovery this podcast is for you.
In each episode Casey will share the tried and true secrets of how to drink less and live more.
Learn how to let go of alcohol as a coping mechanism, how to shift your mindset about sobriety and change your drinking habits, how to create healthy routines to cope with anxiety, people pleasing and perfectionism, the importance of self-care in early sobriety, and why you don’t need to be an alcoholic to live an alcohol free life.
Be sure to grab the Free Sober Girl’s Guide To Quitting Drinking right here.
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