Two days ago, I completed 6 years on the wagon. 6 years is roughly half the time I spent as a drunk. I wonder if I will change much going forward as I ride this wagon out, but it is safe to say a lot of the old me is pretty far in the rear-view mirror.
Sometimes, I can vividly remember that past part of my life. I can almost conjure up the vomiting, diarrhea and depression of the hangovers. The sense of "normalcy" I felt when I had my first drink in the morning. The random sharp pangs of pain coming from my liver. The brief and fleeting sensation that my anxiety and fears were gone forever after the first few drinks. The shame and confusion of what I did or said the night before.
Looking back, it feels like madness that I put myself through that when the negative effects of alcohol were so apparent.
I wanted to bring up a useful way of thinking that can be applied to guys looking to get sober. Charlie Munger, of Berkshire Hathaway, has a brilliant mind and he has educated people to think about things in mental models. Mental models are ways of thinking that helps us more efficiently understand the world around us. One of my favorites is the inversion mental model, which is a way of thinking about what you want in reverse. Essentially, instead of thinking about what you want, try to think about all the things you don't want.
To better illustrate this mental model, try to imagine a fat guy who wants to lose weight. Instead of thinking about the best ways to exercise and eat better, what he really should do is focus on what he needs to avoid. By simply avoiding eating the wrong foods and avoiding sloth he is going to get results. Obviously, he can fine tune an optimal diet and exercise program going forward, but he would simply stop being a fat person if he developed habits of avoiding what made him fat.
Here is how I would apply this model of inversion to a drunk on the fence about getting sober. The first issue is that they often have part of their identity wrapped around being a drinker, which would create a level of uncertainty about what a sober life would be for them. They would also struggle to mentally let go of the "benefits" they get from drinking since they don't fully examine all the negatives it causes. Such a person, should avoid thinking about drinking altogether, and get a pen and paper out and write down all the things they do not like about their life. A seasoned drinker will likely create a list which will include general fatigue, being in bad shape , poor sleep, irritability and depression in the morning, periodic embarrassment, etc... By writing down all the things they don't like about their life, an honest reflection upon looking at the issues would demonstrate drinking to be at the root of much of their problems.
In my drunk years, I had many moments where I wanted to get sober. I would often think about what a sober me would be like and my mind would ponder about what kind of person this hypothetical new me would become. Would I make more money, have better relationships, be in great shape? I was fantasying about assumptions about a future me that did not exist, and perhaps that is why that way of thinking didn't do the trick. It was too uncertain and unknowable for me to be motivated enough to get sober by thinking that way. I would have been better served if I had just thought inversely and considered all of the large and subtle things which were negatively impacting my life that would go away if I stopped drinking. I hope guys out there reading this considering the wagon will take the challenge to think inversely and examine all the things they do not like about their life. If you were like me, the common source of your problems is likely caused by hitting the sauce.
Sign me up for year 7.
Thank you for this excellent post, bacon. Indeed, we spend far too much time in useless speculation about a future that we have no ability to predict or imagine, whether it be a future self or future society. And because these attempts to conjure up a future that we have no relation to are so feeble, so spectral and devoid of any meat or even bones, they gain no traction within our minds and do little to influence our behavior. What we can do in the present is to make a reckoning of the habits that form its daily fabric, and set about removing the ones that do damage to our bodies and brains and replacing them with ones that heal and protect us instead. In this way, we keep our minds and hearts ready and open to the unforeseeable chances that an unknowable future may bring -- and that openness to life in all its variety is all that any of us can ask for.
I'm delighted to note that you are now more than halfway into the first decade of your wagon -- it's a serious milestone and one that deserves a solemn nod of congratulation. I think back to those days in 2014 when it was all up in the air, and the difference that your decision has made and continues to make -- it's enough to take one's breath away if you really stop and think about it. Welcome back aboard for year 7 as of May 24, 2020, and I look forward to hearing more from you in this thread as time goes on.