Earlier this year, I subjected myself to a two-week detox, a formal, group one, guided by my naturopath Hayley Stockbridge. Some of you may have read about the highs and lows of my experience here, here, here, here, here and here, etc. It wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, and I missed meat like a mo-fo, but it did conclude with me feeling ah-may-zing. Clear skin, lots of energy, great sleep, gut-bloat-free … all good things. People noticed, too, which is always gratifying, though it wasn’t the aim of the exercise.
In the ensuing two months, I have retained many of the new habits I acquired during the detox. Coffee was forbidden, of course. Now I have only one small cup of really good coffee each morning, and not first thing any more. I have it later, and regard it as a treat, not a vital kickstart to my day. Instead, I make a large jug of herbal tea using three tea bags, and I have little cups of it throughout the day until it runs out. I have always loathed herbal tea, thinking it smelled like boggy water and tasted like brewed cud. Happily, I have discovered that not all herbal teas are like this, and I now enjoy it.
I drink less dairy milk and more “mylks” such as almond and rice. Nice.
I eat far less bread and pasta, but thoroughly enjoy them when I do. If I was told I could never eat pasta again, I would enter a fugue state.
I still do a daily dry skin brush which is excellent for the lymphatic system, and I have so far treated myself to two lymphatic drainage massages at Holistic U – if you have never experienced one, you must. It is like travelling to another dimension.
And so on.
However … the one thing I returned to with self-destructive gusto was alcohol. I have never had an easy relationship with it. In my youth it was part and parcel of “having a good time”. In my early twenties, it was how I numbed the agony of my brother’s death. Now, in my late thirties, it has become a daily “reward”, and a way of calming the clinical anxiety I suffer from (self-medication, anyone?) I drink too much, too often, and usually for the wrong reasons. I know it.
So, why the fuck do I still do it?
Enter The Universe and its marvellous guiding energy fields – the fabulous Gretchen Rubin (she of The Happiness Project fame) has just published her latest book, Better Than Before. It is, in a nutshell, about how we can make good habits and break bad ones. It “gives readers the thrill of recognition and relief, because at last, they’ll have the vocabulary and framework to change their habits successfully.” Via extensive research into her subject matter, the author has identified Four Tendencies which determine our approach to and attitude towards habits – Rebel, Questioner, Upholder, and Obliger. To my complete lack of surprise, I identify as an “Obliger”.
Crazy critters like us respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. “The weight of outer expectations can make Obligers susceptible to burnout, because they have trouble telling people ‘no’ … they often dislike their Tendency. They’re vexed by the fact that they can meet others’ expectations, but not their expectations for themselves … Obligers, in fact, may reach a point of Obliger rebellion …”
DING pealed an extremely resonant bell.
There it is – the connection between my Habit Tendency and my use of alcohol as a “reward” – it is a “fuck you” to meeting yet more expectations, even if they are my own of myself, and a means of dissolving any self-disappointment I feel. I cannot begin to explain how relieved I am having this new and profoundly affecting self-awareness and knowledge. I feel empowered, because now I know how I can manage and overcome my troubled relationship with booze. And I will. Watch me …