Willpower is Overrated

path through a burned out woods, but with plenty of flowers growing

It’s been four years since I quit drinking.

When people learn I don’t drink, they often speculate that I must have a lot of willpower.

I don’t rely on willpower to stay sober. In the past four years, I’ve learned that constant vigilance is not a long-term solution to my goals.

Willpower is a Limited Resource

My self-control diminishes as my brain gets tired. There are studies that back up this theory. I can admit I think about drinking after a long day of work.

Instead of testing my willpower by going to a bar with coworkers, or a party with friends, I stay home and save my energy. It uses less willpower to make the decision before there’s even alcohol around.

Humans Are Fallible

People don’t always make rational decisions. In the past, I associated failure with a lack of willpower. Now I realize I was setting my expectations too high. I’m only human.

Knowing that I can be impulsive is why I’m so vocal about not drinking. When I do go to a party, I bring a case of La Croix, slap it down and announce “I don’t drink”. For that extra bit of accountability.

Willingness, Not Willpower

Willingness, not willpower, is the key to maintaining my behavior. I’m willing to decline party invitations, and I’m willing to tell people I don’t drink. I’ve declined so many beers that “no thank you” has become an automatic response. The willingness to learn this habit is very different than having an iron will.

This mindset has served me well. In the past four years, I’ve returned to school, graduated and started my career. Being willing to quit drinking, as well as not relying on my own willpower, has helped me accomplish these goals.

path through a burned out woods, but with plenty of flowers growing

What Being Sober for 2 Years Feels Like

May Third

May 3rd marks 2 years of sobriety for me. I haven’t had a drink or a smoke in this time. I want to celebrate the accomplishment by speaking about the experience.

Ups And Downs

When I first began, every month was a new milestone. My motivation grew as I completed the goals I set for myself. But with more time under my belt. I’ve realized that my willpower levels don’t correspond to my clean time. My resolve ebbs and flows. So on days like today, I make it part of my identity. I embrace it. And then on days when I’m unsure, I embrace the uncertainty. Who knows where my journey will take me? It’s acceptable for sobriety to be a vague answer to an undefined problem. Experience has taught me, there’s usually something to motivate me just around the corner.

Boredom

When I first quit drinking, I was too scared to set foot in a bar. Eventually, I could comfortably go to a bar and not be tempted to drink. I was pretty pleased with myself. But now, going downtown simply isn’t fun. If there’s dancing or pool tables, I can make do. But in most cases, I end up feeling like a dud. There’s no perfect replacement activity for partying. Instead, I’m constantly picking up new activities. Yoga, electronics, writing this blog, learning new songs. Staying busy is important. Even if I drop hobbies as quickly as I pick them up, at least I’m keeping my life juicy. It’s a solution for the time being.

Community

The best part of sobriety is the new friends I’ve made. Turns out, my hometown has an active local recovery community. Having a support network to fall back on makes life much simpler. A lot of my worries about relapse were solved when I learned how to ask for help. I never acquired this skill in school. Looking back, my internships during college would have gone a lot smoother if I had been open to accepting help. I’ve realized asking for help can help others too. Everyone likes to feel useful, and I’m happy to provide that use.

Quitting drugs and alcohol has allowed me to move towards my goals. This morning, I finished my final for Operating Systems, after failing that same class 4 years ago. I can’t thank my friends and family enough. Thanks for sticking with me and thanks for listening to what I have to say!