Welcome to episode 126 of the Alcohol Rethink Podcast. It’s me, your host, Patrick Fox, I’m a men's life coach who helps guys rethink alcohol in their lives so they have more money, time and energy in their lives and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a little bit more of all of that in their lives.
Today I’ve got a super cool episode to help you navigate the festive season fellas. Not only navigate but to help you really start thinking beyond what’s in front of you this december i.e drinking season. My philosophy when it comes to alcohol is all about the rethink. To rethink your current beliefs about alcohol and yourself in relation to it, because when you do that, that is when change happens.
Think different, to be different, to do different shit. Yes it can be that simple.
On the topic of change, I just wanted to share a quick story about something in my life that relates to change and discomfort. I wear glasses and I’ve been playing football for years while wearing them because my vision became too blurry without them. For the most part it’s been fine, although a couple of times recently I’ve been smashed in the face by an elbow or a ball and the glasses cut the top of my nose. Time for contacts I thought.
So last week I went and had my contacts teach and fit. I’ll be honest I thought it’d be a doodle. How hard can it be to put something in your eye, ummm. Well not as easy as I thought. The optometrist initially put them in for me, it was super weird having someone essentially sticking their finger in my eye. Naturally when you see a finger headed towards your eye, you want to avoid it. So I found my eye was either closing or moving all over the shop. She eventually got them in and it felt uncomfortable at first, like having some grit stuck in your eye. It calmed down after a bit.
Then it was time to go and see someone else so that I could practice putting them in and out 3 times in a row. Because the optometrist left them in, I had to start by learning how to take them out. Apparently you’re meant to start with putting them in first, nevermind. Man it was weird, everytime my finger went near my eye it instinctively looked away.
I don’t want to gross you out too much but putting your finger on your eyeball is not normal. I’d never done it before. I tried to take it out of the right eye but couldn’t do it, so they suggested trying the left eye. I could hear the lady trying to help saying what you need you do is this or what you need to do is that, but in my head I felt like she was saying I was doing it wrong, I noticed some frustration come up in me, my brain wanted to blame her, thinking her voice was too squeaky but really it wasn’t her I was annoyed with it was myself because I couldn’t do it and my primitive brain starting to get active thinking what if I can never get them out, LOL.
I had to take a second to remind myself I’d not done this before, it was a new habit that I’d have to learn if I wanted to use contacts, and that getting frustrated at myself would not help things at all. Basically I told myself to calm the fuck down. Then she said we can always do it another time if you’re getting too stressed and I was like hell no, we’re not leaving until this is done.
Then once I’d got the first one out, I started getting my confidence up, I was able to tell my brain that there was no threat to my eye and that putting in a contact was going to be ok. Every time I did it, it got a little bit easier. It was uncomfortable, it was weird, but it was worth it. Last night I played football for the first time with them and it just felt different, in a positive way, I had my full peripheral vision. I could anticipate things quicker, my touch was better, was it perfect, no, but it was great not having that concern in the back of my mind of getting my nose smashed again.
This story for me has sooooo many parallels to stopping or rethinking alcohol. In the beginning it’s weird, it’s unknown, your brain has been so used to experiencing life in one way with alcohol. It will feel uncomfortable when you start making changes and creating new habits, a bit like sticking your finger in your eye for the first time, but with practice and patience you’ll get there.
Getting frustrated with yourself achieves nothing, grounding yourself in why you’re doing it and what it will create, will change everything. When you rethink alcohol, you start bringing back your peripheral vision for life, that my friends is epic.
Alright, alright, alright, just read Matthew McConaughey book called Greenlights actually, really good, highly recommend it. Lives his life by his values that man. Right, today I’m diving into a concept that many of us may be familiar with during the festive season – I call it 'holiday mode.' But here's the festive twist – I want to share with you how to continue rethinking alcohol in your life and start creating a new definition or version of 'holiday mode' that isn't centered around being boozy.
So, what exactly is 'holiday mode'? To put it simply, it's that mindset we slip into during special occasions, vacations, and celebrations. You might say it's a state of relaxation, enjoyment, and it’s often excessively indulgent. Its a time that we think we deserve it or at least our brain does. But why do we have a 'holiday mode' in the first place? Well, it's deeply rooted in our habits, rituals, and traditions.
Let's take a moment to explore the term 'mode.' According to the dictionary, 'mode' refers to a way or manner in which something occurs or is experienced, expressed, or done. It's essentially a state of being or doing. Now, when it comes to 'holiday mode,' it's the state of being in a festive, celebratory mindset, often accompanied by certain behaviors and expectations.
Or another way of saying it is that ‘holiday mode’ is a way of operating, living or behaving during the holiday season. It is predetermined. It’s your brain is using the past to tell you what the future should look like. What you do, where you go, who you see and what you drink or take.
Now, let's delve into the science of how the mind works in relation to habits, routines, and expectations. Our brains are wired to create patterns and seek comfort in familiar behaviors. When we engage in a specific activity, especially in a repetitive context like holidays, our brains form connections, making those activities more automatic over time. This is the essence of habits and routines. It all comes back to the motivational triad. Be efficient, seek pleasure, avoid pain.
During the festive season, many of us have ingrained traditions and rituals, and more than likely, alcohol is often deeply intertwined with these practices. From bucks fizz on christmas morning to sipping mulled wine by the fireplace, these habits become an integral part of our 'holiday mode.' Our brain just expects them to happen. It remembers the emotional connection and the pleasure associated with them and conveniently forgets the hangovers, heartburn and fortunes spent on alcohol,
Just for a minute think about the month of December and all the events, places and people you see that involve alcohol. Work drinks, xmas parties, family meet ups, mate meet ups, footy drinks, xmas jumper drinks, panto drinks, xmas eve drinks, xmas day drinks, boxing day drinks, new years eve drinks, drinks for drinks etcetera etcetera
It’s a lot right there. And more than likely it's a given that alcohol is included during most if not all of these events. No rest for the wicked. December was a notoriously boozy month for me. I went full on ‘holiday mode’, when I was drinking, the organistaion I worked for pretty much shut up shop for December, which left me with lots more time and motivation to drink, because I could.
What else was I supposed to do? I mean that right there was a clue. Thinking that there wasn’t anything else to do other than drink for December. What the hell is that even based on.
It is the ultimate time to drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol and feel good about it because well everyone else is doing it as well eh.
One final definition I wanted to share about the word ‘mode’ is related to math actually. It works perfectly though. It goes like this ‘The mode of a set of values is the most frequently repeated in the values set.’
Why this one stood out for me so much is because of the ‘value’ you place on alcohol. When there’s a lot of emphasis and value placed on alcohol during the festive season or when you’re on ‘holiday mode’, it makes sense that your brain is going to want to repeat that.
But what if we could reimagine and create a 'holiday mode' that doesn't just rely on alcohol?
Think about it. Our festive traditions go beyond just the beverages we consume. From decorating the tree to sharing meals with loved ones, I love doing the tree my kids, going to buy it, my son desperate to go in the loft and get the decorations down, the conversations we have about the homemade decs that come out each year. They are both very different ages and needs so it’s rare to be able to get them to participate in doing the same thing, so decorating the tree is one of those times where I really try to embrace the occasion even if it means letting go of how I expect the tree to look. There are countless ways to embrace the spirit of the season without alcohol if you look for them.
Really what we’re all after is the experience, it just so happens that alcohol seems to have taken centre stage.
So, how can we shift our mindset and redefine what 'holiday mode' means for us?
The opportunity lies in creating a new version of 'holiday mode' – one that focuses on genuine connection, gratitude, and meaningful experiences. It's about breaking free from the stereotype that associates celebration with alcohol and discovering the joy that comes from embracing new traditions.
So what do you want your ‘holiday mode’ to look like?
Maybe it’s having a coffee instead of bucks fizz. Maybe it’s going out for a christmas morning walk after presents. Maybe it;s a time to reflect with the family of all the things your grateful for over the last year. Maybe it’s watching christmas films all day and eating popcorn. There are so many different things that you could do or try, maybe you do the same things and swap out the alcohol for something else. Ultimately where and what you focus on during this time is what will make all the difference.
If you're sulking that you can’t drink or thinking it’s not fair, then you’ll probably have a shit time. Remember though, no one is making you not drink, it’s always your choice. If you instead choose to focus on what this time of year could look like for you, all the experiences you’ll have, the memories you’ll create and new traditions you’ll establish for the future then it will feel very different.
This will be my fifth christmas since I stopped drinking and some of the new traditions and rituals I’ve created around christmas are doing a parkrun on christmas and new years day morning, it’s such an awesome way to start the day. Last year I did the 12 non-alcoholic drinks of Christmas. I was trying and experimenting with lots of different zero beers and mocktails. Lets face it, it’s still nice to have a fancy drink, you just don’t need one that makes you feel like shit the next day. We found a local park near us where they have reindeers so I take the kids down there and feed them carrots, the reindeers not the kids.
So firstly think about what your ‘holiday mode’ is, and ask yourself do you like it? If not, why not? Then start considering what else it could look like for you. What could you do differently? Why do you want to do it differently? Put yourself in the future and ask yourself how you’d like to look back and remember this festive period? Is this the one where you decided to make a positive change for yourself and those around you?
As we approach the festive period, let's challenge ourselves to rethink our 'holiday mode.' By exploring alternative ways to celebrate and connect with others, look to see how you can rethink associations with alcohol and begin to create lasting memories that go beyond popping of a cork. Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Alcohol Rethink Podcast. Until next time, continue to rethink, rewire, and evolve fellas.