Considering Alcohol Use in the Scope of Habit Formation

Considering Alcohol Use in the Scope of Habit Formation2

Considering alcohol use in the scope of habit formation is helpful in several ways:

It helps us be more gentle with ourselves

Blame serves no purpose in removing alcohol from our lives. In fact, if we remain frustrated with ourselves, it will hinder our success. But when we take a step back and view habitual alcohol use as just that—habit—it gives us a way to make sense of things and view it with less judgement.

It helps us understand how it happened

The Habit Loop—the cue, the ritual, the reward—makes perfect sense when we think about a habit like, say, turning the coffee pot on first thing in the morning, doesn’t it? How about all of the steps you perform before you turn the lights off at night? Something cues these habits, you perform them (often without thinking), and you reap the reward. We don’t judge these habits harshly, because they’re socially acceptable. But the mechanics are the same with much habitual alcohol use—we have a cue, a ritual, and a reward. Makes sense, right?

It helps us understand how we can make a change

And the good news is, we can disrupt the habit loop. We can put measures in place that make a habit less obvious, harder to perform, less desirable; habits can change. That’s not to say that it will be as easy as kicking your nighttime Netflix habit, because alcohol has so many components that make it harder to put down, but it’s possible.

In the next few days, we’ll take a look at breaking and building habits. Start thinking about your history with alcohol—what are the pieces of the Habit Loop in your own alcohol use? Does this shift your perspective of alcohol use in any way?

Duhigg, C. (2020.) How Habits Work.