“Less is more” ~Robert Browning
“More is more” ~Unknown
When it comes to certain things in life – especially those we seek out for their pleasurable qualities – how do you know how much is the right amount?
Whether it’s booze, shopping, TV, sleep, food, exercise, sex, work…even relaxing or keeping busy, how much is too much and when do you know you’ve crossed the line?
I struggled with these questions when it came to drinking. When was it a wonderful, cultural, social, and perhaps even nutritious thing to do? At what point did it become distracting or – worse – self-destructive?
I loved the first drink – the initial experience of taste and smell, the softening of hard edges, the feeling of release that washed over my whole body. But I could never hold myself at that pleasant brink without overdoing it. I tried to keep that feeling going by drinking more, which always pushed me over the line. And once past the sweet spot, I continued to drink in an irrational attempt to regain it.
One of my long-ago nutrition clients told me “alcohol dissolved her resolve.” She meant dietary resolve but it also dissolves the resolve to drink moderately. The more I drank, the harder it became to judge whether I’d crossed the line. The next morning, I’d judge myself very harshly, as if I should have been able to cut through alcohol’s chemical effects on my brain and think clearly.
After enough nights like this, it was time to take a very honest look at myself and consider making a major change. As Petros Levounis pointed out:
“In life in general, when things start to go bad, most people do something about it – change something. If they don’t, things will get worse. If you have a fracture and you don’t do anything about it, chances are things are going to get worse – you might get septic and die. If you are in credit card debt and you don’t do anything about it, it will get worse. If you are gaining weight and you don’t stop eating like crazy, you are more likely to suffer from obesity. Same thing for addiction.”
I avoided taking a truly honest look at my drinking by trying every moderation management technique in the book – drinking only on the weekends, switching from hard liquor to wine, trying to stop at two drinks. While none of those attempts worked for long, the idea that the next approach would be the one that worked felt very much within reach. So rather than quitting, I conducted my life as if I just hadn’t found the right approach that would let me continue to drink.
In order to quit, I had to admit that I didn’t know where my line was, that I couldn’t recognize the moment it was crossed, and that I lacked the judgment necessary to keep drinking.
Looking back at these choices and behaviors over time, I wonder:
- How do you develop the judgment to know your own limits?
- How do you know where the line is and when it has been crossed?
- Does the line move? Is it different from day to day? At different stages of life? Is it something that needs to be constantly reassessed?
- And what things – drinking and other things – have you asking these questions?