Just do it?
Easy for Nike to say! Whoops, no, that's about exercise. Just say no? Oh, that was Nancy Reagan. Just set down the bottle, stupid! Oh, if only it were that easy!!
Those of us who've had problems with excess alcohol consumption know there is a constant inner battle between: Today I won't have any wine, and: OMG, I can't live through the rest of this day without wine.
Here's a simplistic example: Suppose you love chocolate chip cookies, and there is a platter of delectable ones sitting next to you.
Situation: You put no mental restraints on your eating patterns.
Result: You eat or don't eat a cookie, and there is no mental stress attached with either.
Situation: You have told yourself No Sweets Today. But they look so good. You eat two.
Result: Immediate gratification, but after about 5 minutes, you start beating up on yourself for not keeping your agreement. This may or may not lead to eating the rest of the platter.
Situation: You have told yourself No Sweets Today. You sit there trying to ignore the call of the cookies. After about 30 minutes, you can't stand the temptation any more, so you (a) put them down the garbage disposal (b) give them to the neighborhood children, or other.
Result: You've exercised a lot of will-power and you've won! You feel tired but triumphant.
Here's the really crazy part! Suppose you then serve people from each group a large bowl of their favorite flavor of ice cream. Studies show that after an exercise like this, people from Group C usually eat far more of the ice cream than Groups A or B.
WhaaaaT? Aren't these the people who just showed how well they could use their willpower in the Cookie part of the exercise? How could this happen?
It turns out that Willpower is in finite supply in most of us. You can't just endlessly count on using willpower to change a deeply in-grained habit. The habit will win a significant amount of the time. That's why we need a whole deep bag of strategies for helping us change our alcohol consumption.
(now we are veering into my personal opinion, rather that scientific studies). I think that is what's so brilliant about Belle's idea of frequent small and large rewards. In my experience, a pleasant reward sort of resets my willpower supply. For example, suppose I've had a stressful day at work. I arrive home, and regret that I've decided not to indulge in my old habit of a large glass of crisp white wine. I know I've decided not to drink today, and I resist the urge- but I feel a bit cheated, put-upon.
Then, however, I remember my rewards system, and have a large piece of my favorite chocolate cake, or indulge in alone-time in a luxurious bubble bath. Suddenly, I feel taken-care-of, reset, ready to tackle the rest of the evening without that pouty/resentful feeling/look on my face.
If you dropped by my house, say, an hour later, with a bottle of my favorite wine to share- by then, I'd be ready and able to say: No, thanks, not today. Would you like to try some of the fabulous iced tea I just made?