“I’m not a hypocrite, damnit!”
I remember hollering this at a friend of mine.. Or ten friends of mine.. Many times over while tailgating for the Indianapolis 500. In one hand I had a half empty can of beer, in the other, I had a handle of Fireball whiskey. The air was filled with laughter and shouts of elation. Most of the guys around me had been my friends since college, and all of them knew I hadn’t had a drink since December of the prior year, so this was indeed a special occasion.
I had decided to take a break from my commitment to being alcohol free. I like to tell myself that I made this decision in good faith, but I think a part of me just wanted to say “fuck it” to all of the commitments I had made. To just take a break from everything. Part of me naively believed that just taking one day off wouldn’t be a big deal.
The next day my head was splitting as I lay around my apartment, just wishing the hangover would pass. I knew I should be getting up to study, but I couldn’t fathom focusing my still impaired mind on anything complex. I knew I should get to the gym, but my body was crying out in protest of what I had done to it. The only things that appealed to me were eating terrible food and watching mindless television. On top of it all, that little voice that had convinced me to “take a single day off” had changed it’s tune. Now, it condemned me. It questioned all of my commitments and made me doubt all of the things I had said. Was I really strong enough to change?
The worst part of the entire situation is that I know this feeling all too well. I have convinced myself that taking a little step back would be easy and getting back on the wagon would be no problem. Well, two days later and I am still feeling the effects. It isn’t a hangover anymore, at least not in terms of a physical hangover. It is an emotional hangover. I feel the urge to simply give in to this negative momentum and return to a life of ease. I feel the urge to stop pushing myself and let the status quo take over.
Right now is the time where I have to decide whether a slip is going to become a slide. Whenever you are moving toward a new goal in life, there will be times that you stumble. Something changes in your life that challenges your commitments. Or perhaps you simply fall short of your ideal and are left feeling like you’ve lost all you’ve worked for. This is especially true to battling addiction. It’s incredibly easy to see a single cigarette or a drunken evening as a sign that you’ve failed in your attempts to change.
That is why the backslides are one of the single most important moments in your life. No matter how long you have done the right thing, there will come a time that your commitments come under fire. The days following a failure are literally the “make or break” time of a life change. It will be hard. You will want to quit. But knowing how to power through these moments is what will make a temporary change become a permanent change. Permanent changes aren’t made from “one and done” decisions and immediate results, they are made from having the ability to pull yourself back up and keep going after you are met with failure.
So, what does this mean for me? Well, I drank away Sunday. I squandered Monday. But I will dominate Tuesday.
EDIT: I feel like I didn’t stress a core point to the message I was trying to get across with this post. Streaks are awesome. Being able to tell yourself and tell others that you have maintained an ideal for X number of days is incredibly validating. There is danger in focusing too hard on streaks, though. A staggering majority of streaks come to an end at some point or another. A streak can and should be a source of great pride, but it cannot be the crux of your change. Enjoy the streak, but never feel like resetting a streak is the same as “starting over”. You are worlds ahead of where you were when you started, even if your number doesn’t say the same story.