Like most youngsters, I experimented with drugs and they slowly got a hold on me. But I managed to wean myself off two of three addictions I had/have.
The first was tobacco.
It gradually got its steely fingers around me and, in the end I was smoking 60 of the strongest cigarettes every day. I was working for NATO and based in Paris, and was smoking three packs of Gaulois Disc Blue cigarettes. But I was also a British soldier and could buy my cigarettes in the NAAFI, duty-free, for only a shilling for 20 (5p). On my posting back to Blighty, I found they cost five bob for 20 (25p) so what I did in England was to put five shillings in a pot every time I bought a packet until there was £5 in the pot.
I then changed the money into a five pound note and set fire to it. As I watched it burning in the ashtray I thought, this was what I was doing every week. My ancestors were Scottish and I was brought up amongst the Afrikaners in South Africa. Two parsimonious races! Well that did the trick. I never bought a pack of cigarettes again, and this was way back in 1962.
But I was left with Alcohol and Coffee.
I am not a binge drinker, but would drink a bottle of brandy a month, a half bottle of wine on each of three or four evenings a week, and a few beers or whiskys during the week as well. I found I was putting on weight. Not enough to be obese, but for someone who likes to be fit, far too much and clothes began to feel a little too tight.
I remembered something I learned many years ago when I took an interest in Anthony Robbins, the American performance guru. So with careful planning I put his suggestions into practice. Robbins theory is that the brain, principally only does two things. It avoids pain and it searches for pleasure.
I waited for a sunny day. It was a long wait but one eventually materialised!
I closed the curtains and sat down and talked, out loud to myself for twenty minutes. I mused on what would happen if I continued drinking. I would have the expense of replacing all my clothes, I would consider not being able to be energetic, I would consider the possibility that I would slowly increase my drinking, become violent, drive my wife away, and possibly ruin my liver, fail to get a replacement liver and therefore die.
I painted a picture of my lonely wife, struggling alone without me, my selfishness, my taking a liver if I did get a replacement from someone more deserving than myself who needed one more, and, in general, just painted gloom and despondency over the whole issue.
Next I opened the curtain, and with the sun streaming in, knowing that the brain hates a void, started replacing the “pain” of drinking, with the “pleasure” of being fit, and therefore more happy, and also a lot more wealthy. I told my brain this would mean more holidays in the sun where I can relax and enjoy myself so much more.
I told myself I can still be sociable by allowing myself three units a week, but not more than one unit a day. And you know? I have, not only stuck to this but, I have had no wish to drink more. In fact when I have wine at home I never want more than half a glass (unit).
Now, I only suffer from caffeine poisoning. But, hell! I enjoy my coffee and don’t want to give that up. But then, this brings me back to the secret of giving up a vice.
“You have to want to give up in the first place!”