I want to quit drinking as hard, but it's tied to an activity I enjoy.
January 12, 2020 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I want to quit drinking as hard, but it's tied to an activity I enjoy, making art. Making art has always been a solo activity... it's just a hobby I've always had.

Somewhere along the lines in college, I tied art to drinking, as it made the activity of making art more enjoyable. Now, when I make art, my mind links it with drinking and I want to have a drink. When I do it without a drink, I don't enjoy making art nearly as well.

I can try and cut back on making art, but first I need to cut back on drinking. It's too hard to stop both at the same time... I've tried many times and have failed. How do I just cut back on drinking?
posted by ggp88 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you make art when you are sleepy instead?
posted by parmanparman at 11:22 AM on January 12

Can you try drinking something festive but nonalcoholic? I like drinking vinegars.
posted by ferret branca at 11:22 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]

Make a different kind of art
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:28 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]

There are different things “drinking” could stand for here, so it’s worth thinking through what role it’s playing for you in creating art:

Is it the habit of having a drink? In that case, experiment with other beverages. There are tons of different types of tea. Kombucha. Coffee drinks. Put these in the glasses you would have used for alcohol, or look for special/cool glasses to use.

Is it the actual feeling of being drunk/buzzed? That’s a bit harder. Play around with different things that can make your mental state feel different: try playing different types of music (some quiet, some loud), try making art early in the morning or late at night (like parmanparman suggests), experiment with the setting (outside, in a dark room, in a bright room), even what you’re wearing. Add caffeine. Mix it up.

Is it the status/mythology of being a drinking artist? Do you have an image of what an artist is or should be, and drinking is part of that picture? If so, break down what it represents. Can you replace it? Can you change how you view drinking? Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Drinking really helped me in this respect—I read this and almost immediately viewed alcohol sooo differently than I had been.
posted by sallybrown at 11:30 AM on January 12 [16 favorites]

Would diluting the drinks be an okay initial step? Mix cocktails with extra juice/soda, have a big glass of water with a beer, that sort of thing. Or find "virgin" recipes for your usual drinks and only have those after your first regular one.
posted by teremala at 11:30 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

This might be swallowing a spider to kill the fly, but is marijuana legal where you live?
posted by jordemort at 11:46 AM on January 12 [7 favorites]

Find something else compatible and fun and substitute it. Wearing furry clothes? Playing epic music? Unleashing a beautiful scent? Chewing gum? Drinking hot chocolate?
posted by amtho at 11:52 AM on January 12

Dilution is how I do it. I make up a 2qt pitcher that's about half flavored seltzer (I like grapefruit or tangerine) and half carbonated drink (top contenders are Fresca or diet Sprite, diet ginger ale, diet lemonade, or the sweetened flavored fizzy water some stores sell, I like Aldi's Fit & Active lemonades or cranberry; if I'm using a sugared drink I like Mexican tamarind or jamaica (hibiscus) soda or agua fresca). To this I add maybe 6oz of liquor, usually vodka with a splash of triple sec, and then the very critical part: bitters. Fee's rhubarb is my favorite, orange will do, if you like classic herbal bitters go for it. A few dashes turns something like half-sweet soda into a cocktail-y grownup-tasting drink. There's so much liquid in it that I might only make it through half the pitcher while I'm writing, which means I've maybe taken in about a drink and a half's worth of alcohol. I pour whatever remains into a leftover 1l bottle to finish another time. Sometimes I mix up a few bottles' worth so that when it comes time to pick between the moderate option and a bottle of wine, there's no real difference in the process.

I also put electrolyte drops in it, I use a basically flavorless hydration additive called LyteShow. As such, this concoction is called Brawndo. Because it's got electrolytes. (Warning: do not give to plants.)

I am normally a wine drinker, and unless the weather is especially hot I prefer my drink at room temp instead of iced.

In particularly cold weather, I sometimes instead just drink decaf coffee or chai masala. It's substantial enough that it seems to tick that box in my brain that wants Special Drinks while I work. I use an insulated mug so I can sip on it for an hour without it getting cold. If you want a little alcohol, you can spike it very gently with brandy or rum, or skip those and hit it with the bitters for the sense of alcohol without any substantial presence.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on January 12 [14 favorites]

You might want to google David Sedaris's comments on how he first stopped smoking and then also got sober, when "lighting up a cigarette and having a drink" was precisely how he used to start writing. To cut to the chase: he was able to successfully separate those things so he no longer drinks or smokes but is still able to write (very well).
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:59 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Check out a group called Moderation Management. There are some resources on their website, and they also have meetings in many cities.
posted by alex1965 at 1:39 PM on January 12

This isn't especially snowflakey. When I quit smoking, I had to quit drinking entirely. After a few months of not smoking, the correlation between smoking and drinking just... broke... and I was able to resume drinking.

You will eventually be able to resume art if you quit drinking. And I have a feeling you should perhaps consider quitting drinking.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:40 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar boat re: writing and alcohol. I switched from wine/beer/whiskey to one of a dozen different flavors of tea. The ritual of choosing the tea flavor to suit my mood, boiling the water, setting a timer, adding cream and sugar sometimes, or honey and lemon sometimes, and then sitting with a comfort-drink, made the transition much easier because it still felt like a soothing/relaxing treat. It took a couple months, but now artist brain craves tea instead.
posted by egeanin at 3:04 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Adding Bitters and Soda to the list of replacement options.
posted by wowenthusiast at 10:48 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Try flipping your day so you do art first thing in the morning. Exercise at night.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:56 AM on January 13

I came here to mention David Sedaris as BlahLaLa has. Good luck.
posted by perrouno at 4:26 AM on January 13

Listen to the Take a Break podcast. Such a different perspective on drinking and habit change -- I've found it really eye opening.
posted by libraryhead at 6:34 AM on January 13

This isn't unusual. I've been told by addiction recovery experts that skills acquired while using often get tied to the practice of using itself. In my case, I discovered writing while drinking and when I gave up alcohol, my muse stopped speaking to me. (By that point, my drinking habit had affected my writing, so it wasn't a great loss to the world.) It's a sacrifice I had to make. I hope you have better luck keeping your muse alive.
posted by SPrintF at 4:34 PM on January 13

Check out the book This Naked Mind as a great prep for quitting drinking.

Also, maybe take apart this problem. This notion that there can be no art without drinking could very likely be the result of an addicted mind grasping at any excuse not to have to give up what it’s dependent on. In reality, you can make art without drinking.

But maybe in the Short term, just quit making art for the few weeks it’ll take you to adapt. Don’t have any other expectations in yourself. Do something else you enjoy. Soon enough you’ll be able to do everything you did while drinking, only you’ll enjoy it more, you’ll remember it, and chances are very good the product will be better.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Your question is, "How do I just cut back on drinking?" which is a really good question if drinking is disrupting areas of your life.

I know you said 'cut back' and not 'stop' drinking alcohol... but for me making the leap to drop alcohol entirely involved a few things:

- an emotionally and somewhat physically violent 'rock-bottom' event to shake/push me into finally drawing the line (try not to wait for this to happen.. it's painful)

- a complete and total commitment to not put alcohol into my mouth.. come-hell-or-high-water- no-matter-what I-will-deal-with-the-fallout/consequences of-not-drinking-as-needs-be. Done- the decision is already made, I don't doubt it. I'm done. I'm done I'm done. This is MY journey, MY decision. Other people can drink, but I won't, I don't .... which was scary because it opened up a lot of unknowns... but nearly all of those unknowns have turned out to be extremely positive/ healthy/ life-affirming.

- changing my relationship with alcohol. [Thoughts] I wrote down all of my personal reasons/ insights/ turbulence/ embarrassments, and I had a lot of them, and read them every day for a couple of months. Still do once in awhile when creepers start to whisper that I might somehow, sometime drink again. I also collect, read, re-read, listen to articles/ podcasts/ forums on the subject. The dark side of alcohol is Dark and well-documented.. I dove in. [Emotions] changing the emotional aspect is more of a trick, because the body/brain knows that alcohol is great and works (in the short term). I have found that the positive emotions generated through a healthy lifestyle (I'm talking physical lifestyle here: exercising/ being hydrated/ eating well.. essentially changing my body chemistry...) create a loop that helps tremendously in drowning the lizard brain's yearning to "feel good."

[Thoughts & Emotions] - becoming more aware of my own thoughts, feelings, urges and not attaching to them. Just observing them as they come and go.. like clouds... like weather... not with judgement, but with curiosity. "Hmm, this scenario triggered something.. how about that? something is going on here... what can I do differently next time... what am I really seeking here.. etc." I worked up space between stimulus and response (not only for myself, but for circumstances/ other people) through meditation, mindfulness, and A LOT of silence. Again, this has created a loop where, the more Present I am, the more it perpetuates, making for a strikingly more stable state of being.

A word of encouragement: for me, Life, including making art, is actually now easier/ more colorful, exciting without alcohol. It was a matter of re-framing the association. For example.. I am inspired more with a clear mind, I care more about what I'm doing, I can steady my hands/body better; My emotions are more stable. I am less anxious. I have more patience. I have more energy to focus on creativity, rather than sneaking/lying/ conniving. I am more creative. Getting alcohol out of my life has opened doors with my art that I didn't even know existed (opportunities, resources, people). For these reasons, I strongly encourage you to do this.
posted by mrmarley at 1:10 PM on January 14

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