Drinking in Sales: Why Willpower is Overrated and What We Can Learn from Taking a Look at Our Drinking Habit

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“What, you quit drinking?  Isn’t that a requirement in sales?”  

This was the very first response of a close friend upon announcing my commitment to quitting alcohol for life.  

After months of research and mental preparation, I immediately began to question myself.  

Will I be ostracized from my inner sales circles?  Are clients going to feel awkward? I’m going to feel very out of place… can I really quit drinking for life?  

Let’s start from the beginning of my journey. I have the intimate details to share with you, so please read on.  

The Day I Decided I Needed to Quit

It was December 5th 2019, the day after our management team’s holiday party.  I awoke from my semi-conscious slumber with a splitting headache and a pit in my stomach.  These were the telltale signs that the night before had been one of overindulgence.  

As I crawled from bed and made my way to the bathroom for some water, I began to replay the nights events in my head.  

Did I say anything stupid? 

“No,” I tell myself.  “Nothing to my recollection.  At least nothing super offensive.”

Did I do anything embarrassing? 

“Well, hmm.” 

I remember getting up in front of a bar of strangers and colleagues and singing karaoke all night.  The songs and corresponding words of which I can’t recall. But, embarrassing? Nah.

“Not for you Tyler. They have all seen your act before.” 

“Phew!”   Crisis averted.  

Then I went to my first meeting of the day and began to sober up.  The anxious pit in my stomach began to spread as a sense of guilt and despair swept over me.  

Reality as they say, finally set in. 

The Carrot and the Stick

Six months prior to the events of last night, my dad lost his battle with alcohol.  It was one day after his 60th birthday that we got the call.  After failing to show for dinner plans, some of his concerned friends called my brother.  As an EMT and firefighter, he had come to our dad’s aid before, except this time it was too late.  My dad had passed.  

The coroner deemed it a “sudden cardiac event.”  A direct result, as was later explained, of alcoholic cardiomyopathy and a lifelong habit of heavy drinking.    

My whole life I’d been around alcohol.  I grew up in a home with an alcoholic, my grandfather was a recovering alcoholic, and I’d been drinking “socially” for close to two decades.  

Understand this cycle though, at the root of alcohol and drug abuse is pain.  What starts as a subconscious coping mechanism, or a seemingly innocent and socially acceptable way to relax, then progresses to what I call “the carrot and stick phenomenon”.  For many in my family, myself included, alcohol was (or is) an outlet from generalized anxiety. The drink dangles like a carrot in front of our noses promising to calm all nerves, only to then whack you upside the head with a stick the next day.  

I couldn’t do it any longer.  I was tired and I needed out. But how?

Get Curious

The first thing I did prior to telling anyone that I was going to quit was research.  Having seen other methods fail time and time again, I wondered if there might be another way; an easier way.  Ideally, I wanted to get to a place where I just didn’t want the stuff anymore. The thoughts of going a lifetime without something I deeply craved seemed awful.  There was also the added pressure of my job, one which is well known for the drinking culture. I knew I couldn’t avoid being around it all together. 

That’s when I stumbled upon “the easy way.” (Well, really they should call it the “easier way” because it still wasn’t easy, but it was much easier than I thought it would be.) Plus, it was unconventional and those that know me best know I love anything unconventional.  

What I found was that there were a number of people out there teaching a practical and positive approach to quitting.  Finding such a method, one that was positive and wouldn’t require willpower, was important to me.   

I’ll share that method with you now.  My sincere hope is that by sharing all this it will help someone out there in need.  If not today, then maybe in the future, and if not for you, maybe a friend. Hopefully you’ll appreciate the fact that it’s just 5 steps, not 12.  

But first, full disclosure before we get started.  As with most things I do, I didn’t follow any one systematic approach.  You aren’t going to find all this on the internet and by no means am I an expert or licensed professional on this matter.  However, this has worked well for me thus far.    

So, without any further discussion, and disclaimer aside, let’s dig in.  

The Five Steps to breaking apart the HABIT

 

Step One: Start with the H          History                                Past, Future Vision, Present Plan

Step Two: A BIT                               A Bit of Research              Influence and Social Norms

Step Three: BIT More                     Bit More Work                  Daily Practice and Replacement

Step Four: IT Factor                        When you have It             Sold on the Value

Step Five: Keeping IT                     Taking a New Path         Finding Purpose          

            

Step One – Start with the H.  Your History 

Studies show if we want to shift perspective, we must do a deep dive into the past, cast a vision of the future, and plan in the present.  The analogy I often use with this is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  

In the iconic tale, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts:  the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas yet to come, and the ghost of Christmas present.   Scrooge’s first ghostly encounter, the ghost of Christmas past, takes him on a journey through his own childhood.  It is there that we see the pain he carries with him still today.  

Much like Scrooge, I had pain that I carried deep within me from my past.  

Growing up in a home with an alcoholic was no cake walk.  There were constant fights, moments of utter heartbreak, and lots and lots of shame.  Everyone in a family with an alcoholic has a role to play. Often there is a caretaker, an enabler, a scapegoat, and a fixer.  These are survival mechanisms and each person falls into a role, hoping to generate survival for the entire family while supporting the alcoholic and their addiction.  

I saw my role to be that of the fixer.  As the oldest, I deemed it my job to fix my dad and keep things together.  If that meant pretending that everything in our house was okay, then that’s what I did.  If it meant driving my dad home from a concert before I had my license, then that’s what I did. (True and scary story.)  Right or wrong, I saw it as my job to keep the family unit “safe”. 

This was a task doomed for failure.  The only person that can fix and cure an alcoholic is the one lifting the bottles to their mouth.  

Failed attempt after failed attempt to fix my father led me to sink into a deep feeling of anxiety on a subconscious level.  I say subconscious because the anxiety I felt then, and continue to feel today, isn’t stemming from thoughts on a conscious level.  Instead, it stems from a perpetual feeling of inevitable failure. A need to fix the unfixable.

Understanding this was important.  Much like Scrooge, I had to know what was causing my unrest and leading to my anxiety.  Fixing this then would be a crucial step to rewiring my brain and my body’s need for alcohol.  In much the same way you need to identify the root cause of a bad habit. 

Step Two – A BIT of Research

Step two is a vision cast into the future.  When the ghost of Christmas yet to come took Scrooge on a journey into his future, the man was tortured by what he saw.  There is brilliance in this because we are often much more motivated by what we stand to lose than what we stand to gain.  With bad habits we rarely (if ever) look to the future because we know damn well that we won’t like what we see. However, if you are truly wanting to stop, this is the best thing you can do.  

When I looked into the future, I saw myself turning into my father.  What’s crazy about this is that for years I’d been telling myself I’d never let that happen.  On a subconscious level though, I was certainly not doing what someone who would never let that happen does.  Does it make sense that a person who never wants to turn into an alcoholic, drinks regularly? No, of course not.  The best way to prevent that from happening would be to avoid alcohol at all costs.  

The drug tricks us into thinking we are different, better, or have more self-control.  Yet, the mere fact we are taking the risk tells us just how brainwashed we are. Knowing this and seeing a future with my kids (in addition to my wife, mom and siblings) being subjected to routine drinking, wasn’t an option. 

I couldn’t have it.  I needed to break the cycle and I was ashamed it took me so long to see it. 

Step Three – BIT More Work

With my mind now prepared to stop, I now needed a plan.  It was time to implore the help of Allen Carr and Craig Beck.  While I couldn’t find any connection between these two men, they both have similar proven approaches and take both a positive and nonconventional approach to quitting.  Exactly what I was looking for. 

I won’t be able to do these approaches any justice here in a short article, so I strongly suggest reading their book, but I’ll frame up the top tips gleaned from their work below.  

Here are five tips based off Allen Carr’s Quit Drinking Without Willpower and Craig Beck’s Alcohol Lied to Me:

Tip 1 – Don’t go about this trying to use willpower  

Simply put, willpower is overrated.  Think about it. Using willpower is asking yourself to constantly deny the very things you want the most.  The more we try to deny ourselves the things our mind is telling us we want, the more we want it. It doesn’t work.  Allen Carr starts his book by stating, “Drink as much or as little as you want while reading this book.” Sounds like crazy advice, right?  He explains in the book it’s because he knows most people won’t want to drink anymore after understanding what they need to revisit in the realm of alcohol use.

Tip 2 – Understand the fraud that is alcohol 

Alcohol might possibly be the biggest fraud in U.S. history since the cigarette.  They market it as an innocent pastime instead of the dangerous and destructive drug that it is.  Pop quiz: what kills more people a year, heroin or alcohol? The answer is alcohol and it’s not even a close race.  In fact, alcohol kills nearly six times the number of people than heroin. According to the World Health Organization alcohol kills nearly 3 million people each year.  Name another product we would be allowed to market so carelessly in today’s health-conscious environment with statistics like that?

Tip 3 – Do a deep dive into the perceived benefits of drinking

Initially I believed that there were at least 10 benefits to drinking, according to the list I made. But now I know that’s simply not true: there’s not one single benefit of drinking.  Taste? Did you like the taste of beer, wine, or liquor when you were first starting? No, because it tastes awful. The faces we made when we were first starting to drink were meant to clue us in that we were drinking poison.  Or how about reduced anxiety as a benefit? Do you not feel more anxious the next day? Some people tout better sleep with alcohol. However, alcohol is a mild anesthetic not a sleep aid. Even small amounts of alcohol disrupt your sleep cycles.  Really dig in on the perceived benefits and be honest with yourself. 

Tip 4 – Start with the end in mind

One of Steven Covey’s famous habits of highly effective people is to “start with the end in mind”.  This is because when you see the future benefits it makes the motivation for now that much easier. What would a happy, healthy, future version of yourself be able to accomplish without the hangovers and unnecessary stress that alcohol brings into your life?  

Tip 5 – Find Positive Replacements

You will have more time than you ever knew existed when you quit drinking.  This is not because you spend so much time drinking, but instead it’s the benefit of better sleep, more focus, less anxiety, and a new found zest for life.  Start understanding what you spend on alcohol, what time is lost from alcohol, and what it’s doing to your sleep. Then begin to allow yourself fun and exciting things to do with this extra time. We will cover more on this in step four.

Step Four – IT Factor – When you have IT 

Once you have started the “stop” you have to understand this is a journey.  Don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t give up when you feel cravings coming on.  Instead, understand what is going on in your mind during these times and turn to your positive replacements.  

The biggest thing that I found was that free and social gatherings now needed some new excitement to add.  Nowadays when I crave alcohol during idle times, I turn to my favorite hobbies. I know what you’re thinking, “But my favorite hobbies include drinking!”  Trust me I get it. My advice is to remember things you loved and hobbies you used to do without drinking. Start a new workout regime or allow yourself to spend a little money you’d otherwise feel guilty about to treat yourself to something special.  

For social gatherings it’s more of a physical replacement that most people seek.  You’ll feel much more comfortable looking at quitting in a social gathering if you still maintain that drink in your hand.  Have the bartender make you a non-alcoholic version of your favorite drink. Another thing you can do is to bring replacements that have a similar calming effect, but without the alcohol.  For this check out Kin Euphorics, Kombucha, and Kava. Kava bars are starting to pop up all over the country. Do your research though to make sure you are sourcing safe and healthy options from reputable distributors.  

Step Five – Keeping IT – Taking a New Path 

Once you’ve found your stride with this and have positive replacements working for you, things do get easier.  However, the devil gets in your head from time to time so you need to keep working to make sure you KEEP IT. As with most things in life, the best way to stick with something is to find purpose in what you’re doing.  Use your newly found sobriety to find others that are quitting and help them. This team of people, those quitting to win, will support each other and provide the purposeful boost needed to stick with it. 

Putting it All Together 

So now you know my story and why I decided to quit alcohol for life.  Now let’s address the questions at the onset and look at the outcome in relation to the fears.  

Will I be ostracized from my inner sales circles?  

To answer the first question, no I haven’t felt ostracized and in fact I haven’t had a single person say anything to my face negatively about quitting.  Do they say things behind my back? Possibly, but that’s their business not mine and frankly I don’t care. I’m happy and healthy and that’s all that matters.

Are clients going to feel awkward?  

Have my customers felt awkward?  No, I get soda water and lime and I don’t suspect they have even noticed.  

I’m going to feel very out of place… can I really do this?  

The answer to that is a resounding “yes.”  In fact, were I to think I couldn’t do it I would have never publicly announced my commitment to quitting for life.  

What are we to glean from all this?  

My thoughts:  take a look at your drinking and be honest with yourself.  Is it doing anything truly positive or beneficial for you? If the answer is no and you want to quit, my advice is to get curious, do your research, analyze your past, future, and present status, then develop a plan.  This is your journey and your business. No one else has the right to interject any influence over your business.  

Your future self will thank you.

Closing remarks

While growing up with an alcoholic is nothing I’d wish on my enemy, I also wouldn’t wish being an alcoholic on my enemy.  My dad lost so much in this battle and no one would want to suffer the way he did. He had the biggest heart of any man I’ve ever met.   In addition, he had an innate ability to connect with people and make them feel like the most important person in the room. It wouldn’t be right to let the alcoholism define his life.  Those that knew him, and there were many, would know that more than anything he would want people to learn and grow from his story. He and my mother raised five great kids and he left behind eight incredible grandkids to carry on his legacy.  

Love you Dad.

This post was originally posted on The Pirate Guides and shared here with the approval of the author.

About the Author – Tyler Menke

If you’d like more info about this or someone to talk to feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]s.com or shoot me a message on LinkedIn.  

If you want to learn more non-conventional and practical approaches for the modern salespreneur, check out the #1 New Release on Amazon in Sales and Selling Management The Pirate’s Guide to Sales

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