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The Loopholes Used to Justify Drinking

wineinparisBecause of my interest in habits, I read a lot of memoirs of addiction. I don’t tackle addiction in Better Than Before, but still, I find that I get a lot of insights from these accounts.

I recently finished an excellent new memoir, Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.

I was particularly  interested to see how she used loopholes to justify her drinking.When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

We’re so good at thinking of loopholes! I’ve identified ten categories, in fact, and Hepola uses several of them as she justifies her drinking to herself.

I don’t want to sound unduly critical of Hepola, by identifying her loopholes. We all use them — we’re very ingenious when it comes to finding loopholes. Hepola’s memoir is thought-provoking and insightful, precisely because she’s so honest about her thoughts and actions.

Here are some examples of the loopholes she invokes:

  • This doesn’t count loophole: “Drinking on a plane is a line-item veto in the ‘never drink alone’ rulebook.”
  • Questionable assumption loophole: “Everyone drinks alone on a plane.” Personally, I’ve never had a drink on a plane in my life.
  • Planning to fail loophole: “You’re allowed to drink alone while traveling. Who else could possibly join you? I loved drinking alone in distant bars.” Part of the fun of traveling, for Hepola, is feeling free to drink alone.
  • Fake self-actualization loophole: “It would not be an overstatement to say this felt like the very point of existence. To savor each moment.”
  • Tomorrow loophole (i.e., “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow.”): “I knew some speed bump of circumstance would come along and force me to change. I would get married, and then I would quit. I would have a baby, and then I would quit.”
  • Combination of the tomorrow loophole and the fake self-actualization loopholes: “It was my last night in Paris. I had to say yes.”
  • Questionable assumption loophole: “It wasn’t fair that my once-alcoholic friend could reboot his life to include the occasional Miller Lite … and I had broken blood vessels around my eyes from vomiting in the morning … It isn’t fair!”
  • Questionable assumption loophole: “Writers drink. It’s what we do.”
  • Lack of control loophole: “Paris was the problem, not me.”

In the end, Hepola is able to reject the loopholes, change her habits, and quit drinking.

Most of us have a favorite few loopholes. Mine? False choice loophole — meaning “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”

How about you? Do you have a favorite loophole, that you find yourself turning to most often?

The Loopholes Used to Justify Drinking


Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.


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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). The Loopholes Used to Justify Drinking. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-loopholes-used-to-justify-drinking/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.