Because 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?