After one particularly drunken evening I woke up the next morning with some pretty nasty carpet burns on my back. I was 24, newly separated from my first husband and living in a small flat in Manchester, UK with my then 2 year old daughter Jessica. This was the Wednesday morning after my regular Tuesday night out – my parents used to have Jessica to stay every Tuesday – and I had to get ready for work. If you’ve ever spent the day in a warm office, wearing a clingy blouse that is sticking painfully to your skinned shoulder blades, you’ll know that it isn’t a pleasant experience.
I couldn’t remember how I had come by such accusatory injuries, but I was worldly enough to make a fair guess; nonetheless, the details of that evening’s events will forever remain a mystery. By the time I had Jessica tucked up in her bed that Wednesday night, I knew something had to change. It wasn’t the first time I’d been out for a night and ended up with gaps in my memory, but this time the whole thing just left me feeling depressed and guilty. Not a good way to feel.
I chatted about it with some co-workers who largely seemed to dismiss my concerns with platitudes like “Everyone does that” or “don’t beat yourself up about it”, and I didn’t feel any better about it at all. There was a glaringly simple answer staring me right in the face. Never drink more than one drink in a 24 hour period. So that’s what I decided to do.
Having previously been a bit of a party girl (probably a good way down the road to a serious alcohol problem), many of my friends were a little sceptical when I announced my plan. I wasn’t actually seeking approval by telling my friends. I just thought that if I made it public it somehow made the plan more real and harder to go back on.
My Good Life Protocol idea was a good few years in the future at this point, but I did have another secret weapon. Yoda! Yep, Yoda. There’s a great quote from the 1980 film, The Empire Strikes Back that had really struck a chord with me. Never a snob about where my principles come from, every time from then on, that I was offered, or was tempted to buy, a second drink I thought of Yoda.
“No! Try not. Do. Or do not!! There is no try….”
In actual fact I spent the next 12 months completely teetotal – and in the process amazed myself – and have only fallen off my self-made wagon twice in the last 30 years.
“There is no try” I think makes a pretty good foundation for one of the GLPs. Just because something is a social norm doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We all know that eating a poor diet, drinking too much, disliking others because they are different (to name a very few) are bad ideas and yet are all pretty normal in our society. “Don’t beat yourself up about it” is all very well and a very good idea, as is “be kind to yourself”. I have found that it’s much easier to be kind to yourself and to avoid feeling guilty by applying a few principles to the choices I make.
- Listen to your feelings
- Research the facts
- Look unflinchingly at the pros and cons
- Don’t put off making a decision
- Once the decision is made, apply it immediately, or as soon as possible
- In case of dithering, call in Yoda
In this way I think it is much easier to take control of your life. You are less likely to have to “look the other way” when it comes to some of the things you do, and indeed the things you believe in. Advertisers want you to buy, eat, drink and pretend to be merry and many political and religious organisations want you to be scared. Between wanting to fit in and fearing the unknown we can end up with pretty miserable, unhealthy lives, making very poor choices into the bargain. If we let them, these influences can blur our vision, but I believe that many, if not most, of us really know the difference between a good idea and a bad one. Trust your judgement, be decisive and then call in Yoda.