John Masterson: Important change in behaviour? Make it public

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John Masterson

There is no doubt about it. It is getting easier and easier to give up alcohol. Maybe not for all time, but I am returning to that age-old habit of doing November. This does not involve growing a moustache. It merely involves giving up alcohol for the month.

The last time I did it I lost four pounds, but that was a decade ago when I used to drink pints of Guinness and I hardly ever do that now. The drink driving laws have put paid to that pleasure for people who do not live in built-up areas. I do perhaps drink a bit more at home. So I will be fascinated to discover if I still have a one pound a week habit.

The first thing about any important behaviour change is to make it public. Once you put yourself in a position where everyone knows what you have said you will do, you cannot break it without checking in to the nearest AA course. I have heard that you meet great people there but no thank you. I do notice that on the nights when I do not have a drink I sleep better.

There are few better feelings on earth than waking up totally relaxed from a restful night's sleep. Why, oh why, did we not evolve a red light to tell us that when we are pouring 'just one more'. Yossarian in Catch-22 pointed out that any god worth his salt could have given us a flashing light that said 'pain' rather than having to go through it.

One important thing about doing something worthwhile that has the additional effect of saving money is that you have to give yourself a reward by spending that money. This should be done any time after November 30.

I bent that rule slightly. So confident am I of success that I rewarded myself with an electric scooter at the beginning of the month.

The other key thing is not to discuss your plans with people who know you well. They may have skin in the game. "Isn't that a bit Lough Derg?" one of them said. I half thought it was because of his fear of losing a drinking buddy. Or that I am very boring sober. But he did know that pushing the religion button would give me pause for thought because I am not one to 'offer it up' under any circumstances. It gave me pause for thought and the idea of exempting weekends was born.

While you are in this stage you are bound to meet someone on the street who you haven't seen for a while. They begin the conversation telling you that you are looking great. They go on to say you have put on a few pounds and that it suits you. The last time they met you your face was looking a bit gaunt. Given that you may not have had a compliment for a few days you are very vulnerable to this type of nonsense. On the other hand they do have a point and you don't even contemplate deleting them from your phone. Instead you have a cup of coffee and browse photos and sure enough you did look quite good back then. A little bit of padding is a great way to smooth out unwelcome lines.

I wonder what self improvement I should take on next. There is nothing more boring than being perfect. Maybe it is time to take up cigars. If I restrict myself to Cubans that cost an arm and a leg it won't get out of hand. Incidentally did I say November 2019? There are some behaviour changes that you have to work up to. And it is very hard to plan without a glass of wine to hand. Yes, 2020 is the year for me. I might even do the marathon. Again, by the way. What do you mean it will be a lottery? Ah well.