Mangoes are my favourite fruit. Not only do they taste amazing, but the mere taste of mango also conjures up summer – holidays, sunshine and relaxation.
So what does that have to do with moderation you may ask?
Well, as much as I love mangoes I’ve never had to moderate my consumption of them.
Sure, at some times of the year – when they’re cheap and abundant – I’m a daily mango eater. But then in winter I never eat them as they’re out of season.
Do I white knuckle it through winter pining for a taste of mango?
Of course not. They take no mental space at all.
I don’t think about having a mango until I see the first box in the fruit shop at the end of spring.
In other words, as much as I love mangoes, I can moderate my consumption of them.
If I have a mango, I’m not tempted to eat another and then another until I wake up the next morning feeling shame and remorse for eating too many mangoes.
I never worry about what mangoes are doing to my health or scared that if I eat too many I’ll forget parts of the night.
The opposite was true of wine. Like mangoes I loved my wine. It was a treat and I was particularly good at treating myself with it!
I had good associations with wine – dinners out with my partner, socialising, holidays.
But unlike mangoes, I didn’t have a take-it-or-leave-it approach to wine. Once I had one glass, I wanted more.
And after having one too many wines I would wake the next morning worried about what drinking was doing to my health and trying to piece together memories of the night before.
So, what was the difference between my love of mangoes and my love of wine?
Why could I enjoy and moderate one substance that I really liked, yet the ability to enjoy the other (alcohol) took up so much of my mental energy trying to moderate.
The difference is that alcohol is addictive.
For years, I thought there was something wrong with me because I found it difficult to limit myself to one or two drinks.
I thought I was weak willed but, if I was weak willed, why didn’t that apply to mangoes. Why, even though I really enjoyed them, could I have one and not crave another.
I know it sounds ridiculous – of course you wouldn’t eat mangoes in the way you drink wine – but until you recognise that it is the addictive nature of wine, and not your lack of willpower, that you can start looking at your drinking in a new way.
After years of trying to moderate and dealing with the exhaustion of the relentless ‘will I / won’t I’ thoughts, I took a break. The relief at not having to think about drinking was so freeing.
For some people, choosing not to drink at all may seem like a drastic measure. I’ve certainly had many people tell me so.
But it works for me and is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
While, stopping drinking may not be for you, the next time you are annoyed at yourself for drinking more than you wanted to, give yourself some slack.
Understand that it is the addictive nature of alcohol and remind yourself that you don’t have to expend the same amount of willpower to enjoy other things you enjoy.