Last July, I was just two months away from my one year anniversary of quitting drinking and smoking when I had my biggest test of all. My childhood best friend and I started hiking into a remote Colorado canyon for a three day river raft when he lit a joint and passed.
I’d passed every business and social partying trigger for almost a year but right then my mind started pulling new triggers: It’s taken my whole adult life to get back here to my native home. I’m trekking with my childhood best friend. In style on our terms after decades of earning this overdue reunion. Then, joint in my face, he urges on:
“Come on, this is river time, it doesn’t exist.”
Those moments descending that dusty trail were fateful. He had a point. What difference does a little ceremony make?
It was the closest I got that first year, but resisting that day I realized “ceremony” is just a cool label for habit. And this journey has been about making sure I understand how to control habits.
The next morning as the river poured past our campsite, he starts pouring me a perfectly brewed cup of coffee and says:
“Don’t even f**king tell me you quit coffee too.”
I had in fact quit a few years prior, but I took the coffee without a word and basked in our River Time ceremony.
That morning I knew for sure I had total control of booze and weed so I reintroduced coffee. As I said in my anniversary post last year, I’m not some born again who now thinks I’m a saint.
I also said last year I’ve chosen to be exceedingly open here about my habit journey to de-stigmatize this topic and because I’ve learned many want or need perspective, so let’s do one more quick story.
One hilarious but surprisingly strong trigger I had to shake that first year was this maxim another best friend coined when we first started our careers:
“Never trust a coworker who won’t do a shot with you.”
This one stuck because it mostly proves true with colleagues of any age. Whether celebrating team achievements or reclaiming team sanity from the daily grind, shots are the universal ceremony, and those who dodge without good reason usually prove shifty. It became our way of asking “you cool?” like Slater in Dazed and Confused.
Now of course my own social code goes against me on this one. Even my wife noted we’re now in an era where everyone I meet doesn’t know my good time partying past. But that’s cool, I have good reason to dodge shots now. And I’m not shifty.
Though to honor my friend who conceived it, I highly recommend you try this. It’s way more reliable than trust falls and other such team building BS.
Last year’s anniversary post was to make sure I maintain partier mischievousness in my new life. Today on this second anniversary, these stories raise two main themes I’ve been mulling:
(1) What’s up with all the peer pressure around partying?
(2) Is it ok to replace old vice with new?
On peer pressure, I’ve concluded it’s just woven into our social fabric. What is friendship if not a sharing of ceremonies and habits? Of course people push each other when someone changes a habit and therefore disrupts a ceremony. Habits are about triggers, and a friend is just one of endless triggers. Response to triggers is all that matters. That’s all any of us can do, and it’s the best place to focus.
On replacing old vice with new, this is woven into our habit fabric. New habits must replace old and it doesn’t have to be vice for vice. It could be booze for exercise, then a new set of habits could build around exercise. For me, it was replacing partying with time, and that time has improved family, health, work, and my equanimity—except when I do too many coffee shots. And on that note, I believe you can replace old vice with new if you maintain control.
The rest is daily trigger response.
Love and respect to everyone who’s reached out on this topic the last two years…