“Four to six pints most evenings” he said hoping that it sounded reasonable.
I didn’t follow up. I had a feeling that he probably drank more than this, but I didn’t push him because it took guts to tell me that he drank that much. Pushing it would have been counterproductive.
As the session progressed, I had pretty much forgotten what he had said. We were talking about the brain’s tendency to minimise the bad things when I could see a switch flick in his mind.
“Actually, it’s rarely four beers. It’s far more often six than four. In fact, it’s probably eight pints more often than it is four.”
It’s a tendency that I’ve noticed with clients before. They tell me how much they drink at the start of the session but as the session progresses another number emerges. As they start to realise that I’m not a self-righteous prick, that actually I might even have been worse than them, they soften up and start to become more honest with me.
I never take it personally, and I certainly don’t hold it against them. They’re not lying to me. They’re lying to themselves.
It takes tremendous courage to be honest about how much you actually drink. It takes cognitive effort to get beyond the filters of positivity that are trying to protect you from facing up to the harm you are doing to yourself.
Which is why people often wait for some truly traumatic event, like losing a job, crashing a car or your loved ones giving up on you, before they’re able to do it.
Which is why I’m so pleased that this guy had realised enough was enough. Maybe if he hadn’t, he would have ended up in a car crash, a job loss or being abandoned by someone important to him. In my view, that’s always too late.
So, with as much kindness as I can offer you through the internet, do you have the courage to assess your drinking honestly?
If you don’t then I’d love to help. You are free to lie about it to me for as long as it takes. I’ll lend you some courage until you’ve built up enough of your own.