How long does it take to form a new Hobbit?

That’s easy – it’s apparently 1779 miles between Hobbiton and Mount Doom.

A new habit is less easy to calculate.

I had heard the phrase ‘early sobriety’ bandied about and looked it up online. Apparently ‘early sobriety’ is defined as less than twelve months, ‘sustained sobriety’ as between one year and five years, and ‘stable sobriety’ as over five years. This threw me for six a bit. Having come from a point when any period of sobriety that included an ENTIRE WEEKEND was pretty stupendous, the idea of the whole first year still being described as ‘early’ seemed a bit rich.

Having calmed down I do see the point. How can one be in ‘sustained sobriety’ if dealing with an annually occurring event for the first time? First Christmas, first birthday, first wedding anniversary, first funeral, (hopefully not an annual event but you know what I mean), first summer BBQ? So I will think of the big ‘firsts’ as necessary stepping stones on my way to that year- marker.

There’s a frequently bandied about statistic that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I certainly found the first three or four weeks the absolute toughest mentally in terms of breaking the chains of old habits. Lovely people those vital weeks or months ahead of me kept saying, quietly and calmly, yes, it WILL get easier. If you are reading this at less than 30 days then take it from me, buddy – they are right. The voice shouting in your head to drink nownownownownow slowly fades into the distance. It is difficult in different ways, now. It would be socially much, much easier for me and, not insignificantly, my husband, if I could have the odd glass now and then. And that social pressure is not nothing. The cravings still pop up unexpectedly, but those nailbiting days of having to fight the monster ALL THE TIME are past.

There’s an interesting article here on habit formation. A couple of extracts in case you get stuck at ‘context-dependent repetition’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

‘Habits are mentally efficient: the automation of frequent behaviours allows us to conserve the mental resources that we would otherwise use to monitor and control these behaviours, and deploy them on more difficult or novel tasks. Habits are likely to persist over time; because they are automatic and so do not rely on conscious thought, memory or willpower.’ I like that ‘not relying on conscious willpower’ bit. I think we all have a finite supply of that good stuff every day, and there are days when mine is used up after the end of the morning school run. So our habits are ways of conserving our finite resource of will power.

I also like the statistic that ‘when an arm or leg is amputated the โ€œphantom limbโ€ persists for about 21 days’.

I am now adding to my simile bank about Wolfie, and thinking of him as my phantom limb.

He may give me pins and needles occasionally, but he isn’t a part of me any more.

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