Thought Leadership

I give up

By Colin Walls

We all have habits. Some of us have addictions. I am not 100% certain that I understand the difference. I guess that, in most situations, an addiction is really just a very strong habit. Interestingly, the term “drug habit” is normally just a euphemism for drug addiction.

I am very interested in analyzing my own behavior and motivations in life and I have paid some attention to my habits and possible additions …

Although I have never smoked tobacco or done drugs at all and do not really gamble, I have my fair share of vices. I do not feel inclined to discard any of them, but I do like to think that I am in control. I have not knowingly been acquainted with any drug addicts, but I have had very close personal encounters with people who have alcohol problems. That has taught me to respect the potential for addictions to ruin and/or shorten lives.

I like a drink. I am, by my own standards, quite moderate. I only really consume beer and wine and do that with a meal or in a social context. In the UK at least, it is very inexpensive to drink, so it is very easy to understand how so many people do so to excess. I vaguely try to stay within the government guidelines. However, to be sure that I am in control, I have given up alcohol completely for a couple of month-long periods. Both were March, as my birthday is at the beginning of April. On each occasion, it did not really cause me a problem, which was pleasing.

On one of these alcohol-free months, I gave up caffeine for the last week as well. That was harder. It took about 2 days for the withdrawal symptoms [a dull headache] to clear, but I had a strong craving still. Interestingly, it was not coffee that I was keen to have, it was a cup of Earl Grey Tea. It shocked my to realize that I had a physiological addiction and I considered how I would modify my behavior. The key thing I did was reduce my coffee intake to one [very good] cup each morning and stick with tea [much lower in caffeine] the rest of the time.

Recently, I concluded that I had 2 habits that I wanted to address: after lunch, I would have some chocolate; in the evening, I would have a glass or two of beer or wine. Neither of these are bad things in themselves, but, because they are simply habitual, I was not really enjoying either of them. So my current rule is chocolate gets consumed only on weekends and vacation/holidays. Likewise with wine, except that Friday evening counts as weekend and I might also have a drink while socializing during the week. I still have a fancy for chocolate or a glass at appropriate times, but I have noticed that this only really occurs if I am following my usual routine. If I am, for example, traveling on business, I do not seem to notice their absence. This implies to me that I am dealing with true habits, not addictions.

So, I think that I have things under control. I feel secure, as my alcohol consumption is moderate. But this begs a question: what is “moderate”? If you only have a glass of wine once a month, you might consider my consumption to be excessive. If you drink a bottle every day, you would regard my consumption as trivial. I suppose that the only definition of moderate that makes sense is a purely personal one – what is right/moderate for you?

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at