Survival’s Law of Three

This is an old adage from battlefield medicine and triage about survival times:

3 seconds – fight or flight decision making time

3 minutes – without air

3 hours – without warmth or shelter

3 days – without water

3 weeks – without food

This rule of three’s has stuck with me for many things and I used it when giving up the fags and then I applied it to giving up the booze too:

3 days – physical withdrawal time.  Towards the end of my drinking my hangovers could last 2 days and I wouldn’t feel recovered until the third morning of waking (unless of course I chose to manage the hangover with a ‘hair of the dog’ and then I was back to square one)

3 weeks – psychological withdrawal time (remember PAWS)  The first 3 weeks can be really tough mentally and can feel like you are ‘white knuckling’ it at times.  Hold on tight and it will pass.

3 months – length of time it takes to break an old habit and make a new habit.  Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) medication programmes are for 12 weeks because of this knowledge.

If you can survive these key stages and push past 3 months to 100 days then you will give your neural networks a good go at breaking the drinking habit.

On any length of days of moderating or quitting you will learn valuable ‘survival without booze’ skills for the next time.  Never give up giving up if that is what you want to achieve.  I got really good at giving up as I got so much practice 😉

8 thoughts on “Survival’s Law of Three

    1. There is hope one day at a time. It does get easier the more time you put between yourself and your last drink 🙂

  1. Love this! “Never give up giving up”. You are so right to point out that even the smallest change in habit is building strength and coping skills for the next time. I was aware that I was drinking too much for perhaps a decade before doing anything about it. Then I took about a year of having a few days here, just drinking every other day there- doing all the attempts at moderation that didn’t work. Then I encountered Belle’s blog and signed up for the 100 day challenge. My point? Without the year of preliminary attempts at moderation, without learning how to go an evening here without alcohol, how to wait an hour there before having wine, how to drink a glass of water between glasses of wine – without practicing these skills, I’m not sure I would have been able to tackle successfully that 100 day challenge. And so here I am at nearly 4 months, with no intention of drinking in the near future.

  2. I love your attitude towards all the “wasted time” spent trying to moderate my drinking habits! I was getting better at it every time I did it. When I finally succeeded I didn’t a horrible withdrawal period; largely because I had been on and off for a year at least. Thank you for readjusting my thinking!

      1. funny you should say that… I was just wondering if there was a final ‘three years’ in your progression. Perhaps three years is the time it can take to know deep down you need to quit? Although of course we are all different people and that may be a different timescale, I do think there is a longer timeframe which plays a vital part in a decision to just bloody stop now. Thanks for an interesting post. Xx

  3. Actually that is a really good question primrose and it actually was almost 3 years! I started to stop for longer periods of time in early 2010 and finally quit in September 2013. That was just me though and if I’d known then what I know now I’d have skipped those last 3 years and quit outright then!! It would be good if people learned from my ‘how not to do it’ version 😉

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