When it comes to taking action, you feel stuck.
You spend a lot of time thinking about your drinking; worrying and wondering whether you should quit.
You buy books about alcohol free living and follow sober bloggers on Instagram.
You wake up hungover and vow you’ll quit – only to question the decision a few hours later.
It’s exhausting, not being able to decide what to do. Alcohol is making you unhappy… so why aren’t you taking action?
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Here are 4 (totally normal) reasons why you might struggle to take action – and what to do about it…
It seems like a really big decision
Quitting drinking feels like such a big deal, you want to be 100% certain you’re doing the right thing. But you can’t imagine giving up forever, so you’re stuck in a loop of never feeling quite ready.
How to take action anyway:
You can overcome the fear of forever by taking a temporary break instead. You don’t need to be 100% certain about the future – it’s impossible to know how you’ll feel in a month’s time, never mind a year or several decades away!
Taking a break for a month or two allows you to test drive sobriety and get into a new routine (studies show it takes 66 days to form a new habit). Once your break is over, you can always go back to drinking if you want to – or set another short term goal.
You’re weighing up another option
If you really can’t bring yourself to get started, the chances are that part of you is still considering the alternatives. The idea of finding some way to moderate your alcohol intake can be hard to let go of.
How to take action anyway:
I’ve written before about why moderation rarely works (you can read that here) but to be honest, you need to come to that conclusion yourself. If you still want to focus on cutting back, then continue with that for now, but do put a time frame on it.
Decide how much longer you’re going to keep attempting to moderate. Record the different tricks you’ve tried and the rules you’ve created to keep your drinking in check. Does any of it work in the long term? And does it make you happy?
You’re just not sure if it’s worth it
Sometimes your drinking feels really bad, but on other days, it feels pretty manageable. There are things you like about drinking and you’re worried you’ll miss out on so much.
How to take action anyway:
Keep a diary. Set a reminder on your phone so you remember to write a sentence or two about how you’re feeling, morning and night. Do this every day, regardless of whether you’ve been drinking or not.
Our minds are incredibly unreliable and we often ‘forget’ stuff like this. By writing this down, you’re gathering important data about how alcohol genuinely affects you.
See what patterns you spot. If, for example, you believe alcohol is helping you cope with stress – but you notice that every drinking episode is followed by several days of problems and extra stress – then that’s important information to take note of.
You’ve ‘failed’ before
Perhaps you’ve tried to quit several times already and it hasn’t worked out. It was painful and you felt so bad afterwards, you don’t want to put yourself through it again.
How to take action anyway:
When you tell yourself that you’re a hopeless case, all you’re really doing is making yourself feel better about not taking action. But that’s a very disempowering place to be. The truth is that ‘failure’ is part of the learning process. It’s not a sign that you’re weak or never going to crack this.
Nearly every student who joins my stop drinking course, Getting Unstuck, will have multiple ‘failed’ attempts in their past. I expect that, because it’s normal. The most important thing is not to let the fear of failing again hold you back – I wrote more about that here.
Final tip: make a decision either way!
Toing and froing over the decision can make you feel as if you’re being productive, when you aren’t. Agonising over it takes up a lot of brain space and the uncertainty can be draining.
If you want to keep drinking for now, that’s ok – but make a conscious choice to do that. Put a time frame on it and set a reminder on your phone, so you remember to review how you’re feeling.
As I mentioned above, I strongly recommend keeping a diary, so you can see how the drug is affecting you and your quality of life over time. Don’t rely on your memory to help you gather this evidence – you need to see it in black and white.
I tried a year or so to quit using your guidance (blogs), and did for several months. But then I decided I could try drinking again because I thought I was able to handle it. Little by little, though, I ended up back to square 1 where I was drinking too much, not sleeping, having blackouts, etc. This time it’s plain and simple: I’m done with drinking. I’m not going to give in to specific friends, family members, or specific situations. This time I’m quitting because it is my gift to me (I’m on day 4)! I have a long life ahead of me that I want to feel good about and to be proud of. I’m going to take the next class you offer in Sept (I hope there’s room!). I’m done!
It sounds as if you’ve learnt so much from that experience of quitting and then going back to drinking. I’m glad to hear you’re choosing AF living again Barb – and I look forward to having you on the course in September! I’ll be sharing more details about that nearer the time, should you wish to join 🙂
I decided to quit (ahead of time) on August 6th so I can feel and look better for a big event in November. I am doing this one day at a time, and when I wake up each morning I commit to being af on that day. So far I am hanging in there. I even am at the point where o don’t think about alcohol every minute, and have gone as much as 3 hours without that hassle. Fingers crossed
Frances, we can do this!
Keep going Frances! 🙂
Thank you for your information, tips and comments…so very helpful! Just wanted to say I loved the article you attached about habits taking at least 66 days to make or break. I had heard, like so many, the false claim of 21 days! This just clicked with me, as I have taken many drinking breaks…including most Lenten seasons of 40 days. But went back to my patterns. I’m determined to give the 66 a shot! I’m at 43….thanks again for helping so many people in their journey:)
I’m pleased that resonated with you! It really does take longer than you think. Also, when you take a longer break, you give yourself the opportunity to tackle (and overcome) a few challenges, which might not ordinarily crop up in a shorter period of just a few weeks. Congratulations on your 43 days 🙂
I decided to finally quit drinking 8 days ago and so far so good. I am already feeling the benefits,more energy,better sleep and just an all round nicer person to be around. I really hope I can stick with it this time. It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Thank you for this helpful blog 🙂
Brilliant – well done Claire! Keep going 🙂
Thanks KATE after reading your email and comments i realise i just hit a blip and can keep going at becoming AF and not think im starting over again
Exactly – learn from what happened but don’t beat yourself up. Keep moving forward 🙂
Moderation was exhausting for me, consuming my thoughts about what to drink, how much, when etc. It took me 5 years to realise the only option was to give up alcohol altogether. I’m nearly two years alcohol free and life is so much easier and calmer. Thank you so much Kate for your amazing course x
Thanks Sharon. I’m so pleased to hear how good things are for you these days. Alcohol free living clearly suits you – bring on the 2 year milestone! ❤️
I definitely had those thoughts!
I still can’t believe how much effort and decision-making that drinking creates – it’s so tiring having to keep trying ways to cut down, or wrestling with what to do about stopping.
Sobriety is approximately a billion times easier than all that. 🙂
Agreed! It’s so much easier to make one, clear-headed decision, rather than all the endless smaller decisions that come with trying (and failing) to moderate.
Great article. A lot made sense to my tired and exhausted self. Every day I am stopping – then something happens …. I try again and feel so great I drink to celebrate and back I go feeling like crap again. A lot of stop and starting again – I am trying. Love reading the articles because we are all different people but Alchol traps us ALLL the same way.
It sounds as if you’re caught in a tough cycle of stop-starting at the moment Beverley. It’s a frustrating place to be! If you’d like some support to make sobriety stick properly, I’d be happy to help you do that. My next course isn’t too far away – check out the details here and get on the waitlist if you’re interested: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
(In the middle of that page you’ll see a link to watch some videos of my lovely students – I highly recommend you check that out for some inspiration!)
I love all the comments and tips you share on your blog.
I also had to make the decision to quit drinking ALL together.
I was sober for 4 years and also thought that I could handle my drink after such a long sober period and guess what ? I ended up drinking more than before. so for me alcohol is an absolute NO!
Alcohol is powerful, mind-altering drug – it’s no wonder it’s difficult to control. It sounds as if you learnt a lot from that experience, Verny – glad to see you back on the road to AF living now 🙂
I’ve been following your stuff for awhile. I’m ready to try and stop drinking. It’s making me miserable! I would love a community to help. Minute one…hope this works! 🙂
Hi Kelly, thanks for your comment. If you’re looking for help and support to stop drinking – and you want to be part of an incredibly active and motivated community – then the best place to get that is via my online coaching programme. It’s an intensive 6 week class that gets great results. I’ve got some more details about the class here: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Make sure you check out the student videos and get your name on the waitlist if you’re interested in taking part 🙂
Hi Kate. Thank you so much for this. I just went to look up all of your emails and realize I need to quit completely. I’ve been good about not having anything for a couple of week or even a month or two. But then someone invites me out or I’m dealing with stress (my dad got ill this spring but now he’s doing better). And I realize I made a mistake last night meeting a friend for dinner and having two glasses of wine, then a cocktail. I couldn’t sleep until 3 am because of the anxiety, I almost felt like I couldn’t breath and then today I had some junk food which I had been avoiding. And it made me feel low. Alcohol affects my energy. I realize that every time. I signed up for the waiting list for your course in October. Hoping there is space otherwise I’m going to make a better effort this time. Thanks again
When alcohol has been your crutch for so long, it’s hard to let go and fear is involved too. I’ve been drinking for 10 years and now it’s affecting my health. One day at a time with this group’s inspiration and I know I can stop….positivity