When I was trying to figure out how to quit drinking, I think I made just about every mistake in the book!
It took me ages to figure out what I was doing wrong and find a way to make sobriety stick.
If you’ve been struggling with your sober goals, or you’re finding things tough at the moment, this blog is for you.
I’m sharing a few of my rookie mistakes… and how you can avoid them!
Mistake #1 – Not being clear on why you’re doing this
Picture the scene: you wake up feeling tired and hungover. As you get ready for work, you promise yourself that tonight WILL be different.
Yet as the day drags on, and your hangover makes everything feel stressful and unmanageable, your thoughts turn to drinking again. By the time you get home, you’ve convinced yourself that ‘just one’ won’t hurt…
I must have gone through that cycle a thousand times. It was easy to make those promises and just as easy to dismiss them later.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to get really clear on your WHY. Stop being vague and start getting specific. Why exactly do you want to change?
Spend some quality time on this – it might well take you several days to make a proper list and write everything out. (I explain this process in more detail here.)
Mistake #2 – Putting sobriety at the bottom of your to do list
It was years before I realised that a) sobriety wasn’t going to magically happen without me dedicating some time to it, and b) it would be totally worth the time invested!
In the early days, alcohol-free living does require some effort and commitment. It just does. You need to allocate time to do the work that will help you make this shift stick.
I know that feels hard to do when you’re always short on time, but the great thing about alcohol-free living is that it creates lots of lovely space in your life. All that drinking, recovering from drinking and beating yourself up about your drinking eats up a LOT of time.
I have a student on my Getting Unstuck course who’s started setting up a new business and it’s only been three weeks since she quit drinking. That’s how much time sobriety creates!
I think many women are inclined to put sobriety at the bottom of their to-do list because they’re used to putting themselves last.
You’ve probably heard the saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. Self care isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity. Poisoning yourself with alcohol is not self care, but sobriety definitely is.
Mistake #3 – Paying too much attention to other people’s opinions
I know, I know. It makes sense to talk this stuff through with those closest to you. You respect their opinion and they know you best, right? However, when it comes to your drinking, the truth is that only you know how alcohol really makes you feel.
It’s difficult for friends and family to offer you what you actually need, which is an informed and neutral opinion. They might be worried about hurting your feelings. Or, if they drink a lot, they could be feeling defensive or concerned about their own habits.
By all means ask your loved ones for their support, but don’t rely on their advice or approval. Your sobriety is about you and your relationship with alcohol, no one else’s.
Mistake #4 – Giving alcohol credit for all the fun stuff in life!
This is the big one. I spent far too long treating alcohol like some kind of magic joy juice. I thought it was the secret ingredient that made life special. It isn’t.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that alcohol is a drug. If it was all we needed to have a great time, then we should get predictable results from it. But we don’t, do we? Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes we get into horrible arguments.
I think this Facebook meme is supposed to make you think ‘oh yes, alcohol is just so crazy and fun’ but it actually illustrates my point perfectly: alcohol does not always create good times.
Parties, drinks with friends, romantic meals, holidays, lunches in the sun… they’re all fun in their own right. And if you can’t enjoy those activities sober, why are you doing them?
The columnist Giles Coren is pretty blunt about this. He says, “Don’t tell me booze makes parties go with a swing. If you can’t enjoy a party sober, you should stay home and do origami. And don’t give me ‘it loosens my tongue’ because if you can’t talk without a beer in your hand you should stay silent, for you have nothing to say.”
Harsh but true, right?! (If you want to learn more about the fun myth, check out this blog here.)
Number 3 really hit home with me. My husband keeps saying I don’t need to quit drinking, but I think he’s just worried about losing a drinking buddy. I am going to start making this a priority for me as drinking isn’t doing me any favours. I’ve just had the worst weekend ever, so hungover, so much time wasted. But this is a new week.
I was so worried about others’ reactions. The truth was that people were really… quiet. They either didn’t notice at all (making me realize how much power and attention I was giving to alcohol) or seemed to drop the topic like it was hot. Many just clam up and wait for this “phase” to pass, while your drinking buddies (my husband was my main one) walk on eggshells… not being explicitly discouraging but not terribly psyched about what this might mean for them and for your relationship. The good news is that making your OWN choice for sobriety is a huge step in reclaiming your self, your identity, and your joy… if you’ve lost any of those on the rocky path of life. Thanks for reminding me to care more about what I want than what people want me to be. You can do it! I’ve got 9 months to my name after years of false starts and claiming I’d had my last hangover. Dare to believe in yourself. It’s a beautiful act of courage.
I am in the same boat Ella, and I wonder how much it has to do with himself rather than my own health and happiness.
Go for it Ella and Karen! You have to do this for you. Your partner will soon see that you’re just as much fun without booze – and you’re a lot happier too.
My husband always says I don’t have a problem. He also says it’s fine if I want to quit, it’s up to me. But then he goes out and buys me wine, even when I ask him not to. He thinks he’s looking after me because I’m bound to want it at some stage, but even though he keeps it in his shed fridge, I know it’s there and often give in to temptation.
My husband is the same way!! We are definitely drinking buddies! Plus, with summer approaching, it amazes me how advertisers glorify it! It’s like I’m not cool or hip without the latest cocktail or beer! So happy to have found these sober pages! It really helps!
Ella-I did Kate’s course this Jan. When I told my husband I planned to be AF he found it difficult and I think it was about losing a drinking buddy as well as how we all romanticise about drinking together. In the event I have developed a killer list of AF cocktails (sophisticated drinks not creamy sugary mocktails) and when he started trying those it didn’t seem so bad. These substitute for much of what we shared. We still go to pub and I’ll have an AF beer while he has an ale and he still drinks a bit of wine at home but his consumption has dropped dramatically (I think I was good at pouring it out for both of us before). I haven’t drunk alcohol since the course started and I really love the AF life (would not have believed it before). It’s defintely worth a good try.
My goal is to continue being AF. In my head I think about how I would love to embrace moderation but in my heart I know that won’t be successful for me. I admire those that are AF and the more positive testimonies I hear the more I become positively encouraged to continue my sobriety. One of my concerns at the moment is how incredibly tired I am. More so than ever. I would have expected after 3 weeks of AF I would be bursting with energy. A little demoralising.
Hi Jill, I’m 24 days AF and I’m exhausted all the time which was half the reason I gave up in the first place 🙁 I’m determined to keep going though and hopefully this phase will pass.
This is completely normal. Some people are bursting with energy from Day 1, but others take a while to adjust. Remember, in some circles the process you’re going through is called ‘recovery’. That’s not really a term I use, but it’s pretty appropriate here. Your body is recovering from months (if not years?) of being beaten up by alcohol. That’s an adjustment. Plus, early sobriety requires a lot of mental energy. That can leave you feeling wiped out. Get plenty of rest and early nights. Look after yourself. In the long term, cutting out alcohol is one of the best things you can do for your energy levels, health and well being.
Thanks Kate. I’m hoping it will pass I ‘ve been sleeping loads and the tiredness is definitely easier to deal with than a hangover! I have been following you for a while now and you have helped inspire me. Hoping for 100 days and then hopefully more x
My goal is to stop for all of May! I’m going to see how I feel at the end of it.
New month, new start, new mindset! Go for it Lisa, you won’t regret it 🙂
Me too Lisa, hope I can stick to it. I’ve tried and failed before. I’m calling it Mindful May and making it all about health and wellbeing. Best of luck to us both! 🙂
I did Kate’s course in January and can offer this…. I was exhausted for about 8 weeks and it gradually goes away and is replaced with good sleep and I feel so much better! Also, I haven’t told too many people except my husband that I don’t drink anymore but I quietly take my own drinks to social events and really no one cares. Even those close to me cannot understand because they didn’t realize I had a problem. Sometimes I catch myself thinking “did I really have a problem” and I know I did. Moderation is not in the cards for me and I don’t think it is for anyone. It is a slippery slope and too scary to go there. It is easier to not drink. I don’t count days sober. I just try to live each day and be grateful I found a way to quit drinking!
Thank you for sharing this! I am 17 days AF and I feel exhausted and no matter how tired I am I have had a lot of sleepless nights of tossing and turning. I told myself that I’m sure it’s just a phase and other people must have gone through this too.
It took a month or so before I was sleeping peacefully. I slept alot in the first few weeks but would still wake up sweating and restless. Just give it time. Are you doing Kate’s course? How about listening to the Bubble Hour? It’s great for listening to what others have gone through.
That is exactly how my nights are right now, waking up a lot and sweaty. I am currently not doing her course but have been looking into it for the next start date. I also have not heard of that podcast, I will have to check it out since I have been needing a new podcast to listen to. Reading/hearing what others have gone through is very helpful.
I looked at it with the view that my drinking caused so much restless sleep that my body needed to get the hours back & that’s why you fell so tired. Hope that helps!
That is an excellent point Paula!
Me too, I am 9 days sober and knackered, and am having restless nights. I am not tempted to drink though, my moments of craving come but go again quite quickly. Fizzy water is my saviour.
Thanks Sharon, I am currently doing Kate’s course. The best thing I have done for myself in 59 years. It’s reassuring to hear about the tiredness lasting so long. It feels different to the alcohol induced tiredness though. I don’t count the days either. As Jason Vale says in his book, you don’t count the days AFTER you have been released from jail. It is definitely easier not to drink than spend valuable time and energy planning how and what to drink “moderately” when I know it will just end the same old way. My first thought each morning now is wow another day to enjoy instead of endure. Good luck!
I am 66 and agree that Kate’s course was the best thing I have done for myself. It was the right thing to do at the right time for me. I’m sure you will think so also. I have continued to read, listen to the Bubble Hour and to myself and so far, so good.
I gave up alcohol on April 4, 2018 and feel amazing. I’m sleeping better, less anxiety, clearer mind and totally killing it at work. I had become a daily wine drinker (most days an entire bottle) for almost 9 months. I knew the road I was headed down was not good. I became AF on my own and am just now being around anyone who is drinking.
I’m so pleased about this site and for the support ..I’m a binge drinker I can go 2 weeks without a drink but then one drink turns into 2 Bottles of wine and horrendous hangover I’m determined to stop.
I am a graduate of Kate Bee’s January 2018 class. One of the books she recommends is “Alcohol Explained”. In one chapter there is a great explanation of why some people are binge drinkers, with days between bouts, and some drink every day. Also in terms of “recovery” I had a headache for ten days, was exhausted the first month or so, and had trouble sleeping. But, then I started sleeping uninterrupted, woke up with lots of energy and now I am so happy I am AF! Quit on January 1, best decision ever. It all gets easier, hang in there! And many thanks again to Kate Bee!
Thanks Elle, it’s good to hear from you – I hope you’re well! 🙂
Good for you Christine! I could not do it on my own but didn’t want to go to AA and couldn’t figure out what to do until I heard Kate on the Bubble Hour. Her class was my way to quit.
Great blog Kate. I’m loving your course
Thanks Abby 🙂
I gave up and managed 24 days, apart from feeling very tired it felt manageable but then on Saturday I went to a party and drank copious amounts of wine. Sunday I felt horrendous, so lesson learnt and now I start all over again, new beginnings and hopefully this time I will stay AF.
It sounds as if you’ve learnt a lot from that experience – not least how much better you feel AF. Onwards and upwards Lottie 🙂
I just reached 100 days yesterday & at the beginning never thought i would do another 100 but i think i will. Thanks Kate, i am so far from where i was, the pictures of day 1 to 100 are astounding, but the internal feeling is equally so!! I feel free
That’s brilliant Paula, many congratulations!
So nice to not be exhausted all of the time. Life is so much easier to handle with out hangovers.
I just hit 385 days AF and I can’t believe I got this far. It’s definitely worth it but it’s not easy. I just kept thinking of how bad my hangovers were and that keeps me going.
“I feel you can’t enjoy these activities sober, why are you doing them?” What a good question! I used to go to different events that I didn’t really enjoy, just because I felt obligated to go. I would then find myself drinking, mostly just out of boredom at first. When I started dropping some of these activities and doing mostly things that I enjoy, it became easier to drop the drinking habit too. It is such an obvious thing, once you realize it.
Day 2 of no alcohol May and beyond….I have to start somewhere like NOW. I’m 64 and settled into a bottle ++ habit of wine each night. Mostly by myself so who am I kidding that drinking is fun? I’ve known for a very long time that although a successful business person the nightly escape has prevented me from being my authentic self. I can’t remember the last time I laughed. So here I am. (on the waiting list for the next class)
Hi Denise, I am 64 this year and I have been drinking a bottle of wine ++ every night for about 20 years. I have a full time responsible managerial post. A functioning alcoholic. I too have known for a very long time that I have a problem but it has only just clicked, I cannot ever drink again. I found the book “the unexpected joy of being sober” really helpful. I am on day 9.
Denise, so glad you are going to do the course. I am halfway through and feel like a different person. No more guilt. I have self respect. I wake up happy, haven’t done that for years. I now laugh until I cry. About to turn 60 and hoping for an amazing 20 years or more. Can’t turn back the clock but can make each day count from here on. Plenty of great reading while you wait. The unexpected joy of being sober by Catherine Gray and Kick the drink….easily by Jason Vale are both excellent and reinforce a lot of what you will learn on the course. Good luck.
Similar to myself well done and good luck.
We can do this all the best wendie ☺
So great reading all these comments. Lack of sleep is where I have failed many times in the past. I’ve never been a good sleeper and when I give up wine, I toss and turn all night not able to sleep more than a couple of hours. After a few days or a week of that I say ‘stuff it – I need sleep!’ and go out and buy some wine…….. and yes I sleep. I don’t really get hangovers and like many others have a job, look after my family and am a functioning alcoholic. Now on day 1 and hoping this time I finally nail it. I’ve registered for the next course.
I had a Day 1 on Monday, drank a bottle ++ wine on Day 2 for no reason, just did. Today, Day 1 Wednesday. A bottle of wine is not stronger than I am.
I’m hoping to hear about the wait list class starting in July!
Hi Denise, my first day was supposed to be 1st May and that night I drank two bottles of wine – like you don’t know why just did! Then had my 1st day yesterday and yes tossed and turned and didn’t sleep all night, tension in my chest. First thing my hubby said when I said I’d had a lousy night was ‘you should allow yourself two glasses a night so you sleep’. I can’t moderate! Anyway reading that other’s go through the same is helping. Best of luck with it all 🙂
I can relate to most of everyone’s comments , I am trying not to count days AF as that seems to make me give in and celebrate the days. AF. My hubby is very supportive but like others he’s lost his drinking buddie. I have told him to have what he wants but not to get me anything alcoholic.
He has once or twice brought me non alcohol cider, at first I was worried about trying it, but I tried it one time the cravings were so bad and by the time I had drank one bottle slowly the craving had gone and I didn’t want another one. I don’t want to use this for the cravings as a substitute however if it helps I will use it as a tool. I am determined this time is my time to become AF for good. I know I can never drink in moderation.
Having said this, I’m feeling so wonderful AF , sleeping better, night cramps gone, heads still a bit dipsy but I’m getting there it’s early days
Hello, well another hungover morning where I woke up cringing with embarrassment over something I might of said or done. Can’t remember the whole night. I’m 60 for goodness sakes and know better. I’ve had enough and have signed up for your July course. This is day one of my new life.
I’m 63-days AF and I really thought I’d killed my wine witch but she’s back and I cannot shut her up! My husband keeps saying one won’t hurt and as I have never tried drinking in moderation why not try and stop making myself miserable. In my heart I know I can’t just have one but I just cannot stop thinking about it and I just cannot shut the thoughts out. I have tried the distraction techniques but at the moment it’s just pure will power that’s stopping me and I so want to NOT want to want it anymore. I’m down for the course in July, I just hope I can keep off the bottle till it starts. Anybody else out there feel like this?
I couldn’t relate more. I have blamed my husband as an enabler for years, but I know every single choice I make is my responsibility. I have hated myself and my brain to the point where I was fine with dying at certain points. I only have 1 day today. I’ve had 114 before, 66, 30, and a hundred 7 day stretches. I’m so tired of counting. I’m so sick. But, I want this. Please don’t go to say 1 like me. It just keeps getting worse. My last day (2 days ago) I was drinking at 9:45am. I had never done that before. I’m back. Don’t fall for it. The voice wants you and me dead.