Ah, the beauty of hindsight! It makes everything look so different.
I quit drinking in 2013 and back then, I had so many misconceptions about alcohol-free living and what it was going to be like (and what it said about me).
There’s so much stuff I know now, that I wish I’d realised sooner… because it would’ve made things a lot easier.
Here are 5 things I wish I’d known before I quit drinking:
It’s not going to be hard work forever
Changing any habit requires effort in the early days, and sobriety is no different – it will take up a fair bit of energy and brain space to start with. However, it’s really important that you don’t let your mind run away with you. It isn’t always going to feel like this.
In the long term, alcohol free living is a doddle – it’s perfect for anyone who wants an easy life. Seriously, if it required ongoing willpower I’m sure I wouldn’t have stuck with it! Nowadays I think that continuing to drink is the harder choice. Hangovers aren’t for wimps, are they?
There’s more than one way to quit drinking
One of the reasons I set up The Sober School is because I never got on with AA. It wasn’t a good fit for me, for many reasons. However, the message I kept hearing from other people was that you ‘should’ go to AA. You ‘should’ work the 12 steps. And you ‘should’ declare yourself an alcoholic.
I’m now more than 6 years sober and I’m adamant about this: you don’t ‘have’ to do anything. If AA isn’t your cup of tea, go and find something that is. Sign up to an online course like mine. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Join a Facebook group. We’re all different, so experiment and see what works best for you.
It’s easier when you stop questioning the decision
Toing and froing over whether or not you should quit is exhausting. It grinds you down and keeps you stuck. It is so much easier to make one firm decision and give it 100%, rather than endlessly wondering if you’re doing the right thing.
But that doesn’t mean you need to be ready to quit ‘forever’. Instead I recommend taking a break from booze for a defined period, e.g. six weeks. That gives you something to focus on and work towards, whilst still feeling in control.
At the end of your break you can decide what to do next, having given yourself the chance to experience sobriety properly. Taking a complete break is much better than just stopping for a few days each week (I wrote more about that here).
Other people might need time to adjust
Let me be clear here – if someone has a big problem with you not drinking, then the chances are they’re not a true friend. They’re just a disappointed drinking buddy. However, I bet there will be other people in your life who react strangely to your sobriety to begin with, but come good in the end.
A lot of people were surprised when I quit drinking, because I kept the worst of it fairly well hidden. When people are caught off guard, they’re more likely to make clumsy, insensitive comments, so don’t read too much into people’s initial reactions. Just give them a bit of time to adjust.
Mindset REALLY matters
When I look back on my previous (unsuccessful) attempts at quitting, what really stands out is my mindset. I was convinced sobriety would be awful, so I constantly looked for evidence that proved that to be the case. I was annoyed I couldn’t control alcohol, and I felt weak and resentful.
By the time I quit drinking in 2013, my attitude had begun to shift. I’d realised just how much I was losing by continuing to drink. Sobriety was starting to feel less like ‘missing out’ and more like letting go of something that wasn’t working – a bit like breaking up with a bad ex.
So pay close attention to your mindset and inner beliefs. Treat sobriety as a lifestyle upgrade and be open to it being far better than you imagined. You have so much to gain, and so little to lose 🙂
If you’d like some help to stop drinking and create an alcohol-free life you love, click here for details of my online course.
I took your October course and at the end of this month I will be 1 year AF!! I’ve learned so much about myself over this year. For me the big thing is that drinking made my anxiety worse. I had really thought the wine was helping, but it wasn’t! These days I feel so much better in general, and I know my family are proud of me.
Congratulations Lisa! I’m so pleased to hear what a difference sobriety has made to your life. You’ll be celebrating that one year milestone in no time! ❤️
I could not do aa thought it was definitely not for me . I am not religious it would never have worked . I gave up alcohol I’m 2007 . I had detox in a professional clinic . I still suffer with depression and anxiety and ocd but have not had one drink since 2007 . People think it is weird not to drink . I feel like saying it is more weird to fall asleep on a toilet in a pub in the middle of the day. My kids respect me . I am successful and have my own home and a great job . I do not have a man but it is better than being with the wrong one . I’m lonely but never ever want to reach for that poison that ruined my life
I want to thank you for your ongoing supporting weekly emails. I quit alcohol for 100 days with my last sober day being the day before we went to France for two weeks. I never had any intention of staying sober on holiday but my attitude towards it was certainly different. My tipple is red wine however I drank rose for two weeks and much less of it than I would normally drink (usually a bottle – maybe more of red most evenings) I didn’t get drunk once and actually enjoyed my time ‘sipping’ rather than glugging. Fast forward one week and I have drank 1.5 bottles of red since being home and I feel like rubbish. I have only drank two nights but I have woke at around 3am each time with the dreaded panicked feeling, stressing about ALL the things that are worrying me in my life.
Last night was my last drink – I’ve finally come to the realisation that it just isn’t for me anymore. It’s so very bad for my mental wellbeing. Whilst sober I am clearer and can rationalise with myself when I am worrying overly about something that I can’t control. I can’t control the worrying or stressing or general feeling of anxiety when I’ve had a drink or being drinking the night before. It’s my time to stop now and I wanted to thank you as your website and blogs were why I stopped for 100 days and have now helped me make one of the most important decisions I will ever make in my life – to remove alcohol completely, for good.
Thanks Kate x
It sounds as if you’ve learned a lot from this experience Katie, and got clear on what you really want. It would be useful for you to spend some time exploring why you drank on holiday and what it is you felt you were missing out on. Otherwise, that same pull to drink will simply resurface again at a later date. If you need any support to do this deeper work, and create an alcohol free life you truly love, I’d be happy to help. My next course starts soon – here are some details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
I wish I knew how fab being alcohol free is, if I had known I would have done it sooner. 1 year and 5 months alcohol free!
That is fantastic! Congratulations Louise 🙂
I wish i’d given up sooner too, i’m Almost 7 weeks sober and it feels amazing! I can so relate to your point about how continuing to drink is harder work than quitting it’s so true I feel free to concentrate on other things instead of thinking shall I drink tonight? I would recommend quitting drinking to anyone!!
Well done on your 7 weeks Kirsteen! It sounds as if alcohol free living suits you 🙂
Yes. Especially that it gets so much easier. I used to be miserable parenting on the days I didn’t drink, just more short tempered and irritable. Parenting is so much easier sober! My moods are more even, I’m more interested in fun things to do with the kids because I have more energy not drinking wine at night. It’s just incredible. I’m still navigating my extended family, they really didn’t understand why I quit and honestly I think some of my sisters don’t believe I’ll never drink again. But almost six months in, I am more proud of my sobriety and less bothered by what anyone else does or thinks. Still hard though sometimes.
Sorry didn’t mean to hit reply, meant to do a new comment!
Well done for pushing through the trickier times Chloe – and many congratulations on your 6 months! It sounds as if sobriety suits you 🙂
It’s so true Chloe (My daughters name BTW) Parenting is way more easier when you are fully sober. I wasn’t an alcoholic but I definitely was getting into the area of problem drinking, especially on weekends. Even though I would function with a hangover I wasn’t giving my kids 100% on the day I should be doing the most with them. This is the big reason I quit. Now I find I’m way more levelheaded and reasonable and I am doing way more with them. Best decision I think I’ve ever made because they wont be young for long, and like most things relating to time, you only get one shot at being as good as you could be.
Kate so funny to have your blog pop up on just drinking from Monday through Thursday. That’s where I was last week. I continued my bottle of wine per day through the 3 day weekend and now I have to start all over with the restless sleep. I have put my name in for your September on line course. I hope I can get in. I am attempting to put my faith to work that I can do this. I have a lot of drinking friends which that is what we do when we get together. Challenging at least. Thank you for your support
I’m glad this resonated with you, and I look forward to working with you Barbara 🙂
I managed to go 46 days alcohol free earlier on this year, and felt so many benefits during that time. I felt calmer, like an inner peace, healthier, got more into the gym and lost some weight, better sleep. Generally there weren’t any negatives to it at all. However somehow I gradually slipped back into drinking, increasing over the summer, my patience has gone again, I’ve got no energy so not been good with the gym. Have put weight back on and already some of the clothes I was pleased I was fitting back into are now too small again, and generally feel miserable and rubbish! This all speaks for itself yet I’m still struggling to get myself into gear to stop again. It’s such a horrible evil thing that makes life so much harder so why is it such a battle!
Thank you Julia. I am on day three and already thoughts that i’m ok and can drink one day this week are creeping in.. the truth is I’m scared to death of doing life sober but determined to try for 3 months. Thank you for your share it will give me strength to get through the weekend!
Realising that my comment has done someone else some good and given them a boost of strength is a good feeling! Don’t let those thoughts take you over Barbara, the best tip I have read from Kate when wanting a drink is to visualise actually having that drink, in reality, not the romanticised version we try to trick ourselves with … will it really taste as good as you think, how will you feel, not fresh clear headed and calm, will you really control yourself…. or will it escalate and end up affecting the day after too feeling tired, hungover and worst of all disappointed in yourself!
I agree with you about feeling apprehensive at the thought of life without alcohol, but when we already know how rubbish it makes us feel etc. I don’t actually know why we worry about missing that, makes no sense does it!!
I felt thoroughly fed up with myself yesterday but thought right, just crack on with putting it right then and start again, so today is day 1
Good luck Barbara, keep going
I’m 41 years old and have attempted to quit many times. I always gave in to cravings because it is HARD and in weak moments it always seemed easier to drink. I like your point about it not being hard forever, that’s good to know. My mind set feels different this time. I look forward to the challenge of dealing with cravings. I have been sober 15 days – aiming for 100 – and I know from past experience that things could get difficult in the next couple of weeks. I’m very glad I found The Sober School because it is giving me somewhere to turn, to read, to learn. It is so far providing me with a very useful and supportive tool and I’m feeling well prepared for the coming weeks. Something I have realised this time that I never had before is that I have been misdirecting my fear and apprehension. I would look warily at the bottle shop as I walked past. I would panic at the sight of a bottle or an alcohol advertisement. This time I have realised it is not the fault of alcohol, I have given it too much power. It is an inanimate object, a vessel full of poisonous liquid. I need to direct my focus to ME and how I deal with it, mentally and physically. I’m lucky that my husband doesn’t drink and I know my family would not question my decision not to drink but at the same time none of them understand what I go through and I’m sure it is frustrating for them (why doesn’t she just stop and stop ruining her life?) Thank you for giving me a place to vent and to read the struggles of people going through a similar experience and being able to nod along as I read as I have felt the same way. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone because in my own world I can sometimes feel very alone
You make a great point about not giving alcohol too much power. Congratulations on your 15 days Adrienne. If you need any more support to hit your 100 day target, my next course is starting soon. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Keep going! 🙂
I know everything you have written is true… I’ve done 10 weeks alcohol free and while it wasn’t easy my life certainly improved- physically and mentally. My biggest problem is social anxiety and that is when I really like to have a drink. I am moderating but it is a constant battle. What to do?
Hi Lynne, moderation rarely works in the long term – I wrote a blog post explaining more about this: https://thesoberschool.com/control-drinking/
During your 10 week stint, did you do plenty of work on tackling the root causes behind your drinking, looking at the deep seated beliefs you have about alcohol, and what it can offer you? For example, we know that alcohol is scientifically proven to make anxiety worse, so if I was coaching you I’d want to deep dive your thoughts around this and help you look at some better strategies for overcoming anxiety. If you’re interested in joining my next course, you don’t have too long to wait. Here are some details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/