Oh, the beauty of hindsight! It makes everything look so completely and utterly different, doesn’t it? When I think back to those first few days and weeks of early sobriety, I could have saved myself a lot of worry and heartache if I knew then, what I know now. I had SO many misconceptions about alcohol-free living. I think that if I’d had the right information, it might have been less of a struggle. So this week I thought I’d share a few of the things I wish someone had told me when I first quit.
Sobriety is what you make of it.
This is the most important one. Changing any habit is tough at first, but you can choose to focus on what you’re losing, or what you’re gaining. If you feel sobriety is just about removing something from your life and learning to live with the gap that’s left behind, then it will always be hard. If you can flip your mindset and focus on the opportunities you’re gaining, then it can be a very positive, uplifting experience. Yes, sobriety is full-on and scary sometimes – but nothing extraordinary ever happens within your comfort zone, does it? The best advice I ever got was this: sobriety is about figuring out how to build a life that is so great, you don’t need mind altering drugs to cope with it. When you put it like that, it’s hard to see alcohol-free living as anything but a good thing.
It’s your motivation, not your method, that counts.
There isn’t one way of getting sober so don’t let anyone tell you that you’re ‘not doing it right’. You don’t have to go to meetings unless you want to. You don’t have to define yourself in a certain way. The only thing you really need is the motivation to change. How you go about it is up to you.
It’s easier when you stop questioning the decision.
‘Normal’ drinkers do not spend their days wondering whether they should stop drinking – trust me on this one. So give yourself a fighting chance and stop thinking about whether you really need to quit. If you could control your drinking, you would have done so by now. Toing and froing over the decision is really tiring and it wears you down. A good way around this is to decide you’ll review the situation at a later date, after a 10 – 12 week break.
Not everyone will care that you’ve stopped drinking.
Yes, some people will make a big deal out of it. But for every tiny-brained idiot, there will be someone else who really isn’t bothered at all. You will tell them and they will respond with zero interest! I wasted such a lot of time worrying about other people’s reactions; I made it a much bigger deal than it needed to be.
You aren’t a weak-willed loser.
I remember feeling annoyed that I seemed to be able to control my finances, my weight and my diet, yet in this one area I lacked discipline. Nowadays, I come at this from a completely different perspective. Why should anyone be able to control their intake of a mind-altering, willpower-killing drug? It’s madness. With other addictive substances (e.g.tobacco, heroin, legal highs) we just assume that people will get addicted because the drugs themselves are addictive. With alcohol, we do this strange thing of blaming the drinker instead. (I feel annoyed every time I see an advert that says ‘please drink responsibly.’ There is no such thing as ‘responsible’ drinking, not when it comes to brain-bending poisons.) I think quitting drinking is a very un-loser like thing to do. It’s exactly the same as choosing not to eat cheap takeaway food. You’re simply deciding not to put crap in your body.
What do you wish you’d known when you stopped drinking?
I’d love to hear from you on this – what are the things you wish you’d been told? What would you have loved to have known?
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