5 Unhelpful Things People Say When You Quit Drinking

5 Unhelpful Things People Say When You Quit Drinking

When you quit drinking, friends and family can be keen to share unhelpful ‘advice’.

Sometimes it’s because they genuinely want to help. Other times it’s because your decision is bringing up stuff for them. 

No matter what their intention, many of the things people say aren’t very helpful to hear. 

And whilst we’re all adults here (so we can make our own decisions!) it’s still pretty off-putting when your nearest and dearest are convinced you’re doing the wrong thing.

Today I want to shine a light on 5 of the most unhelpful pieces of ‘advice’ you might hear if you quit drinking… 

 

1. “Have you tried drinking a bit less?”

It’s hard not to roll your eyes at this one. I mean, doh – of course you’ve tried cutting back already! It’s one of the very first things you did, right? The chances are you’ve tried to moderate again and again, but nothing works consistently.

What really sucks about this question is the implication that you should be able to drink a bit less, if you kept trying, or if you were more like the person asking the question. But as I’ve explained many times on this blog (here and here) moderation rarely works, so don’t waste your time on it. 

 

2. “Are you being realistic?” 

Let me guess: you’ve finally decided to take a proper break from drinking so you can test drive sobriety properly. (This is a great idea, as I explain here.) And then all of a sudden, someone voices one of your deepest fears. Is it realistic? Will you be able to do it? 

I think this unhelpful question comes from a well-intentioned place, but it ignores one important point: repeatedly trying to moderate isn’t realistic either! Trying to exercise control over a mind-altering drug that zaps your willpower is never going to be a recipe for success.

 

3. “But you’re not an alcoholic! You drink the same as me!”

Far too many people think there are just two types of drinkers: ‘normal drinkers’ and raging alcoholics. As long as you’re not in the second category, then you’re fine… right? This is totally wrong and unhelpful. You don’t need to wait until things get ‘bad enough’ for you to quit. 

Keep in mind that the only person who really knows how alcohol makes you feel, is you. Your decision to quit might make other people feel uncomfortable about their own drinking, but this is not your responsibility. You can’t control this, so don’t let it hold you back. 

 

4. “Is this a good time to be doing this?”

You want the honest answer to this question? No, it’s probably not the right time. In fact, it’s never going to be the ‘right time’ because no such thing exists. There will always be a reason to wait. There will always be a birthday or a holiday, an anniversary or a special occasion coming up. 

The reason this question is so unhelpful is because part of you is already thinking it. So when someone else voices it too, it gives that line of thinking even more power. Don’t let that happen! Whilst there isn’t a ‘perfect’ time to quit, there’s never a bad time to let go of a drug that’s holding you back. 

 

5. “Are you still going to be fun?” 

This question is pretty insulting. The not-so-subtle implication is that you need a drug like alcohol in order to be interesting. As I explained in this blog post, the contents of your glass do not dictate whether you are fun or will have fun. 

All this question does is reveal the limiting beliefs of the person asking it. It’s a discreet way of pressuring you to fit in and act as you always have done. Please don’t let other people’s discomfort keep you stuck, or repeating behaviours that are not working for you. 


If you’d like some help to quit drinking and create an alcohol-free life you love, click here for details of my online course.

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Why You Don’t Need To Quit Drinking Forever

Why You Don’t Need To Quit Drinking Forever

“I know I need to stop… but I don’t think I can quit drinking forever.”

I hear this a lot. And it doesn’t surprise me. I mean, ‘forever’ is a long time, right? It’s pretty hard to get your head around.

People often want to know whether it’s ok to feel like this. Is it a sign that they’re not ready? Should they wait until they feel more committed? 

Rest assured, getting freaked out by the ‘forever’ word is totally normal!

 

Here’s why you don’t need to quit drinking forever (and what to do instead)

 

How do you measure ‘forever’?

The first problem with the F-word is this: how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Quitting ‘forever’ means you’re committing to stay sober until you die. This means you’re never going to have the satisfaction of reaching your goal, because you won’t be around to know that you did it! 

 

The F-word can make you feel deprived

Here’s a silly example. I don’t particularly like celery. I don’t hate it, but I feel pretty ‘meh’ about it. However, if you told me I could never, ever eat it again, I’d probably find a way to feel a bit deprived about that. I’d instinctively dig my heels in. Soon I’d be fantasising about how great celery is.

Even if you’re the one deciding that you’re going to quit drinking forever, committing to such a big goal can make you feel out of control. And once sobriety feels overwhelming and unachievable, you might not take any action at all. 

 

Take a break instead

Here’s what I recommend: ditch the idea of needing to quit drinking forever, and take a proper break from booze instead. By this I mean stopping for more than a couple of days – it needs to be at least one month, but ideally three.

This gives you time to test drive sobriety properly and fully experience alcohol-free living, whilst feeling safe in the knowledge that it’s not permanent. At the end of your break you can review the situation and decide what you want to do next. You’re in control. 

 

Why taking a break works

It takes time for a new habit to bed in (66 days, according to some). If you only ever quit for a few days here and there, you won’t learn anything. In fact, all you’re doing is making yourself repeat the hardest bit of sobriety again and again. 

The author Clare Pooley has a great explanation of this concept here. If you want to get to the sunshine and fluffy bunnies, you must give sobriety a fair chance and stick with it long enough to reach the benefits – hence my suggestion of a 3 month break. 

 

Do your sober homework

Be proactive during your break and educate yourself about alcohol and how it works. For example, you’ll want to get clear on why you’ve been drinking, and give yourself time to find some sober tools. (These are alternative coping mechanisms, to help you deal with the ups and downs of life, sober.)

Doing this stuff takes a little while – it’s very different to white-knuckling things and hoping for the best. So give yourself the time and space to make a proper go of it. (I was on the Euphoric Alcohol-Free podcast talking about the importance of sober homework, if you want to check that out here.)

 

What happens at the end of your break?

Ah… the million dollar question. What next? Well – it’s completely up to you. Maybe you go back to drinking. Or maybe you don’t. To be honest, you can’t lose either way. Even if you start drinking again and regret your decision, you will still have learnt so much.

I have an online stop drinking course called Getting Unstuck. What most of my students do is finish the class and then set another goal. They might commit to another six weeks, or they might be thinking months ahead. Everyone’s different. 

Once they’ve reached their second goal, they’ll set another. And maybe another. They’ll keep moving forward, goal by goal, until they reach a point where their sobriety isn’t even up for discussion – it’s just what they do. It’s become a way of life they love.

 

One break could lead to so much

In 2013 I took a 100 day break, not knowing what would happen at the end. Today I’m six and a half years sober! Quitting drinking is undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. However, I still haven’t said I’m going to quit drinking forever. 

Just to be clear: you couldn’t pay me enough to drink alcohol. I don’t have any cravings or desire for it. I can’t picture any situation in which I’d want to drink again. And yet, for all the reasons I explained earlier, I still think ‘forever’ is a meaningless and hard-to-measure concept.

So that’s why I don’t like to use the F word. Unless you find it motivating and useful, you don’t need to use it either. 

 

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How To Overcome The “I’m No Fun Without Alcohol” Myth

How To Overcome The “I’m No Fun Without Alcohol” Myth

Can you have fun without alcohol?

Before I quit drinking, I thought being sober meant signing up for a lifetime of feeling bored and awkward at parties whilst everyone else enjoyed themselves. 

Perhaps you’ve been thinking this too. At this time of year, I often hear from people who want to quit, but they’re worried about the holiday season, which is just around the corner. 

How can you join in with all the parties and celebrations – and have a good time – if you’re sober?


If you fear you won’t be able to have fun without alcohol, here’s what I want you to do:

 

1. Watch your thinking

“It must’ve been a good night if I can’t remember it!” We live in a boozy world and most of us have been conditioned to think that alcohol = fun. Therefore, not drinking must mean not having fun, surely?

Yet when we stop and think about this, we can see it’s not that straightforward. I bet there have been plenty of times when you’ve drunk a lot and yet haven’t been happy. If alcohol was the vital ingredient to having fun, shouldn’t it work all the time? 

 

2. Get clear on what ‘fun’ means to you

Most of us don’t ever think about what really makes something fun. So, stop and do it now. What is it that makes a party, place, person, activity or hobby actually fun? It’s quite a difficult question to answer, because we’re all different, right? 

The things that bring me joy may sound like hell to you, because we have different tastes and personalities. We’re all unique. So that makes it even more bizarre that culturally, we’ve settled on this belief that you can’t have fun without alcohol.

 

3. What makes you more likely to have fun?

I know that I’m more likely to have fun when I’m feeling positive and at ease; when my focus is outside of myself. When I’m wrapped up in my own thoughts, or feeling bad and comparing myself to others, I’m less likely to have a good time in a social situation. 

Most of us are in the habit of using alcohol as a quick way to switch focus and get into a frame of mind that’s more conducive to having fun. So rather than us actively changing our state of mind, we try and outsource that job to alcohol. 

 

4. Pay attention to your thoughts

Our thoughts influence our feelings, and our feelings influence our ability to have fun. If you’re sober and caught up in thoughts like, “I’m no fun anymore” and “these people are better than me” then that is going to affect your enjoyment and perception of an event.

And then guess what happens? When you stop feeling good, your brain stores this information as ‘evidence’ that your suspicions were true – you can’t have fun without alcohol. So the whole cycle keeps continuing, and what you believe to be true keeps coming true, such is the power of your thoughts.

Breaking out of this pattern is where the real work of sobriety is. When you start choosing more helpful thoughts (such as, “people want to connect with me. I have interesting things to say, no matter what’s in my glass”) it changes your perception of the event. 

 

5. Take responsibility for having fun

As kids, we spend most of our time creating fun. We play games. We’re not just sitting around, waiting for fun to happen to us. As adults we tend to lean more towards consuming fun, which means looking for something outside of ourselves to entertain us, e.g. booze. 

Consuming fun is a very passive activity. When we say things like, “this won’t be fun without alcohol” what we’re doing is waiting for fun to come and present itself to us, without us having to actually do anything. If having fun is important to you, it’s worth considering your role in creating it. 

 

6. If sobriety really was boring, no one would do it!

This is an important note to end on. If sobriety truly was the miserable, non-fun existence it’s stereotyped to be, then I would not be smiling in any of the pictures on this website. I would’ve given up long ago, and gone back to drinking instead. 

Remember: our brains like to do easy things, but easy things aren’t always the best things for us. It’s normal to find this stuff tough to start with, so give yourself the time and space to properly experiment with socialising sober. You need to do it – and keep doing it – before reaching any conclusions. 

 

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.

 

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8 Myths About Non-Drinkers (And Why They’re Wrong)

8 Myths About Non-Drinkers (And Why They’re Wrong)

There are so many myths about non-drinkers and what it’s like to be sober.

It leads to questions like this:

“So… how do you have fun then?
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Is it because you’re religious?”
“I bet you still miss drinking.”
“Do you go to bars anymore?”

Since I stopped drinking, I’ve been asked ALL of these questions. Several times!

The problem is that these assumptions get repeated so often, they become ingrained in our culture and accepted as facts. 

Today I want to dispel a few of the most common, crazy myths about non-drinkers.

Don’t let this nonsense hold you back from a hangover-free lifestyle!

 

Myth 1: We constantly pine for alcohol 

I’ve been sober for more than 6 years and I never, ever miss it. Seriously. I’m not ‘battling the demon drink’ or ‘taking it one day at a time’. I’m not moping around, feeling as if my life lacks that special something. 

I have no more desire to drink than I do to smoke cigarettes, take heroin or stick a fork in my eye. And I know lots of other non-drinkers who feel exactly the same way. 

Once you cut through the social conditioning and educate yourself about booze, you start to see alcohol for what it really is – a beautifully packaged, brain-bending substance that delivers an artificial high, followed by a giant, soul-sucking low.

 

Myth 2: We all go to meetings

AA just doesn’t work for everyone. One of the reasons I created  The Sober School (and my stop drinking course, Getting Unstuck) is because I wanted people to have more options. There is no ‘right’ way of quitting drinking – one pathway to recovery is never going to suit everyone.

You don’t have to go to meetings and you don’t have to label yourself. You can simply decide to stop drinking. Some people do it on their own, while others use books, counsellors or seek out help online.

 

Myth 3: We miss our old life

One of the reasons I stopped drinking was because I had a nagging feeling that I’d lived the same year twice; I was making the exact same mistakes and repeating the same frustrations and struggles.

When I look back on my drinking days, I don’t miss them at all. What stands out is how boring, dull and repetitive they were – nothing like my life is now. The sober version of me gets up to much more exciting things!

 

Myth 4: We must’ve hit rock bottom

Some people do have a dramatic rock bottom – a wake up call they can’t ignore. However, just as many don’t. Most non drinkers have just quietly decided to quit because they didn’t like the way alcohol was making them feel. 

If you suspect that you might be better off without booze (and it’s ok if you’re not sure) then that is reason enough to take a break for a while. I wrote more about the myth of rock bottom right here.

 

Myth 5: We judge people who do drink

One thing I’ve noticed is that most non-drinkers are pretty open minded – after all, we’ve been there and done it ourselves. Personally, I have no problem with other people drinking. If alcohol is working for you, then great.

The only time I have an issue with other drinkers is if they make my sobriety an issue. The contents of my glass are not their business. So if they turn it into a big deal, it tends to reveal a lot about them and their relationship with alcohol.

 

Myth 6: Our lives are really dull now

One of the biggest myths about non-drinkers is that our lives become boring, because we’re no longer using a drug like alcohol. There’s an assumption that life without booze is ‘less’ somehow; less fun, less intense, less everything. 

In fact, the opposite is true. The only thing ‘missing’ in my sober life are the killer hangovers, and I’m fine with that. Alcohol-free living gives you the time, energy and headspace to craft a life you genuinely love. One that’s so good, you don’t need to numb yourself from it. 

 

Myth 7: We’re not interested in parties / clubs / bars

You can be sober and still like dancing, good music and the company of other humans. And if that happens to be in a bar or at a party, then so be it! Being sober does not mean living like a loser and never going out or having fun. 

It is incredibly satisfying to have an amazing night out and know that a) you’ve created some great memories that you’ll remember clearly and b) the way you’re feeling is all genuine, because your feelings haven’t been chemically altered in any way. 

 

Myth 8: We’re happy to make do with any old drink

I might not drink alcohol anymore, but I still have taste buds! I love the ritual of having a nice drink to unwind with at the end of the day – something that looks and feels feels special. 

Fortunately, the alcohol-free drinks market is booming right now. High-end bars are serving delicious, alcohol-free drinks that are made with as much care and attention as the cocktails. Even my local pub has acquired an impressive range of ‘grown up’ soft drinks. Times are changing!

 

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10 Unexpected Benefits Of Quitting Drinking

10 Unexpected Benefits Of Quitting Drinking

If you’ve been toying with the idea of going alcohol-free for a while, you’ve probably already thought about the benefits of quitting drinking.

There are the obvious things, such as waking up hangover free (that never gets old!) saving money and making the most of your free time. 

Then there’s the fact that you’ll probably look better, gain energy and you might even lose a pound or two.

But to be honest, those well-known side effects are just the beginning.

The benefits of quitting drinking go much deeper than that…

 

1. You’ll care less about what other people think

When drinking is the norm, sobriety requires you to go against the grain and stand out from the crowd. This can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, especially for those of us who’ve spent a long time trying to ‘fit in’. 

However, once you’ve done one brave and hard thing, it’s much easier to do more. Before you know it, you’re making decisions based on what feels right for you, rather than what you think you ‘should’ do. 

 

2. Being sober will make you feel strong and proud

Before I quit, I thought sobriety would make me feel boring, weird or like some kind of failure. This is not the case. Doing the thing you thought you couldn’t do (which so many others can’t even contemplate) is a real boost to your confidence. 

 

3. Your sense of what’s possible changes

When you’re drinking, it’s easy to just accept the status quo or fall into a pattern of saying “No, I couldn’t do that.” Sobriety changes that perspective, forcing you to reassess what’s possible and figure out what you really want.

I have a secret Facebook group for women who’ve graduated from my stop drinking course, so I get to see what they’re doing with their alcohol-free lifestyle. It’s brilliant to hear about all the amazing things they get up to, because their beliefs about what they can achieve have been altered. 

 

4. You can show up for the people you care about 

When you’re alcohol free, you can ferry the kids around without feeling annoyed that it’s interrupting your drinking time. You don’t need to rush through their bedtime routine so you can get back to your drink. You don’t have to cancel your weekend plans because you feel ill. 

It’s so much easier to do the things that matter – and follow through on your good intentions – when you’re not feeling hungover or preoccupied by booze. 

 

5. You can figure out what really makes you happy 

Society has conditioned us to believe that drinking brings joy, and therefore sobriety will make us miserable. Yet when we step back and think about this, we can see it’s nonsense. If alcohol truly made us happy, you’d never meet a miserable drinker (and you probably wouldn’t be reading this!) 

One of the benefits of quitting drinking is that you get to work out what truly brings you joy as an adult (if you’ve been drinking for a long time, you might not know). You also get the opportunity to work on the underlying issues that drove you to drink in the first place. 

 

6. You’ll get clearer about who you want in your life

Sobriety is a great filter. When you remove this distracting, mind-altering substance from your life, it becomes a lot easier to see what is and isn’t working. Without alcohol papering over the cracks, some relationships won’t seem quite so solid, whilst others will feel much stronger than you anticipated. Either way, the blinkers are off and that is a good thing. 

 

7. You find out who you really are 

If you’ve spent decades thinking “Oh, I need a few drinks before I can do that” then the chances are you have a lot to learn about yourself. It is fascinating to get sober and discover that you’re not quite as shy as you thought and you can network without alcohol. 

If you’ve spent years (or even decades) relying on alcohol to get you through awkward situations, you won’t know what you’re truly capable of yet. I bet you surprise yourself. 

 

8. You have more options 

When you’re sober, you can drive yourself home from a night out. You can pick a restaurant based on the food, rather than the wine menu. You can give your partner your full attention, rather than keeping one eye on the bottle. And you can stay out late and still get stuff done the next day, because you’re not hungover. 

When we talk about sobriety, we tend to focus solely on the thing that’s being taken away, rather than the benefits of quitting drinking. Yet by removing alcohol from the picture, what we’re really doing is creating space for lots more options, choices and benefits. 

 

9. You’re fully present 

I think it’s interesting that alcohol adverts often promote booze as a way to connect. In my experience, drinking tends to make us less connected. You might be physically present but mentally, it can be a whole different story. 

When alcohol steals our focus, we miss the subtler stuff – the special moments that make life what it is. We get short changed on memories. It doesn’t matter how many photos you take on a special occasion, nothing is going to be as good as being able to remember it yourself. 

 

10. You’re free to live your best life

As a sobriety coach, the big thing I’ve noticed is that many women drinkers simply aren’t living their lives the way they want to. They’ve lost confidence in themselves. They don’t have the energy to do the things they used to love. They can’t focus on their goals, hopes or dreams because booze keeps holding them back. 

Cutting out alcohol is about so much more than just not drinking. It’s about removing a roadblock to happiness and giving yourself the chance to live life fully. And trust me, there is so much life available on the other side of alcohol. 

 

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.

 

Download your free Wine O'Clock Survival Guide!

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