Has trying to stop drinking ever made you feel like a bit of a failure?
Maybe you’ve promised you’ll quit more times than you can count.
Maybe you do great during the week, but you slip up on Friday nights.
Maybe you’re so scared of not being able to quit, you can’t bring yourself to get started.
I get it – I’ve been there.
But before you write yourself off as a failure and decide that alcohol-free living is ‘impossible’, there are two important things that you need to check first…
Are you doing the same thing over and over?
This is a mistake a LOT of people make. Every time they decide to quit, they promise to stop drinking… but that’s about it. They don’t do anything else. They don’t think about why they drink. They don’t have a plan for what they’ll do when cravings strike. They don’t set up a support system or find a community of likeminded people.
Instead, they just keep trying to battle through on willpower alone!
Think about it: if you were training for a big race, would you make up a running plan as you went along? It’s unlikely. And if you were struggling, would you keep on doing the same thing, over and over? Or would you mix things up and seek out help, advice and support?
I know that ‘failing’ hurts and it’s tempting to just block it all out and forget about it.
But that approach means you miss out on a valuable opportunity to really observe what’s working and what isn’t. Analyse what triggered you to drink – if that same scenario comes up again, how would you handle it differently? How could you plan for it?
A big part of successful sobriety is building a brilliant sober toolbox.
This is something I talk to my students about all the time. (Sober tools are alternative coping mechanisms that help you deal with the ups and downs of life without booze.) Everyone’s different and sometimes it takes a little while to find the tools that really work for you – that’s why you’ve got to keep going and keep experimenting.
“The ‘I’ve tried everything’ story ensures failure. You must create an empowering story that recognizes that everyone has failed a lot but successful people have found a way to rebound until they succeed.”
Be proactive and plan ahead.
For example, if you haven’t really talked to your partner about your drinking – and they keep expecting you to drink with them – now’s a good time to manage expectations and talk about what you’re doing. (You don’t need to ask for their approval, just their support.)
And if there’s a part of your day that keeps tripping you up, now’s the time to troubleshoot it.
What can you do to make things easier or handle life a bit differently? I’ve coached stay at home mums, chief executives, women juggling busy jobs and family life… it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, there is always a way to do this.
Are you keeping a sense of perspective?
What do Steve Jobs, JK Rowling, Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey all have in common? Well, they all had spectacular failings in the past. They had to overcome significant setbacks and force themselves to keep going, even when the odds were stacked against them.
My point is, anyone who is successful and who accomplishes a lot in life is bound to “fail” along the way.
Whenever we try and do something great (and sobriety truly is GREAT) then we’re bound to hit resistance, setbacks and challenges. That’s just how it goes.
“Failure isn’t something to be embarrassed about; it’s just proof that you’re pushing your limits, trying new things, daring to innovate.”
Failure simply means you’re taking action and putting yourself out there.
If we only ever did things that we knew we’d succeed at, then we wouldn’t get very far in life would we? We’d just stay the same. We’d stay in our comfort zone, never growing, never changing, never doing anything vaguely uncomfortable. Trust me, there are lots of people who quietly feel very unhappy about their drinking, but they never do anything about it. Be proud that you aren’t like that!
It takes courage and persistence to change an ingrained habit.
And yes – it can be scary and frustrating at times. But what’s the alternative? Your only other option is to carry on drinking and carry on feeling miserable.
Remember, success isn’t about doing things perfectly and without failure.
True success is about picking yourself back up after you fall and having the determination to try again. So: keep your setbacks in perspective. See them for what they really are: a lesson learned and a step forward on the path to success.
Thanks Kate, I really needed to read this today. I’m starting over (again) but feeling determined to stay on track.
You’re welcome – keep going 🙂
I can not thank you enough for those words today. Perfect timing for me as I had been AF for 61 days and then I went and did it for a night. Now on day 6. Very frustrated with myself. It wasn’t even as good or relaxing or tasty as I remembered. Anyway, Thank you so much for not giving up on us. Today’s post from you was such a gift.
Hi Megan I’m Debbie and I know that feeling. We have to be strong and have faith in ourselves. This forum and Kate’s kind and encouraging emails has been a massive part of my road to recovery then and now. Stick with it as i know you can be successful in your journey to recovery. I wish you all the best.
Debbie! Thank you so much for your kind, encouraging message..it means so much. I am now on day 8 moving onwards. Thank you again and hoping you are happy and successful in your AF journey!
You’ll get back on track in no time. It’s good that it wasn’t a positive experience – there’s a lot to learn from that. Onwards and upwards.
Thank you! Back on day 8! Relieved for only 1 evening setback I guess. Anyway, I love you and this site! Thank you!
I’ve finally taken the plunge to take a positive stand with my drinking and become alcohol free and I can’t tell you how motivating your website is. I’ve been searching for encouragement and words from people who understand exactly what I’m going through and this is it! I can’t tell you how much better it has made me feel to realise that I am not alone.
I’ve been drinking for years and it has always been a way of life for both my husband and myself but alas the drinking has increased dramatically and the feelings of self loathing with it as well. I know I need to make a change but I’m scared and worried that my motivation will waiver.
I try and start new activities. I play tennis and golf. I’m extremely sensitive and the slightest comment sends me into serious depression. When I get the depression, I say to heck with it and reach for the wine. Same old story; start off with high hopes or just hope and end up repeating bad behavior. Part of me does not want to give up the thing that makes me feel more confident.
I’m only on day 12 and am doing the same with new activities that get me out and into company but I’m also starting an art course at night school so that I have something to do at home as well. Even the adult colouring books help. And I’ve realized that alcohol might seem to be giving you confidence but it is really eating away at you and destroying any confidence you have… and that’s why you keep going back to it. Stay strong and soon random comments won’t hurt as much, the depression will lessen and eventually you’ll be so confident and proud that you won’t care what others say/think.
I have been turning my thinking around. For example, I was quite depressed that I was home alone so much & really don’t have many friends, one morning I said to myself, you GET to be home (I’m on summer break). My ex-husband came over uninvited saying terrible things to me. I told him to leave, then told myself I will not let him get to me anymore (he’s a master of verbal&emotional abuse, a great excuse to drink in the past). I took deep breaths & played my movie till the end. I wake up without a hangover & say that to myself. No hangover this morning, how wonderful. When I am going to sleep, I go over in my head my lists of “Things I hate about drinking & Things I look forward to not drinking.” I also remind myself of how sick I would be, puking for hours, shaking, sweating, not sleeping or being able to eat. Waking up with injuries, bruises etc. Love not having the anxiety , loathing & worthless feelings about myself. I am only on day 16, but feeling proud of myself. You said good things will come & the Have! Everyday gets a bit better. This course has completely changed the way I see alcohol. It really is just poison!
Thanks Kate. I do recognize I need to do something different on Friday night. I’ll work on my toolbox and prepare for next Friday.
Hi I’ve recently been bereaved lost my partner in June massive heart attack whilst on holiday. My drinking was and is out of control and feels like the only coping mechanism at the moment
Over the past five years since I turned 50, following a few years of gradually reducing my drinking but still being prone to the odd binge, I have had several periods of abstinence lasting a maximum of three months. I am currently approaching the three month limit again but this time I’m hoping to keep going. I have not consciously been counting days because I hope there will be no end point but I sense I am entering that wobbly period where the initial impetus is wearing off and I may start to get bored. So, I plan to keep in mind that handy checklist- am I Hungry, Angry,Lonely,Tired/Thirsty – it’s usually number one and sometimes number four , so I wait to eat. Once I’ve eaten I don’t want to drink.
The more tricky scenario is during a social occasion when I remember how a g&t or glass of fizz can lend that ( temporarily) heightening buzz. This was looming yesterday after a fabulous day out with friends when we were planning to eat together in the evening. Luckily it was back at our house so I whipped out my alcohol free lager and then broke out the Teetotal G&Ts – ( available from Drydrinker- I don’t work for them!). They are very delicious. But my point is, I took the time to examine my impulse and be prepared with great quality alternatives to drink, and it worked!
I’d suggest while the reality of the awfulness is still vivid, write it down and keep it in a safe place for that day in the future when sober life is good and the ‘just one’devil pops up. I did and it has helped
Thank you,Felicity- good advice!
I feel the same ref eating , when I way I don’t fancy wine so much. Seems like such a simple solution just eat first but I still don’t do that a couple of times a week and open the wine whilst cooking sigh. Well done on your achievements so far x
I know my drinking has become a problem — it’s all I look forward to during my day. I mean that seriously — the promise of a six-pack when I get home is how I manage to function during the day. And I know that’s a major problem. But I also know that when I drink, I am more creative, more willing to think outside the box. It’s the only time I can glimpse a future that doesn’t involve an awful (yet high paid and secure) job. Although then I think if I didn’t have an awful (yet high paid and secure) job, maybe I wouldn’t need to spend my nights like this. At some point I know it needs to stop, but I don’t know if it is getting me to where I need to be, or keeping me from getting there. Thoughts?
It’s definitely holding you back – no question. Stop drinking and I think you’ll be stunned by how much more productive you are. You’ll also be happier and healthier. Instead of numbing out all the time, why not stop for a bit and start creating a life that’s so good, you don’t need to numb out from it? You owe it to yourself to see what it’s like. Heck – you can always go back to drinking if you don’t like it. But first you need to put some serious space between you and your last drink … and see what happens. You’ll be surprised.
Thank you 🙂
Well…..after a setback I keep reminding myself of how horrible I feel the day after and how great I feel on the days I do not drink. It seems I feel worse and worse on the day after. So truly it is not even worth it. Just that peer pressure!! It’s a biotch! But I’m learning how to handle the pressure better and better.
I am 43 and have always been a binge drinker.
Usually two maybe three times a week I will demolish 1.5 bottles of wine, lately 2 and last night I am ashamed to admit 2.5 I fell asleep on the sofa first time ever. I am utterly ashamed as I have two small children and feel absolutely dreadful today. I have spent the past 15 years saying I will cut right down and always fail about day 6. My only periods of not binging was pregnancy and illness.
As soon as I take that first sip 99% of the time that’s it second bottle will get opened I will wake at 4 banging head, sickness etc and promise I will definitely change it this time. I am fairly fit and don’t look like I drink heavily (usually keep a low profile day after) so people don’t see that side of things. I binge eat the next day too so that makes it worse, I don’t work out, cancel plans etc then following day all bright and breezy again until the next time. I am so so so sick of this cycle and it honestly seems impossible to get out of after all these years. I am a better mummy, partner and person when I have my in-between binge days and I hate writing off two days every week like this. I am finding reading the comments here inspiring and comforting that I am not alone. Well….day one started again today easy today as I feel terrible, unwell and full of regret …fast forward to Thur or Fri and the urge will return. Lots of positive vibes ladies and good luck to you all xx
Hi Ali, if you’d like some help and support to stop drinking (and feel good about it!) make sure you check out my course. We can definitely help you with this! https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Reading a bunch of your recent posts today and I JUST LOVE them all, thank you! They all have resonated with me so far, so I am going to finally leave a comment. I have been in a vicious cycle of trying to stop drinking, thinking I want to keep drinking a few days later, start drinking, and then HATE myself the next day, even that same moment I took the first sip. I recently just did 2 weeks sober, and I FELT AMAZING!!!! I am so upset at myself for continuing to go right back to my same ol situation… since then I have drank 4 more times that same week, (Sunday Sep 10 being my last time), and this week is HELL. I thought last week was hell, this week is even worse. I hate feeling this way. It’s 110 percent clear to me that I cannot physically or mentally handle drinking anymore. I think I can just have a few, then I end up drinking all week and work, life, commuting, dealing with people, everything is anguish, difficult, and annoying. I am in a constant mental hell, just brutal. I still can’t quite believe that I continued to do this my entire teenage and adult life (until now, I am 36… been trying to quit for 2 years), and how feeling this way isn’t normal and I thought it was. Now that I have had a few weeks of sobriety under me (a long with 16 days, 9 days, 8 days scattered along the last 2 years), it’s clear to me that living without gasoline is so much better, and easier. Life already is hard as heck, alcohol just makes it worse. Anyways, rambling off a bit here… day 2 (again), and I am so done. Drinking is just never worth it. I prefer to be happy, feeling light and not bloated, and glowing again (a co worker had said to me during my 2 sober weeks that I looked glowing just out of the blue, it made me feel great). Now I look dull, tired, withered, definitely not glowing and I swear my hair already has dulled out, only from 4 days of binge drinking) blahhh horrible. THANK YOU for the great blog and sharing all the wise words, they help xo.
(Pls delete my first comment, and keep this one 🙂
Hi my name is Carol and I’ve just found this site. I can identify so much with all ur stories. I’ve been a big drinker all my life. I am almost 55yrs old. For the past 4 yrs r so my drinking has become every nyt. I know have blackouts and memory lose frequently. My behaviour can be bad too. Really want a sober life but can’t seem to manage one day without alcohol
I look forward to this course. Until then I will do my best to quit.
I was doing well. Sober. Then I hit a really stressful month and hit the booze, again. Now I feel like, whats the point of trying again? When everytime stress comes along, I cave in?
Leanne – it sounds as if you really need to work on updating your coping mechanisms and sober tools! Make this your priority, otherwise you will struggle every time things feel stressful. I’m happy to work with you on this – you can find out all about my coaching programme here: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Hi I only recently found your website and I enjoy reading your articles. I recently had over 70 days sober and drank at my work Christmas party. I didn’t drink very much because I was scared about doing something stupid at a work function. The end of my drinking wasn’t pretty. I did 30 days in a re-hab because I couldn’t moderate. I did okay during the week but once the weekend came I was done for. In fact I drank more during that weekend due to the moderation.
I had to tell my boss what was going on and this was tough.
But why at 70 days after feeling so much better, having lost weight, sleeping a bit better, doing yoga, going to some AA meetings (not completely sold on AA) and meditating did this happen to me? Today is day 5 of total abstinence again and I’ve found my brain has reverted to thinking that having a few glasses of wine is okay. Our brain is insane when it comes to repetitive, addictive behaviour/substances. I am trying hard not to beat myself up about it, but I am mad that I now have to talk myself out of drinking on a daily basis, again.
The truth is the alcohol did nothing for me. I couldn’t enjoy it. Being sober and seeing how good being sober is has literally RUINED having alcohol for me.
I think I need to see this as a good thing.
Thank you for your blog. Keep writing.
Hi there – it sounds as if you need to focus on shifting your mindset around this. Alcohol free living doesn’t need to feel like deprivation / missing out. AA is certainly not for everyone and it isn’t your only option! (A lot of my clients come to work with me after trying meetings and finding they didn’t resonate.) If you’d like some help making this click, do check out my online coaching programme – the next class starts in January https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Hello all, I first started this program about 5 months ago – only lasted 3 weeks. I had been moderating more successfully (with two unfortunate binge nights) until NYE when I began drinking beer on an empty stomach, fighting and calling the cops on my domestic partner (he also has a significant alcohol problem), and getting myself arrested. Now I have to see two probation officers weekly, pay a lawyer, and possibly go to jail for awhile. The aftermath has been so stressful. I am on Day 1 and your posts are so helpful. I am 59 YO and my body and spirit are worn out. Thanks and I look forward to reading more.