If you’ve been thinking about your relationship with alcohol for a while, the chances are you’ve heard about ‘hitting rock bottom.’
This is the low point that drinkers apparently need to sink to before they feel ready to quit for good.
Personally, I think rock bottom is an unhelpful myth.
In this video I explain why I decided to quit before things got really bad – and why you might want to do the same.
Why I quit drinking
My drinking worried me – I’d noticed that I liked drinking alone (at home) the most. I seemed to be on a runaway train that was slowly gaining speed as I drank more often and crossed more boundaries. But there was no big crash or rock bottom moment.
Why it suits us to believe in rock bottom
Culturally, we have this idea that you need to be falling down and losing everything before you can address your relationship with booze. You’re either a ‘normal drinker’ or a raging alcoholic. And as long as it’s not the latter, you’re fine… right? You don’t need to change.
Quitting drinking in the grey zone
There is a grey zone between the extremes of ‘rock bottom alcoholic’ and “everything is absolutely fine!” In all other areas of life – from our weight to our finances and our relationships – we don’t wait until things reach rock bottom before taking action.
How to know if it’s time to change
If you’re frequently drinking more than you intend to and it’s making you unhappy, that’s a sign. If you’re worried about your drinking or suspect it’s holding you back from living your best life, then that’s more than enough to begin.
How to get started
Commit to taking a proper break from booze – for a couple of months – as an experiment. You don’t have to make any long term decisions. A decent break means you’ll find out what sobriety is really all about, get past the awkward early weeks and on to the good bit of alcohol free living! You want to experience that before making any decisions.
If you’d love some help and support to quit drinking or take a break from booze, click here for details of my online course.
Hi Kate! Great post! I think of all of the myths surrounding alcohol, this is the one that causes the most problems. It suggests that a person should hang onto alcohol until every last thing is stripped away, leaving the person with nothing. It totally supports the alcohol industry, and destroys lives. x
Absolutely – this is such a dangerous myth 🙁
I have struggled over many years with drinking far too much wine..I have had periods of sobriety which really did feel wonderful, only to slip back for a number of reasons..stress, celebrations, thinking I could handle ‘ just one or two’. I haven’t hit rock bottom but received a very shocking statistic when going to see a trainer this week to sort out my weight and fitness. Women on average live to 84. However, the average HEALTHY life is 64… ( I am nearly 54) so I am no longer going to put poison in my body. I want to give myself the best chance of a healthy older age. Thanks a million Kate and everyone for your truly brilliant posts. Inspirational!
Wonderful post Kate! The thought ““you have to loose everything before you can quit” is a frightening concept. Jane M makes a good point that this idea supports alcohol and destroys a life” thank you Kate for introducing the Grey Area.
I loved this video thank you .. I have decided I want sobriety .. I’m doing okay at the moment .. look better .. feel better brain more alert .. you have helped with these short sharp videos .. brilliant thank you x
Wonderful! Keep going Gill. If you need any support in future, my online course will help you stay on track with your alcohol free lifestyle. Here are some more details about it: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
I have always thought this too – why wait til your life blows up? The signs are there. I don’t want to ignore these telltale signs when i know it’s robbing me of my potential. I want to be present in the moment and remember everything.
Love this. Here’s to being fully present for our one and only life.
Hi Kate, so so true, I was like you that was my absolute favorite time to drink alone, after the kids were in bed. That niggle in your head saying this isn’t right, and yes I remember thinking why on earth do I need alcohol to sit in my own home with my family it doesn’t add up I have two little girls 10 & 6 and I don’t want them growing up thinking this is what you do as an adult. I want to be present when I’m watching tele with them and alert if they wake up with a bad dream or looking for comfort. Wine time is such a myth I’m so much happier 11 months alcohol free and never going back. Love your blogs Kate x
Congratulations on your 11 months! What a great example you’re setting your girls now 🙂
Thank you Brit ❤️
Thank you for all your great advice, support, and posts!
No problem Jennie!
I just discovered you today and this video has already made me think differently. I’m definitely in the grey zone. I never want to get to that rock bottom moment. I need to change
You can upgrade your life and go alcohol free any time you like. I suspect it won’t be a decision you regret! If you need any help to make that change happen, here’s how I can support you: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
I definitely want to be alcohol free, I tell myself each morning I’m done but when night falls I tell myself maybe just one.
Hi Darlene, what support are you getting with this? It sounds as if you’re doing this alone and trying to rely on willpower? That is super hard. If you need any help to quit and feel good about it, here’s how I can help: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Thank you Kate I’m new to this and I’m hoping to follow your recommendations regarding my drinking wine o’clock time it’s become a habit as I live on my own and it just helps the evening go quick. I am defo in the grey zone
We only get one life and it’s a short one. It would be a shame to use alcohol to speed up time, rather than finding ways to make the evenings better. Alcohol free living isn’t just about quitting drinking… it’s about creating a life you don’t want to escape from or numb out from 🙂
Thanks for your help Kate
I want to drink this evening. I’m 50 days sober. I didn’t hit rock bottom but I certainly had started more and more to want to drink by myself at home and that had become my favourite drinking time. I recognised it as a low point.
Thanks Kate..a thoughtful and helpful video
Keep going Alison! At the bottom of the blog post is a link for my pep talk – I’d recommend listening to that if you need a boost to stay on track tonight 🙂
Thought this was really interesting
I was clearly in the grey zone for years with my drinking. Thanks to your course and excellent blog, I am pushing 2 years of wonderful sobriety! I used to worry that people would be upset if I wasn’t drinking. But the fact is, by me not drinking makes people question their own drinking! Also, while not for everyone, today’s alcohol free beers taste wonderful! In fact, I have 4 family members who enjoy alcohol free beers in an effort to cut back thanks to my influence.
I’m so happy to hear that Barb! That’s fantastic. Sounds like you’re a good influence on others too 🙂
I took your course for these very reasons. I felt like I was going down a slippery slope. I’m at day 142 of my new lifestyle and love it. It’s so nice to be in control!
I’m so pleased to hear that Bev – congratulations!
Thank you very much Kate for this vulnerable and thoughtful video. I very much relate to this mindset of comparing myself to others and making myself believe that some of the consequences in my life from drinking “were not as bad as others so I was ok” which I know is not the case.
Thank you Katerina, I’m glad it resonated with you 🙂
The rock bottom thing is also bothersome in that it causes people who don’t know much about sober living to make insulting assumptions that if you quit, it’s because you did something terrible. It’s a lot harder than it should be for drinkers to get it through their skulls that I have not done anything harmful or appalling, I actually just want to sleep better, feel healthier, save money, and stop wasting life.
When someone’s only experience with the alcohol free sphere is the bits of TV shows where people cry about losing custody in an AA meeting, and trendy womens books that wax poetic about your “knees hitting the floor,” it’s a natural byproduct of ignorance to assume that if you quit drinking, it’s because you got out of control and did something unforgivable. I think some of the rock bottom mythology is that “normal drinkers” want an excuse to bad-other people who decided to quit, so they don’t have to question their own drinking behavior.
Some of it is the alcohol industry itself not wanting people to quit unless they become a danger to themselves or others, because capitalism. The USA alcohol industry created AA for the purpose of gaslighting our whole culture into believing that getting addicted to an addictive substance is abnormal. They’ve successfully spent almost a hundred years teaching westerners that the substance isn’t the problem, you’re just diseased and not praying enough if you have a problem with the substance. **bashes head into wall**
That’s almost excusable because of ignorance… what really drives me crazy is when content targeted towards people who are pursuing a sober lifestyle harps on rock bottom experiences and alienates readers whose knees did not hit the floor (unless they’re being very literal about the normal aftereffects of drinking).
Thank you for these insightful comments Alice – I relate to so much of this. So well said.
This video completely speaks to me. I have found myself reading memoirs and it has made me think that I don’t have a problem. But in my heart of hearts I can’t fool myself. I spend more time thinking about controlling my alcohol intake more than anybody would know. And that’s what I’d like to address.
“I can’t fool myself” – you summed it up very neatly here Jennifer.
Thank you for this video Kate. I am also in the grey zone and trying to quit. Thought of just cutting back and instead of drinking the whole bottle of wine, just stick to two glasses. Not working at all. I usually over several hours finish the bottle and then feel pretty awful about myself. I realize now that I must stop altogether. Hoping for success.
Hi Anne, it’s great that you’ve realised moderation is not working for you. I recommend taking a break from drinking and making sure you have a plan – don’t try and do this with willpower and a wing and a prayer. If you’d like my help with quitting, here’s how I can support you: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Thanks Kate, I gave up drinking while in the grey zone. I never got drunk but half a bottle of wine a night, every night , was a constant morning regret. I have managed to give up by reading your blogs and using your pep talk when needed. Thank you thank you .
Congratulations Louise! Well done 🙂
It occurs to me that the majority of regular drinkers are in the ‘grey zone’ where their lives are marred by alcohol?! But because of the addictive nature of booze the majority don’t recognise their problem due to denial and social norms?
I am luckily fully aware of my damaging addiction.
Many thanks for your enlightening video.
I agree Susan – I think a lot of people don’t even realise where they are with this 🙁
How many times I told myself that I really didn’t have a problem because I was still functioning at work. My attempt at AA reinforced this belief when I heard the tragic stories of those in this group. AA gave me a sponsor who told me terrible adventures she had with police and health care workers. I couldn’t wait to get away from her. This was not me, but I knew I had a problem. So glad I understand gray drinking now.
I’m glad you didn’t let that experience put you off Tresa.
Such a great message — the comparison to how we regard our finances is spot on! Day 147 AF for me today and I’m grateful beyond measure for this new life full of relief and pride in myself for how I’m taking care of myself. Thank you, Kate – as always.
No problem Linda… many congratulations on your 147 days! Wonderful stuff 🙂
I really want to share my story about the myth of rock bottom, in case it helps anyone else.
I did Kate’s Sober School course in Jan 2016. It was amazing, and I’m still happily sober 5 years later.
Before quitting drinking, I was a typical binge drinker in my early twenties. I want to stress that I could go weeks and weeks without having a drink. I liked the odd glass of wine at a meal out in the evening, but over the ten years that I drank, I didn’t drink on a daily or even weekly basis. This stopped me from quitting for years, and really hindered my ability to look carefully at my drinking.
What I did do was to binge drink on probably a monthly to fortnightly basis. And I lived for this. I would get blackout drunk, drink to excess, and risk my safety in a multitude of ways that are very frightening to look back on now. But because I could go without alcohol for weeks on end, I believed that I didn’t have a problem and that my drinking wasn’t bad enough to quit. If I went home to my parents from Uni for Christmas or the summer- and they weren’t big drinkers- I could go for even longer without alcohol. But I managed this without a problem because I always knew there was the promise of the next ‘big night out’ somewhere in the near future.
I kept assuming that there would be a period in my life where my drinking would just snowball, and I’d turn from a binge drinker to a weekly drinker to an every-day drinker, and then I’d start to see the fabric of my life disintegrate in such a way that I’d be forced to quit. But year after year passed, and I never did transition to that kind of drinker.
So I started to realise, in the last few months of my on-off binge drinking, as I recovered from my sporadic nights out, that maybe this would be how my drinking would continue to be. Maybe I always would pinball between sobriety for weeks, followed by a massive, messy, chaotic, frightening blackout night out, repeated ad nauseam.
So I started to ask myself, ‘is this really good enough?’. It definitely wasn’t the worst it could be by a long shot, but that wasn’t really a good enough excuse for me anymore. I wanted the best life I could possibly have, not hampered by these random self-inflicted binges.
When I finally faced up to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to drink myself to the rock bottom I wanted, I had to decide that the latest binge I’d been on (which btw left me with so much self loathing), had to be the final one. I had to decide that that was my rock bottom, that I was truly done. Because drinking again never meant anything immediate for me; my hardest times in early sobriety were not the first few days or weeks, it was instead when the next big night out was planned, and I wasn’t going on it. But by that point, I’d unpicked the myths, and was in a much happier place for it.
Good luck to anyone trying to quit: you don’t need the myth of rock bottom holding you back! You deserve to quit before you ever even get there!
Thank you for sharing this valuable experience Ruth. It’s great to hear from you after all this time and know that you are still happily sober! ❤️
This is such an important message. I kept comparing myself to other people’s drinking, or looked at all the really terrible stuff that could happen and concluded that I “wasn’t that bad”. It kept me in a state of inaction for far too long. After I quit drinking I started reading quit lit, and usually the run-up story painted a much grimmer drinking picture than my own, but by that point I had decided I was uncomfortable with my drinking and that was the only parameter that mattered. I only read about the concept of gray area drinking a few months ago, and it was eye-opening and reassuring. I had felt uncomfortable sharing my decision to stop drinking with others, worried others might perceive that my drinking was something more destructive than it was. Now I know that doesn’t matter either. All that matters is that I was not comfortable in my relationship with wine, and I had to end it. Ironically, my husband stumbled upon a newspaper article in today’s paper about this very subject. It makes me feel better that he has a clearer picture of what this is.
Hi Kate, I’m reading your blogs as I have finally hit rock bottom. You are such an inspiration! I first went to a friend as I knew she had stopped drinking alcohol & when she told me why she had given up I thought I was having an out of body experience & I was looking at myself! My friend suggested you’re blogs & how inspirational they were in helping her through her sobriety journey, I have found that I can relate to your words & know I am ready to be that person who will live my life alcohol free. I know I have a long journey ahead but with you’re words of wisdom & all the comments from the people that you have helped I know to stay positive & accept the words & experience from all the women like me who have hit rock bottom. This time my boots are on to hike right out of that pit!! Xx