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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34 Comments

  1. Thank you – this was exactly what I needed to hear just now.

    Reply
    • No problem Kat. Keep going! 🙂

      Reply
    • Great post. It’s interesting how different approaches work for different people. I quit alcohol 3.5 years ago. A few times I got so stressed, I hit a wall, and tried a drink, remembered why I quit, and was lucky to be able to put it down again. In my case, leaving the window open to go back is always a mistake. It makes me not commit. But branding it “forever” does put things in an impossible light. I think what works best for me is saying, “I don’t drink.” It’s not that I can’t — I just don’t. It’s a choice. I think once you’ve stopped and maybe slipped up a bit, it’s easier to realize why you can’t keep that door open. You just can’t have it both ways.

      Reply
  2. Totally agree. I remember emailing you with this exact question a while back! You said that if I waited until I was ready to quit forever, I might be waiting for a very long time. You were right. I’m now 3 months AF! Life feels really good. Right now, all I know is that I want to keep it this way.

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to hear this Charlotte! As I often say, you become ready by taking action… not by thinking about it. And taking action is exactly what you did. Congratulations!

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    • Hi I am 4 months AF and feel ok! Trouble is coming up to the Festive season is going to be difficult.
      Would love to hear some comments how other people have done it without being miserable.
      I still get cravings unfortunately!
      Love this sight as keeps me on track.

      Reply
      • Hey Barbara, I wrote about this exact topic last week – did you see it? Here’s the link: https://thesoberschool.com/no-fun-without-alcohol-myth/
        The most important thing is for you to learn what alcohol does and doesn’t do. Once you get clear on how this drug really works, you start to realise that there is nothing to miss! Nothing at all. Alcohol is just a drug that numbs and zombifies you. That’s it. And you really don’t want that for the festive season, right? If you’d like some support to master the mindset piece of sobriety (a crucial part of being happily sober in the long term) then I’m happy to help. Here’s some information about my course, where we do this exact kind of work: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

        Reply
    • Hi. I am just at the start of processing the fact I want to stop binge drinking 3 or 4 times a week..I hate the feeling of disappointment when I wake up the morning a never mind the waste of money and days off work its costing me. I love the day by day approach but to be fair I’m scared.

      Reply
      • It’s so normal to feel that way in the beginning. I have plenty of blogs and free downloads on this site to help get you started and putting some chunks of sober time together. When you’re ready to take a slightly longer break (6 weeks) come and check out my online class – I’d love to show you how to make this click. You’ll love it, I know! Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

        Reply
      • Hi Anne, I’ve started only recently too 🙂 Wanted to say: I hear you and we can do it! Let’s be excited to see what we will be like without this thing holding us back. Proud of us! Virtual hug, Peggy (from The Netherlands)

        Reply
      • Hi, this is the best way, day by day. One day, I just said, hey, no more ciggies and no more drink – let’s start on the 1st Oct 2018, I’ll do one day…It felt great. Then, another day, and another…till, today, I am at 14 months…and feel great, and still go, day by day…not week by week, just day by day…The fear goes, just slowly slips away down a slope you used to know and love, and no longer love it as much, and know it even less. Anyway, this is how it is for me…I live in China, they drink like fish in huge tanks and socially smoke everywhere, and, still, I go, day by day…

        Reply
  3. So, what if you took a a proper break and then went back to drinking (less) than you were before? I don’t feel like a failure because I went back to drinking, but I was also hoping I would not go back to it.

    Reply
    • Hi Petunia, it doesn’t really matter how much you drink – it’s how you feel about it that counts. If you’re reading blogs like mine, and posting comments like this, I’m guessing you’d rather be completely alcohol free? That’s the impression I get from your post. If that’s correct, it’s very important information to pay attention to. Your gut is sending you a message here. It’s never too late to start over and take another break. If you want some help to quit and actually feel good about it, I’d be happy to help you with that. Doing the right mindset work in sobriety is vital if you want to feel empowered and not have that constant pull to keep drinking. Here’s some more information about my next class: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  4. I have been sober for 5 months now and love it. I feel so much better, do more fun things, workout and have lost weight. All pluses for me.

    Reply
    • That’s brilliant Deb, well done. It sounds as if sobriety suits you!

      Reply
  5. If you’re reading this and thinking about taking a break, then you are where I was 121 days ago right before I did Kate’s course.
    Before that I couldn’t imagine having such a long break from alcohol.
    I love the framing of the ‘forever’ concept.
    I’m at the stage where people are noticing my not drinking and asking if it’s forever. As Kate says, I also have no intention of drinking, but I never say never. It’s just too much pressure on something that is still in its infancy.
    Imagine 121 days from now, you could be writing this live note to someone who is in your shoes then xxx

    Reply
    • Love this! I hope to be in that position down the road! Very encouraging. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Hi Cyndi,
        I’m so glad you feel encouraged by my comment. Every day is one more step down that road. You’ve got this!

        Reply
      • After yet another’fun’alcohol filled weekend,I feel like s**t.Should be used to it by now. I’ve decided not to drink again’til Xmas at least.Never tried this before.I’m really gonna give it a go.Friends will be very annoyed with me.

        Reply
    • What an inspiring post Lorraine! It’s great to hear from you and know all is well. Many congratulations on your 121 days!❤️

      Reply
      • Thank you Kate! I’ve been quiet in the group and the course, but taking each day as it comes in the background. If you had told me I’d be where I am 4 months ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.
        Thank you for the course, it really, really helped. And checking in with the Hive on a daily basis has been amazing too.
        Congratulations on the community you have built.

        Reply
  6. Right now I am a newbie….15 days….two weekends in! I don’t miss the alcohol….I miss the concept of it. If that makes sense. The longer I go the more benefits I see but I did this as an “experiment” and like not saying forever. I am committed to 6 weeks and then I will make another goal. I have been reading up on how bad alcohol is for your body and I’m truly amazed. I had an inkling but really no idea how bad it is for your health. I got my husband onboard so I have a buddy to do it with. I’ve made a few mock tails and they really are tasty…..as long as I watch the sugar. I don’t want to trade one thing for another. Thanks for your blog!

    Reply
    • Well done on your 15 days Mo. Keep going! 🙂

      Reply
  7. This has given me the boost to sort myself out after feeling horrendous after too much wine once again. I hope I have the strength to take a break and not give in like I always have done in the past.

    Reply
    • It’s can be a lonely business, working on this all by yourself Shar. What kind of support do you have around you? If you’d like to be part of a positive, motivated community of women, all working on the same goal (at the exact same time) then make sure you check out my 6 week class. Here are some more details – hope you can join us! https://thesoberschool.com/quit-drinking-forever/

      Reply
      • Thanks Kate, I have people around me but I’m embarrassed with where I am hence the reason for keeping quiet with it. I will look into the course. Thank you

        Reply
    • All the best Shar, I’m on day1 today and looking forward to many more days

      Reply
      • Best of luck Thando

        Reply
  8. I’m on Day 14 of 100 days AF. I’ve done several 30-40 day challenges but wanted to take a longer break to see the cumulative effects and to truly examine my relationship with alcohol going forward. I love the way I feel AF, but agree that saying forever seems too overwhelming to tackle. I’m reading and researching and listening to podcasts to help me along the way. The cravings and urges are pretty much non-existent but I know there will be some challenges with the upcoming Holidays. I’m committed and armed to move through this positively and to learn as much as I can about myself and the effects alcohol has on my life.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you’re approaching this right way Cyndi. Congratulations on your 14 days!

      Reply
  9. I stopped drinking August 15, 2018. I have never felt better! People often ask me if I will never drink again. I don’t miss it! I am fine, and living my best life. I am confident and do very well in social situations. Alcohol doesn’t define me. I feel great!

    Reply
    • You sound very happy Barb – a great advert for alcohol free living! Well done 🙂

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      • I was a social drinker. I was in a marriage for over 30 years. My husband never wanted to spend time with me. I decided to make changes in my life. I stopped drinking on my own. I filed for divorce. I pray for both of us. I take things one day at a time!

        Reply
        • I am also in a long term marriage and to be honest am scared to death of losing my husband to alcohol. I am 4 days AF and very encouraged by this blog and all the comments shared by everyone. So glad to know I am not alone on this bumpy road ahead.

          Reply

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