3 ‘Rules’ Keeping You Stuck In The Drinking Cycle

3 ‘Rules’ Keeping You Stuck In The Drinking Cycle

“I’m not stupid. I’m not helpless. So why can’t I figure out how to stop drinking?”

This is something I used to ask myself a lot.

In other areas of my life I was proactive and determined; I was great at problem solving and finding solutions.

So when it came to sobriety, why was I so stuck?

If you’ve been asking yourself the same question, this blog is for you.

I wanted to share a few of the sneaky, inner beliefs that can trip you up and keep you stuck in the drinking cycle:

 

“I need a vision – a long term plan. I can’t start before I’ve got it all figured out.”

In many areas of life, long term goal setting makes sense, because most of us like to know what we’re working towards before we begin. But when it comes to sobriety, this approach can lead to so much overwhelm you never even get started.

Your mind races years into the future and suddenly, you’re worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. The thought of being sober forever is so intimidating you can’t bring yourself to get started.

How to get around this:

The trick is to move forward with a short term plan – one that gives you something to work towards, and lets you experience alcohol free living properly, without being so intimidating it feels unachievable.

Taking a break for two or three months is a perfect place to start, because it gives you the chance to overcome a few challenges and test drive sobriety properly, without you getting too freaked out about it.

Once your break is over, you can see how you feel at the end. Perhaps you’ll set another short term goal. Or maybe you’ll go back to drinking. Whatever the outcome, you’re in control and moving forward, step by (manageable) step.

 

“You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

“I can’t fail. I have to get this right.”

To get ahead in school, you had to pass your exams. To get promoted at work, you have to hit your targets. In most areas of our lives, we’re conditioned to think that success = good, and failure = bad.

So it makes perfect sense that we’re not keen on trying something that exposes us to a massive risk of failure. When we’re so fearful of failing, putting up with the status quo can feel much safer (even if it is making us unhappy).

How to get around this:

The key is to reframe your relationship to failure. This doesn’t mean setting out with the express intention of drinking as soon as things get challenging, but it does mean not beating yourself up if something goes wrong.

When I think about my students, most of them have a string of ‘failures’ behind them. Perhaps they joined my course after struggling to quit alone. Maybe they ‘wasted’ a month going to AA meetings and getting nowhere.

But those ‘failures’ weren’t really failures – they were part of the journey. When you’re doing something great (and sobriety is great!) the chances are you won’t figure it all out the first time. You are going to fall flat on your face at some point. The important thing is that you get back up again.

 

“Failure is success in progress.”
Albert Einstein

 

“I’ve got to keep this a secret and figure it out by myself.”

No one else can run the race, take the exam or ace that job interview for you. I bet you’re used to relying on yourself and you’re proud of the fact that you can (usually) figure things out on your own. Your drinking is your business… right?

The thing is, your drinking isn’t just about you. It impacts every area of your life, from your health to your relationships. When you’re struggling with alcohol, your partner knows about it. Your kids pick up on it. Your friends notice something is off.

How to get around this:

Start looking at how you handle other challenges e.g. losing weight, training for a run, parenthood, learning new job skills… you get the idea. How often do you truly go it alone? Or do you look elsewhere for help, guidance and support?

If you’ve been struggling to figure this all out on your own, now is the time to get out of your own head and start thinking about where you can get some support. We all need a bit of accountability and an outside perspective at times.

Addiction thrives in isolation, so start inviting people in. If you’ve got friends and family to talk to, ask for their support. But if you’re not comfortable confiding in those around you, seek out help elsewhere – it doesn’t have to be face to face. (If you want to join my online community, there’s more information about my coaching programme here.)

 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Helen Keller

 

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29 Comments

  1. Thanks Kate, all of these resonated with me, particularly the second one. I hate failing at anything, which makes me too scared to try, but I know i can’t carry on feeling like this. Just had a horrible weekend of drinking too much and I know something needs to change.

    Reply
    • It can feel scary to take action and try something new. But it’s honestly not as scary as staying ‘stuck’ and continuing to feel unhappy. If you need some support to stop drinking, my stop drinking course is starting again soon. Here are some details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
      Keep going Linda! 🙂

      Reply
  2. I’ll be 3 months sober tomorrow! I really agree about focusing on smaller goals – it still scares me to think too far ahead. So far, taking things as it they come is working just fine.

    Reply
    • Congratulations for tomorrow! That’s brilliant. Keep going with this – just think about how far you’ve come in 3 months… and how much could change in another 1 month, or 2 or 3… 🙂

      Reply
    • I have just been to the shop and DID NOT buy any alcohol! I am very proud of myself as I normally just can’t help but buy some wine.

      Reply
    • I am struggling to think past a wedding on Thursday! I tried to pick a date to stop where I had a clear run but I realised my life is enriched with fabulous events and if I want to stop drinking I need to learn how to do them without booze.

      Reply
      • Hi Diane. I feel for you and do understand. “Small steps” is what I say. Perhaps just do this for one night and offer to be a designated driver. It’s just one night. If you can get through this, you will see yourself continuing to achieve AF nights at your events and perhaps enjoy them even more. Sorry, I am not preaching as the converted, just understand what you are going through. Thinking of you x

        Reply
  3. Great post.
    I found that telling people about my new sobriety definitely has helped – I’ve told everyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen, haha
    For me that’s definitely been a good thing to do.

    Reply
    • Love this! I think telling people can really help with accountability, and it also makes your decision to be AF feel more ‘real’ 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi iv been a big drinker all my life never it never interfered with work but my mind n relationship s suffered bad iv been tormented for 40 yrs I started drinking at 14 now 54 do not want to be dealing with this in my 60 thanks lath been sober 40 days I would go from alcohol to puff vise versa this is first cold turkey n it feels fantastic I’m meditating n walking just is first public announcement so happy thank u sober school u the best I feel the love ❤️

      Reply
      • Cat,

        I am 61 Yrs. old and I am on day 67 sober. My worst drinking years started in my fifties until I stopped. Like you, I was suffering emotionally. I was depressed and anxious. I though I was holding everything together until I wasn’t. Removing Algol from my life was the
        missing piece to the puzzle of my journey. I am happier and healthier for it. Stay the course!

        Reply
        • My emotional health is the main reason why I want to quit drinking. My depression and anxiety is through the roof when I drink. I can’t handle my ordinary life. Without alcohol, things seem more manageable.

          Reply
  4. The third reason “I’ve got to keep this secret” is the one that resonates for me. I’m too ashamed to tell people how bad my drinking has become..
    I’ll take one day at a time.

    Reply
    • One day at a time can work for some. The only downside is that ‘one day at a time’ forces you to keep questioning the decision, day after day. On the whole, my clients have seen more success with short term goals such as a month or two, as that time frame gives you a chance to build momentum and stay focused. All good stuff to think about! 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi Sharon

      I know where you are coming from. You are not alone. I’m at the same stage as yourself. If you want a buddy who knows exactly where you are, please contact me. I live in Australia. Reach out if you need someone to work through this alongside with the Sober School.

      Reply
      • Hi Natalie, Thank for the offer of support. It’s easier when slightly anonymous. My main problem started 18 months ago when work stresses significantly changed and I’ve not really been able to get back on track. I know drinking makes my stress, depression and anxiety worse so don’t understand why I do it. I’ve reached out a little to a couple of newer friends who I connected with through yoga but I am so not looking after myself. I live alone so it’s too easy to wobble and fall off the wagon… Happy to be a support for you if I can to. ☺️

        Reply
  5. Thank you for the pep talk!
    I have been going for 10 days and then drinking, again! That is doing the hard part again and again! Your pep talk makes so much sense!

    Reply
    • I’m glad it helped you Nancy! Those first 10 days really are some of the hardest… so it would be a shame to keep repeating them 🙂

      Reply
  6. Me too Nancy I got to 11 days during Feb Fast then overseas relatives arrived & I decided stuff it & was back on. I’m always looking for an excuse to break it. Now just had another massive weekend on the sauce & feel so stupid but I’m going to start again today / step by step. Good luck to you. Emma

    Reply
  7. Great ideas. My short term would start for a week at a time. For instance, I always get the feeling of gotta buy some wine around 4 pm. Today, I drank lots of water and after work, turned right instead of left to the store. I feel better tonight and know I will get some sleep. I have tried countless times to quit, going to AA, trying to stay sober, but there is always a trigger. I feel like a failure especially around my youngest daughter and new husband. I don’t want to ask for help and be reminded of my short comings. With your help, I feel like I can do it, I just don’t like daily or weekly check-ins with people who are close to me.

    Reply
    • Sometimes we have to turn to outside help – not everyone has people in their lives that are able to offer the right kind of support. Well done on having plenty of water at 4pm… dehydration and hunger are common triggers, so definitely keep on top of that. If you need some help to make sobriety stick properly, please do check out my course. I think it will resonate with you: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  8. All of your blogs make sense but I just can’t get started. I can go a week without drinking but always make an excuse as to why I should drink again. I promise my self that I won’t drink because I know how good I feel waking up without drinking but then I feel like I am missing out on something. I am not sure why. I guess it is all a part of how I grew up. If you didn’t drink you were boring. I think I excuse it because I don’t consider myself an alcoholic but I do feel it effects my life. The fact that I feel guilty in the morning after I drink is a huge sign that I need to make some changes.

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, it sounds as if you could do with some help and accountability to get started, and then some support to work on your mindset around alcohol? I’d love to help you crack this – I know how tough it is when you’re trying to figure this out on your own! I think you’ve been following my blog for a while, so now’s probably a good time to take some time out and reflect on what you could do differently (rather than repeating the same old things that aren’t working). If you’re ready to step things up a gear, I’d love to see you join my April course. It’s an intensive class but it’s the best way for us to work together and get you out of this cycle for good. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
    • Jennifer so much of what you are saying resonates with me. I was not a drinker, actually really never drank seriously until 44 years of age. For some reason I picked it up and have been a heavy drinker since. I can go through the week without a drink and then when Friday comes around have to binge. Fri, Sat and Sunday. I do not know why. I have been able to stopfor about three weeks at a time but not more than that. I do not know what to do.

      Reply
  9. Kate – thank you so much for this blog. I have been trying for years, with no success. But, I know it’s because I continue to try it alone. It’s a hurdle I just can’t seem to get over. A couple people know of my addiction, and one is my brother who has been sober for 17 years and has never looked back. We communicate online since we live 12 hours away. But, he is my mentor and my strength, but he can only do so much. I make my own bad choices by picking up the bottle. My husband is a great man, but of no support in this area of my life. He, too, drinks. I am looking forward to the April course in your school and becoming part of a community of women that are on the same journey. I know we can all learn from each other with compassion and understanding. I know none of us are alone in this battle, but I am tired and ready to beat this once and for all. Otherwise, I know the damage to my health will be irreversible, if I continue on the path I am on.

    Reply
  10. I have always enjoyed a drink since my early 20s. I am now in my 50s and just feel I want a lifestyle change. My mum passed away last May and in the lead up to May I was drinking way more than I used to, it was a very stressful time when she was ill. Then afterwards I used alcohol as a coping mechanism for my grief. On reflection I was a wreck. I then decided to take up Couch to 5k to give me a goal to focus on but I was still drinking more than I normally would. I completed the Couch to 5k challenge and since 3rd of January I now run 6km 3-4 times a week and it is so good for my mental health and I feel brilliant afterwards. I also just recently, added “Drink Free Days” app to my phone and now I make weekly pledges of how many days I wont drink. 4 weeks in and I have had 29 days AF. Last weekend I had 2 celebrations and drank Saturday and Sunday. Monday and Tuesday and even today I am still feeling the effects ie, tiredness and can see it on my face. I pledged 7 AF days on Monday and tonight I am going out running. I have a hospitality networking night on Thursday and I am not touching the prosecco. I am sticking to the pledge.

    Reply
  11. I can SO relate to this post, as the question of whether or not I was an alcoholic kept me stuck in a drinking loop for YEARS. I had very black-and-white thinking around this: if I WAS an alcoholic then of course I needed to quit but if I WASN’T, then surely I could find a way to continue to drink “successfully.” I kept looking for some kind of litmus test that gave me an answer once and for all but, shocker, I kept finding all kinds of sneaky ways to “pass the test,” in my own mind at least. This kind of thinking kept me stuck for years and it was like torture. Finally I figured out that I needed to stop asking myself that question and instead I started listening to the voice inside that asked other questions like “does my drinking feel problematic to ME?” and “is my drinking keeping me from being the person I want to be, keeping me from reaching my goals?” These days I don’t really dwell on the question if I’m an alcoholic or not I just know that if I drink, I feel deep regret, shame, and self-betrayal. These feelings are what I focus on as motivation to do whatever I can to stay in recovery.

    Reply
  12. I’ve been trying so hard to get my mojo back that I had last year when I didn’t drink for 3 months. I felt amazing and thought I had broken my habit so I started back with, “just a few when we go out” then “ just at the weekend” and slowly is slipped back in to a daily cycle. I even changed my work hours hoping that getting up at 5 am would mean that I COULDNT drink the night before, what did I do??? Just started drinking earlier in the day ☹️ I feel such a failure,

    Reply
  13. I went 10 days, was so proud, felt awesome. Went back for three day, felt awful. Then three days off and drank again. I don’t know why I think that I can drink once in a while.

    Reply

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