Be honest with me – have you ever typed any of these questions into Google:
Am I drinking too much? How do I stop drinking? How much wine is dangerous? Am I an alcoholic? What is the definition of an alcoholic? Can I cut down instead of quitting? What is normal drinking? How do you quit drinking for good?
Towards the end of my drinking career, I spent hours looking up this kind of stuff on Google.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of contradictory information online and frankly, some of the ‘advice’ I stumbled across actually put me off alcohol-free living!
So today I want to talk about 3 common myths about sobriety that can hold you back from quitting. Don’t fall for these!
You need to call yourself an alcoholic, or else you’re in denial
If you identify with this label and it supports your efforts to change, then that’s great. But if you don’t like this label – and it doesn’t feel good to you – then you really can ditch it. I certainly have.
I consider myself to be someone who chooses not to drink, because that’s what makes me feel my best. It’s a lifestyle I enjoy. I choose not to drink in the same way that I choose not to sniff glue, pop pills, smoke cigarettes or eat cheap burgers.
The problem with the term alcoholic is that it implies it’s abnormal to get addicted to alcohol, when that really isn’t the case. Alcohol is a widely available, well advertised, highly addictive, mind-altering drug that tends to be presented as the solution to all our problems. Who wouldn’t get addicted to that?!
If alcohol is making us feel unhappy – and we’re ready to recognise that and take action – then we should be able to change our behaviour without having to justify ourselves, or be forced into acquiring some new alcoholic identity.
You need to hit rock bottom
The idea that you need to wait until your drinking is ‘bad enough’ before you quit is a dangerous myth. I still see this idea referenced in articles today and it makes me mad.
What exactly is rock bottom anyway? It will vary from person to person, surely? There is no definition of it. And doesn’t the idea of hitting rock bottom imply that sobriety is so hideous, it can only be a last resort – something to be considered when your life is falling apart and all other options have been exhausted?
Trust me, you do not need to wait until you’re pouring vodka on your cornflakes in the morning before you decide it’s time to quit. It’s perfectly fine to stop drinking without a collection of booze related war stories.
Ultimately, drinking is all about how you feel, and if alcohol is not making you feel great, then that’s all the information you need. None of us need to be anywhere near rock bottom before we decide to stop hurting ourselves.
Sobriety will always be a daily battle
When I was thinking about quitting, this is something that really worried me. The idea that stopping drinking meant entering into some kind of continuous test of willpower made me feel depressed.
Here’s what I’ve discovered since then.
Yes, changing a habit does require effort in the early days. It requires commitment. But alcohol-free living is NOT hard work forever. Honestly – if it was, I would’ve gone back to drinking a long time ago!
I talked last week about alcohol basically being engine fuel. If you want to put this toxic poison up on a pedestal, romanticise the heck out of it and continuously mourn the fact that you can’t have it, you can do. That’s one option.
Alternatively, you can educate yourself about booze and learn about the myths and illusions (i.e. what science tells us alcohol can do, vs what we’re led to believe it can do).
This myth-busting approach makes sobriety a lot easier, because you start to see that a lot of the ‘benefits’ to drinking are really just smoke and mirrors, and a bit of wishful thinking. (We cover the myths and illusions in detail on my stop drinking course)
Totally agree with all of these! There’s so much stigma attached to the word alcoholic I think it puts a lot of people off getting help. I’ve been sober for 60 days now and I describe myself as a non drinker – that’s it! I’m a non smoker and a non drinker and very happy about both 🙂
Congratulations on your 60 days Laura! You sound like a happy non-drinker!
Love this post! I was a weekend drinker and have only been off alcohol for 27 days, but feel my best!! I hate that I’m already thinking about the looks I’ll get when I don’t order a drink at an upcoming work event. Why do we have to justify?! And no, I’m not pregnant…. lol. Anyway, I plan to continue the sober path because of the way it makes me feel 🙂
Ah, the good old ‘are you pregnant’ question… because that’s the only reason why you’d choose not to drink, right?! The good news is that people adapt pretty quickly. They’ll stop asking (or even noticing) in no time. Congratulations on your 27 days, here’s to many more!
Id like to add another lie to this: you don’t have to go to meetings if you don’t want to. My family really wanted me to go, everyone was saying that’s what I should do. I went and didn’t really get a lot out of them. Pleased to say I have found lots of helpful support online and that has made a big difference. Thans for the blog kate
Absolutely – meetings are not for everyone. I’m glad you found support that suited you better 🙂
I hated going to meetings.I wasn’t comfortable with having to share as I find it difficult to speak in public.I feel much more at ease writing my thoughts!
Love this. It’s so true. I’ve been much lower than I was when I stopped drinking last November. I don’t think of myself as an alcoholic and really don’t think about alcohol very much now other than being really grateful of how I feel, live and look now four months sober! Thank you Kate for your gentle inspiration and total commitment X
Love this post. Many congratulations on your 4 months Nana! 🙂
❤ to healthy happier lives!
I have been reading your blog and comments from people. I know I should stop drinking! I drink everyday and I am tired of feeling tired. I lost my son 6 years ago and felt an empty space but I do have other children and now a grandbaby. I am thinking of trying to stop.
You can do it Lisa. If you’re tired of feeling tired (something I can definitely relate to) then the best thing is to take a break from booze. Put some serious space between you and your last drink… and then see how it goes. I talk more about taking a break here: https://thesoberschool.com/stop-drinking-autumn/
I agree on what you said about myths. Especially about reaching rock bottom. We are all different on this. I suddenly felt bad about drinking alchol and knew i had to stop. So i did. 60 days now and never thought about drink since. All those myths…Love my life now.
What an inspiring post! Congratulations on your 60 days, that’s fantastic 🙂
These are great!! Another myth that really frustrates me, is that alcohol has health benefits. Clearly anything that makes you feel slightly sick, or very sick, depending on how much you drank is not good for your body or mind.
I share your frustration. There’s lots of evidence now about the damage alcohol does and the lack of health benefits. But news stories and articles written about this seem to go largely unnoticed! It’s scary.
Thanks Kate. I sure enjoy reading your story as well as the comments from the others.
Today is a really, really good day!
Glad to have inspired you Diane – here’s to some brilliant alcohol free days ahead 🙂
The other thing I dislike about the ‘alcoholic’ label is that it implies something that is permanent and possibly genetic that we do not have the power to change. I prefer to say ‘I used to drink to excess’. I don’t have very many days under my belt yet but just want to say an extra thank you to you Kate. Your advice and inspiration are helping me a lot!
I completely agree – it seems a shame to be carrying a label like that around with you forever, when the decision to go alcohol-free is such a positive one. Keep going Tamara, you can do it 🙂
I haven’t had a drink for 78 days. I’m mostly ok but having the occasional blip where I just feel like drinking for the sake of it, and I know if I have one I will drink he whole bottle. It’s just to dull the misery I feel even though I know it will still be there in the morning. It’s a myth you can have one – if only !
Keep playing the movie to the end – one glass will always lead to more, and a very unhappy ending. You’re so much better off without it. Keep going! 🙂
Hi Kate…love getting your emails and blogs….I just completed a Whole30 (no sugar, grains, dairy, or booze for 30 days) and I felt fantastic….and then I drank like a fish all weekend and I feel just HORRIFIC. I need to stop…I like the term “non drinker” as opposed to “alcoholic” — it just feels more positive to make the choice not to drink.
Those kind of slips ups are frustrating, but I’m sure you will have learnt a lot from that experience – it will have been a good reminder of how alcohol really makes you feel! Onwards and upwards 🙂
I need help as I just don’t think I’m capable of doing this! Every day I find an excuse as to why I need to open the bottle of wine, whether it be because of boredom, stress, the craving, because the husband says stop and I think “stuff you”…. why do I keep doing it everyday????!!!!!
Hi Jenny, it sounds as if you could do with some support! If you’d like my help to stop drinking (and actually feel good about it) I’d be happy to work with you on this. My next stop drinking course is in April – it could be good timing for you? Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
I am so glad I found you Kate! I love the way you frame the addiction in such a positive way. It inspires me to stay sober because I have the power to choose not to drink. I am thrilled to bits to be sober! My life is sooo much better without alcohol!! You are an angel on earth! Thank you!
Thanks Rory, I’m pleased to hear you’re loving the sober life 🙂
I hear you, Jenny…..
Kate, thank you for this site and all the great advise. I’m a work in progress but better than the day before
Keep going Regina!
I’ve discussed all of these with my counsellour and I thought not being able to say I was an alcoholic meant that I was indenial even though I knew I had a big problem with drink. I am now 16 days AF as part of the 6 week trial and don’t think I’ll be going back to drinking alcohol. You’re right Kate, it’s just easier to take it off the table rather than constantly negotiate with myself.
Congratulations on your 16 days Helen!
AF since November (except for one slip in Feb with one glass of wine). I’m a little worried about going on a cruise next month with some friends that will be drinking alcohol. I don’t think they will pressure me or anything, but I may be tempted in that atmosphere. I’m looking at the mocktail menu in preparation. I love living my life AF. Thanks for your blog!!! It’s encouraging.
Why ruin a lovely holiday with a toxic glass of poison? Yuck! If you haven’t had an alcohol-free holiday yet then you really should treat yourself to one. Enjoy!
So true. We can spend so much time agonising over attending something, or do I need to serve wine to people visiting, that you ended up not knowing what the hell to do. Basically, better not to let the mind even go there as it’s such a maze!
Good call about hitting rock bottom … if I let myself go that then I envisage I will have possibly caused harm to myself and/ or others whilst driving my car under the influence!!! That is nowhere I ever wanna see myself!!!
Exactly – who knows what will happen. Far better to stop now 🙂
Great blog Kate. We believe what we want to believe and I hear myself telling people I am having a break from alcohol not that I was a raving alcoholic!!! I do know I have an unhealthy relationship to alcohol. Your blogs and my phone app ‘Easy Quit Drinking’ keep me really motivated.
A break is a good way of putting it, though it’s really no one else’s business why you stop – it’s funny how different people react! Keep going Anita 🙂
I finally feel like someone has pinpointed how I feel. Day one of sobriety and a better approach to drinking vegan yesterday….
You’ve started, and that’s the most important thing. Keep going Kassie!
Definitely don’t like the term alcoholic. Non drinker sounds better. I’m not there yet. Did 10 days AF then gave up as surrounded by it at work and home.
It sounds as if you’d benefit from support Jill – it’s hard when you’re surrounded by people doing the opposite! My stop drinking course is a great place to find community, accountability and support. Here are some more details about the next class, which starts in a few weeks: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
This post PERFECTLY sums up many of the reasons I had trouble quitting drinking in the past. Something about the black and white of having to refer to myself as an alcoholic for the rest of my life just didn’t sit right, deep down within me. You say it perfectly when you say the problem with the term alcoholic is that it implies it’s abnormal to become addicted to the stuff. When I finally started viewing alcohol in that way, knocking it off the pedastal, it was my “AHA!” moment. It was like the clouds parted. Now I view things like this: I’ve had a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol for most of my adult life. I’ve finally figured out that it holds me back from being my best self. So I’ve let it go. 80 days AF and feeling reborn!
Every morning I wake up and say right I’m cutting back etc. Then the day goes to hell and one drink leads to a bottle. I’m really over it but can’t seem to break the habit
It’s frustrating when you’re stuck in that cycle. If you’d like some support to stop drinking, stick with it and actually feel good about sobriety (so you want to keep on doing it!) then my online coaching programme would be perfect for you. It’s all a lot easier when you’ve got a plan to follow and you’re surrounded by a supportive community. Here’s some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
I absolutely LOVE this post, thank you!
I am currently in bed recovering from yet another heavy drinking session and revisiting (again) my desire to stop drinking…. I tried and failed so many times that it just all seems too hard but I’m going to try again! Thanks heaps for these three eye opening points, they’ve really helped! 🙂
Hi Lisa, well done for keeping on going. If you’re fed up of doing the same thing over and over – and it not working – then I’m happy to help you try a different approach. Willpower will only get you so far after all; sobriety is such a mindset game! If you’d like to work with me, my next stop drinking class opens soon. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
I find this motto helps:
“I can’t get drunk if I don’t have that first drink”
Enjoyed this! I’m just over 100 days sober and am still gritting my teeth through it…will this go away eventually? Or does my view on alcohol have to change first (how you said that we can educate ourselves on the reality of what alcohol is)? I do romanticize alcohol still and I miss it, I feel like maybe I just wasn’t that bad so that’s why I’m not feeling like life is better without? Or it will just take more time and I need to push through? Anyways thank you for your blog, I look forward to it each week!
If you romanticise alcohol – and keep it up on that pedestal – you’re always going to miss it. This is why you find people in AA who still have to go to regular meetings, despite being years sober – they truly believe they’re missing out on something. And that’s quite sad, given that we’re talking about a cancer causing drug here. If you’d like some support in stopping drinking (and actually enjoying AF life) I’d be happy to work with you: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
65 years old and AF for over 200 days now. Never felt better, look better. I had convinced myself for years that I couldn’t or didn’t want to live without alcohol. Now, it seems, I have convinced myself that I can. I feel like I have an edge that I haven’t had for years. Troubled times are so much easier to deal with sober. Reading these posts is so helpful for me.
Hi Kate, Thank you for a great article again that truly resonates. Another AA term that jars for me and physically makes wince is “recovery”. What are your thoughts on this misnomer?