How many times have you asked yourself, “Do I really need to stop drinking?”
Answering that question can be tough.
Towards the end of my drinking career, I found it helpful to hear about other people’s experiences and the moments that made them decide that enough was enough.
Life isn’t black and white, and sometimes the call to be sober can feel pretty subtle. Other people’s stories had more of an impact on me than filling out some online quiz, or going through a checklist of warning signs.
I thought this might be something you’d appreciate too – so a few days ago, I asked some of my Getting Unstuck students to answer a simple question: “How did you know it was time to quit drinking?”
Their responses are really interesting (and probably not what you’re expecting!)
“On Mother’s Day 2017 I invited my mum and daughter for Sunday lunch and was really looking forward to spending time with them. As usual I had lots of wine.
Before I dished up the meal, my daughter asked me if I was OK and I knew she could see I was drunk. I felt really bad. I don’t remember the rest but my mum and daughter were really sad for me and I felt disappointed in myself.
I knew then that I had to do something. I’m so glad I did – giving up alcohol was the best thing I’ve ever done, and my mum and daughter both say how proud they are of me.”
“I had a 2 week booze break before Christmas, but then I started again. I was horrified one night to find I’d drunk a whole bottle of wine in about an hour and a half, on a work night. I thought to myself… if a whole bottle is now not enough on a Tuesday night, where is this going? I knew I had to stop it.”
“For me it was no one thing, just a gradual acceptance that it couldn’t go on. I was moving into my 60s and worried about my health. I had tried to moderate – it didn’t work. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and The Sober School popped up! I thought ‘this is an omen and this is my time!’ 265 days later, it is the best thing I have ever done.”
“I’d been trying for 5 years to cut back and moderate, but things just seemed to be getting worse. The day after my best friends 50th birthday party was my decision to stop – it took me 3 days to feel ‘normal’. It just wasn’t worth it anymore and I deserved better.”
“I came home drunk from a work do again, having failed to meet my husband at the station as planned. A colleague had to put me in a taxi and to this day I don’t know who paid. The next day my husband said he’d had enough of my shit and if it happened again we would be looking at a divorce. That’s the day I signed up for your course.”
“I was supposed to wake up early to make my daughter’s favorite birthday breakfast. Instead I overslept due to drinking the night before. When she left for school, I went back to sleep and dreamed that my younger self was crying and begging me to take care of her.”
“For my birthday I got all alcohol related cards and presents – things like a make your own cocktail set, drinks glasses, bottle stopper, signs saying ‘in the garden drinking prosecco’. It struck me that to all my family and friends, alcohol was my thing. I felt shameful.
I’m 173 days AF now and the gifts I got for Mother’s Day made me realise how much my life has changed for the positive. My children see me in a much different way now.”
“I had known for years that I needed to stop drinking. The tipping point for me was when my grandson was born with serious medical issues and I realized that I couldn’t help care for him unless I quit drinking. I deeply regret that I didn’t stop drinking when my own children were young and equally needed an alert, attentive mother.”
“One day I looked – really looked – in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It seemed the only thing I looked forward to was the end of the day, so I could hit the bottle… again.
I had to get out of the vicious cycle I’d been in for so many years. Googling ‘how much is too much’ etc, is how I believe you ended up in my inbox Kate. Lol.
The best decision I ever made was to trust your statement that ‘If an AF life was really all that terrible, I’d have gone back to drinking long ago’. I’m paraphrasing….but you get the gist. Turns out it IS amazing.”
“I knew that my drinking was escalating – I was alone and depressed after the death of my husband. Wine seemed like an answer but it was isolating me. Then there was the family dinner when my siblings all glanced at me when I opened yet another bottle of wine as the meal was winding down… Celebrating day 352 today.”
“I had some silly misunderstanding with my husband. After he went to bed, I decided I needed to go out partying in random clubs. I am like, 39, trying to be, what, 25? Random old dudes hitting on me and younger ones screaming NO!! to me trying to salsa with them…”
“Valentines Day coincided with the first day of Lent. I decided that it was time for me to start loving ME! My Heavenly Father gave me one body while I am on this earth – it is time for me to take care of it.”
“My daughter attempted to take her life. As I sat in the hospital with her the next day, listening to the psychiatrist talk to her, I knew without a doubt that my drinking had, in some part at the very least, contributed to my daughters despair. I also knew I needed to be sober if I was going to be able to support her back to full, strong, mental health. She needed a positive role model, not a pissed one.”
“Losing my Mum to cancer made me wake up to the fact that I was wasting and probably shortening my life.”
“I tried and failed to moderate for the whole of 2017. When I looked at my New Years Resolutions for 2018 – with the moderation ‘rules’ included again – I knew that however much I wanted them to, they wouldn’t work… Sober was the only way forward.”
“The main thing for me was that I could not moderate my drinking, and thinking about drinking was consuming every moment of my life. I was reading books, feeling like so much was wrong with me, but mainly I got tired of worrying about it. I heard Kate on The Bubble Hour and signed up for the course. It has been so helpful and I am grateful to have found the way for me to stop!”
“I made some bad decisions whilst drunk but those were rare occasions so I pushed them to the back of my mind. It was realising that I struggled not to drink every single day that made me feel utterly pathetic and worried for my health. Now I feel like the old me is gradually coming back.”
“My 9 year old son asked to drink from a wine glass. When I asked why, he said he ‘needed to get used to it, coz wine is what adults drink’. I signed up for your course the next day.”
“Too many things to mention! But the massive wake up call was going out with the girls from work, getting absolutely plastered, coming home and falling over twice. I woke up the next morning at my brothers house, because my partner had rang him to come and get me as he couldn’t cope anymore…. it was so embarrassing.
I had a choice… give up the booze or lose my relationship. Day 256 today and I love living AF.”
“I was literally sick and tired of looking at my face in the mirror and making the same deal that I wasn’t going to drink today… to then fail again at 5pm!!! I celebrate one year next week of not having to make that bullshit deal.”
“I realised that alcohol was taking much more from me than it was giving – it was beginning to affect my health, my energy levels, my job performance, and most of all, my relationships with those closest to me.
One day at the middle school where I work, I saw a colorful bulletin board advertising this year’s senior slogan, ‘Today I choose to be the best version of myself’. I was ashamed to realize that I wasn’t choosing that, and hadn’t been choosing that for quite a long time.
I made the decision right there in the hallway that I wanted to make a different choice going forward. I wanted to stop wasting time drinking and start living the active, exciting life I knew I was capable of living, and that I believe I was born to live.”