Before I quit drinking, I had some very strong beliefs about sobriety. And I was convinced I was right about them. Such as:
“If I don’t drink, it won’t be fun.”
“I really need alcohol in order to relax.”
“No way can I dance without drinking first.”
“It is impossible to date sober.”
But here’s the thing. Every single one of my beliefs about sobriety turned out to be wrong.
(And not just a little bit wrong. Really, really wrong.)
Looking back, I think I could’ve quit drinking a lot sooner than I did, had I been a bit more open to the idea that what I believed to be true, may not be.
When it comes to alcohol-free living, here’s why we get things so wrong:
We all have a confirmation bias
Our brains automatically scan for evidence that supports the thoughts we already believe to be true. So if you’re convinced that you need to drink in order to have fun with your friends, your brain will always be looking for (and remembering) evidence to prove that’s true.
This means you might not even register the times when no one drank much, but you still had great fun. You won’t notice how little other people are drinking. And you’ll probably ‘forget’ those nights where you drank a lot and didn’t have fun at all.
Why do we do this?
Our brains like to be efficient, and it takes energy to question and challenge your beliefs. We couldn’t possibly walk around questioning everything about our lives, all the time. Your brain likes to keep believing the thoughts you already believe, even when it’s unhelpful.
There’s a weird satisfaction in being ‘right’, even when it’s about something that’s negative, e.g. “I never stick at anything.” It takes more effort to challenge that belief than it does to just go along with it.
Changing your beliefs
The chances are you have some beliefs about sobriety and booze that feel completely and utterly true to you. I know this, because I’ve been there too. Unpicking those beliefs requires time, patience and a willingness to be wrong.
Start by looking for evidence that your thoughts may not be 100% accurate. For example, if you believe that alcohol helps you have fun, what happens if you switch your focus and look for evidence that alcohol is stopping you from having a good time? I bet you already have some proof of this.
Creating new evidence
As well as examining your past experiences, you’ll need to be willing to create new evidence in order to challenge some of your thoughts. If you’ve drunk alcohol at every party for the past decade, it might feel hard to believe you can have fun without booze.
That’s ok. It doesn’t mean your suspicions are correct – it just means you’ve spent years practising the opposite belief and finding evidence to support that. You don’t yet have the proof you need to choose a different belief.
Give yourself time
This is important: when you’re looking for new evidence, you’ve got to be patient. The first time I went to a party sober, it felt so awkward I didn’t enjoy it. However, the next time things were a little easier. By the third time, I surprised myself by actually enjoying it.
It’s so tempting to try something once and then say “See! I told you it would be like this!” But creating new evidence always takes time. This is yet another reason for taking a proper break from booze – at least 6 to 8 weeks. If you’d like my help to do that, click here for details of my online course.