I am 5 months alcohol-free with the help of an online community. It’s working well for me but I’ve been toying with the idea of going to Alcoholics Anonymous for a deeper dive into sobriety (I’m lurking on AA Zoom calls and like them and feel I get something out of each one). I was put in touch with someone to talk to about local gatherings, and during the course of the conversation, a couple of interesting things happened. She was surprised I had over 5 months of sobriety already, without “help.” She asked me if I had found it hard (stopping drinking and staying sober), and I said no, not really–that there were a few times that were a little white-knuckly, but it really hasn’t been really difficult, and she was apparently amazed by that, because she kept coming back to it, and telling me how “lucky” I am.
While I do see the value of the process and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I think having someone who “matches” your experience (to talk to) is super important. This lady was almost suspicious? or something when I told her my background, and after she shared her background, I just thought, I can’t relate to her and she can’t relate to me. Which is absolutely okay–neither are better or worse off, we just traveled different roads to get to the same sober town.
Since the call, I’ve been thinking–why hasn’t it been hard? Is it luck? I mean, there have been times I have thought, wow, no way can I do this sober thing forever, and boy, a glass of ______ would taste good right now, but in terms of abject screaming difficulty, I would say it’s been….not easy….but not “hard.” I’ve been thinking “hard” about why that is and what has worked for me. And believe me, I never thought I could stop drinking –I drank for 35 years, every single day of it unless some big medical thing was happening.
I am amazed every single day that I’m still sober, 5 months sober! Was it luck? I don’t think so – here’s what made the difference for me:
My 8 tips and tools to get sober and stay alcohol-free
1. On Day 1, I wrote down every reason I could think of to stop drinking. Every single dreadful incident I could remember. I wrote about all the drunken arguments with my husband, I wrote about the guilt, the shame, the anger, the worry, the hiding, the escalation of the craving. The fraud I was becoming. The scheduling of everything in my life around drinking.
It poured out of me.
The sadness of all those years.
Over my first month sober, I wrote and wrote and wrote, my own private diary of ALL THE REASONS WHY I QUIT. I’ve had two major and “hard” big-assed weak moments during this whole time, and I’ve gone back and read my why’s, and it snapped me the hell out of it to remember WHY I stopped drinking.
The why’s are all still there. I never ever want to forget or loosen up the reins, and reading the why’s every now and then is keeping it all real in my mind.
2. I disrupted the wine witch’s routine. My drinking hours started at 3 p.m. On about my 2nd day on Boom, the online community where I go for support to stay sober, someone suggested I eat earlier than normal, and I credit this simple thing to making staying sober much easier.
I started making dinner by 3, eating by 4, and poof! Drinking hours majorly disrupted.
I’m back to normal eating hours now but the wine witch has left the building, she got so bored with food taking up the space where she used to live.
Related reading : Alcohol Cravings and Hypoglycaemia
3. Taking it one day at a time. I remember driving home from a pool party at about Month 1.5. Everyone had been drinking (lightly) but me, and while I wasn’t triggered at the pool, on the drive home I had an insane desire to drink when I arrived, and a huge conversation in my head about “forever.”
It was so freeing, such a release of stress, to suddenly think,
“I will just do this for today and that’s all.”
I did that day, and the next, and the next, and here I am. Thinking in terms of forever is….undoable for me. Today, I can do. I so get the power of One Day at a Time.
4. Alcohol-Free beer. I wasn’t a beer drinker before, sothe taste of AF beer is not triggering to me, but it helps me so much when a “happy hour” craving hits.
Crack a Heineken 0.0 and the Alcohol Asshole is fooled and foiled once again.
Every so often, the ritual of it pops up. I miss the ritual of drinking sometimes and when I do the alcohol-free beer does it. My husband and I went out to dinner for my birthday, and AF beer was my celebration drink. I took AF beer along when we stayed with drinking-buddy friends for 3 days–by the end, everybody wanted to try it.
5. Staying completely immersed in recovery. AA Zoom calls, reddit posts, Boom. I don’t read as much quit lit as I did at the beginning now that school is back in full swing, but I stay in the conversation. I always will. I am ape-shit serious about this staying sober thing !
6. …and speaking of quit-lit, I read some very impactful books right off the bat that stick with me. Alcohol Explained 1 and 2, as well as Allen Carr’s Quit Drinking the Easy Way resonated with the critical thinker in me, about the literal poison that alcohol is in our brains and in our systems. I see it as pouring poison on my lovely innocent little brain cells, and why in the world would I do that?? For some reason, this concept has carried me forward and I hope it always will. Every day, I visualize my cells healing up and becoming normal once again.
7. Remembering what drinking does to daily life. I’m extremely busy with my work and school life and if alcohol was still in the picture, it would be unmanageable.
Calls at 5 in the evening? Shit…I have to wait to drink until after. Agony!
A paper left to write before midnight? Great–I wonder if I can do it on a full tank of vodka.
What I hated about drinking–hated–is the waiting. The planning. The life revolving around when I could–or couldn’t–drink. The un-scratchable itch. The constant, constant arranging. The exhausting thinking about drinking.
8. Knowing I. Am. Done. I am free. I look forward now, into my new life and all its possibilities.
I still remember, and hope I never forget, the word Allen Carr uses in his book Stop Drinking the Easy Way. Elation. I feel elation to be here, right now, where I am.
I’m proud that every day going forward feels doable. I’m elated to be here.
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