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What Does it Really Take to Quit Drinking?
The best decision I ever made was the final decision to quit drinking, which, for me, took tons of bravery, a lot of work, a little education, some mental and emotional strength, unrelenting patience, a strong commitment, community, and a whole bunch of self-compassion. I actually made the decision to quit many times before it stuck. For over 2 years I made decision after decision to quit drinking but anywhere between 3 days and 3 months, I conjured up a reason why it is a perfectly good idea to resume.
“I’ll just have one drink”,
“It’s a holiday party and everyone is drinking”
“I need it. I had a bad day” and “I’ll quit again tomorrow”
“I quit for 3 months. I’ve proven I can quit when I want to”
It’s amazing how illogical I could be while convincing myself of this “logic”. I continued to crave the drink because I believed it made me happy. But it certainly did not make me happy. Ironically, it did the opposite.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the irony of drinking. Daily drinking is pushed by commercials, billboards, ads, on social media and television. and by trusted, friends, lovers, aunts, and uncles. Drinking is part of human ritual and celebration, Holy Communion, Day of the Dead offerings in Mexico, wine during Shabbat and Passover, and toasts at weddings. Nearly every adult party ever thrown (especially in my family) revolves around drinking. And yet… in the US alone, there are more than 88,000 alcohol-related deaths a year. That’s in addition to cancer, liver damage, hypertension, heart disease, and fetal damage. Alcohol is responsible for injuries, suicide, violence, and auto accidents. These factors contribute to the final numbers that show excessive alcohol consumption as the third-leading cause of death in the US. It’s so ironic because drinking culture is mostly evil but wrapped up in a shiny package with a bright pink 🎀bow.
Irony? I can see it so much more clearly now that I have months of sobriety between today and the day that I quit drinking.
I’m sober enough to drive to the liquor store. But I really don’t want to anymore.
I’m healthy enough now to enjoy some wine. But zero booze for me is just fine.
I so often drank to lessen my fears. It only worsened my anxiety over the years.
I drank in an attempt to have more fun. But I managed to put off nearly everyone.
I drank in hopes I would sleep better each night. Yet while sober I’m asleep when I turn out the light.
For so long I would drink to avoid feeling crappie. Yet its been a long time since I’ve felt this happy.
HAPPY! Yes indeed – the irony is that I drank to be happy but it was finally stopping drinking that brought me true happiness.
Since I quit drinking I have experienced something life-changing. I have personally gone through a sort of hell in realizing I had an addiction. Setting aside the admonishments and shame, the really painful part was finding myself trapped in a prison of repetitive behavior, that even through the haze of alcohol, I could see was making me miserable. When my job became unbearable, when life became disappointing, relationships were dissolving, I was losing loved ones, heartbroken and in pain, I learned an incredibly easy coping skill. This coping skill washed all that stuff away and I could feel so much better in just a few minutes if I followed this simple process. Get in the car, drive a mile or three to find a liquor store I hadn’t been to in the last couple days, go in and buy alcohol, preferably with cash as it was embarrassing to show so many purchases on my credit card. Drink to dissolve the pain. That outlet, my only outlet, was the same thing that was contributing to my unhappiness. It helped me feel “much better” …for a while. But after some time, to drink more only brought me back to feeling “OK”, or just “bad”. “Much better” was no longer on the spectrum. Even if I drank more heavily. “Much better” was gone.
I finally managed to quit drinking on November 9th, 2020. I am done with drinking and I don’t plan on ever drinking again. I will continue to make that a priority in my life. No one and nothing is a higher priority. It’s like putting on your own emergency face mask first, in an airplane. You can’t save others unless you save yourself first. I am replacing my old coping skill with more workable coping skills, including meditation and mindfulness.
One of the ways mindfulness has helped me, is to see that the only way to get through painful moments is to accept them, experience them, and to know that emotions are all just that; momentary and fleeting. Life is still sometimes painful, but it is what it is. Life is a gift to be experienced, for which I am grateful. I am starting to feel better on my own. When facing the pain straight on, it doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Sometimes life is going to be painful, but I will face it. I will accept it, move forward and enjoy the journey, because life is also joyful.
I have so many excellent reasons to stay sober.
▪︎I saved thousands of dollars on just the booze so far
▪︎I’ve gotten my life back
▪︎my chances of getting heart disease is greatly reduced
▪︎my chances of having a stroke is reduced
▪︎my chances of getting cancer is reduced
▪︎my immune system has greatly improved
▪︎my digestive system has greatly improved
▪︎my cognitive functions have improved
▪︎my sleep quality has greatly improved
▪︎my brain’s grey matter has increased in size
▪︎I’m less dehydrated
▪︎my skin is healthier
▪︎I have increased mental clarity
▪︎I have lost weight (15 lbs or just short of 7 kg)
▪︎I have more energy
▪︎my hair is healthier
I feel that I am so much smarter for all I’ve experienced through the process of quitting drinking and staying sober. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve become a more patient and compassionate person. I’m still a work in progress but I’m getting better every day.
The main points of what I have learned from my life-changing experiences are:
• The greater majority of us are good people, looking for love and happiness, and trying to avoid pain.
• I am so much stronger than I ever knew.
• Most people are good, compassionate, and loving.
• I do not want to waste the rest of my life hiding away from the world.
You’d think these are a no-brainer, and in a way, they are. I thought I knew these things. But I didn’t believe it or care enough …and today I do. I care very much. Sometimes I care so much, it’s overwhelming. I’m still working through all of my new thoughts and emotions. This too, I’m getting better at every day.
These things make me a much happier person. Had I not been through the last few years struggling to free myself from alcohol, as well as being there to help others do the same, I would not really know these things and I would not have the capacity to experience happiness and love as I have now …and, again, it’s getting better every day.
I am so grateful to be free and sober, without which I would not be able to experience this level of joy.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “…after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain”
If you tried to quit drinking and slipped, please don’t give up. Keep your toolbox well stocked and be prepared to use it. Let’s make this journey together.
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
C S Lewis
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Don’t let the shame of the stigma of addiction keep you from saying
“I think I have a problem with drinking”
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