6 months ago my drinking was out of control and had completely taken over my life. To say I was motivated to go sober is without question. Here’s the thing though – my motivation to get sober was through the roof but not in a positive or formative way. My motivation to stop drinking and stay alcohol-free, was defensive, a negative drive to show the world that “hey, I’m fine and alcohol doesn’t impact on my busy life”.
I was the classic over-achiever. My sober motivation in the beginning was all about proving that I could stay alcohol-free just like I could do everything else!
I’d always been up at 5:30 with the kids when they were young, I’d do all the cooking, do most of the running of the house, do a full time 50-60 hour a week job, train for triathlons then justify my reward of drinking every night. I was drinking a lot, and I mean a lot, however I pushed myself to perform and show myself and the world that I was fine.
But I wasn’t.
My mood was all over the place, the stress levels were high, I could be grumpy and every activity took a huge amount of energy and resolve to get started. I did everything that I did to show I was productive and functional but I was really just in denial. I was draining the energy tank below the reserve level every day then self medicating the exhaustion with wine, and it was destroying me. I felt older than I was, my body ached all the time, my mental state was on the edge – outwardly my life looked great and people often commented on my exciting life, but they didn’t know the inner truth and could not see past my impressive false façade.
I was surprised to find when I stopped drinking that my motivation to achieve hit an all time low. I just about managed to get my work done, but everything else became a chore. I love cooking and used to spend hours at it, always with a bottle of wine. Without the motivational wine prop my interest in cooking disappeared. All I wanted to do was sit on a sofa and watch box sets on Netflix. Initially this was my way of coping with the challenge of going alcohol-free. All my motivation energy went into not drinking and that felt necessary in the beginning, but over time focusing fully on staying sober became frustrating and the balance felt completely wrong. My mind had the desire to get back to all the things I was cramming in when I was drinking, but somehow I just couldn’t motivate myself. Why bother when I’d managed to do the big thing of stopping alcohol?
This comes back to the much cited and very true advice I often hear that you have to give yourself a break. Accept that your motivation will hit rock bottom, but then be ready to recognise the point where your mind is open to rebuilding and relearning the things you enjoy without alcohol. It’s taken nearly six months but I have reached that point where I can start sharing the motivational energy with other activities and begin to enjoy them in a different way. I feel like this is just the beginning of a long learning process but I’m excited and it feels good.
It’s like resetting my sober motivation. I’m no longer defensive and a bit resentful about “having” to stay alcohol-free. I’m enjoying the freedom to chose what I want to do now and the energy to do it.
I just finished listening to the Bubble Hour episode with guest Nicole Cameron. She is talking about how hanging on to her resentments kept her mentally, emotionally and spiritually sick. Resentment and shame seem to have been at the foundation of most of my issues. They kept me behind a façade which prevented me from living the life I want. I thought alcohol was doing this…but no. Alcohol was just the tool I used to numb the emotional pain of resentment and shame so I would not have to deal with it.
To move forward I have a lot of work to do around this. I need to own my part in the events of my life. I need to allow myself to feel proud of what I can achieve and enjoy the process without feeling that I have to prove anything to anyone including myself. My sober motivation is the motivation to be fully, freely, me.
We all know the triggers that become reasons to drink; happy, sad, angry, depressed, lazy, bored, time to celebrate, can’t sleep, etc. But what I’ve been doing lately is looking for the reasons to stay alcohol-free rather than thinking about the triggers that might cause me to drink. And the funny thing is, the reasons to stay alcohol-free and the reasons I told myself I needed to drink, are kind of the same. I realized that I’ve been drinking and numbing all of my feelings for a very long time. I’m beginning to enjoy feeling….just feeling all the feels. And I’m also discovering the confident me that has been buried for a long time. So the motivation I once had to drink has become my sober motivation –
I WANT to feel! Fully feel everything.
I’ve read so many tough personal stories over the last six months and we all go through our own challenges in our own way, but gradually things begin to settle and the sunrise of our new alcohol-free lives starts to appear in a gentle dawn. The sun is just beginning to come up, the birds are singing and it’s going to be a beautiful day. Be kind and gentle to yourself, accept it’s OK to do as little as possible and be a bit self centred, then embrace the new feeling as it gradually evolves in your mind and start sharing yourself again.
My sober motivation is to walk out from behind that old façade of super achiever and let myself be perfectly imperfect and happily free.
more from the Bubble Hour and other podcasts on sobriety, recovery, and loving life alcohol-free :
more perspectives from 6 months sober :
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