I think it would be fair to say that the last few years have been a little tricky for humankind. The last few years have been full of pain and fear and disconnection. News and pictures of political tension, pandemic, global warming, and war are hard to escape. I know, for myself, this can sometimes feel overwhelming. A feeling of powerlessness, of hopelessness and sadness, of how on Earth can I, little ‘ol me change any of these insurmountable problems? What’s the use? Much like the feelings I experienced before I was able to really stop drinking. Powerlessness and fear and shame. These last few years I’ve been grateful for every lesson that sobriety has taught me.
While my feelings of powerlessness about the world come and go, my feelings of hopelessness regarding my drinking were constant. For years it seemed there was no escape from them except by drinking them into the corner every day for a few hours. I had the desire to change this habit, but it seemed so big and so scary and I had no idea how to fight it. So how do you tackle a task which seems impossible?
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Stephan Covey refers to the Circle of Influence, outside of which we have a larger Circle of Concern. The Circle of Concern holds our worries and hopes, but involves things which we cannot control, and dwelling in this circle doesn’t empower us. Within this circle however, we have a Circle of Influence, which also holds our worries and hopes but involves things which we CAN change. Working within this Circle of Influence allows us to directly affect change. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but when I stopped drinking, this is exactly what I was implementing.
I couldn’t stop drinking forever, but I could stop for one day.
I couldn’t solve all of my problems at once, but I could post about them as they came.
I couldn’t admit to the world that I had a problem, but I could tell 1 person.
I couldn’t rid the world of alcohol, but I could rid my home of it.
I couldn’t avoid my friends forever, but I could meet them for a coffee during the day.
I couldn’t avoid the grocery store, but I could avoid it after 12:00 pm.
And so on, and so on.
I worked at conquering those little tasks which were within my control and slowly that Circle of Influence started to grow and spill into my Circle of Concern. The insurmountable problem of quitting drinking was not so insurmountable anymore and I was empowered. “Do the next right thing”, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”… it’s all about just doing that first thing which you can do to get you closer to that larger goal. Just focusing on the little things we can change, whether it be to admit to one person we have a problem, to not go to the store after 12:00, to throw out all the alcohol in the house, to recycle our plastic, to donate to a homeless shelter, to give the old lady next door a hug, to be kind, to tell our children we love them… Just the one next thing we CAN do to change for the better will empower us to be who we want be and to maybe even make the world just a little bit better as well.
There is so much to gain by leaving alcohol behind. We each have our own personal reasons and those reasons can be measured and rated in order of importance that is unique to each one of us. My number one reason has always been my health and then fostering my children’s well-being. I can’t be a very good mom without being present and healthy enough to take care of them. But the most important and welcomed residual effect of quitting alcohol to me was the freedom from it being in control of my thoughts. Sobriety has taught me what freedom means.
I wanted to leave behind the preoccupation with drinking. I wanted to stop thinking about it all of the time. It became a persistent desire and there was no time of day or night I was safe from obsessing about it. I thought about it every day, all day long, and about whether or not I was going to drink it. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it, remorseful, scared, and parched. My drinking problem had become a thinking problem. I felt trapped by its constant nagging and harassment.
Once I began to build consecutive alcohol free days, and then weeks together, that is when I finally found real relief. The preoccupation dissipates the more time you put between yourself and it. You will finally be allowed to go through a day, living and existing as you were truly meant to. There is so much joy in finishing a day and realizing you not only refrained from drinking that day but you didn’t think about it; not once. As the days, weeks, and months of ceasing to drink add up, this happens more and more frequently, and eventually, the obsession goes away, and you rarely think about drinking any longer. Like I said earlier; sobriety has taught me the meaning of freedom!
It takes some time, but building just a little bit of sober momentum relieves those nagging thoughts of alcohol and you gain freedom from it. Sober momentum brings about a peaceful mindset. It brought me freedom and relief that I am so grateful for.
10 THINGS SOBRIETY HAS TAUGHT ME
1. Self care is not selfish. It is essential.
2. Planning for events and special occasions is a huge help. Bringing my own AF drinks has been key here.
3. My situation is not unique and I am not special. There are TONS of people out there battling much harder things than I am and still not drinking.
4. Drinking is NOT an activity.
5. Not all sober days are good days, but they are sure as hell better than drinking days.
6. Change isn’t linear.
7. I am the only person who can take resposibility for this.
8. And yet, I CANNOT do this alone.
9. Sobriety is Kryptonite to shame.
10. There is NOTHING more important than protecting my quit. This might sound harsh. Surely family is more important? No, it isn’t. Not for me. I have to protect my quit to protect me. It is survival. Like air. If I want to live, I have to remain sober. That simple. And that is ok.
“Shame is the fear of disconnection—it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. Here’s the definition of shame that emerged from my research: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.”Brené Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
Stay within Your Circle of Influence and Just do the next right thing!
1. Set powerful goals the Main Goal would be to stop drinking or for some it will be a Moderation Goal. Be specific and if you need to write this Goal down somewhere, you can always have those written words to refer back to. more reading – Want to stop drinking? Start with a Plan and Share It! and How to Use the Moderate Drinking Group in BOOM
2. Get (and stay) motivated. Do not sit idly by hoping for sobriety to stick, that will just not happen. Motivation fosters recovery.
3. Get inspired read books, listen to Podcasts, read articles, watch documentaries or Posts on Boom these can be real inspirational to others and can be therapy for you.
4. Learn good habits; learn new ways to care for your body and mind. Learn techniques that will help with stress and anxiety. Explore all the holistic approaches, to good mental and physical well-being. This will be different for everyone.
more reading – Learning Self-Care in My First 100 Days Alcohol-Free
5. Commit to improving yourself. There is no way to reach forward, with determination and hope, unless you want to badly get there.
more reading – Decide. Survive. Then Thrive.
6. Summon the strength to start day one or if you have hit a brick wall, push through. If you were drinking because of trauma, psychological or physiological reasons, seek that professional help. You cannot paper over the cracks. Help is out there.
more reading – The Alcohol and Depression Rollercoaster
7. Act brave you can do this. If it feels dangerous and scary and life-threatening and painful, it is probably the healthy path to recovery you are on. The hardest thing for me in early sobriety was the vulnerability I felt when I removed that “coping mechanism” but it is allowing that vulnerability that enables change. Sobriety taught me the meaning of Freedom and that was worth every little bit of discomfort.
8. Start over if you need to. In physics and in quitting alcohol, once in motion keep moving, the only thing that will stop Momentum is another force i.e. Alcohol. Growth comes from the inside out, from trying and failing and trying again.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Start living your own life Today
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We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using