I have spent the last 10 years struggling with trying to stop drinking and trying to stay sober and at times it has felt beyond impossible! For me going sober took a lot of trial and error and more blood sweat and tears than I imagined it might when I first woke up hungover and determined to stop drinking, or at least figure out how to become a more moderate and less of a mess! I am now finally over 8 months alcohol-free and going strong. How did I do it? I did it like the Wright Brothers did when they started building their airplane.
Learning to fly started with a dream ….
120 years ago the Wright Brothers flew an airplane….for the very first time! Think of where it’s taken us. I can visit Europe in 7 hours! Australia in a day!
And where did it start? From a dream…..but mostly, from a lot of hard work.
They had to invent the wing! They had to invent the propeller! There was not a gasoline engine light enough at the time, so they invented that too! And on top of all of these amazing feats, they suffered numerous setbacks, including people who ridiculed them for believing that human flight was even possible. Yet, they kept trying, until on December 17th, 1903, they succeeded.
It starts with a dream and then takes lot of hard work!
There are people who will tell you that there is one right way to stop drinking and stay sober. I know that I struggled for years with wondering if I was doing it wrong. Over the years I have been on track with my alcohol-free intentions for weeks at a time, and then slipped and slid, experimented with attempts at “moderate drinking,” and then gotten back on track again. My sober journey has not been an easy, straight shoot, but the point in the end is to get where you want to go.
The Best Way to Stop Drinking and Stay Sober? Your Way!
This is what I’ve learned about learning to live alcohol-free longterm.
Most importantly and without a doubt, NEVER QUIT TRYING TO QUIT! I have had years of day ones. Hell, I’ve had years of day halves, where I’d wake up in the morning with my new quit date, only to be drinking that same afternoon!! But…..day 1 would turn into a week occasionally. Dry January was completed several times. Alcohol-free stretches became longer. Moderation was courted, which though never successful for me, still meant a reduction in the amount of alcohol I drank. All of these alcohol-free days added up and I began to see that a life AF was not only possible, but desirable!
Not only possible… BUT Desirable!
After SO many day 1’s and restarts, I decided to try something different and it’s working! I’ve made one fundamental change in my thinking and that is finally shutting the door to moderation.
I’ve tried to make moderate drinking work in every way, shape and form possible. I’ve never wanted to quit drinking, I’ve always wanted to re-train my brain to find that sweet spot, where I could drink like a “normal” person. Like so many of us, I’d take days off, decide I could handle alcohol in moderation and in a very short time be right back to square one. All of the rules and promises I’ve made to be moderate have failed…..every single time. It’s just not how my mind works, especially once the drinking has started. Strangely though, even though moderation has never worked for me, I hung on to the concept tightly. To not be able to moderate my drinking meant quitting, and that concept seemed like forever and way too daunting.
But, here’s the problem. Leaving moderation on the table is like leaving a door cracked open. You can always hear what’s going on in the other room and my drinking room was a very busy, noisy place. It was always trying to invite me back in and very convincing in its arguments. Arguments I could list here, but by now we all know what they are. They are simple and complex, but all designed with one thing in mind, to get us to start drinking again.
So I slammed the door shut this time and something amazing happened. I felt an ease in my decision to not drink. I wasn’t always battling the voices on the other side of the door. Sure, every once in a while I can hear a whisper, even through the closed door, but it’s much easier to deflect and not listen to.
Something else has happened after I shut the door to moderation. Without all that incessant chatter in my brain I’ve noticed a new door crack open. A door with possibilities that never existed when the drinking door was open. Now that’s a room I’m excited to explore!
Finally accepting once and for all that I cannot moderate my drinking and shutting the door has been a game changer for me. If you’re still hearing way too much chatter I invite you to give it a try. Slam that door shut, lock it, throw away the key and see what happens when the drinking voice can’t get to you so easily. Onward!😎
When you’re trying to stop drinking and stay sober it is important to treat your lapses not as failure, but as learning experiences. Dust yourself off, be kind to yourself and start over. EVERY SINGLE DAY AF IS A VICTORY! It has taken me several years to get to this day of six months in a row. It didn’t happen overnight.
Here’s a few tips that have helped me out along the way:
1) Ditch the hard stuff!! Hard liquor was way too difficult for me to regulate and was the first thing to go.
2) Pick a stretch of days to start your alcohol-free run where there’s not major events going on. This will help your success and confidence.
3) Stick close to Boom and post. Keep yourself accountable.
4) Eat early and be well stocked with AF options. HUGE for me!
The most important thing for me to stop drinking and stay sober was to finally shut the door to moderation. The day I accepted that moderate drinking has never worked for me was the day my AF life started to gain serious traction.
So, what has changed for me in the last eight months? My health has greatly improved. I’ve lost weight, my blood pressure is normal, that pain in my side is gone and I’m sleeping like a baby. My anxiety level’s have dropped. My memory is starting to improve. I wash the dishes after dinner. I’m a better dad and a better husband.
It’s not all a pink cloud of bliss though. Some days are really long. I’m having to deal with issues I’ve swept under the rug for years. It’s been hard to find a replacement when I just want to check out for awhile. I miss the social camaraderie with my drinking friends and family. I am finding new ways to work through these things though and none of them are worth the rollercoaster ride, poor health and debilitating hangovers that drinking has brought me these past 40 years.
Lastly, at eight months alcohol-free, my resolve is stronger than ever. I do NOT want to go back!! Only time away from alcohol can create that resolve, I think. I am still in the baby steps of this journey, but each day/week/month AF are ingraining a new pattern of the person I want to be. Believe me, if I can do it, so can you.
We are told by our family, our friends and our culture that drinking is normal. Our world embraces alcohol. Everywhere we look, we see images and places dedicated to selling us alcohol and trying to make us believe that life is not fulfilled without it.
To break away from all of these commonly-held beliefs, we truly need to re-invent ourselves. That can include everything from re-inventing our relationships, to re-inventing the very idea of what fun is! It’s not easy, yet leading a happy life, alcohol free, is possible. I believe that if we continue to learn and try, one day we will finally fly.
So, wherever you are on this journey to stop drinking and stay sober, keep trying. Use BOOM and every other resource that resonates with you to break free from alcohol and create a better life. It can be done. It IS being done.
“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
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