I really never thought I could stop drinking after 30 years of daily alcohol excess. I’ve had periods where I’ve drunk less ( less meaning about 6 units on weekday nights!!) but the nightly drinking was still constant even then. Over my entire 30-year drinking career, I have done one Dry January and have had a couple of 2-week alcohol-free periods. So many people face the same challenge. We have all done multiple day ones and all work to make the latest one stick. If it doesn’t, we reset, take stock, and try again. It doesn’t make us weaker or failures. It’s just part of our alcohol-free journey. A journey that takes strength and courage, takes pride, to embark on.
My journey to stop drinking and stay sober has been a bit like going to an airport. Does this sound familiar? The early day ones, when you repeatedly get started but fail to stay sober, are like no flights being available to our ultimate, exotic destination, but we take the domestic flight anyway and do a short break. We enjoy it, see new things, and it gives us the appetite to travel further. One day we arrive at the airport and everything falls into place and there are flights to our ultimate destination. We still have to queue, go through security, sit on hard seats, endure delays, get ripped off buying food, but then we board the plane and some peace starts to emerge. After days in the airport, I’ve got my book out and have a glass of orange juice. The aircon is cooling me down, the seat next to me is free and I’m excited about the journey.
When we stop drinking many of us think that we’ve arrived at a destination. After years of spiraling down the day you STOP drinking may feel like a point of no return. But the day you stop drinking is the beginning of a new journey. One that is not about a destination but about the experience of living free every day. Since I stopped drinking a few months ago, I’ve been trying not to look into the future and treat the sober journey as a continuum rather than one leading to a destination. It’s a never-ending trip of discovery! Flying high alcohol-free.
I’m on day 111 sober today. It is the longest I have EVER been alcohol-free since my drinking career started 30 years ago! I feel like I’ve just boarded the plane. I’m not going to think about arriving at the destination and just enjoy the flight for now. I’ve not planned my and will see what comes up as it happens.
I’m trying hard not to dwell on all the wasted time and money, times when alcohol has come before my kids because I didn’t want to drive, a time when one kid needed hospital and I had to call on my ex-wife to drive. Those times when I must have been drunker and slurring more than everyone in the room and they could see it, times when my chimp brain spoke the emotional non-thought-out first response. All those times ensuring there was enough alcohol for the evening, times of filling my glass fuller, sneaking a swig of neat gin in secret. I see it now and it’s so clear.
The longer I go, the more I realise how powerful making the AF decision is. My head was overflowing with decision conflict and cognitive dissonance for at least a couple of years before I stopped. It was a horrible feeling and so obvious in retrospect, but completely impenetrable when I was drinking. I just couldn’t work it out but had that awful feeling of knowing I was doing something really bad for me.
I’ve been re-reading a lot of quit lit to try and reinforce my psychology change. The books read very differently now compared to the early days. I also read a lot of them drunk at bedtime when I was still drinking, hoping it would make a difference. Go figure! I was avoiding the only decision I had to make and still trying to find some justification for drinking. Looking for that nugget that would prove my drinking was OK and I was different. Hell, reading the books even made me feel healthier!!
My family were not drinkers so I didn’t get this problem with drinking from there. I think it started at university and my work where there was a very heavy drink culture and that continued. It was part of normal life.
I’m very surprised to say that now I’ve stopped drinking and stayed sober for a while, my strongest feeling is one of FREEDOM! Alcohol has a crippling hold on our lives and dictates everything. I see that now and it is GREAT to be FREE! This is the most powerful and rewarding experience I have ever had and that’s crazy given that the experience is choosing not to do something!
This community gives strength and support wherever we may be on the journey. Some of us are just getting out of bed bleary-eyed at 4 am, fighting the hangover from the night before but knowing there are exciting times ahead. Some of us are still waiting in the airport. Some of us have long delays. Some of us have to postpone our journey until next week. Some of us even have to rebook. The journey will still happen though.
Come join us! Wherever you are on the journey.
Trust the process. Nothing makes sense in the early days of quitting- the only thing we need to do is not drink. Sounds easy but wow, it can be tough to do that one and only thing. Make that your one and only goal every hour and every day. Ignore everything else as far as possible, let life wash past you for a bit, and just concentrate on that quit.
The rest of life will gradually fall into place but this happens very gradually. I reckon I’m about 50% there. Don’t overthink it- just don’t drink.
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Once I knew alcohol is a poison I could live without my relationship with it changed. It was no longer an accompaniment to other things… it was just an unhealthy habit that is hard to break… breaking the habit meant enduring feelings and situations I had avoided or was even unaware of… the feelings and situations didn’t go away when I drank… it was just a dangerous form of procrastination….. Now I must get on with the work of putting my house in order… AF and clear minded…