You may have seen a few of my stories and posts on Instagram lately talking about my recent but long-coming choice to be sober. With all the support and love have also come a lot of questions about it, how I feel, how I made the decision, how I started, etc. So, rather than just leave it on Instagram I thought it might be well time to share some thoughts here on this topic and the beginning stages of thinking about or starting sobriety.
As I said, for me it was a long time coming. This is a decision I started to question over 10 years ago in my mid 20’s when the partying and drinking felt out of control on more days than not. You can read more about that and my story here and here. But it wasn’t until recently, over Memorial Day weekend actually that I made the decision I had long been avoiding.
Sometimes the road to get there is unmarked along the way, finding it is part of the process. Here's a few of my tips on getting there:
Step 1: Question Your Behavior
One of the first steps for me was questioning my drinking habits and behaviors. I took all the questionnaires out there that tell you if you are an alcoholic or not. I thought this would help me make a decision, or rather make the decision for me. Although questioning that relationship is a great place to start. It’s usually where most of us do. There’s a next step.
Step 2: Ask the Right Questions
I wasn’t asking the right questions in the beginning. The questions aren’t: am I an alcoholic? Do I have a drinking problem? The real questions are: is alcohol serving me and my life? Is alcohol getting in the way of my best life? Is alcohol making my life better?
Those were easy and clear questions to answer.
No. No. And Nope.
Step 3: Find Community
The best thing I can tell you to do when you have reached this point is to find a group, AA, AL-ANON, a spiritual group, or a friend that will understand and support you. That could be your partner, best friend, mom, cousin, neighbor, spiritual advisor, mentor, etc. I can promise you that as someone who took an entire year alcohol free 3 years prior to this decision to be sober, it’s a very different feeling to make this decision. The first couple days I was sad, ashamed, guilt laden, etc. Then the next 2-4 weeks I felt a little bi-polar, going between the highs and the lows of this decision. I had great days and I had hard days. But having support made all the difference. So if you feel you have no one to turn to, please find a group like AA or AL-ANON, they are amazing community, don’t let the label stop you if you don’t believe you’re an alcoholic. The people in these groups don’t care. They have a singular cause and it is yours.
Step 4: Find a Substitute
Even if you are not ready to make the lifelong decision for sobriety and are just exploring the idea and what it might mean to you, taking some time off is a great way to explore this. I always advise people and clients to try 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or a 365 days off to see how they feel.
While you do this having a substitute for the happy hour drink is key! Some ideas are: club soda with lime or a splash or cranberry, bubbly water of any kind (flavored or not), iced tea, coffee, kombucha, special sodas like ginger brew (not-alcoholic) or bubbly apple cider, the list goes on and on. Find what you like and drink it!
Step 5: Get Quiet and Listen to Your Body, Mind and Spirit
I know this sounds woo-woo-out-there. But let me tell you it can look like many different things for different people. For me it’s meditation, journaling and exercising. These are the things that help me get quiet and grow. For you it could be long walks, music, podcasts, audio books, baths, reading, gardening, yoga, and the list goes on. Find what you like and do that.
Just like anything that needs attention, we need to get to the root cause of the behavior or symptoms. In my and many others’ opinions the behavior to drink (whether it’s in excess or not) stems from somewhere. It is not a disease, as we used to think of it as being. Rather it’s a sign or symptom of something else in your life. Some questions you can ask to get there: are you sad, angry, lonely, depressed, anxious? Is this a habit you learned through family, friends, or growing up?
A great book I can’t recommend it enough in this situation, whether you continue to drink or not, is The 30-Day Sobriety Solution by Jack Canfield and Dave Andrews. It’s helps you explore this root cause through numerous exercises, daily actions, questions, etc.
I hope this helps you get started answering some questions and finding what’s best for you, maybe even take the step to explore sobriety. Just know that you are never alone, I promise you will feel like you are. And whatever decision you make, trust that it is the right decision for you at this moment in your life. One of my favorite two quotes on this and change come from the young writer and poet, Yung Pueblo: “Change does not hurt, attachments do” and “who I am is always changing, not because I am being fake, but because I am always open to growth and transformation”.
All my love and good luck my friends!
Image via Unsplash by Nathan Lemon