I’m well into my journey of not drinking, and there are a couple of reasons why I’m confident about not going back.
For starters, I’m terrified of returning to the cycle.
You know, the one glass twice a week, then one glass a night, then two glasses a night, then the huge binge before taking a two week break and thinking I could ease back in. (Anyone else?)
The anxiety of building myself up only to fail again is greater than the anxiety I get when I have to sit through discomfort as opposed to having another drink.
Also, I feel better. My head is clear, my stomach doesn’t burn, my bladder’s not constantly begging me to run to the bathroom even when I don’t really have to go.
My liver doesn’t feel like it’s about to blow up. The bags under my eyes aren’t quite so deep and there’s no headache when I’m sober.
But I would be lying if I said that I’m still giddy about my sobriety.
There’s been more than one occasion the last week when I’ve turned to my husband or eighteen-year-old daughter and said, “Man, I miss drinking.” And they know exactly what I mean.
I don’t miss alcohol. I miss what it represented in my life.
Alcohol made me “fun.” I was the life of the party… except when I wasn’t.
Alcohol made me “sexy.” Every guy wanted me… except when they didn’t.
Alcohol made me “more myself.” I knew exactly who I was… except when I remained more confused than ever.
Alcohol made me “relax.” I sat on my deck and relaxed away… except when the anxiety hit the morning after.
Alcohol made me “creative.” I wrote pages upon pages… except when I could no longer think clearly.
As I said in a previous posts, alcohol was my frenemy. I wanted to love drinking.
I longed to wake up with a clear conscious the next day. I truly believed I could control the amount I drank.
(Above photo credit to Anthony Tran. )
Sometimes I could. On days where I had nothing I was working through, I could enjoy a couple of beers or a glass of wine and be fine.
But no matter how hard I tried, inevitably I would eventually during times where there was too much eating away at my soul, and, abusing my ability to drink, I would binge and wake up miserable the next day.
My alcohol use disorder lasted twenty-eight years. Thinking of all the beautiful life and precious time I wasted breaks my heart.
The best part of going sober is waking up happy every day, realizing you don’t have to feel guilty, apologize or claw your eyes out from the anxiety of wondering what you did the night before.
The worst part of going sober is that when the happiness is over (and it will end because we all have a happy “set point” and eventually return to it), you’re left with boredom and a whole lot of bad memories.
Boredom and bad memories are usually the catalyst for your reaching into the wine cabinet. But now you can’t.
When the joy of sobriety wears off, here is what to do instead:
- Replace your JOY—
I cannot stress this enough–replace it with something GOOD!
If you love to walk your dog, that’s your new joy.
Love to paint? Go for it.
Enjoy writing? Get your pen or computer out and go to town.
Replacing one joy for another keeps sobriety-induced depression at bay. However, you can’t replace the old “joy” for something that you’ll eventually have to recover from (such as over-eating or vaping).
2. Replace your HABIT–
And keep replacing it. Often it’s not the actual thing we were doing that we miss, but the comfort it gave us.
I used to love getting a glass of wine after work and sitting on my back deck listening to the birds. When I decided to go sober, I realized I could still do that, so I replaced my wine with coffee or tea.
3. Replace your THOUGHTS-–
And capture negativity ASAP.
if you’re a Christian like me, you already know what the Bible says about your thought life.
The Good Book is riddled with verses on changing your mind (the very definition of repentance).
But even if you’re not an uber-religious person, you’re probably well aware of the power of our thoughts.
Thoughts are energy and energy is POWERFUL. Choose good thoughts and you’ll fire off new pathways in your brain. Isn’t that cool?
When you first get sober and you’re in the giddy phase, you’ll want to form a whole new life. You’ll buy vegetables you’ve never bought and a set of weights and you’ll watch every Ted-talk imaginable thinking you’re the next Mel Robbins.
That feeling of conquering the world that you have during early sobriety will wear off. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
Trust me, the next level is going to be hard, the boredom and self-condemnation, and all. But soon after that, you’ll enter the best phase, the gratitude phase.
When you’re grateful for every day you’re sober, you’ll want to see others set free, too.
And helping others is the greatest joy of all.