What I Would Do If I Had to Get Sober Again
I can not go back in time, I wouldn't want to, and I'm definitely not sharing this post because I feel like I'm going to relapse. I'm writing this to share with women in the middle of life who are struggling to make sobriety stick.
I'm here for you. I know how hard it is to make the decision to quit drinking, so this is my rewind for you to share what worked, and what didn't after I quit drinking.
On August 11, 2013, I didn't know anyone else like me, a woman on the brink of a breakdown trying to escape life through two bottles of Chardonnay in one sitting.
I started drinking in 1982; alcohol was literally my lifeline.
I was scared and clueless when I announced (to myself) I can't drink anymore; I have to quit. But how?! As I stood over the sink pouring out my sweet (pricey) Chardonnay, I cried like a baby!
My first thought was, I will not give in, and if I do, I will go to AA.
Let me tell you, I believe in AA. I believe in any form of recovery if it works for you. I didn't choose AA for the same reason I drank for thirty years; social anxiety.
I couldn't imagine standing up in a room saying out loud that I'm an alcoholic. It wasn't because I wasn't truly convinced at the time; it was because I'm timid and anxious in front of people, and doing it sober, no way!
I had unresolved shame, guilt, and embarrassment because I couldn't control my drinking, and no one was ever going to know.
Please understand that I am all for AA and any other group or program that helps you stay sober and that you enjoy. The key to staying sober is time and consistency, so choose something that makes you want to stay committed.
To find something that makes you happy is where the work begins.
I had promised myself that if I couldn't stick with sobriety that I would try AA. Looking back now, I realize that I genuinely meant it, and it is one of the reasons that I stuck with getting sober.
To attend AA was scarier than to quit drinking on my own. I had to make it work! This opinion is a personal one.
I work with women daily to uncover why they drink and, most importantly, why they don't want to drink. I feel grateful for the work that I do. I'm responsible for cutting out the "middle" part of how to stop drinking to get on with progress and results.
From what I have learned since I quit drinking, sobriety can and should be simple. To overcomplicate a system that supports a new lifestyle, only prolongs sustainability and living the life you dream about.
If you have tried to get sober in the past and went back to drinking, I want to assure you; you are not alone. Most women that I speak with want to make sobriety complex, and I understand.
There is so much information nowadays, especially from social media, books, and podcasts like my own, it's understandable the level of frustration felt.
One person says one thing, another person says something else that contradicts something you heard from another person last week.
So, how do you take a complex subject and make it simple? I have asked myself this question over and over again for the past few years to come up with one answer would be: you just do.
I know it's not easy to "just do it" (even if Nike says), but sobriety can be simple.
It's easy for me to walk you through if I had to quit drinking today because I know what worked for me from the beginning, and what didn't.
However, it's not easy to go back to my drinking-self on the night of August 11, 2013, and recreate my steps, but for you, I will do just that.
If I had to stop drinking and get sober again (please, God, don't let me get to this place again) the things I would do differently are:
- Accept the fact that my drinking was more out of control than I was letting on from day one.
- Find someone to talk to you outside of my husband. He was great, but I needed a woman who had been through it before.
- Be willing to go "all-in" instead of saying, let me wait and see how I feel after six months or a year without alcohol, then I can go back.
- Join a community where women of my generation come together to discuss living alcohol-free.
- Take the pressure off of myself to become a super sober person overnight, and trust me to figure it out.
- Be vulnerable with my friends and family instead of sugarcoating how I really felt.
- Be kinder to me, and believed in myself.
- Lower my expectations of the time it would take to "feel normal" again.
- Read more, especially blogs.
- Get excited about my new healthy lifestyle instead of feeling like Debbie Doomsday every second of the day.
In hindsight, I could have done things differently, but I don't necessarily believe that the outcome would have changed. I 100% know that I would have felt better sooner if I had more resources or a mentor, but I can't go back.
The point of this entry is not to rehash what I should have done but to help you hone in on what you can do today.
When you find a way to get unstuck and shift into a sober lifestyle, you transform your ability to believe in yourself and your willingness to change.
To tweak what isn't working and evaluate your progress without resisting changing things up along the way.
The three things that did work for me when I got sober are:
Keeping a journal:
I was writing every single morning. I would write about how I was feeling, what I was doing, and tracked my progress. My trusty journal writing began about four months before I quit drinking, and it's been #1 in my recovery every since.
I was very sedentary, so I went straight to the gym and researched on YouTube how to workout to change my body in perimenopause. After several months of consistency, I started to see muscles that I didn't think my body had.
Practice. Practice. Practice:
I practiced how to ride the waves of my emotions that I spent thirty years drowning out. I honed my tools for retraction vs. reaction and sitting in all of the feelings; anger, frustration, sadness, and exhaustion. I practiced standing up for myself, and what I wanted in the long-run vs. the "quick-fix" lifestyle I had lived for far too long.
I repeated these actions daily even when it was painfully brutal, and I wanted to give up. I began to realize how time was my biggest ally and that I was becoming someone who I had never been before.
I had no idea what to expect and how much time it would take me to be a woman who no longer wanted to drink. I held onto the fact that if I gave up, it would take me that much longer to find her.
If you are struggling to get sober for good and feel like you are going to give up, I want to encourage you to keep going. Take the pressure off of yourself and keep your expectations neutral.
Lastly, to live in your truth, first to yourself and then to someone else, can significantly impact your entire life. Talk to someone and get support.
To deny yourself a life free from the after-burn of alcohol, is to deny yourself the happiness and freedom you deserve as you age.
You can do this.
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