Every heavy drinker eventually gets tired of the hangovers and dealing with the embarrassment of what they drunk texted the night before.
Every drunk gets tired of not being respected by friends and family who know they have a drinking problem, but they can’t admit it to themselves and take action.
Eventually, every drinker gets tired of hating the face they see in the mirror.
At this point, the person seeks help with what is obviously an addiction. Or, in many cases, they the individual attempts to get it under control himself. I know this because I’m a recovering alcoholic. I was that person who desperately needed help.
I lost the respect of people around me and I lost respect for myself. However, after another reckless night of excessive alcohol use, I finally took the first step to fixing my problem:
I admitted that I was an alcoholic, that I was scared, and that I needed to make a change. If I couldn’t first accept this, then there was no chance that I was ever going to fix it.
On December 23, 2013, I stopped drinking without:
- Using any treatment programs
- Support groups
- Attending alcoholics anonymous
All of those things are useful and have their place, but they weren’t for me.
- I didn’t use any alcohol detox or check myself into any treatment facilities.
- My friends or family members didn’t stage an intervention for me.
- I didn’t follow the 12 step program
Whether it’s for drug or alcohol abuse, getting sober is an important step for anyone who wants to get their health back. Despite how important sobriety is for someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, many people are not initially successful with whatever recovery program they attempt.
Well this article here to help, based on my experience.
I developed a unique framework for getting sober and dealing with vices. It’s the same framework I used to quit pornography. If you follow just half of these tips, you’ll be in a much better position to get your drinking under control.
1) Remember that everyone is fighting something
The sober truth about recovery from addiction:
Addiction recovery is a challenge that many individuals will go through in their life.
Whether it’s for drug or alcohol abuse, getting sober is an important step for anyone who wants to live a healthy life. Despite how important sobriety is for someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, many people are not initially successful with whatever recovery program they attempt.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”-Ian Maclaren
2) Don’t beat yourself up if you drink again
The research shows that the numbers are even worse for people in recovery from drug addiction. People dealing with less obviously destructive addictions like pornography or food typically fare even worse.
Staying sober is a challenge. There are withdrawal symptoms, environmental temptations, and outright stress. If you can put down the bottle for 30 days, and you slip have a drink on day 31, this doesn’t undue the 30 days before. You simply learned something, made progress, and put yourself in a better position for success.
The best relapse prevention is to stay busy, stay away from old drinking environments, and try to make sober friends. If you do drink, do everything in your power to avoid a heavy binge. This is where it becomes really important to think of the progress you made.
One small drink won’t set your progress back too much, but if you drink yourself into oblivion then it will be harder to get back on track.
3) Questioning yourself is normal
You might question yourself and hesitate to put the bottle down. I know that I had several starts, stops, and bouts of questioning if this was the right decision for me.
You’re only questioning yourself because it’s a new path and you aren’t certain how things will turn out. You aren’t sure if you can make it.
I used to worry that I wouldn’t be strong enough to stay sober. These doubts are natural. The reality is that these doubts simply mean that you’re taking your sobriety seriously. Most people only think in the short term so they don’t have any worries about sticking through with it, but your worries show that you really want to get your drinking under control.
4) Don’t judge. Just offer help
If you know someone dealing with substance abuse, don’t judge them harshly.
I don’t judge people who drink, even if their behavior makes it obvious that they shouldn’t. However, when a person asks me about my experience with sobriety, I sing nothing but praise about the decision to get on the wagon.
I remember being afraid of how people would look at me if they found out that I couldn’t handle my alcohol like most people in society. Even today, after the success I’ve had with my sobriety, I’ll occasionally meet people who will be critical of my decision to not drink.
While it doesn’t bother me, I know that some people are sensitive to these pressures and discouraged by them.
5) The decision to get sober is extremely personal
Related to not making judgement, you can’t pressure someone into getting sober either. The decision has to come from a their soul searching and desire.
It can’t come from the pressure of society, family, or friends. Interventions sometimes work in spite of themselves. I watched people in Alcoholics Anonymous be there as a condition of getting their freedom or children back from the state, and they still weren’t able to keep it together.
When a person is ready, nothing will stop them. Until then, nothing will make them.
6) You need commitment to the idea of getting sober
Going from a life of drinking to a life in recovery from alcoholism can be challenging. You will need powerful reasons to stay committed to it otherwise environmental and peer pressures will drag you off the wagon.
This commitment puts the power back in your hands for you to decide if you ever want to drink again, but once you experience the great benefits you probably won’t want to.
One of the things that’s kept me sober is because I no longer wanted to be the person I was as a drinker. I’m not just referring to how I behaved while under the influence, but my general demeanor, reputation, and options for life were all begging for a massive change.
As part of my commitment to change, I identified alcohol being the main problem and I got it under control.
7) Admit that you’re afraid
Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re afraid of this.
This fear gives you a healthy respect for the process and ensures that you take it seriously. It doesn’t matter what you’re specifically afraid of, but you must acknowledge that you ARE afraid.
Your biggest fear is change and being different. You feel like your friends and family won’t understand or support your decision to stop drinking. Or that that they’ll judge you for your addiction. That is completely natural.
You’re afraid that if stop drinking, you’ll miss out on a great social life. Instead of worrying that people will leave you behind for your bad behavior, you’re afraid that people will do it because now you seem too good.
8) A sobering realization is that society wants you drunk
There’s a joke I tell people who are thinking about embracing a sober lifestyle:
Alcohol is the only drug where people think you have a problem if you don’t do it.
There is an entire legal, educational, and commercial empire that prefers if you keep drinking. Drinkers get into more expensive legal trouble, they spend more money at restaurants, and schools are often attended based on their reputation as a party school alone.
While there is somewhere of a shift in how society is treating and viewing alcohol, it’s big business for everyone–even the people charged with policing its use. You will encounter resistance on all fronts.
9 ) Remember that you won’t be alone
This fear of loneliness will keep you drinking for many more years than you want to. Even if alcohol isn’t enjoyable to you, the socialization ritual surrounding it is.
In your mind, sobriety means giving up a large part of this social life and all of the people you drink with. This seems terrifying. You may not think about this constantly, but it’s in the back of every drinker’s mind. It’s one of the things that all recovering alcoholics warn you about.
There is no easy remedy for the fear of change. The only thing you can do is recognize that the new lifestyle scares you but make the change anyway.
It’s only by recognizing them can you do anything about them.
10) Admit to yourself that you have a drinking problem
While admitting that you have a problem is the first step in recovery programs, part of that process is realizing that you’re afraid. You might be afraid of what happens if you keep drinking, but you’re more afraid of what happens when you stop.
I won’t lie to you say and that it’s guaranteed that you’ll have a large support network. I won’t lead you on make you think that everyone is going to appreciate you trying to become a better human being. All I can do is tell you that the fear is natural but you have to proceed anyway.
Your well-being, mental health, and self-respect depends on it.
11) Know exactly what scares you about getting sober
Strong fears move you away from self-destructive behavior while a strong why pushes you towards improving your life.
It’s not enough to be afraid of what can go wrong. It’s not enough to simply want to stop. You also need a powerful reason that keeps you sober.
If you’re only afraid of what can go wrong, how is this any different from when you drank?
A healthy fear of the consequences is important, but using them alone to curb your alcohol consumption has another serious drawback. We tend to gauge how we should behave by our environment. By this metric, it’s easy to justify consuming alcohol to excess because so many people are doing it.
Fear is powerful but fear alone is inadequate. You also need a reason that will help keep you from having relapse, dealing with withdrawal, and staying committed to your goal of getting and staying sober.
Everyone is afraid of what can go wrong. It’s only human to have a fear of making mistakes. Especially big mistakes that cost us our relationships our freedom. So in response to this fear, people do a number of things.
12) Know what approaches don’t work
One way drinkers try to mitigate their fear is through some type of insurance or self-imposed barrier. They try to drink only a few beers, not text people while under the influence, or leave their keys with someone so they don’t get behind the wheel.
These approaches never work.
We’re a ticking time bomb and with each passing hour and sip of alcohol, the timer gets closer to zero. When one is operating on fear alone, the focus is on avoiding the consequences rather than maximizing the benefits.
This is an anxious period.
I don’t know if many other drinkers go through this phase, but there was a clearly defined period of time where I knew that I was a danger to myself and others while under the influence of alcohol. This didn’t motivate me to quit, but I was afraid of how bad things could get if I drank too much.
The irony of this approach is that I often tried to drink away this fear so that I could socialize more easily, and I arrogantly (and wrongly) believed that I was in control.
13) Take on behavior your future self will be proud of
When you decide to get sober, you’ll be standing at an important fork in the road of your life.:
You can continue down the dark road you’ve been going down.
You can seriously pursue your goals and invest in the type of life that you want.
You can only become the new you and live a new life after you give up the old you and your old habits.
There’s another benefit of having a goal. It also allows you to overcome the fear of change.
It’s one thing to simply give up an old behavior habit. If it’s all you’ve known and you give it up out of fear, your desire for familiarity will win in the long run. However, if you are in pursuit of something new and better, you’re more likely to stick to it.
These last two points lead nicely into the last thing you need for sobriety.
14) Realize that sobriety is a habit too
No matter why you do it, alcohol abuse is your bad habit.
You associate it with good times, socialization, and validation. Getting drunk is also your automatic response to intense emotional stimulus.
Most of us drink for one of the big C’s:
- Catharsis. When we’re stressed or need to blow off steam, we get drunk.
- Celebration. When something good happens and we want to celebrate, we get drunk.
- Coping. When something tragic happens, we get drunk.
Alcohol is the response to all of our emotional states. If you grew up in a society where this is the norm, then it’s already an expectation that you’ll drink in response to nearly every situation imaginable.
Then there’s the ritualistic, habitual part of it all.
It starts in college where you’re expected to drink hard on the weekends, but keep it (somewhat) under control during the week. So much campus activity is centered around alcohol that you automatically associate any good times you have with alcohol.
Once you graduate, everyone socializes at the bar. Alcohol remains the centerpiece of everyone’s socialization so if you’re serious about sobriety, you’ll have to get serious about changing the habits you have which contribute to your alcoholism.
You have to replace your rituals, reasons, and habits with one’s that are conducive to sobriety. The habits don’t need to be complicated. They only need to be effective.
15) Know what triggers you to drink
For example, one of my worst habits was needing to have a drink in my hand. I tried to replace it with water, but it was too easy to drink quickly and lacked flavor. So I started to drink coffee instead.
I used to drink to celebrate. Once I decided to get sober, I knew that I needed a new habit. That new habit was going to dinner with my girlfriend instead. This is more constructive than getting drunk until I feel terrible because something good happened to me.
When I was feeling stressed, I used to drink. Once this was no longer an option, I started to write instead. Now when something is troubling me and I need to think, I use writing as my personal therapy.
Recap of the 15 things to do to help you get sober.
- Remember that everyone is fighting something
- Don’t beat yourself up if you relapse
- Questioning yourself is normal
- Don’t judge. Just offer help
- The decision to get sober is extremely personal
- You need to be committed to the idea of getting better
- Admit that you’re afraid
- Recognize that society is against you
- Remember that you won’t be alone
- Admit to yourself that you have an alcohol problem
- Know exactly what scares you about sobriety
- Know what approaches don’t work
- Take on behavior your future self will be proud of
- Realize that sobriety is a habit too
- Know what triggers you to drink
These habits are suggestions. They’re what work for me. You can do whatever it takes to replace your habits. Every alcoholic is slightly different, but the general suggestions are the same.
You need to acknowledge that you’re afraid. Acknowledging your fears gives you the best chance of making a change.
You need a goal. This is the thing that drives you.
Lastly, you need to form new habits and rituals to replace your old ones. Without a new habit to take the place of the old one, the vacuum left behind may be filled with something even more destructive.
Fear to keep you from regressing, goals to dive you to forward, new habits to make it all stick.
The rest is up to you.