Every heavy drinker eventually gets tired of the hangovers and dealing with the embarrassment of what they drunk texted the night before.
Every alcohol abuser gets tired of not being respected and hating the face they see in the mirror.
I know this because I’m a recovering alcoholic. After another reckless night of excessive alcohol use, I finally looked myself in the eyes and took the first step of the popular twelve-step program:
I admitted that I was an alcoholic. If I couldn’t accept this in the first place, then there was no chance that I was ever going to get right.
On December 23, 2013, I embraced sobriety 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 used a simple 3-step formula.
It’s the same formula I used to quit pornography and it’s also what I recommend for guys who are addicted to video games. Before I give you this formula, you have to realize something about alcohol abuse.
The sober truth about addiction recovery
Addiction recovery is a challenge that many people 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.
In the United States alone, the majority of people who eventually achieve long-term sobriety have at least 1 relapse.
The numbers are worse for people trying to quit hard drugs. People dealing with less obviously destructive addictions like pornography or food typically fare even worse.
It doesn’t matter what your drug of choice is.
It doesn’t matter how you take your poison.
Any substance use can easily turn into substance abuse and ruin your life.
And you may mess up when you try to quit. You might even 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.
Now that I’m sober, I’m very careful to never suggest sobriety to anyone.
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.
You lose nothing when you quit drinking and you’ll get back things that you didn’t even know you had lost.
The decision to get sober is extremely personal
Any person who stops drinking has to make the decision on their own.
It can’t come from the pressure of society, family, or friends. Interventions sometimes work in spite of themselves.
Going from a life of drinking to sobriety can be challenging. You will need powerful reasons to stay committed to it otherwise environmental and peer pressures will drag you off the wagon.
In my experience, these are the 3 things that will absolutely make sure that you remain sober. At the very least, they will put the power back in your hands for you to decide if you ever want to drink again.
The 3 things you need for sobriety
1) Admit your fears
The first thing you must do is 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’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.
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. 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.
While admitting that you have a problem is the first step in recovery, 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.
2) A reason why
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 on the path of sobriety.
If you’re only afraid of what can go wrong, how is this any different from when you drank?
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.
One way they try to mitigate this 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 drinking. 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.
A healthy fear of the consequences is important, but using them alone to curb your drinking has another serious drawback. We tend to gauge how we should behave by our environment. By this metric, it’s easy to justify drinking to excess because so many people are doing it.
Fear is powerful but fear alone is inadequate. You also need a reason that will keep you committed to your goal of sobriety.
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 to stop drinking.
3) You need a new habit
No matter why you do it, drinking alcohol is your bad habit.
You associate it with good times, socialization, and validation. Drinking 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.
Drinking 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 drinking.
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 drinking 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 drinking.
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.
You can’t just stop drinking. That’s a recipe for disaster. You must fill your new sober time with something constructive and meaningful.
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 stop drinking, I knew that I needed a new habit. That new habit was going to dinner with my girlfriend instead. This is more constructive than drinking 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 start writing.
This is more constructive and healthier than drinking my distress away.
Summary of the 3 things you need for sobriety
- Admit your fears
- Have a reason why
- Build new habits to replace the old
These habits are suggestions. They’re what work for me. You can do whatever it takes to replace your reasons for and habits associated with drinking. Every drinking habit is slightly different, but the general suggestions are the same.
You need to acknowledge that you’re afraid. If you don’t do this, you aren’t giving sobriety its proper respect. Acknowledging your fears gives you the best chance of making a change.
You need a goal. This is the thing that drives you to stop drinking. There must be something that you want that your drinking is keeping you from attaining.
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.