The last time I drank alcohol was 1 year and 1 month ago.
Why was it so easy to give up drinking?
I can honestly say that there was no decision made to ‘stop drinking’. I simply didn’t have an urge to drink in the months that followed that last drink, and before I knew it, a year had past. Had I told myself back then ‘I’m not drinking for a year’, I probably would have been more likely to do the opposite. Instead, I stayed open to the possibility that I may have a drink if I wanted one in the moment. But I haven’t … yet.
When I reflect back on the last year and even the year before that, where I only drank alcohol on a couple of occasions, I see that in this time I had spent most of my weekends on courses learning about how we as human beings run our minds, about how we engage in thinking patterns, and completing my training in human development. Could it be that I have replaced my nights out with this new passion for understanding human behaviour? It seems so.
What I can see now is the more I learn about people and myself, the more I can see the distraction alcohol can provide from ‘reality’. I now no longer need to be distracted, as I am able to understand the impact that our thoughts can have, and the freedom that comes with that. I feel that we are often confusing our ‘constructed thoughts’ with what is real, and too often that results in giving ourselves a hard time.
Setting ourselves up for failure
When we tell ourselves we ‘shouldn’t’ or ‘must not’ do something, we are often more likely to engage in exactly that behaviour. And then if we do ‘fail’ in the goals we’ve set for ourselves, we struggle, judge ourselves, beat ourselves up over this. We feel disappointed or even angry in ourselves for this ‘failure’. We can spend hours, days, weeks feeling this way and as a result, keep repeating unhealthy patterns.
Be kinder to yourself
The less we impose rules on ourselves, the less we beat ourselves up over things, the more likely we are to live as the healthy human beings we want to be! The mind, and how we talk to ourselves, is often the cause of unhealthy cycles, more so than that glass of wine, piece of chocolate, big weekender or shopping spree!
So, can you give yourself a break, be kinder to yourself in those times where you were previously hard on yourself over something? What would that look like for you?
I made a choice in every moment over the last year not to drink alcohol, just as there may be a choice in another moment where I do drink. I am not resisting either as a possibility and I don’t burden myself with unhelpful thoughts anymore around what I ‘should’ be doing in any area of my life. Doing so would keep me stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.
It’s not always easy to break these habitual patterns, but it is very possible with patience and, if necessary, help from others. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees, so I encourage anyone reading this to reach out for help if you are struggling yourself. You are never alone!
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From the perspective of an alcoholic I am uncomfortable, feel somewhat inferior, by this article. Perhaps I have a misunderstanding what the target audience is for Hello Sunday Morning but this article does not seem to reflect the hard, sometimes insurmountable challenges faced by a person with alcohol addiction.
Thank you Anita. That was extremely helpful to me. Bless, Elizabeth
I am just beginning my alcohol free journey. Alcohol is everywhere – every movie you watch people are easing down with a glass of Red – my favorite thing – but just lately it has been more about shutting out reality than éasing down’ and I just was not enjoying it for the right reasons. Good strategy and well done to you. When I am free of alcohol my senses come back (head, heart and taste buds) and I love reminding me of me. Its not easy. As I said early days. But my days without alcohol are getting longer. Nice post!
I am completely supportive of the philosophy behind Anita’s words. I have found it much easier not to make a big deal out of not drinking, and just take it one day at a time. It has always worked against me if I keep saying I can’t and won’t have alcohol. It’s much easier for me to adopt a mindset that is agreeable with the idea that you don’t feel like drinking just now. Losing weight and dieting are also similar. The minute I say “you need to diet”, to myself all I want are the banned foods. Now I just say, I’m eating healthier and making choices that will make me feel good afterwards. I approach alcohol as “I’m tidying up my approach to drinking”. I think it’s almost reverse psychology… the minute you say you can’t do it or don’t do it, you just want to do it twice as much. Great words Anita… I’m AF one month… and have done three or four longer stints… practice makes perfect!
I found this quite interesting. I have recently stopped drinking; I started in February for Feb-fast, and have continued on. I no longer publicly count the days AF–I feel that unintentionally adds pressure to reach some sort of magic number. I know some people say, they are going to stop for X days…then celebrate with a drink! I guess I am in the process of examining, changing, re-defining my relationship with alcohol. This has been both hard and easy. I support what Anita says, but I wonder whether she really drank much, or at all. In the last few years, I drank every day. I. Drank. Every. Day. Alcohol has been embedded in my life since I was a teenager; prying it loose and shoeing it away has been tough. But also enlightening. I am taking this one day at a time–I could drink tomorrow if I want to, but I am consciously making the decision that I don’t want to, and so far this is working for me.
Any advice for those struggling? I quit for 4 years an now drink again. Society is for drinking. How do I balance?
Anita’s comments are interesting, but it is clear that she is not addicted to alcohol as Tim, Elizabeth, Kathryn and I are. Tim, the only advice I can offer is to get rid of the attitude that “Society is for drinking”. Actually, it is the opposite. Drinking is harmful to society and social relationships, as well as physical and mental well-being. When in a social situation where everyone is drinking, think to yourself how stupid these people are. How many will drive home impaired? How many will sleep badly and have a foggy morning at work, in class or on the golf course, or worse? How many will get cross with a loved one?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for leaving your comments they have been great to read. TIM in response to your question on how to stop I would gladly offer to have a chat with you as it’s not always as simple as me giving advice without hearing more I can tell you all that it has definitely been a gradual process over the years of reducing the amount I was drinking to the nothing at all… for now! I cannot stress enough though the difference it has made to not impose rules on myself around needing to stop and this has been the same for me in smoking (which I did for 10 years and gradually gave up) and with my food habits (I yoyo dieted for years). This article is in no way dismissing the severity of addiction. More in hope that it will inspire others and to say to be kind to yourselves even in the moments where you feel disappointed, frustrated with self for doing something you’ve told yourself you ‘should not’. Please do let me know if you would like to have a chat, always love to connect in this way firstname.lastname@example.org