As we journey towards a better relationship with alcohol, we often start thinking about our self-identity. We think about who we’ve been when we were drinking heavily, and we think about who we want to be, and why we want to change our drinking behaviour. We start assessing our own life stories and experiences. It is common for our ‘drinking stories’ and beliefs to become a part of our identity and who we think we are.
For some of us, we think drinking brings us fun and light-heartedness, so we come to believe that we probably can’t have these feelings without alcohol. How would we be ‘the life of the party’ and socialise with others if we weren’t drinking? Who are we if we’re not bringing energy and fun to our catchups? How can we go against the pressure of everyone else drinking?
For others, drinking brings initial relief and a release of stress and tension. With this experience, we might come to believe that it’s impossible to cope with work and family life without it. We might think that ‘we are just anxious personalities’ who have found a way to cope with the stresses of life through alcohol. We might think, “is a less anxious life even possible for me?”
Further, for some, drinking from an early age can end up feeling like it’s ‘just who you are’, and that you’ve always been this way. When this is the case, we might think “who am I without alcohol? Is it even possible to change? Alcohol just feels like it’s part of my life”.
Research has found an association between identity and drinking. When we think of ourselves ‘as a drinker’ we are more likely to drink more and become dependent on alcohol.1
The great news about identity and how we see ourselves, is that it changes over time and is ever evolving. We are not the same person now as we were in our teens, 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. What we were interested in, and thought was important to us then, is vastly different to what we believe and value now. If this is the case, that our beliefs and values can change over time, how we see ourselves and our relationship with alcohol can also change.
What if we could start changing how we see ourselves with alcohol? What if we started letting go of some of our past ideas and beliefs about alcohol, and instead focused on who we want to be and what we want to value?
At HSM, in our Daybreak community, our members tell us that as they progress along their journeys of change, they start to identify more with a better positive self. As they shift away from their connection with alcohol, they begin to feel a stronger connection with their empowered self, allowing more space to focus on what truly matters to them.
In this transformation, people start to foster a more positive self-identity, as they surround themselves with people who value and respect them. Their self-belief positively strengthens, leading to more meaningful value-based relationships. Having supportive, uplifting relationships can help you feel more confident and secure to stay on track or take the next best steps in your journey.
To start taking back control of your drinking, there are some things you can let go of, and things you can intentionallycreate a space for with the aim to focus on cultivating your inner strength and self-identity.
Some common beliefs to let go of:
- Being sober is boring
- I am not myself without drinking
- I can only be sociable with a drink in my hand
- Cutting down on my drinking will stop me socialising
- Alcohol must be a part of my celebrations and gatherings
- Drinking is ‘me-time’ and a reward for hard work (e.g., winding down after work, or after the kids are in bed)
- Alcohol is the best and only way to comfort myself and relax
Some things to start doing to create space for a new identity:
- Avoid the places that trigger the old drinking identity
- Perhaps see old friends in a new location or time of day
- Spend more time in relationships where drinking is not the focus
- Read stories and books about others who have changed their relationship with alcohol
- Set a mini goal to reduce drinking and take one day at a time
- Fill up the time usually spent drinking with something for yourself
- Find support for your emotional and mental health
Change can seem hard and scary at first, but for many who change their relationship with alcohol, the change is always worth it. Taking control of our drinking habits can make space for a world of new experiences, friendships, feelings and opportunities that might never have been possible before.