I remember waking up one Saturday morning fully clothed on the bed. Stale alcohol oozing out of every pore and burning through my breath. My Friday night a blank. And, then the hot wave of shame as a memory of being so drunk I couldn’t walk and being carried by my partner and my 14 year old son from the car to the house washed over me.
This isn’t the worst example of drunken incidents that caused me shame and ate away at my self-confidence but it was a typical weekend morning. I was deep in the clutches of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. My weekends would start with the sparkling promise of fun, laughter and inhibition and end with me being pinned to the bed by my shame and regret. I’d often spend whole days in bed or getting up late in the afternoon and struggling through panic and anxiety attacks, counting the hours till I could allow myself to start drinking again to relieve my symptoms.
Now I’ve been living life happily sober for years, my mornings couldn’t be more different. I bounce out of bed and annoy my partner with my energetic attempts to get him up and active, I workout, I eat a healthy breakfast, I sing along to the radio and I plan my day. Free from the hangovers, guilt and anxiety that an unhealthy relationship with alcohol brought me, I seize the day and all the opportunities it brings me and I nurture, protect and relish the relationships I have with my loved ones.
When I stopped drinking, I liberated myself from the prison that I’d made for myself with alcohol. Everything that I had been denying myself, depriving myself of when I was drinking is now freely available to me. And yet, everywhere I look online, I see stories about how living life sober is a struggle. How it means deprivation, restraint and denial. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. Living life sober can mean liberation, fulfilment and freedom. It’s just a question of getting into the right mindset and approaching getting sober in the right way.
I want to share with you some words from a sober blogger – I think some of what she says might make sense to you. Some of it struck a chord with me:
it's easy to drink just because everyone else is. it's easy to give up what's best for you to 'follow along'.
this sober thing has taught me that it's ok to do something else. to be honest, i've been a bit against-the-grain for a long time, and this is maybe just another thing that i do that others don't.
i don't pour alcohol on my head. i protect myself from the voice in my head that suggests that i "should be able to drink now and then..."
i protect myself from that voice because it NEVER asks for carrots. no. my head never asks for green beans, why can't i have green beans, everyone else can have them. no. my head wants booze. and will make up reasons to find a crack in the foundation where some might be poured in.
I love what she says about carrots and green beans 😊 How often does the voice in our heads demand what’s healthy for us? And, I like what she says about how it’s okay to do something different to other people.
I read a lot of sober blogs and keep an eye on what’s happening online and in the neuroscience, NLP and coaching industries to make sure I’m up-to-date with current thinking and to make sure I don’t miss anything important. What I’ve realised as I do this, is that a large proportion of sober bloggers, coaches and gurus still maintain that living life sober is hard. That it’s a struggle. Some of them suggest that, even after doing it for years, you need to keep a look out for danger and temptation.
Notice that this blogger says that her head still wants booze and she needs to protect herself against that voice. That there are still cracks in the "foundations".
Of course, when we first stop drinking, we’re getting used to new ways of doing things, we’re changing habits and we’re re-training our brains. We need to protect ourselves from "that voice". We need to protect ourselves against temptation and our automatic habits and patterns. We’re learning a new skill – how to live life sober. This takes time, focus and concentration. And, we’re learning to let go of a trusted “medicine” that has helped us over the years before it started harming us. So, of course, we’re going to need to put some commitment, some patience and some practise in. We've got to protect ourselves from risk and temptation because it’s going to take a while before it becomes easy and second nature for us to be sober. Before we’re doing it on automatic and the voice in our heads is not wanting booze and not looking for cracks in the foundation to pour some in.
Because, (and this is the important bit) it IS possible for your mind to change its tune. For that voice in your head to willingly CHOOSE to be sober. For it to prefer and want the non-alcoholic drinks instead. For it to not want booze and for it to not be looking for cracks and drumming up ways to sneak some in. And, this is the bit of understanding that’s so crucial to living life happily sober, to sobriety being a release and a liberation instead of a struggle. Being sober doesn’t have to be a struggle. You don’t have to do battle with some stubborn part of you that’s forever going to keep on insisting you want booze. This seems to be a common misconception and message that I find being repeated and promoted in online communities.
When you believe that you’re making a healthy and preferable choice to stay sober because that’s how you’re happier – that’s how you want your life to be; when you believe that being a non-drinker or a tee-totaller (however you want to refer to yourself) can bring you joy and fulfilment; when you believe that you can change your relationship with drink so you can happily ignore booze; when you believe that that voice in your head can change its tune and say something different; when you believe that living life sober can be EASY once you’ve practised it a while; and when you believe that you can change your own beliefs to make your life easier – THEN your head won’t want booze at all and won’t come up with reasons as to why you should have it.
I can happily cook with alcohol, I can pour drinks for other people, I can be around other people drinking, I can be at my most anxious and panicky and still not want a drink. I’m not saying all this in a “oh, aren’t I so great” kind of way, I’m saying it to show that this is possible. In the last couple of years, I haven’t ever wanted a drink – not once!
It’s all a question of what you believe about living life sober. What you believe about life sober will become your reality. If you believe that voice in your head will always be there, it will be. If you believe life sober will always be a struggle, then it will be. If you believe that you have to hide from alcohol, that it’s dangerous for you to be around, then it will be. If you believe that you can listen to a different voice, then you will. If you believe that your life sober will be infinitely better than your life drinking, then it will be. If you believe that you can do this easily and effortlessly once you’ve got a bit of practise in, then you will. If you believe that you can get up close and personal with alcohol without feeling a desire to drink it, then you can.
If you need any evidence about the power of belief, read my blog “The Power of Belief”.
You simply need the right tools, the right way of thinking and the right approach.
What do you believe about life sober? Will it always be a struggle or will be it be easy? Will you be chained to some kind of ongoing “recovery” process or will you be liberated? Is it just a case of practising before becoming proficient and doing it without thinking or is that you’ll have to be forever watchful, guarding yourself against temptation?
Let me know what your beliefs are, and, if they're not helpful to you, what kind of beliefs would you like to have in their place?
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