I don’t know how old I was when alcohol became the centre of everything but, as someone once put it, alcohol “fogged up my life” for many years. For years I put my energy into:
• thinking about drinking;
• looking forward to my next drink;
• recovering and feeling physically and mentally ill from drinking;
• sweating with shame about what I’d done when I was drinking;
• and feeling anxious until drink o’clock came around.
When I think back to it, even when I was enjoying things sober, I was always anticipating the evening and the opportunity to feel “even better” or to “relax” with some wine.
So much of my energy and imagination was devoted to alcohol, that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Alcohol had become the centre of my life.
And when I first stopped drinking, I continued to put my energy into alcohol for a while, but this time it went into concentrating on "not drinking". Years of embedded drinking habits had turned into unconscious programming and I had to consciously re-programme myself and develop new habits. This took some thinking, concentration and some energy.
However, bit by bit, as I formed new habits, the amount of energy I put into "not drinking" grew smaller.
For example, just a couple of months in to my sober life, I had had to concentrate hard on what I was going to do instead of drinking a couple of large G&Ts when preparing my meal on a Saturday night and then at least one bottle of wine afterwards. When there was a social event, I had had to mentally rehearse navigating it sober. There were moments when, out of pure habit, the unconscious part of me would jump up and down in frustration and shout: “but this is when you have a drink!” or “you need a drink to get through this!” or “but you can’t enjoy this without a drink!” This was the part of the process where I had to put in some conscious work and energy – I had to go through temporary discomfort sometimes (like feeling shy and awkward at a party for the first hour or so before relaxing into it rather than getting pissed and relying on the wine to “rescue” me).
But, the great thing is, that over time and with practice, these moments became fewer and further between. It's as if I've re-programmed that unconscious part of me so it no longer expects and anticipates alcohol as an option. Now, I give no thought or energy into either drinking or not drinking.
I simply live life without alcohol. And, it feels like freedom!
When you no longer think about drinking, you’re free to put your energy into the rest of your life – the things that are important to you. The more you put your energy into these things, the less you think about drinking. And, the less you think about drinking, the more you lift that fog of alcohol from your life.
Yesterday I was on a beach in North Nofolk in the UK. It was breezy. It was sunny. It was fresh. I enjoyed the best fish and chips I've ever had while watching the sun set over the sand and sea and listening to a fisherman singing old sea-faring folk songs for the tourists. I had the freshest head. No thinking about how the experience would be better if I could have a drink, just appreciating everything I was experiencing through my senses and giving all my energy to the moment I was in.
These days I'm freer, happier and more confident than I've ever been before. When you're giving your energy to living your life the way you want to instead of to thinking about drinking, the rewards are infinite!
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