I’m 106 Days into my alcohol-free life, and this question comes up a lot from those who manage to string a few sober days together but can’t keep it going. First of all, that was me for a long, long while. We are dealing with a poison (think the red apple). It’s enticing while we’re in the fantasy and because it’s our brains that are mesmerized, it’s just a wee bit hard to get any perspective to resist this tricky witch.
We all want to do this, right? We do want out. It’s a maze. We can see people who’ve done so standing on the surrounding hills enthusiastically waving for us to climb up and join them, but how? All we see are walls and false doors, twists, and turns, dead ends. It’s exhausting. So we have a rest from the effort and keep enforcing our habits until we peer up again and see those people not losing hope, beckoning with their calls, faint but audible.
I can’t quite believe it but I made it out of the maze. I’m up on the hillside with those people. I have no imposter effect because this took real and sustained effort. Every. Single. Day. There is no shortcut. There is no “hall pass.”
There is a strategy that worked for me. It’s known as “patchwork” sobriety. It involves cobbling together tools and communities that truly support and meet a person where they are. My version includes a little bit of AA (I love this group, but it alone doesn’t entirely work for me), online communities, a skillful sober coach, daily gratitudes, meditations, exercise, morning and evening rituals, texts and in-person meet-ups with great women choosing to do the same.
Before I committed to change my life by going alcohol-free, I prepared myself and more importantly my mind by reading Alan Carr’s How To Quit Drinking and Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind. For me, understanding the neurological reasons I was stuck helped me to shift my perception of alcohol so I could circumvent the urge for those critical first weeks. To simplify, I chose to purposely view all alcohol as a poison (which it is!!). I did this by imaging seeing a skull and crossbones on the fancy wine bottle labels, repeating the word poison to myself when seeing a glass of Chardonnay, imagining pouring ethanol into my body if I were to drink, etc…you get the point. I had to actively engage in this effort for 30-60 days just to try to rewire my brain, so it stopped associating pleasure with alcohol. This worked well for me.
The next action I took was to hire a sober coach via the She Recovers website (an incredible resource for all of us recovering from something.) I had a hunch. I was scared. I felt a bit silly. And I agonized about the money…until I did the mental math of my monthly expenditures on wine. I hired her immediately. After a brief complimentary call, I knew she was a good fit for me. She is integral to my recovery.
Communities. I seek them in many places. We are lucky to have the internet connecting women and men throughout the world. And dare I praise Facebook but the private groups are a godsend. Every single day, I read and post on three different ones. Each has their vibe. I have what I consider my “home” group where I feel the most comfortable. The range of perspectives and experiences is similar to the diversity of AA. And it’s at my fingertips.
AA is a welcoming way to connect as well. I’m a homebody, so it’s just not as much of a fit for me. It might become a fit in the future. When I do attend, I meet wise, soulful people. If you have access, I would recommend trying it for sure.
Podcasts like The Bubble Hour and blogs like Mrs. D. Goes Without sustain me in quiet times. Reading memoirs of those who’ve gone before, some long back, like Caroline Knapp who wrote Drinking: A Love Story in the 1990s. What a brave and insightful soul she was. She is no longer with us, but she left an important legacy because of her honest, brave words.
Today, at just 106 Days, I’m not bothered by a bottle of wine. I was at a Halloween party last night, and there was an open bottle next to my salad plate. It didn’t call to me or even phase me. I have no connection to it physically or even emotionally. I do minimize my time in its presence, leaving early and treating myself when arriving home. I am always grateful to myself and have not once missed waking up panting with thirst or dealing with morning headaches.
An alcohol-free life is in reach. It’s rich with new possibilities and teeming with life. If you are like I was and feel stuck in a maze seeing success off in the distance, don’t be discouraged. This can be done. No question. If you want this, you got to go for it. It’s hard work, but soon enough it’s not. It’s a pleasure. It’s life. It’s worth it.
Now, head down. Butt up. Go!