Thinking about quitting drinking? I get it. I did too. Almost daily for a long time. I would think about quitting drinking, google whether or not I was an alcoholic, think about all the consequences that I thought would be associated with quitting, and then go right back to drinking-resigning to the fact that I was just not the “kind of person” that would live a sober lifestyle.
What I’ve learned from other sober people is that they kind of did the same thing. Change is hard (even harder if there’s a chemical involved making you think that you need it more than you do). While it’s a really good idea to consider the options and possibilities before making a big change, thinking about changing isn’t change. It’s just something we do that occupies space and buys us time.
Sometimes what we need is time. However the right time isn’t always what we think. For example, the best time to quit drinking doesn’t come along when all the bars are closed, there are no family obigations, and our calenders are cleared of all social events that might trigger us to drink for the rest of our lives. That sure would be nice ( current events might make this a lot easier). Unfortunately though, if you’re thing is alcohol, you’ll likely never find a time when it’s not a factor. It’s everywhere.
The right time is often right now. The moment that we are again pondering or thinking about quitting drinking. In fact, the only regret I have about quitting drinking is not doing it sooner. Don’t we hear that a lot? People who’ve left marriages, changed jobs, lowered their cholesterol, ran a marathon, etc. usually say that they wish they’d done it sooner. They’ve discovered that the worries and fears holding them back were not what they thought. The positive outcomes of the change outweighed any negative consequences.
For me, I finally reached a point where thinking about quitting drinking was actually harder than just quitting drinking. Waking up trying to decide if it was the alcohol making me feel bad or if adulthood was, in fact, just that shitty was becoming exhausting. Worrying about ways to decrease my anxiety while having a hunch that alcohol might be contributing was making me uneasy. Wondering what life would be like alcohol-free was agonizing. Eventually, staying the same felt like it was no longer an option (even though I was in no way ready to change).
Discomfort and pain were the factors that led me to finally change. My pros/cons list was long gone. But why does is have to be that way? When did we start buying into the idea that we only change when things hit “rock bottom?” Why did I have to pile on more regrets, experience more anxiety, and more emotional suffering? Why weren’t the cons on my list enough-hangovers, increased anxiety, hating myself when I drank too much, embarrassing myself, etc.?
The one thing that I’ve learned from living alcohol-free is that I don’t know what I don’t know. I literally had no idea what it would be like to embrace an alcohol free lifestyle. I had never once in my life done that. Sure, there were times with no alcohol-pregnancy, cleanses, diets, illness, etc. but I always felt like drinking was a part of me. It was “what I did” and “who I was.” So no matter what I put down on those lists and how much time I spent thinking about what it would be like to not drink anymore, I really didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
Thinking about quitting drinking is not quitting drinking. You can research, read, detail, and devise a plan. Maybe you plan to read a book or two, attend an AA meeting, only drink on Saturdays, drink wine instead of bourbon, only have drinks socially, only drink between the hours of 5–6, or when it’s fall, or at weddings. Maybe you want to watch that documentary first or listen to that podcast. Maybe you want to poll your friends or try to decide how every single person you’ve ever met in your life is going to feel about you once you stop. The reality is, you just won’t know what’s it’s like until you try. There’s a great quote out there (and I can’t remember who said it). It goes something like 100% of people who quit drinking all did this one thing. They quit drinking. It really is that simple. They just stopped opening the can or the bottle and putting it up to their lips and swallowing.
That’s actually the easy part. Start there and then work on figuring out the rest with the support that you need. For some people it might be rehab, support groups, and lots of helpful resources. For me, it was unlearning, relearning, and trusting that, in time I would benefit. That my mind, body, and soul would reap the benefits of living a sober life.
Feel free to replace the word alcohol with that thing you’ve been agonizing about. What’s the thing that keeps you up at night or nags you everytime you do it? Maybe it used to be really fun and it served a great purpose so you think you should still hang on. Maybe it once brought you happiness and connection. But it’s just not doing that anymore and deep down you know that. But, change sucks and maybe you think that staying the same would be easier than changing. It’s usually not.
My suggestion is to go with something new. Since you already know what it’s like to drink-why not try making that pros/cons list as a more informed, diverse human who has had the experience as a drinker AND a non drinker? Once I did that my list changed A LOT:
PRO to Quitting: Alive
CONS to Quitting: N/A