We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. – Carlos Castenada
If you’ve reached the point where you realize you can’t afford to continue down the road of drinking alcohol, then undoubtedly you’ve already had a few conversations with your family and friends – and they’ve given you their support and love. But now it’s time to get down to brass tacks: Everyone has a plan for your life – but what is it? What’s going to happen? Who will take care of things while you are getting sober? Is this even going to be doable?
It’s a lot to take in, but it doesn’t have to be. The best thing you can do is have a plan – and then work on that plan every single day until you’re sober, until you’re confident to move on to bigger and better things.
First Things First
Getting sober is a huge decision and even bigger commitment. The moment you decide to get sober needs to be felt from the inside. You can’t do it for your kids, you can’t do it for your spouse, or friends, or anyone else. You have to make this decision for yourself. Getting sober isn’t a one and done kind of decision either. Realize and accept that this is a lifelong journey. Just like if you were going to become Catholic, you don’t just say, “Yep, I’m a Catholic now” and move on. The decision comes with responsiblity. Responsiblity to learn, responsibility to choose your sobriety daily, responsibility to develop new habits, responsibility to establish boundaries. When you commit to going alcohol-free, it’s important to have a plan. Now that you’ve made the decision and had the conversation with yourself that you are commited, let’s look at what your plan will look like.
Uncovering Why You Drink
You need to bring awareness to what is driving you to drink in the first place. The answer isn’t found online or in a book, it’s found inside yourself. The easiest way you can figure out what causes you to drink is to think back to the last time you drank. What were you doing? Who were you with? What happened RIGHT before you decided alcohol would be a good idea? Be honest with yourself. Were you invited to a happy hour with co-workers? Did someone on the way to work cut you off in traffic? Did you get an unexpected bill in the mail and immediately worry how you would afford to pay it? Identify and name the reason you drink.
Here’s an example. The last time I drank, I had just received a text message from my dad inviting me and my kids to visit. I don’t have a good relationship with my dad, and everytime I’m around him I get anxious and uncomfortable. I can identify that my dad is a reason I reach for the booze. Bringing awareness to this ‘trigger’ helps me set up boundaries (more on that later). It forces me to recognize the trigger and then I’m able to consciously decide how I want to respond. The beautiful part about this process is that you get to decide how you respond to these triggers. You are the architect of your life, so take the reigns and start noticing.
Continue to walk through the times you drank and take one step back in time until you uncover the reason. Many times, small stressors throughout our day add up to one giant lump of stress at the end of the day. So the answer might not be the most recent stressor you encountered that day. Keep stepping backwards through your day until you can identify the originator of all of the stress.
Prioritize Your Sobriety
Prioritzing your sobriety is critical to your success. If you go about your days just as you were before, you are likely to end up exactly where you were. Just like the saying goes, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different outcomes.” Setting up boundaries in our lives is essentially prioritizing your sobriety. For me, staying sober was my biggest priority at first. I knew that if I was going to remain sober, a lot of things in my life needed to change.
The first boundaries I defined were with my relationships. I had conversations with everyone that I commonly interracted to let them know of my decision to get sober. This included my children, my parents, and my closest friends. It not only set up a boundary with them that I didn’t want to be around alcohol, but it also created an unspoken accountability relationship, which was much needed. There were ‘friends’ that I had spent time getting drunk with that I simply deleted from my phone and unfollowed from Instagram.
I then began to evaluate my emotional boundaries. I had some pretty hard core emotional boundaries in place, and I wanted to get to a place where I allowed those emotions to be felt, acknowledged, and released when appropriate. The main reason I drank so much was to numb these emotions. I was done with drinking so I knew it was imminent it was time to face all the feels. At first it was hard, but over time, as I learned how to release what no longer serves me, I began to learn a lot about myself. I learned what emotions where the hardest for me to process and which ones were easier to let go of.