There’s a reason there are manuals that come with the stuff we buy. While we think we have a good idea how to use the InstantPot we ordered, or how to put together this seemingly simple table from Ikea, the instruction manuals almost always provide additional information. For example, I purchased some new earbuds a while back. I knew they were bluetooth and I knew how to pair and use them, but I didn’t realize that tapping on the left earbud 7 times was an easy way to unpair it from my device. When my matcha tea set was delivered, I learned the proper way to prepare the matcha, all of the health benefits of drinking matcha, and to not consume more than one bowl per day as it does contain a significant amount of caffeine.
When it comes to quitting drinking, which can be complex, challenging, and downright painful at times, there isn’t an instruction manual. Allen Carr wrote a book that been deemed by many as a manual, but each of us are so uniquely different, that to claim “this is the manual to quit drinking, guaranteed” is downright foolish. I have worked with women that want me to tell them exactly what to do. I work with women who require deep introspective work in order to feel growth and progress. Several of my clients prefer to have several options to choose from in determining what new habits they will form. None of us are the same. None of us conform to one single manual.
What I have noticed, however, is there are a few changes that everyone needs to make when they decide to give up drinking. You can consider this the one-page manual for a 1,000 piece puzzle. It is very generic. There will be parts you don’t understand, pieces that don’t quite fit together. You will likely cuss and throw things and cry because what you created doesn’t look like the picture on the box. What you may not realize is that this is all a part of the journey. Just because the girl from the coffee shop that’s been sober 7 years utilizes pilates and gardening in her toolbox, does not mean you have to.
Step 1 – Own YOUR truth
Owning your truth means figuring out who you are, what gets you excited, what does your best version look like, and then never wavering in that, never allowing someone to change your mind about it. What are your values? Not the values your childhood caregivers instilled in you, but the values that feel right when you stand up for them. The values that lead you to the decisions you are making every day. What are your beliefs? Again, not the religious traditions you were forced to endure as a child, but your beliefs as a grown ass woman. Do you believe you hold the power to your future? Do you believe there is a power greater than you working in your favor? Do you believe we are all simply living meaningless lives with no soul or purpose? These are your truths. And you MUST figure them out if you want to move forward.
Maybe you don’t know what any of these things are and you need help. I’ve got just the tool to help with this. Download this workbook I put together that will help you answer ALL of these questions and so much more. Then actually work through it. Print it off, bookmark it, whatever, just work through it. If you get stuck on anything, start asking questions. Get curious. Curiosity will be your biggest asset on your journey through soberhood.
Step 2 – Make a commitment
Your desire to getting sober cannot be made all willy-nilly. You gotta own it. You need to committ to it with all you have. It’s going to be hard, you’re going to question why you are doing this, and you’re going to want to give up. DON’T DO THAT! Think of your sobriety commitment like getting married. You’re gonna have to go to court, pay some fees, maybe hire an attorney to get out of this one because part of this commitment is telling everyone you trust. And trust me, once word gets out you’re sober and not fucking around, you’re not going to be able to have take-backs.
Write a good-bye letter to the best friend you are letting go (wine, beer, vodka, whatever your poison is). “Dear wine, I loved you the moment I tasted you. You helped me relax at the end of a rough day, and you connected me to other moms I normally wouldn’t have spoke to…” Go into detail why you loved this part of you. The benefits it brought you. The relief you felt taking that first sip. Whatever it did for you, write it down, nobody is going to read this.
And then burn that shit. Please find somewhere safe, but yes, burn it. Watch the smoke dissipate into the air as a symbol of releasing your love to your no-longer-BFF. Then make a commitment to staying sober. Again, this isn’t a decision to be made lightly. Getting sober is a privilege and a huge responsibility. It’s not like choosing between a caramel machiatto and an americano, this is some serious shit. Take your time, wrap you head about what it really means to get sober. And only when you are so ready, you can feel it in your bones, write down your commitment on a piece of paper, and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Read it every day as a reminder that you committed to you.
Step 3 – Do things differently
When I decided I wanted to lose weight, do you think I kept dunking oreos in milk before bed? Do you think I spent 2-3 hours every evening laying on the coutch binging Netflix? Do you think I ordered carryout 2 nights a week? Hell no! I changed the amount of water I was drinking, I started reading healthy blogs, I started going for walks and practicing yoga every morning, and I changed the foods I was consuming. I CHANGED A LOT! You can’t commit to sobriety, keep doing the same things you’ve been doing and expect different results, it doesn’t work that way. Sobriety is like going on a diet. You have to take a look at your everday life and see where you can make micro-changes that will have a big impact on your ability to nail it.
If you always stop off at the liquor store that’s a couple of blocks from your house on your way home from work, go a different direction. If you keep a stocked liquor cabinet in your den, you should definitely get rid of it. If you cram so many meetings and tasks into your workday that at the end of the day you’re so mentally f’ked you can’t help but reach for wine, stop doing that! Put at least two 5-10 minute blocks on your calendar where you will practice deep breathing, or meditation, or mindfulness, or journal random thoughts. If you always drink while binging prime time television, maybe unplug the TV or move it to a different room, or sign up for the gym and head out during this timeframe. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just as long as you don’t associate the new habit or activity with drinking.
Choosing sobriety comes with a great responsibility. Responsibility means having the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization. It’s a moral obligation to yourself, your loved ones, and all those around you. When we drink, we can become a version that our true selves despise. Our tongues are sharp, our actions thoughtless, and our decisions impulsive. We were not created to cause suffering to others and yet when we pick up the bottle, we are doing just that. If you’ve considered giving up alcohol, take stock in your ability to truly commit to such a privilege. Trust yourself, and above all, release everything that no longer serves you.