To celebrate my 3 year anniversary of sobriety (a couple weeks late but oh well) I’m sharing this letter I put some real heart into writing for a sweet friend who is curious about that no-booze life. I’m just copying it directly here, but please know that I feel this way about everyone. I am excited for anyone who examines their life and looks for ways to be more kind to themselves. I believe we’re all capable of change and I think you’re beautiful. So, this one’s for you.
I’m so excited for you! No matter where this plan to quit drinking for any amount of time goes, I believe it will be good for you. Change needs a little kickstart from us sometimes. You started that by thinking about it and asking me about it (thank you!!) and you’re on your way!
Here is what I found helpful when I decided to quit drinking. These are things I think would be good for quitting for a month or a year or whatever.
1. Hipsobriety.com is my favorite sobriety website/blog/writing. They have since changed to Temper.com but go to www.hipsobriety.com
to read the Manifesto on the main page. My favorite takeaways from that piece were a. I don’t have to hit some sort of rock bottom to quit, b. I don’t need to call myself an alcoholic to quit, and c. you don’t have to do it alone. The other post there I would recommend is the book list, which brings me to #2
2. Read books! I felt connected to people who had gone through the same hard choice by reading before I ever talked to anyone about it in real life. Some of my favorites are: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp; Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston, Stop Drinking Now by Alan Carr; Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola. Looking back through my Kindle purchase history just now, I see that I read Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic a full 10 months before I quit drinking completely. I found her while googling “Am I an alcoholic” one morning while severely hungover. I remember reading Stop Drinking Now on an airplane, two months before I quit. Reading is good for both preparation and maintenance. I still love to read a sobriety memoir. It makes me feel like I’m part of something wonderful.
3. Tell people! Even if it’s just people online, your partner, or some nice friend who supports you no matter what. I think you have a few of those 🙂 I told my roommate at the time, because I had to explain my lack of wine drinking. I told other friends that I was taking a break, and didn’t mention to most. I found that the #sober community on Instagram was very comforting. Just search hashtags like #sobriety #onedayatatime #soberlife #sober, etc and you’ll find some lovely people who will cheer you on if you comment about your experience on their pages. Check out @thedrylife @thetemper @lauramckowen to start. Speaking of people, something I didn’t do but wish I had was…
4. Talk to a professional. That could be a therapist who specializes in substance use, or I would recommend a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This is a great motivational form of therapy, that can be so helpful in changing behavior. Think of this person as a coach, there to help you make this change more easily. This person should be non-judgemental, supportive of your goal, and shouldn’t pressure you to take any steps in your quitting that you don’t want to. If they do, kick ’em to the curb and find someone new.
5. Identify your triggers. Maybe that’s happy hour, the smell of wine, going to a favorite restaurant, etc. Knowing what those triggers are doesn’t mean you have to avoid them entirely, but it does mean you need to have a plan with how to handle your feelings. For happy hour, if you want to keep going, maybe that means taking a break from it for a week, and then only staying for an hour when you go. Plan the type of beverage you’re going to have ahead of time. Same thing with wine in your house- is there some other special drink you can have on hand for when a craving hits? Just be prepared with a response, so you don’t default to your previous response of just drink.
6. This might be the most important one. Be SO KIND AND GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. You are attempting something hard. Most people do not do this. That’s how hard it is. You’re going against what society and friends say is normal and you’re listening to yourself. That is huge, and you should give yourself grace. Know that hard feelings get less hard, and the awkwardness of not drinking around drinkers gets less awkward. Promise!
7. Not that I think this will happen, but it’s important. If you do drink, the world will not end. All of your hard work is not wasted. Get back up, and try again. So often, people feel like (and I have felt like) as soon as you screw it up, by drinking, you might as well just go back to drinking. If you can, taking some time to say “ok, what happened here and how can I be more prepared next time” can be a much kinder approach. It’s not shameful- it happens. Just don’t let it derail you for too long.
I think that’s all I have for now. Is that helpful? Do you have any questions? I’m always happy to chat or email or whatever. Starting is the hard part, but I know you’ve got this. You’re a strong and beautiful person!