If you’ve been on the “trying to quit drinking” roller coaster, then you know the harder you try, the more your inner addict tries to trick you into doing it. Your brain will rationalize and give you all sorts of reasons you should go ahead and give in to the craving. I hate to break it to you, but your brain is NOT your friend. Here are the reasons your reasons are wrong.
No matter how long it’s been since you quit drinking, at some point you’ll crave a drink. I’ve heard people say, “Once I quit drinking the obsession was lifted” and sure, maybe the obsession was lifted, and they weren’t thinking about drinking all day every day, but that doesn’t mean they never again had the thought that they’d cut a bitch for a Budweiser. We’re human! It doesn’t matter how hard you work on your sobriety: You can practice transcendental meditation two hours a day; visit an expensive therapist weekly or journal endlessly about your childhood, but the fact is, sometimes it all goes out the window and you crave a drink. You want a momentary reprieve. You just want to alter your goddamn mood for a minute, even if nothing’s wrong!
In recovery, you’ll hear a lot of talk about rock bottoms. You might hear someone say they stopped drinking because they finally hit rock bottom or you might hear people say when describing a person who just can’t seem to quit despite having numerous consequences “I guess he hasn’t hit his rock bottom yet.” But what does hitting rock bottom actually mean? And do you definitely have to hit one to stop drinking? Well, let’s start with what it is: the dictionary defines rock bottom as the lowest level possible. This can mean different things to different people.
My first few months of sobriety went fairly smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that I was starting to wonder why I hadn’t committed to this new life much sooner. I mean, sure, I missed it a lot –especially when I was enduring the witching hour with my eighteen-month-old twins – one of whom gave up sleeping right when I gave up drinking. She would scream every night at bedtime “No! No! No!” until my husband and I either brought her out to watch the Daily Show or I fell asleep on the stuffed lamb chair in her bedroom and woke up stiff and tired. So yeah, sobriety was not without its challenges, but with the help of my new sober posse and my regular meetings, it was doable. But about four months in I hit a major snag: Anxiety.
I often get emails from people asking how exactly do you quit drinking? It’s really easy to quit drinking. It’s the staying quit that’s the struggle. I’ve quit drinking dozens of times. I’ve woken up in the morning after a night of accidentally swilling too many apple martinis, feeling like my brain was in a vise, too nauseous to breathe and I’ve promised myself this would be the last time. I will never drink again. Sometimes I would only last a day, sometimes a week, once I stopped for 6 weeks, but inevitably I’d cave in to the cravings.
For most people contemplating quitting drinking, a primary concern is how am I going to do the things I used to do sober? It can seem daunting to even sit on the couch and watch Netflix without a glass of wine in hand let alone go to a party and God forbid, socialize sober!
A funny thing happens when people quit drinking or even cut down significantly: other addictions tend to appear in their place. In recovery, we call this the Whac-A-Mole syndrome – named for the arcade game where you hit a mole over the head with a mallet only to have three more pop up until pretty soon you’re overwhelmed with moles and you just need a drink to calm down! It would be great if people replaced their addiction to drugs and alcohol with things like yoga or macramé or cleaning the bathroom, but it rarely works that way. It’s more likely to be food or gambling or shopping.
A few days after I made the decision to stop drinking, I went to a 12-step meeting. I didn’t want to go. I’d been to meetings before with the intention of supporting of a friend and I didn’t care for it. First of all, there are a lot of annoying slogans like “One day at a time.” Also, I’m not a joiner. In school, I didn’t belong to any clubs, sports teams or Girl Scouts. Furthermore, I despise asking for help. I’m an “I got this” type of person, preferring to handle things myself because if I don’t put myself out, I won’t feel let down. 12-step meetings are a basically a big group of people helping each other and letting themselves be helped and I wanted no part of it. But, I knew I had a drinking problem, that much was clear, and I desperately wanted to stop. Therapy hadn’t worked, willpower certainly hadn’t worked, and meditating was out of the question, so I knew I had to try.
Before I quit drinking, I mean really quit drinking, I wasn’t convinced I needed to quit drinking. I thought maybe, possibly, there was a slight chance I should but I wasn’t convinced. So I found myself looking online at quizzes or lists of warning signs that could help me determine if I was truly an alcoholic or if maybe I was just drinking a little too much due to stress and didn’t need to quit entirely.
I quit drinking 7 years and 7 months ago or 2,791 days ago - but who’s counting right? A few days after I made the decision to stop, I wrote about it on my blog Babyonbored because in addition to having a problem with alcohol, I also have a tendency to overshare. In the entry, I explained how my favorite stress reliever, anxiety reducer and daily treat had become a nightly obsession. I described my feelings of guilt and shame that the thing I thought I had control over had taken control of me. This admission was incredibly painful, not to mention embarrassing because I was someone who was known for using my cocktail habit as fodder for my writing about parenting. I’d even gone on the Today Show to defend the right of moms to unwind with a glass of wine. I was all, “Yeah! We deserve a glass of wine! Parenting is stressful and we have impossibly high standards of ourselves! We should all relax and celebrate our humanness, our imperfections!” I believed what I was saying at that time but unfortunately for me, that celebratory glass of wine had become four, and what’s worse, I could not take a single night off – but oh how I tried.