Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
On vacation in Costa Rica the summer of 2012, as I downed my fifth shot of Caciques straight from the bottle and puffed my Caribbean spliff, I found myself numb enough to say the thing I’d been wanting to say to another human being for quite some time.
“If I’m still doing this (holds spliff up) and this (nods to Caciques bottle) when we get back, please stage an intervention.”
My girlfriend snorted, began laughing. When she saw I was not she stood straight. “Wait, are you serious?”
Yes, I was serious. The thing that I’d feared the most in my 18 years of drinking -- that perhaps one day I would have to stop -- came to be that day.
It would take me another few months to say it again, and then another few months to try it. The thing that kept me stunted (and had kept me stunted for the years before) was surprisingly not the admission that I’d have to stop, but rather, the terror I had over what stopping meant.
I had no willpower. I had no sober friends. I had wine club memberships (and I’d just joined that microbrew Meet-up…) I’d never danced sober, I’d never fucked sober, I’d never partied sober (because why would I?). I had lived more of my life socializing over drinks than I had not.
In the end, it turned out that the things I was terrified of the most -- that I couldn’t do it, that I’d lose my friends, that I’d lose my life -- were in fact the things that made the path so rewarding.
Here now, some 27 months sober, I can say with certainty that sobriety is not the scary, impossible, boring, stigmatizing life sentence we’ve come to believe it to be, but rather an accessible, subversive, badass and infinitely rewarding lifestyle choice that more and more of us are making.
If sobriety is whispering sweet nothings in your ear and you’re finding yourself in some fear state over whether you can or even want to, here are 11 common fears, dispelled.
1. I don't have the discipline or willpower to do it.
Great, because those things aren't necessary. It is not about discipline or deprivation on any level, and most certainly isn't about willpower.
We limit ourselves to think that there are only two options -- we either can or cannot drink. There is, however, a third, lesser known option: conscious choice to not drink. And it's open to all.
If it were about having discipline or willpower…I wouldn't be here typing this post. If it were about deprivation, I would have never tried not drinking in the first place. Anyone can become a non-drinker. You simply need to reframe your relationship with it through knowledge, decide to not drink, have the right tools and support system in place, and act on your decision.
You can always change your mind.
2. I’m terrified I'll become boring.
I know this one well. I was terrified that I would become really lame, too. I was always the girl at the bar buying shots. I was the one who plowed onto beaches tearing off my clothes getting my girlfriends to run naked with me. I was Beyonce on the dance floor (check, I thought I was). I stayed out until 4 am playing beer pong, I partook in something called whiskey slapping.
I was terrifically awesome when I was drunk. So it felt like there was a lot of awesomeness to lose.
The truth is two-fold. One, drinking doesn't change what is already there. It just removes the inhibitions to get there. But so does true courage -- which you will find when you no longer feel like alcohol controls you. Two, artificial highs always lead to artificial lows. A you that doesn't have spikes and dips in energy from drinking -- a consistent you -- will for sure, without a doubt, be less boring.
3. I’m terrified my life will become boring.
No. Life is what you make of it.
When you stop drinking, something miraculous happens -- you feel like a kid again. You can see the world with new fresh eyes, you have more energy, and there isn't enough time in the day for all you want to do.
Before I stopped drinking, my options were generally limited to stuff that included alcohol. Which bar, which happy hour, which restaurant had the best drinks or Italian reds. Pub crawls, party buses, popping over here for a lushy brunch. Things that were fun at one point in my life, that became incredibly boring over time.
The things I do now are decidedly more interesting than anything before. They are the things I wished I was doing instead when I was drinking.
4. Boring tri-fecta…I'm terrified I will have to do something that is boring, and I won't be able to drink through it.
If you have to drink to do something, you shouldn't be doing it. You have free will. Fuck that shit. I don't do boring. If I accidentally end up in boring, I quickly exit.
5. I have FOMO, and I'm terrified that I'm going to miss out by not drinking.
This I feel you on more than anything. I, too, have major FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.
Here is the thing. America is a drinking centric culture. There are no two ways around it. Your friends and your social events will still happen, they will still revolve around or include alcohol, and there is no rule anywhere that you have to miss out because you're not getting shitfaced with them.
But you will find -- for certain -- that it gets really old doing the same thing over and over again (as you probably suspected to begin with). The beauty of going into any situation “full sober” and having to be present means that you get to clearly see how you are spending your time.
Most likely, the stuff you're FOMO'ing about is lame and you never knew it or were just too drunk to remember. Sobriety is -- in fact -- FOMOs best friend. It keeps you clear enough to see what you are doing (“Thumbs up it's rad, stay!” or “Thumbs DOWN girl, run!”) and it gives you the balls to NOT do time-suck-boring things.
6. If I admit I can't control it, it means I'm an "alcoholic."
Nope. Fuck that shit too. Not true.
First, it's an addictive drug and everyone -- including my mom who has one glass of wine a week -- has to exert some amount of control over it. You're a non-drinker who has decided not to drink -- that is the essence of control my friend.
Vegans don't say they can't control their meat intake. Vegans don't eat meat. And you don't have to admit anything to anyone. It's your reality, it's your right to own your story.
Rest assured that when you stop using it is not the indication of a problem. It's the end of a problem.
7. I’ll lose my friends.
You will not lose your friends. You will never lose your real friends. You will, however, most definitely lose people that were in your life because of alcohol.
They'll go first and you won't notice. And some of your real friends might need to take a vacation from you until they get comfortable. You'll notice those and it will probably hurt a bit (your confidence and decision will freak people out -- you're a flashlight and some people would rather be left in the dark).
A lot of people transitioned out of my life. But a lot of badass people that were on the fringes that I hadn't explored came closer. Others who I had lost long ago came back. And then more and more like-minded ones flooded in.
My posse today is huge and wide and they are the real deal. Drinkers, non-drinkers, whatevers. Alcohol doesn't make friendships, it makes commonalities. You make friendships.
8. People will talk.
Yes they will. Because people can be assholes, and people are scared. Me a few years ago -- asshole. I didn't want friends who didn't drink, and I judged. And why? Because I was terrified that I had a problem with alcohol.
Whatever anyone says about you, or to you -- good or bad -- is a reflection of themselves. It is never a reflection of you.
How you react to them is the only reflection of you and the only thing under your control. And the courage you gain from taking control of your life will help fortify you when this does come up.
Take it from me -- I lived and breathed for what others' thought of me, but I learned to love me and find me and I know my truth. I know when I'm judging someone, I'm only judging myself. I know when someone is judging me, they are only judging themselves.
So don't worry about this part. Love this part.
9. I won't have a coping mechanism.
Well, kind of. The thing is, while alcohol can temporarily dull the pain, it doesn't solve problems. It temporarily makes us forget, and then we sober up, the warmth of the buzz goes away, and we not only have the problem we started out with, but also a second one -- a depressed system from drinking and possibly a hangover. Ohh and puffiness!
The really good news is when you stop drinking, you give yourself a chance to work on the real things that drove behavior that made you need to cope in the first place,
AND you develop super healthy coping mechanisms. Like meditation, exercise, good foods, teas, sleep, baths, supplements, breathing, yoga, etc. I still spin out, but I am no longer the victim of my spins. I know what's up, I know where it's coming from, and I'm not afraid of anything that comes at me anymore. I know how to deal without running.
10. What about relapse? Or being in recovery forever? Recovery from alcohol forever?
No. You stop drinking, you stop drinking. You don't need perpetual recovery from something you don't do. You are not addicted to a substance you don't ingest. People who stop smoking cigarettes are not in perpetual cigarette recovery forever, they aren't cigarette-holics that take it one day at a time. The same goes for drinking. And relapse is just failure with a fancier scarier name.
We try things and we fail at them ALL THE TIME. Thomas Edison is a prime example of someone who failed at inventing the lightbulb. But Thomas Edison also ended up inventing the lightbulb. Because he really wanted to.
Recovery from alcohol ends when you stop drinking, and recovery of your best self begins. That's what never ends -- the unpacking of yourself, the evolution of yourself, the recovery and nurturing of you. And that's the best part. Because you are a one-of-a-kind badass and there is all kinds of treasure buried in there.
11. Nothing will be the same. Ever.
No, it won't. It will be better. I promise you this. No one ever regrets quitting drinking. And if you truly do regret it, it's really easy to start again.