Putting down the drink is just the beginning..

Friday 13 Nov, 2015, 10:35am by Mrs D 15 comments

I’m not sure that you can just stop drinking alcohol and make no other changes or do no other ‘work’ on yourself and expect to become happily sober.

No matter what your reasons for drinking were, or what the quantities were that you imbibed, or what you did / said / felt while you were under the influence.. the boozing has to have had some sort of deep impact on your life…yes?

So if you just take it away and don’t do any other sort of honest examination of your thoughts or feelings or lifestyle or habits or choices or anything.. is that going to lead to you being a contented non-drinker?

And if after you stop drinking you isolate yourself and don’t talk openly and honestly with people who are empathetic and understanding (either friends & family who are good listeners or other sober people) are you going to reap the great rewards that sobriety offers?

Personally I think not. Personally I think that putting down the drink is just the start… it’s what you do after that which makes all the difference.

For me this meant being brutally honest with myself about the fact that I was an emotion avoider. It was being robust in my attempts to retrain my brain out of it’s hardwired bullshit beliefs about booze. It was being extremely active in looking for the positives in sobriety. It meant reading every recovery related book I could get my hands on, listening to numerous podcasts, watching documentaries, and reading blogs and articles. It was being dedicated about writing to myself consistently about what was going on in my head. It was opening myself up truthfully to friends and family about why I stopped drinking. It was connecting with and trusting a lovely online recovery community about the roller coaster of emotions I was on after I started living raw.

For other people it might mean they find meetings in their community to attend regularly. It might mean they seek out a therapist or counsellor sit with to get to the core of some issues. It might mean they make brave decisions about relationships or jobs. It might mean they throw themselves into an online forum like this one. It might mean they attend personal improvement courses (mindfulness? yoga? knitting?!). It might mean they attend group therapy. It might mean they take up marathon running or start a new hobby they’ve always wanted to try. It might be all of the above!!

But it has to be something. Something on top of just stopping drinking. Don’t you think?

Otherwise you’re just sitting there in your normal life with a big hole where the booze used to be. And all you can see is that hole.

Take the booze away – yes! But then fill the hole left behind with other stuff. Stuff that is going to lift you up, connect you with other humans, improve your understanding of yourself, make you feel better.

Because if you’re not drinking and you’re still miserable, chances are something else is wrong. Taking the booze away should help you to see what that wrong thing is – if you really look – and it will afford you the time and space to work on improving it.

And then, slowly over time, you will start to feel better. And then, hopefully, the wonders of sobriety will open up for you.

Love, Mrs D xxx

15 comments

  1. Truth. I’m trying to fill the hole with going back to choir, and trying to do daily walking, weekly water aerobics, and going to Mass most mornings, and sober socializing. I say trying because I find myself slipping back into a ‘shut-in’ like existence so I find myself skipping those things a lot. When I ran with the ‘party-crew’ they’d coax me out for an evening of laughter, loud singing, and heavy drinking. I’d be lying if I say it wasn’t fun at first. It was. It was golden times. I kind of missed the camaraderie at first. But as time wore on, the tin started showing through that gold. I saw under the veneer of fake friendship. Plus, once I stopped drinking, I was dubbed ‘boring’ and the calls and texts stopped. Yah, I may be boring, but boring is better than blackout drunk or hungover.

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  2. Thanks for posting this Mrs D. It’s an answer to the question of why I always go back to the wine — I haven’t filled the hole. I’ll have to give this lots of thought.

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  3. You’ve nailed it absolutely perfectly Lotta. It explains why I have been so happy without booze, because it’s given me the opportunity to understand what drives me, what stresses me out, what inspires me and what scares me. It’s given me the chance to develop some life changing coping skills. It’s led me to a stint of counselling that provided some revelations and tools that are still helping me . I’m fixing up my dodgy back after years of nagging pain. I look in the mirror and like the person staring back . I can see how much healthier I am and others comment on that too . I’ve gained enormous pride . And it’s all down to filling up that hole booze left with other stuff . You’re so right about that Lotta . Thanks for articulating it! It’s golden! This post should be read by everyone thinking about quitting alcohol .

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  4. I drank because it was my coping mechanism (although I didn’t know it at the time). Now, when I’m dealing with feelings of stress or frustration or anger, I turn to healthier coping options and avoid alcohol like the plague. My new options include exercise, getting outside, meditation, talking to a friend, listening to a podcast. This has been a huge transformation for me. Thanks Mrs. D for the great reminder. If I had to name the #1 reason I wasn’t successful in the past, it was because I did nothing to change myself when I tried to quit the booze.

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  5. Hi Lotta

    Im back, and on the recommendation of a drug and alcohol counsellor no less. Youre blog above sums up whats been happening with me…months sober but then still very unhappy. This time things have to change. I have contacted an organisation called MHAPS which you are probably familiar with and going to participate in life a bit more, not hide away and avoid the bottle. Hope you get to read this. Charlene

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  6. I really agree with what you say here. When I have resisted making the kinds of changes you talk about here and going this kind of work, I have slowly slipped away from my commitment to being sober, which led me to deciding to drink again. But when I commit to doing this work, staying sober stays in the frame somehow. I don’t always want to be focusing on this sort of thing, and at times I hate what seems like too much emphasis on myself. But it’s important. I guess the world is shaped a certain way for me the drinker, and I need to reshape myself and reshape my way of interacting in the world if I am going to get and stay sober for good. Thanks for the thought provoking post, Mrs D! Always good to be learning from you. xo

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  7. Absolutely. No question, and especially in fact if there is no bad rock bottom, no terrible hangovers to recall, the drift back would be so easy. Without your continuing to lead us on, I would have been back moderating, more carefully yes, but would never have made it to the self discovery stage, to the wonder of the changes, subtle and bigger.
    Thanks so much Lotta, you have done so much more than just set an example, You Can Stop – you have done so, so much more, continuing to analyse, search, lead us, communicate, explain – we are grateful, fortunate, words cannot express xxxxxxx

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  8. My gosh – if you can just get to that sweet spot… It doesn’t feel like a sweet spot per se` at first, it feels more like putting one foot in front of the other – and that’s ok – but when you manage to take a step back and not drink for just a few weeks AND THEN combine your clearing head with the magic that happens on LS – the sweet spot appears and it is life-saving! I’m not just saying this glibly; I truly mean that if you open your mind and let this work, it SOOO works. And then before you know it, your mind awakens with thoughts of everything you can do – and solid plans seem easier to consider. For me, sharing and doing the hard work that Lotta speaks of in this piece, has mostly taken place right here on this site. I talk deeply about not drinking any longer to a few folks in person, but most of it has happened here. No wonder I consider this place magical.

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  9. I truly thought I was just giving up wine and no more.I had numbed for so long I had forgotten that I did it to avoid dealing with emotions.So many years.
    I had no choice but to change and grow once I stopped drinking. It just started the ball rolling.I know for sure I am a better person all round for this process and all those around me (even my ex husband) have benefited from me being more mindful.When I first gave up it was believing you and your words and holding on to that faith that kept me going when I couldn’t see that far into the future.So for all of those in early days it’s good to remind that they too will feel like this before too long.Hold on and trust us that it really is amazing and wonderful to be sober.

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  10. I stopped for 4 months last year but didn’t fill the hole and was not prepared for temptation down the line. So picked up that drink out of the blue and ‘wham’ I was lost to it again.
    This time 3 months in reading every book including yours, meditating, yoga ect.
    I do feel complacency will be my enemy.
    So realise I need to put in some work to enjoy the reward. I am putting my needs before housework ect. 5 kids drive me nuts they are bored and fighting not even 9am. Ommmm

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