Even though I had a love/hate relationship with alcohol that veered towards hate after each hangover, I didn’t really think sobriety was for me. It didn’t fit into my mental model; it was for other people who really struggled with alcohol to the point that they were drinking in the morning. It was for rock bottom–a last resort.
I had all these fears about sobriety and misguided notions about what it means to live life without alcohol. But my inner guide didn’t care. It was whispering to me that I would be happier without alcohol. For a long time, I reasoned with my inner guide by voicing my assumptions about sobriety and why it wasn’t for me. But finally, I had to realize I had no idea what I was talking about. I had never even tried it.
And then I did. And like most turning points in life, everything changed. The world opened up for me and I experienced the greatest happiness and transformation I had ever known. Sobriety has given me the confidence to go after the things I truly want and the tenacity to persist until I get there. And on the other side of this great leap of faith, I realize all the fears and myths I believed just served to keep me stuck in unhappiness and mediocrity.
Maybe these myths are holding you back too:
- YOU HAVE TO LABEL YOURSELF AN ALCOHOLIC
First of all, what is an alcoholic? Interesting question because the term isn’t used in the medical lexicon anymore. It’s called alcohol-use disorder and is diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe. The bar for mild AUD is pretty low, so be ready to accept that you and all of your friends probably exhibit it. So if we all exhibit some level of alcohol-use disorder, what’s a true alcoholic? Government studies show that nine out of ten people who drink too much are not addicted. Hospitals report that a majority of heavy drinkers that come in with liver issues also don’t qualify as dependent on alcohol. It’s pretty confusing, isn’t it? And the very act of quitting does not automatically assign you the label—not if you don’t want to wear it. No matter how complicated your relationship with alcohol is, you never have to label yourself an alcoholic. Labels are for folders, not multi-dimensional human beings. Drinking too much is an unhealthy pattern. It’s not who you are. (Related post: Outdated, Inaccurate, and Presumptive: Why the term alcoholic does a disservice to the joy of alcohol-free life)
- YOU “HAVE” TO GO TO AA
Are you interested in AA or find that it’s transformational for your journey? That’s amazing and I’m so glad it’s helped you. AA has saved a lot of lives. But nobody “has” to go and it definitely doesn’t vibe for a lot of people. The myth that you have to go to AA to be sober is completely wrong and there are so many other empowering communities and programs out there today. I do not personally ascribe to AA or twelve step and the idea that I had to quit drinking actually kept me stuck drinking for longer than I’d like. If you’re thinking of quitting drinking but don’t want to “have” to go to AA, just know that you are allowed to design your own path forward. You have intuition and it’s not broken and nobody will know better than you on how to heal. There are a ton of resources and communities (like One Year No Beer or Women for Sobriety) out there that can be your guide posts though.
- YOU CONSTANTLY HAVE FOMO
I had this fear big time. That giving up alcohol was giving up fun, having a good time, and a sense of normality. I had a serious case of FOMO at the thought of not drinking. But this is where a healthy dose of reflection helped change my mindset about what experiences are worth it for me and which actually aren’t as fun as I thought. Do you suffer from Fear Of Missing Out? Make a list of the things you are scared to lose. Now, I want you to consider another list—your JOMO list. Write out the Joy Of Missing Out on all the bad things associated with alcohol, like hangovers, regrets, internal stress, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Can you see how life could be better without all the negativity? Switching your mindset from FOMO to JOMO might take a while. But you need to have an open mind. Because there’s a million life experiences out there for you to explore and only one in a million involves alcohol. Don’t let alcohol prevent you from having the other 999,999.
- YOU HAVE TO BE A SEVERE PROBLEM DRINKER TO QUIT
Another myth about sobriety that kept me drinking for years. I had a very complicated relationship with alcohol, but over time this had me drinking less, not more. I didn’t like waking up hungover, and I tried really hard to limit the amount of alcohol in my life (compared to my college years when it was like a free-flow waterfall). If I quit, would people assume that I drank at work? Or in the morning? Crazy fears like this kept me doing an unhealthy habit that I didn’t fully love and today I feel so sad that this very fear traps so many people. Anyone, anywhere, with any kind of drinking habit is allowed to find a happier way and stop drinking ethanol. There is probably no healthier thing you could do for your body and brain. Quitting drinking does not say anything about you as a person, except that you woke up to the fact that there is more to life than hangovers.
- YOU BECOME A WALKING STIGMA
One day the alcohol-free lifestyle will be as normal of a choice as being vegetarian, but until then, talking about alcohol issues in our society is strangely taboo. But think about it. There’s nothing embarrassing about not doing heroin is there? Or not smoking cigarettes? Or anything else that’s unhealthy and diminishes your brain? There is nothing embarrassing about not drinking a mind-deteriorating poison. Studies show that we are more attracted to people who don’t drink or drink less. They are appealing to us because they have their full wits about them! They don’t slur, they don’t repeat themselves, they don’t selfishly talk and not listen all night. Think about it, would you rather have an interesting conversation with someone who is drunk or someone who is confident enough to let their true selves speak? Even if you are with a drinker, chances are you fell for them at a moment when they were lucid. Not drinking puts you on a whole other level. A level of people who put their goals first and actually manifest their dream lives. There’s no stigma to it.
- IT’S DULL AND BORING
I have some harsh truth to tell you. If you think life is dull and boring without alcohol, that means that you really believe that living life just as you are, authentically, experiencing it all without a drug, as children do, is boring. You think your life is boring. And that has way more to do with limiting beliefs and how you spend your time than anything to do with alcohol actually enhancing life. Sobriety is far from dull and boring, it’s actually living life without blinders on. Alcohol numbs our senses and feelings and when you numb the bad, you also numb the good. It decreases your levels of serotonin, GABA, and your receptivity to dopamine (the very things that make us feel happy) and over time this feels like apathy and malaise. When you quit drinking, all the delicate systems in your brain rebalance and you see life in technicolor, full HD. In full magnitude. It’s exhilarating, brings you all the feels, and makes you feel truly alive. Change your mindset and then find activities that actually light a fire under your soul.
- YOU FEEL DEPRIVED
Giving up anything we associate as a treat can feel like deprivation. But the thing is, you don’t have to give anything up. Not with the alternative drink movement that is exploding with new options every day. Fancy a nice Prosecco with your Sunday meal? Great, Gruvi makes a lovely option that doesn’t have any ethanol in it. Can’t imagine game day without pizza and beers? Try Athletic Brewing which makes some of the best nonalcoholic ales and IPAs. Don’t want to give up going out for cocktails with your girlfriends? Any bartender worth their craft can make you a mocktail that won’t give you a hangover the next day.
Sobriety isn’t about what you give up. It’s about opening your eyes to the world of new experiences and benefits that were previously closed off for you. Life becomes richer and more meaningful when you stop chasing a momentary buzz and instead focus on your fulfillment. It’s the greatest decision of my life and all of my fears were unfounded. So the question is, are you ready to challenge yours?
If you’d like some help to stop drinking and create the alcohol-life of your dreams, click here for details on my online course.