One of the biggest factors that keeps us stuck in anything and from moving forward are the fears we have about leaving our comfort zone and entering new territory. Fear is a bitch. It’s also a beautiful indicator of what we must do…an internal compass that screams at us until we pay attention and act. As Jack Kanfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” and this I know for sure.
If sobriety is whispering sweet nothings in your ear and you’re finding yourself in a fear state, you’re not alone. You’re in fact in majorly good company, because to some degree, most people that drink have some fear around their relationship with it.
Here are 11 common fears people have that keep them from exploring the sober side of things, dispelled.
- 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 (for the sake of this entry, I’ll let that argument stand…). 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 blog. 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.
- I’m terrified I’ll become boring. I know this one well. I was terrified that I would be 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). And I was Aretha on the mic at the Mint. (check check, I thought I was). I stayed out until 4am playing beer pong, I partook in something called whiskey slapping. I was terrifically awesome when I was drunk. Shenanigans. All the time. So there felt like there was a lot of personality 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. So “Party You” is still there. 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. And if anyone tells you that you are less fun, that’s most likely because they still need to drink to have fun. It’s been 17 months, I still party like a rockstar. I still go out with my bar brethren and engage in shenanigans. And no one in my life – drinker or non-drinker – thinks my shit is boring. As a friend recently pointed out…“sobriety is infinitely more subversive than drinking.”
- 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, music festivals, street fairs, sharing a bottle of wine, 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.
- 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.
- 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 – especially Urban America like San Francisco and Manhattan – is a drinking centric culture. There is 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 in to any time commitment full sober and having to actually be present means that you actually see how you are spending your time, and painfully, clearly so. Maybe 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 works in cahoots, keeping you clear enough to see what you are doing (thumbs up it’s rad, stay! thumbs DOWN, run!), giving you balls to NOT do time-suck-boring things, and (POW) – giving you more energy and time to do more things. FOMO, schmomo.
- 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. Here’s another way to frame this one (because it’s such a big one…) Alcohol is the only drug in America where you have to explain why you aren’t using, and further, the only drug you are deemed to have a problem with when you STOP using it. When a coke user stops using cocaine is not the moment they are deemed to have a problem – they are assumed to have a problem while they are using it. Apply that same logic here and rest assured that when you stop using it is not the indication of a problem. It’s the end of a problem.
- 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. New, beautiful friendships blossomed. My posse today is huge and wide and they are the real deal. Drinkers, non-drinkers, whatevers. They are fantastic and I’m the luckiest when it comes to community and an ever evolving circle of friends. Alcohol doesn’t make friendships, it makes commonalities. You make friendships.
- People will talk.Yes they will. Because people can be assholes, and people are scared. Me a few years ago – jerk. 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 (and I still absolutely care – I’m human and I’m sensitive!), 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.
- I won’t have a coping mechanism. Well, kind of. The thing is, while we think alcohol is a coping mechanism – it does take the edge off and helps us cope in a moment – we forget that 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, aroma therapy, breathing, yoga, practices, and on and on. 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.e., I’m not afraid of me.
- 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 cigaretteholics 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.
- 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.
Take what you will, leave the rest. And LOVE to you wherever you are today.
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