I met a friend for lunch the other day. Since it was a warm and almost spring-like day, we decided to enjoy the outdoor seating area and bask in the sun.
Once seated, the server asked for our drink order. My friend ordered a glass of white wine and I requested sparkling water; no different than the last time we were at lunch. Chatting and laughing when the drinks arrived, as soon as the server left my companion instantly grew quiet. I waited. She looked at both glasses on the table, then up at me and almost meekly asked, “how did you quit drinking? Because I’ve tried and tried and I just can’t stop!”
My heart ached for my friend for a moment, because I knew the next words out of my mouth were not going to be what she wanted to hear. I didn’t even know if she would really hear them. The way she asked the question already spoke volumes about her relationship with alcohol. She already knew she had a problem, and she wanted me to tell her there was an easy way out.
“You just stop drinking.”
I waited for The Look. The “I can’t do that” look. Followed by the slightly shocked, “Oh, I could NEVER give up my glass of wine each night,” statement. Words said with almost a touch of pity in them. Pity that I can’t enjoy a cold beer, or a lovely cabernet sauvignon. That there must be something wrong with me, because that’s just not the right answer. There has to be an easier way!
You have to be honest with yourself first, or nothing after this is going to matter. If you’re not ready to quit, you won’t. Because when you quit, you quit. All together. Cold turkey. There are no cheat days, no “only on weekends”. There is just you making a decision – do you want to drink, or do you not. (did Yoda say that in a movie somewhere…???).
Say this aloud, and I mean loudly: “I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL, SO I NEED TO QUIT DRINKING. I NEED TO QUIT DRINKING!!!”
Now, do you?
If so, you start today. TODAY!!!
You get all the booze out of the house. ALL OF IT (even that $150 bottle you brought home from Napa for that special occasion).
You build your support system. You tell your friends so they don’t hassle you (nor should they…what kind of friends are they really if they’re pushing you to do something you don’t want to….) and help hold you accountable. If you’re a social media junky, post it online – “Day 1 of #soberlife” – you’d be surprised how many people will throw support and love your way. Go online and find meetings – if you need them. Join a book club. Find a church. Call me if you want! What you don’t do is try to do this alone.
And then, You. Don’t. Drink.
You go do something after work that has nothing to do with drinking. Go to Home Depot and plan out an herb garden, clean your house, do your laundry, see a movie, get coffee (I highly recommend decaf), go to a teahouse, go to the ocean, take a drive through the mountains, drive with the windows down and the music cranked. Go anywhere where there is NO BOOZE! Hours will pass, and eventually you will get tired and go to sleep.
Then you wake up the next morning, mark a #1 on your calendar. Yes. You mark your first day.
Get ready and proceed with the Day 2. You go to work, you talk to friends, you check in on social media. You stay away from “trigger” places, invite a friend over for movie and soda, take a pottery class, go for another drive, ensconce yourself in a “safe, alcohol-free zone”. The next day you write a “2” on the calendar and proceed with day 3.
You do this each and every day. Don’t think about the next day – focus on the present. DON’T think about the what-ifs, you just say “NO” and go without. You take it day by day and tell yourself to focus on THAT DAY. Don’t get wrapped up in thinking about not drinking tomorrow, next week, or next month. If you worry about not drinking on vacation, or holidays, or when your family comes to visit, you’re just going to depress the crap out of yourself trying to look long term. Choose to not drink today. Each. Day.
FOCUS. ON. YOU!
You are totally allowed to be selfish for these first few days. These are tough days. But you can do it! You have your support system – use them!
If you go out, order sparkling water (the effervescence mirrors champagne or beer). Have coffee (decaf) with dessert instead of wine. Don’t sit at the bar. Tell yourself how much classier you are ordering coffee or sparkling water instead of alcohol. Think about celebrities or people you admire that don’t drink and realize you’re just as hot and mysterious. Even MORE so!
I’ve tried and tried….
It is a hard, hard habit to break. I know. Trust me, I know. I love(d) wine, Napa, wine dinners – I got married at a wine bar! Meanwhile, I also love(d) beer. I worked at a brewery; the smell of hops and yeast is like perfume to me. Sampling seasonal beers was one of my favorite things to do! I love(d) drinking with my friends…the laughing, the social aspect. Warm Bailey’s and coffee on cold winter nights and ice cold beer at baseball games on warm summer days…I LOVED IT ALL!!! But when my daily routine started looking like this: 8am -“not gonna drink today”….6pm-“well…just one glass of wine”…2-3 glasses later….8am-“God, I feel like crap…ok, not gonna drink today”…lather, rinse, repeat, then it was time realize that it was harmful than helpful and it had to go.
You can tell yourself that you’re not me. And that’s OK. If you tell yourself you’re only going to drink on the weekends and really do pull it off, that’s great. You vow to only drink one glass of wine per night from now until forever – more power to you! Not gonna lie – I wish I had your strength!
If you wake up each day saying you’re going to stop and that evening raise a glass (or three) saying that quitting is for quitters….
It’s Not All Rainbows…But it IS a Good Thing
I still see my friends, we go out to bars and breweries! I have awesome dinners, throw parties, even see my family. And I can do it all WITHOUT alcohol!
Every day is a new number on my calendar. I don’t want to start all over again, so I don’t.
This may not be the answer you wanted. It’s not the answer I wanted at the time either. But I’m GLAD I quit drinking. The benefits far outweigh any bottles of beers, glasses of wine, or shots of tequila I could have had by now. Knowing where my car is parked in the morning. No hangovers. Not being “that girl” at the bar.
I’ve had holidays, family dinners, bought a house and any number of other stressful, enjoyable, celebratory situations without a drink.
My friend and I finished lunch that day without discussing alcohol any further. She had a few more drinks with me, went out with friends that night and had to call a cab to get her home. I got a text message from her at noon complaining about what an awful headache she had and did I have any suggestions for curing it?