Seven things that helped me quit drinking (when I kind of didn’t want to quit drinking)
Back in 2016, (and in many of the previous years if you want to get technical), I was drinking too much.
Now, I don’t think of myself as an “alcoholic.” But I do think that if alcoholism was a destination, I had my car packed full of Slim Jims, Doritos, and Oreos, and was speeding straight for it. And ending the road trip wasn’t quite as easy as cutting over to get off at the next exit.
In 2017, I decided I really needed to get off that highway. It took me a while. Longer than I thought it would and longer than I wanted it to. I hadn't known I was so attached to drinking, and that scared me a lot and ultimately kept me going until I was successful. There wasn't a single thing that made the difference, but a lot of little things that all added up over time.
Here are seven big ones:
I changed my mindset by:
1. Meditating every day
I cannot overstate the change in my life meditation has made. I’m calmer. I’m happier. I’m thankful-er.
2. Recognizing the difference between the idea of something, and the reality of something
The idea of having six kids sounds amazing to me. The bustling home. The hilarious and warm family meals. The endless baby cuddles. But thinking through the reality of things like actually being pregnant for four and a half years (kill me now) and listening to all the complaining about who got a bigger cookie and never sleeping again grounds me in the reality that two kids is plenty for me. (I’m also way too old to have four more kids at this point, but you get it.)
Likewise, the idea of ordering a flight of craft beer at the brewery downtown or drinking a glass of chardonnay on the back porch or throwing back a shot of whiskey when someone pisses me off sounds awesome. Thinking through the reality of how shitty it would make me feel – both physically and mentally – keeps me from doing it.
3. Flipping the “never agains”
I focused (and re-focused and re-focused and re-focused) on celebrating a life without drinking, as opposed to lamenting the loss of the drinking. Whenever I caught myself wishing for a drink, I trained my brain to concentrate on the up side.
I’ll never get to sip a glass of wine at a wedding again.
I’ll never have to feel embarrassed about drinking too much at a wedding again.
I’ll never get to enjoy a beachside margarita again.
I’ll never lose a day of vacation from feeling hungover again.
4. Being ok with chipping away at it
I tried a bunch of times before it finally stuck. Like I said, getting off at the exit and turning the car around proved challenging. And I wish it wasn’t the case, but I think that’s just the process.
I changed my actions by:
5. Drinking other things
I really wanted that drink in my hand, so part of my quitting drinking strategy was to keep it there. I made real-deal shake-it-up alcohol-free cocktails with homemade syrups. I tried fancy sodas. I drank enough sparkling water to support a Great Lakes-sized freshwater ecosystem.
6. Writing out my feelings
I put my copywriting experience to work and started mantras and mocktails as an instagram account. It helped me remember to love what was awesome about being sober and why I didn’t want to drink and (because I am very practical) allowed me to practice my headline-writing skillz.
7. Reading things that made me say, me too
In addition to reading what other folks were writing on Insta, I read lots of blogs. Hip Sobriety content makes quitting drinking feel empowering and cool instead of stabby and impossible, plus there are tons of useful tips. Laura McKowen's understanding and encouraging voice is a comfort. Tammi Salas’s Ray of Light Series and Sobriety Collective's RePros are great for inspiration.
I still do almost all of that now, though now it seems like much less of an effort and more of just how I live.
Now you go. What’s helped you exit the alcohol express train?