If you’ve ever questioned your relationship with a substance, are currently questioning your relationship with a substance, or are wondering if you should quit, then you understand the truth that it is absolutely terrifying. When I was in the depths of an eating disorder, I found that the biggest roadblock to recovery was the decision to attempt it in the first place because of all the unknowns. I was afraid to quit drinking.
If you are feeling that way about alcohol, wondering what to do or when to give it up, or even whether to go sober for a while, you may be afraid. These are 3 of the most common fears when it comes to quitting drinking that might make you feel more connected to others who have experienced the same.
You’re Afraid to Stop Drinking Because:
1. You’re not sure if you have a problem or not
How often do we hear joking statements about alcoholism? “I’ve been pre-partying since 11am, like the alcoholic I am.”
We throw around big statements about our drinking habits because it has become the norm in our millennial culture. Drinking at 10am before football games in college? Normal. Drinking before your best friend’s wedding while getting ready? Normal. Wine Wednesdays or Thirsty Thursdays? Normal.
We’re surrounded by alcohol all the time, whether it’s brunch or happy hour. In that, we are also caught up in the black and white nature of it. We focus on whether or not we are an alcoholic or a normal drinker, and we end up spending a lot of time and energy worrying about whether we have a problem as that problem worsens.
If you are stuck in this “do I, don’t I” circle – comparing your drinking to your peers, taking online assessments, or otherwise trying to qualify where you fall on the spectrum of problem drinking –here are some things you should consider:
Stop asking yourself if you have a problem or comparing yourself to others. Rather, ask yourself if you are living in the present, and if alcohol is standing in the way of reaching your full potential. Is alcohol getting in the way of your dreams and the life you want for yourself? If it is, take note of that. Ultimately, it becomes a choice of what we want out of life and what we are putting up with that is standing in the way, not whether or not you are an alcoholic.
2. You have a love/hate relationship with the vino – and you’re afraid of losing the part you LOVE.
Does life without alcohol seem entirely unimaginable, yet you wake up some mornings and ask yourself, “Why do I keep doing this?”
Hip Sobriety founder Holly Whitaker said it best:
“My life was BUILT around alcohol. I didn’t have a single sober friend, I made it a point of avoiding dry events and dry people, my dinner reservations were conditioned on the wine list, vacations were excuses to be day drunk. On the other hand, I LOATHED what it was doing to my looks, my self-esteem, my time, my world, my mental health, my maturity, my emotional balance, my wallet, etc. But living without it seemed like the end of the world. Or at least the end of my world.”
She goes on to state what so many of us do; we try to prove to ourselves that we can moderate it so we can keep it in our lives. We love putting these little “drinking rules” on ourselves to see if that might fix the problem. We say we won’t drink on weeknights or that we won’t drink “Monday-Wednesday.” We say that we won’t do happy hour anymore and only drink wine at home. We say we’ll replace happy hour with exercise, and my personal favorite “we’ll do a sober month.”
When you make this kind of commitment, ask yourself: are you obsessing over the decision? Are you finding it all too easy to make exceptions to the rules? Or are you completely going off the charts and then inevitably, filled with guilt the next day?
Most people are terrified of moving away from alcohol because of the fear of losing “friends,” and because of the shift in their social lives. It’s normal. At the end of the day, however, you have to be serious with yourself about what you can and cannot live with – and if alcohol is worth it. Triggers are triggers, and limiting your alcohol intake tends to trigger people to want to drink more (like the whole “grass is always greener analogy”).
If you are still not sure about whether you want to go completely sober, then give yourself an out. Tell yourself you’ll try it for a few months, and commit to that. This way, you can remove it for a period of time and get clear on how it’s showing up in your life. At the end of your trial period, you can add it back in.
3. What if I try – and fail?
There’s a huge stigma around trying to quit alcohol and failing. What if we try, and we can’t actually quit? Why is that always a big deal?
There’s a huge belief in mainstream culture that there are those who can control alcohol and those who can’t – and the ones who can’t are destined for a life of struggle and relapse. As with any addiction, the media (and our neighbors and friends) typically focus on the horror stories with addiction, the stories of individuals that try and break free who end up worse off or dead. The opioid epidemic has made this even more apparent.
If we try to quit and we fail, then there is the belief that we really are alcoholics.
The point is: it’s not the point. Likely, you will fail. That’s not to scare anyone; it’s merely fact. I’ve been in recovery from an eating disorder for 3 ½ years. I have relapsed at least a good half dozen times since I decided to seek help at a treatment center. Relapse happens. Society has this makeshift belief that we have to be perfect at recovery. Never going to happen.
I termed the idea of ‘flexible recovery’ awhile back because it has helped me manifest the big mountain of fear when it comes to recovery. We will fall down and twist and turn, but we can always pick ourselves back up too. If it scares you, it means you’re on to something good.
My loved one is addicted.
Knowing the right approach can be hard. We’re here to help.