Don’t Try To Do It Alone.
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.”
― S. Kelley Harrell
November 10th, 2018. There was absolutely nothing special about that night versus any other.
It was another Saturday night out with one of our favorite married couples. We were having dinner and drinks at Loca Luna, and I was having my typical vodka and cranberry with almost no food because I didn’t want to lose my buzz.
My then-girlfriend /now-wife had a bit to eat because she didn’t want to be rude to our guest by not eating and also because we had a few episodes in which she was a “tad” bit out of control because of this. (She’s going to LOVE that I included this… 😝)
We ubered home and ordered our usual tikka masala and butter chicken from our favorite Indian restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed it before crawling into bed and snuggling up that night.
I woke up the next day with a bit of a headache but nothing unusual. I got up and looked in the mirror, just staring at myself for a minute.
I looked at how bloodshot my eyes were and tried to remember exactly what the episode of Family Guy that we watched when we got home was about.
I still couldn’t tell you why that specific thought eventually led to my ultimate decision, but I just decided, looking at myself in the mirror that morning, that it was time for me to give up alcohol for a bit.
I didn’t know how long, but I just knew that it was time.
I had been thinking about that for the past few weeks now. I was looking at my failing business and how I was not living up to the dreams I had when I left my previous job 18 months ago, and I kept thinking that if I was going to fail at entrepreneurship, could I truly say that I had given it MY ALL?
The answer always came back as a NO, as I thought about all the lost time, energy, and money I wasted on alcohol that I could be giving to my business.
Therefore, I decided it was time to stop.
I told my girlfriend about it that morning, and she said she would do it with me because she had been thinking that we were probably drinking a bit too much also.
Twenty months later, we are both still going strong and have no plans to go back to the lifestyle we were living before alcohol-consciousness. And though I can’t unequivocally say that I wouldn’t have been able to stay alcohol-free on my own, I can say that it has been a million…strike that…a BILLION times easier having her by my side.
The science behind this relates to how accountability automatically increases our commitment to a goal. When you have someone else who knows about your commitment, you are 65 percent more likely to follow through with it than if no one knows.
If this person is someone you live with and you two are doing it together, then that commitment actually increases to 95 percent.
And while having someone to hold you accountable is extremely helpful to make sure you follow through each day, there are two other, very practical reasons why you need alcohol-conscious friends to help you along your journey as well.
TO DO STUFF WITH
For me, this was probably one of the most difficult things initially. When I was a heavy drinker, I fell into the category of those people who typically don’t hang out with other people who don’t drink.
I just figured they were not fun, and if I were going to be “living my best life,” I had to surround myself with those people who were doing that same.
Therefore, I would not typically spend any lengths of time with people unless they were willing to take shots with me at the bar late at night or drink mimosas on a Sunday morning.
What this led to was a large void of anyone to turn to when I decided to become alcohol conscious. ALL of my friends drank…and drank a lot.
Therefore, when I told them I was no longer drinking for some time, the chances of us hanging out reduced dramatically because drinking was involved in all of our activities.
If you don’t have someone else you can turn to and do something with that doesn’t involve drinking, then you are way more likely to fall back into thinking you need a drink to enjoy life.
Being bored is one of the top reasons many people fall back into a life of drugs and alcohol, so you have to make sure that you are supplementing the mounds of additional time you are getting with something else that will prevent you from looking at this extra time as a curse.
Finding someone who also doesn’t drink who is open to doing a number of things that typically don’t seem as fun when you’re a drinker will be vitally important. These are things such as visiting museums, sightseeing, and exploring new restaurants around the city.
I remember not liking any of these things before I stopped drinking because it was challenging to do both them and drink as much as I desired at the same time. Without the anchor of alcohol holding me back, now these are some of my favorite pastimes.
Many of my previous drinking friends would not be interested in doing any of these things with me for this very reason, which is why I was so lucky I had my wife to do it with me, and you’ll need someone as well.
FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
This is the obvious reason that I think most would agree this is important. For others, who don’t feel like they have a problem with alcohol, it is going to be hard for them to understand why you would even think about quitting.
For many of my friends, my decision to quit drinking was not needed, as they did not see me as someone who had a problem.
We could go out on a Saturday night, have a great time in which I appeared to always be in control, and I’ll be up the next day at the gym or doing work usually hours before they had even thought about getting out of bed.
Therefore, when I told them that I was quitting because I felt it was holding me back, they just couldn’t understand how. This led to them saying it was cool that I decided not to drink but also not being willing to do anything with me that involved anything other than drinking.
It’s not that they were openly encouraging me to drink, but I knew if I ever came to them and said that I was thinking about drinking again, they were not in any way going to discourage me from making this decision.
For this reason, I needed people in my corner who understood what this felt like and could relate to the tradeoffs I would be making if I decided to go down this road again.
If someone hasn’t abstained from alcohol before, they wouldn’t have the frame of reference needed to give you advice on how to battle those times when it appears that alcohol is trying to make its way back into your life.
Ironically, due to a psychological phenomenon known as the faded effect bias, for a period of time, the further you get away from the last time you drink, the more you will begin to convince yourself that perhaps drinking wasn’t really holding you back.
During these times, you need individuals who can remind you of the positive things you have experienced since you’ve abstained from drinking and remind you of those negative things, so you don’t romanticize your memory of drinking and think you are truly missing out or giving up more than you’re gaining.
This type of guidance and advice usually can only come from someone who has more years of experience away from their sober date and, therefore, is free from that magnetic pull that tries to convince you your life was better with alcohol as opposed to without.
However, this can also be in the form of someone who is doing it with you who has noticed the positive change and can encourage you to keep going because they remember very vividly the negative aspects of how alcohol was holding you back of which you may not be able to clearly see right now.
HOW TO FIND THEM
If you’re not lucky like me and don’t have that special someone in your life that is willing to make this decision with you, don’t despair, there are a number of different support groups you can join to find people in your local geographic region who you can meet to do stuff with and get support.
Because of COVID, some of these may not be as helpful as it relates to doing stuff with, but you can still build relationships with people to help with guidance for now and to possibly hang out with when things return back to normal.
There are a number of alcohol-related programs out there that you can join that will give you access to their Facebook groups that will allow you to have a group of people to lean on and share your thoughts with.
Here are three of the top groups that I’ve stumbled across so far. The first two are free, while the 3rd does cost a bit (and is also based out of the UK).
Everyone has their own preference, so you have to decide which one would be the best fit for you. They all have their individual Facebook groups, but you have to sign up for each first through its websites before being allowed to join.
There are a also few social media apps out there like I am Sober and Sober Grid that could also help in this endeavor. But be warned, some members appear to be more interested in dating than sobriety, so you have to be prepared for people looking for another kind of buddy (rhymes with “tuck”) than just a sober one.
With the FB groups, you seem to get more content and guidance without the risk of having someone trying to slide in your DM’s to ask you out, so I personally think it the better of the two ways to go.
And while there’s no guarantee that having someone there will make you successful, why not do whatever you can to stack the odds in your favor?