Stay wary of these three things.
You must be willing to protect yourself and what you cherish, no matter what the cost. — Christopher Paolini
For many of us, in the first few weeks of our alcohol-conscious journey, it is going to feel like there is no way we would ever go back.
Those first 2 to 4 weeks of being alcohol-free are going to be such a wake-up call that we are going to be excited about the future and wonder what had we been doing for all those years.
The mental clarity, savings in our bank account, and improved energy across the board will often make us look bad on our drinking days as something that we look at with dismay.
If that is the case, then why do so many still people end up drinking again and falling right back into the trap from which they’ve escaped?
How is it possible for that initial period to feel so amazing and free but yet many of us still go back to this way of life?
While there are no exact numbers for those who just drink more than they should, for those who are labeled with alcohol use disorder, only about 25% of them are able to reduce their alcoholic consumption each year.
For those, however, who don’t fall into this category but just want to become more overall health-conscious and live a more productive life, there are basically three reasons that many people of us back to drinking after making the decision to quit.
Pressure from friends
This is the one that will typically happen when your friends are confused as to why you stopped drinking in the first place.
To them, you didn’t have a problem at all because you both drink about the same amount, so why should you quit?
They don’t feel that they have a problem and have alcohol under control, so if they don’t need to quit, then they can’t understand why you do.
This will typically happen if you’re younger in your life (your 20s), as many of your friends will probably see going out and partying as being part of what being a young adult is about.
If your decision to stop drinking seemingly impairs their ability to go out and have fun with you, then be prepared to have them question your decision and subtlety try to convince you that you should reconsider.
As you get out of your 20s and move into your 30s, this is not as typical, as many of your friends will be out of the party stage and moving into the parenting stage, but the younger you are, the more this one becomes a strong possibility.
The easiest way to prevent this is by being honest with your friends about how this makes you feel. Let them know that their pressuring you to do something that you no longer want to do is hurting your friendship.
Some will stop immediately, while others may not get the message.
This could, in turn, lead to you hanging out with them less to protect your sobriety, but that is often a natural effect of making the decision to live a more alcohol-conscious life.
FOMO (pressure from yourself)
This is one that can happen at any age but it is more inclined to be something that affects you when you’re younger in life also.
Your friends might be super supportive of the decision you’re making and generally encourage you to stay vigilant in your sobriety, but when you see all of their Instagram and Snapchat (do people still even use this anymore) posts out there for the weekend, you’ll find yourself wondering why are you not drinking anymore.
Not that you can’t still go out and party when you’re not drinking. There is no doubt you can still live it up in the same manner, but you’ll just have to relearn how.
However, there is also a chance that you just won’t want to do it as much as you did when you were drinking, unfortunately.
And even if you do decide to go out, sometimes the lure of watching everyone else drink, jumping on tables, and acting out of their mind will make you feel that you are missing out on experiencing that same feeling of exuberance and need to drink to make up for it.
This feeling will be very real for some time and could be a strong force to convince you that the only way you can experience these old feelings of excitement is to drink again.
Therefore, you have to avoid it by just not putting yourself in situations like that until you’re strong enough to control this urge…which, for many, is only after six months or so after quitting drinking.
Thinking you have your drinking “under control”
This is the one that probably gets the most people in the long run.
Due to the concept of faded effect bias, the more we are removed from something with time, the more we forget about all the negative aspects of that thing and can only seem to romanticize the best parts of our memories of it.
Our brain is trained to remember the things we like to keep us alive and sometimes even represses negative memories because of the mental and traumatic state in which we were in when they took place.
I think one could also call this the bad relationship bias, as this is why so many people end up going back to and staying in bad relationships for so long.
As soon as there is any sense of distance between that person and the memories of all the bad things that used to happen, they just find themselves remembering all the good times and downplaying how bad things actually got.
In relation to alcohol, this is when we begin to think that since we’ve stopped drinking for x amount of days with no problem, then if we go back to drinking, we can do so with no issues at all and only experience the good things about it without going overboard to experience the negative things, e.g., hangovers, inability to get quality sleep, emotional fights for no reason.
Then, as soon as we begin drinking again, all the old actions and behaviors return and many times are even worse than they were before due to the lower alcohol tolerance from the time off.
One way to possibly combat this is to take out a piece of paper and make a line right down the middle.
On that paper, write down all the reasons that you decided to quit in the first place on a sheet of paper on the left side, and then couple them with all of the positive things you’ve experienced since you made the decision on the right side.
Put this paper in your wallet or purse and keep it with you at all times.
Any time you feel yourself thinking that perhaps you should go back to drinking because it’s not “that bad” you should pull out the list and ask yourself are you willing to give up all the positives on the right side to go back to all of the negatives on the left side.
And while I can’t promise that there still won’t be some feelings of FOMO and a tinge of “what if” from time to time from missing alcohol, this little reminder should hopefully put things in perspective and keep you focused on how much better your life is without it.