No matter how bad things get, it’s always important to stay positive and optimistic. This article is all about the struggle of getting sober and finding happiness again after a difficult period in life.
The “to drink or not to drink” is a question that many people struggle with. In this blog, I will discuss my experience of getting sober, and what I learned along the way.
Joe Weber contributed this guest article as an editor’s note.
Hello, my name is Joe, and I’m the owner of a fashion blog.
“Hello Joe!” they all say at the same time.
What did you expect me to say?
In addition to operating a fashion blog, I spent most of 2016, 2017, and 2018 making and breaking drinking pledges to myself. I was well aware that I was consuming much too much alcohol. Sure, I was still in good physical shape, happily married, and working. The beer, wine, and whiskey, on the other hand, were beginning to take their toll. Things were not going well for me – I was gaining weight, I was frequently hungover, and I was usually down in the dumps. Drinking or attempting to avoid drinking was an important aspect of my life. And I urgently wanted alcohol to play a little role in my life.
I’m a voracious reader. I attempted therapy (three different therapists). I experimented with a variety of approaches, programs, and even prescriptions. Everything seemed to be rather hefty and intricate. The Alcohol Experiment, a free, uncomplicated, mindfulness and science-based take on the booze-free “Dry January” craze that so many people tend to attempt following the conventional, alcohol-soaked holiday season, ended up working for me. (Full disclosure: other than being a happy, non-paying client, I have no formal affiliation with The Alcohol Experiment or its creators.) It is, once again, completely free.)
So, what does it mean to “work for me”? Since the end of 2018, I haven’t consumed any alcoholic beverages. It’s been nearly a year since we last spoke. (Not that I’m counting; I’m not a fan of that way.) It gives the thing I desire to be inconsequential far too much power.) I used to be a big admirer of artisan beer, small batch whiskey, and expensive wines. I was probably drinking between 25 and 45 drinks each week. James Bond is a fictional character. Don Draper is a character in the film Don Draper. And then there’s me. That’s how much I’d consumed. Now? My relationship (or lack thereof) with alcoholic drinks might best be described as “disinterested.” And I’m glad that it all came together. Because I gained a lot of knowledge along the road.
I wouldn’t advise having a drinking problem as a means of achieving some strange, higher degree of self-education. I’ve avoided a lot of bullets, and I understand and sincerely empathize with individuals who have been affected by the very real trauma that drunkenness may contribute to and/or create. However, I don’t believe it is exaggeration to state that my struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder physically brought me to a greater level of awareness. Really. I’m serious. I’m still an idiot, but not nearly as much as I used to be.
I’ll never forget the lessons I learned by fighting a large, self-destructive issue using theories from biology, society, and psychology. I’ve already applied them to a variety of other parts of my life, and you may be able to do the same whether you’re a skeptic of alcohol or don’t drink at all. Here’s a sample of what I discovered.
Wanting and liking aren’t always synonymous.
This blew my head, and once I understood it, it all made sense. Sure, you might have a strong desire for some things. This is often an element of the formula. You may desire things you don’t like as well. Yes, it’s true. Just remain with me for a moment.
Even if we despise how it makes us feel and what it does to us, some of us desire it. Even if we despise seeming like whiners, some of us want to be victims (my hand is raised). Some of us prefer being near someone who is detrimental to our mental and/or physical health. The distinction is in the brain chemistry, dear reader. Dopamine is to blame. Dopamine is sometimes misinterpreted as a “feel-good” substance. That isn’t entirely correct. It’s thought to be a forerunner to happiness, but it’s really the desire hormone. The chemical that you are looking for. It’s also really effective. We might be conditioned by others or our own subconscious minds to desire things we don’t really want. It’s like consuming a large quantity of sweets. Or you might try your luck at gambling. Or monitoring social media on a regular basis. Alternatively, you may go shopping. All of these things are probably things we never consciously appreciate in the present, and even worse, things that make us feel bad for a long time. It’s a net loss situation. We KNOW they’re losing money. We don’t even appreciate them in the present, much less over time. Nonetheless, the yearning is still there.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for such desires. Unfortunately, it doesn’t know the difference and doesn’t care whether you enjoy the food you’re desiring. The genuine pleasure compounds, oxytocin and serotonin, are what you’re pursuing. But what about dopamine? It’s a formidable force. To be sure, it’s for the better, but it’s also for the worst.
Others and yourself may easily hack your mind.
There are two techniques of cognition that we use on a regular basis. We’ll name them “front brain” and “back brain,” respectively. The efficient autopilot is the back brain. It’s all about the “how.” The back brain allows us to breathe, swallow, and blink without having to worry about the sophisticated bodily processes involved. Back brain also allows us to drive to work securely while forgetting about the journey once we arrive.
Mindful exploration is what the front brain is all about. It’s all about the “why.” It’s possible that it’s what distinguishes our species from the rest of the flora and wildlife. Despite this, we spend much more time with the rear brain than the front. And that’s a good thing! We’d never leave the home otherwise. There’d be much too much commotion. However, the back brain is readily hacked. And before you realize it, you’ve fallen into a poor habit due to groupthink (we’re pack animals), good marketing, and/or bad luck. The good news is that with a little work, you can activate your front brain before and throughout these routines, and you can break the habit cycle. The physical structure of your brain begins to alter as a result of this. It’s referred to as neuroplasticity. It’s based on scientific evidence. And the fact that I no longer want to drink a bottle of Jameson while rotting in front of Netflix on a Friday (or Saturday!) night proves it. Not only do I not want to waste my time doing that, but I also find the concept exhaustingly uninteresting. Hate isn’t the polar opposite of love. It’s a case of apathy. Yes, I still like a good television program or a football game. I just do not get inebriated in the process and instead watch television for four hours at a time.
The Key to Changing Your Brain Is Journaling
Writing helps to strengthen and create new connections between the front and rear brains. The more you practice it, the more you’ll notice when your back brain is taking control, despite your best efforts. Remember when you were a youngster and you were taught about the three major ways individuals learn? Some individuals learn best via observation. Some people are auditory learners who benefit from hearing ideas. Then there are some who like to learn by doing. They have to sort it out physically.
All three are combined in writing.
As you type down the words, you see them. As you write, you hear the phrases in your thoughts. You’re doing that by putting pen to paper and activating the language in a tangible manner. THESE ARE THE PLACES WHERE THE FREAKIN’ MAGIC HAPPENS. When we write down what we’re learning instead of simply watching it happen, we acquire a lot more knowledge. Or listening to a lecture. This is when all of the light lights go off and we discover so much about ourselves. So, even if you’ve never considered yourself a writer, and you’d want to experiment with a habit or make a personal change? Write. Write. Write. It makes things a lot simpler.
Thoughts and feelings aren’t as permanent as you would believe.
When I had a need for booze, I saw myself as a spoilt preteen, personified and “articulated” by her. A 12-year-old boy or girl in an elaborately furnished, cluttered room, anxious for a new video game (seasonal craft beer), the trendiest pair of shoes (expensive whiskey), or tickets to a pop concert (fine bottle of red wine), and certain that if he or she does not receive it, “I’ll simply DIE!!!!” Sure. That’s a lovely young lady. Oh, sure, you’ll die one day. However, this temporary deprivation of what you want isn’t going to kill you.
And guess what? If you give a notion or a sensation a little space, it will calm off, much like a tantrum-throwing tween.
The ideas and feelings we all have are, for the most part, not as long-lasting as we believe they will be. It’s often amusing how fast a blip of melancholy, a flash of rage, or a blip of impatience may pass. I’ve gone to bed feeling so useless that I’ve convinced myself that dying in my sleep would be the greatest conclusion for everyone impacted by my sad life. (Don’t worry; I’ve discussed these emotions with my doctor, my spouse, and those three counselors.) I’ve worked on them and will continue to do so.) Would I wake up the following day with that crushing sense of hopelessness? Sometimes. But, more often than not, when I awoke, I felt… alright. This isn’t ideal. However, it is functioning. Which was a significant change from the previous night’s thoughts and sentiments.
Things happen. Life is a struggle. Allowing yourself to give things time, however, can frequently result in you moving ahead quicker than you could have imagined. This isn’t just OK; it’s excellent.
I’m Not As Special As I Thought I Was — And That’s AWESOME!
Realizing that you’re not some hyper-unique creature with completely unique ideas and insoluble issues has a lot of power. So many options open up once you realize that you’re simply one of a billion primates drooling their way around an inconsequential planet circling an ordinary blazing gas ball. You’re less alone now. There is reason to be optimistic. Because everything has already been done. People 99.99 percent JUST LIKE YOU (remember, you’re not as unique as you think) have previously addressed these issues. All that’s left is for you to identify and implement the answer. The route has already been marked, paved, and illuminated. You are not required to make a new one. It’s right there. All you have to do now is look for it.
Even if it’s bad, we are very possessive of what “defines” us.
Because they identify as a drinker, many individuals are frightened to quit drinking. Many obese people have identified as “large” for such a long time that they can’t envision not being that way. So many unhappy, grumpy men (including myself!) keep being sad and grumpy because they’ve always been misanthropes. It’s tremendously tough to let go of a part of ourselves, even if it’s practically harming us physically and emotionally. ANY aspect of our being. That individual is someone we can despise. We may have a strong desire to avoid becoming that person. Do you honestly believe I enjoyed being a cranky, miserable drunk? It’s the absolute worst! I’M THE WORST OF THE WORST. The uncertainty and/or the prospect of developing a new, more positive identity, on the other hand, might seem so improbable as to be scary.
I’m here to tell you that once you start to let go, it’s not quite as terrifying as you would think. Yes, it may be uncomfortable at times. No way, no how. While you may have to tread water for a while, you’ll ultimately be able to swim towards shore and establish a sense of self based on things you’re pleased of rather than lowest-common-denominator defaults.
Addictions are labeled and treated differently depending on the substance, which may be counterproductive.
It’s ludicrous how persons with Alcohol Use Disorder are handled differently than those who have addictions to other readily available and addictive drugs (like nicotine or sweets). Perhaps the moralizing and guilt around drinking is worsening the situation. People are frequently afraid of being judged if they seek early help in overcoming their drinking. Is it possible to blame them? Nobody wants to be labeled as a boozehound, a wino, or an alky. Nonetheless, we congratulate and reward those who admit to having a sugar or nicotine addiction, while also presenting them with a number of proactive, healthy options. We don’t call them morally reprehensible. We don’t put folks who are addicted to sugar or nicotine in the basement of a church or community center and tell them that this is where they’ll be spending the rest of their life. In addition, there is no such thing as an alcoholic in medical terms. The phrase “alcohol use disorder” is used in the DSM-5, however it is not a black-and-white word. Gray comes in a variety of colors. You don’t have to reach “rock bottom” to get assistance. You don’t have to keep the issue hidden. You don’t have to be ashamed and alone all of the time. You don’t have to feel as if you’ll have to shoulder this burden for the rest of your life. You’re a fully functional biological organism that grew hooked to an addictive chemical that is widely praised and advertised. Congratulations! You’re perfectly typical!
Nobody gives a damn about you as much as you think they do.
“But, if I don’t drink, won’t other people think I’m weird?” Will they think I’m a knucklehead? “A self-righteous knucklehead?” Maybe. However, I’ve discovered that such people are boring. So they’re not worth your attention in the first place. The good news is that most people couldn’t care less if you drink or don’t, whether you eat a salad or fries, or whether your suit fits and your shoes are polished. They are unconcerned. We’re all engrossed in our own little universes, and most people aren’t even aware of it. No one would notice you if you walked into a posh cocktail nightclub wearing a gorilla costume and ordered a club soda with lime. And what happens if they do notice? I’ve been the recipient of a lot of jealousy from them. It’s a bit of a superpower not to desire a drink. That, and the drunker they become, the funnier and more attractive I become. Ta-da.
This capacity to examine yourself and adjust your perspective is more useful than you would imagine.
Junk food is what it is. Social media is a relatively new phenomenon. Television. Outrage. Grudges. Are these items assisting me in any way? What if I took a few moments to consider how I feel during and after these activities, and then balanced the advantages of just not participating against the costs of maintaining my habits? It’s a walk in the park. All I have to do now is refuse. It’s the same as drinking. I’ve gained so much since I stopped drinking (lost weight, gained muscle, better sleep, less mood swings, happier overall, more creative, better at my job, etc.). Could there be significant advantages to merely avoiding these other, frequent pleasures and emotional states? There are, without a doubt. Following the alcohol, I began to apply these concepts to tortilla chips. Do I REALLY like idly munching on tortilla chips over the sink when I come home after a stressful day at work? Once I allowed myself to explore that idea, it turned out I didn’t. “Hey, this bag of chips has been in the pantry for like a month,” my wife observed. “Did you ever quit eating chips?” I’m not sure. It simply… occurred when I really thought about it for a second instead of plunging into the bag blindly.
It may seem strange, but having a drinking problem has turned out to be one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the human condition. I gained knowledge about society. I learnt about my own distinct viewpoint, as well as how unoriginal I really am. I learnt about beliefs and ideas, as well as the broad picture and the tiny image. None of which I am certain I would have discovered otherwise.
I don’t drink nearly as much as I used to. But the information I gained and the tactics I took to modify my attitude about alcohol provided me with a template that I have returned to time and time again, regardless of the issue.
Thankfully, alcohol is no longer one of them.
Thankfully, alcohol is no longer one of them.
Joe Weber is the Director and Editor of www.Dappered.com, a website dedicated only to inexpensive style. He thinks that living well, living well, and looking nice does not need becoming bankrupt.
“How to get drunk on life” is a blog post that discusses how to get sober, and some life lessons along the way. Reference: how to get drunk on life.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I quit drinking and enjoy my life?
A: I cannot answer that question because you have asked me a philosophical one.
What is a good way to get sober?
A: The best way to get sober is with a 12-step program. This can be done by checking out some places that offer this type of help, such as AA or Al-Anon meetings in your area.
What I learned from getting sober?
A: Many people who have been sober for a while will say that they learned a lot of things. The main one is that life without alcohol or drugs really isnt as hard as it seemed to be before, and you can actually go on living your life with much more ease now because theres nothing in the way.
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