Early Sobriety Can Be Scary
The idea of quitting alcohol can be scary.
Maybe you’ve tried before and found it challenging. Maybe you’re considering for the first time that you’ve lost control of your drinking and don’t know how you’ll ever pull back. Or maybe you’ve recently suffered a demoralizing relapse and your confidence is shaken.
In How To Win Your Battle With Alcohol, we discussed five areas you need to focus on if you want to successfully kick alcohol to the curb. Today I want to talk about something a little more abstract – the mindset required to crush your fears.
On the surface, it may seem like small stuff. It’s less technical. It’s less “do this one thing right now”! But you aren’t likely to succeed unless you alter the way you think.
In this post, I’d like to address three common fears that can keep you from reaching your sobriety goals, and offer up some solutions.
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1. You Fear Missing Out
The fear of missing out is real! I think it’s worse for those who haven’t hit rock bottom than it is for those who have taken significant losses. If you’re doing mostly alright in life it can be hard to justify quitting even if you know you probably should. You don’t have any devastating circumstances that make it glaringly obvious.
I’ve been there before. It was scary to think I’d never drink with my husband or turn up on vacation ever again. But what really helps is to consider that at some point in your life you existed without alcohol. And there were probably some enjoyable times somewhere in there.
I know what you’re going to say – “I was a teenager!” Yeah, I know. But that’s not important. What matters is getting your mind to recognize that yes, you can absolutely enjoy life without drinking. You’ve done it before. Therefore, you can do it again. In fact, it should be expected!
What worked for me was to brainstorm specific time periods or activities that really made me happy before drinking. I came up with a metric ton of them.
Cheerleading in high school is at the top of my list. It was so much fun to be part of a team, build those friendships and bonds, work toward common goals, and be super cute in my lil’ uniform. True, I was young, but I’ll never forget that genuine happiness. Connecting with those sober feelings and experiences lets me know that I can have it again. So can you!
Tip #1: Grab a pen and paper, set the timer for 15 minutes, and jot down as many pleasant memories or experiences from your life before alcohol.
2. You Fear Failure
The biggest thing I found to help me deal with the fear of failure was to find others who have succeeded. Bonus points for them to be similar to me in some way – like age, background or life circumstances.
I speak frequently about how in my first 100 days of sobriety I went to a sober party. This is because it was so inspiring to meet people my age who had several years under their belt.
If you don’t do AA or counseling and are the only person you know who doesn’t drink, you lack a tangible, accessible example of what it really looks like to not drink.
It’s not real. You think your whole life has to be thrown away. I swear knowing even one person who likes the same things you like, who is in your age group or shares your background and life experiences will give you so much confidence. If they can do it, why can’t you?
Tip #2: Meet at least one person in your age group, from a similar background, or with similar life experiences (if you’re a mom, find another mom) who is sober.
3. You Fear Judgment
Fearing judgment from others
Fearing judgment from others is a legitimate concern. In the beginning, it’s why I chose not to come “out” with what I was doing. While making the choice to quit drinking is positive, it often comes with a negative assumption – that something is wrong with you. That’s no fun.
For this, I say take it easy. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You can share as much or as little about your reasons for abstaining as you want to until you’re ready.
I also want to take this opportunity to tell you about self-judgment, though. That’s probably more important than the judgment of others. You can avoid disclosing private information to others, but you will always know what’s going on within.
One of the hardest things about sobriety is the memories. They can creep up and do real damage if you let them. For this, the best thing I can say is to treat yourself like you would a really close friend.
If your best friend came to you in tears confessing past mistakes, wanting to come correct, if they told you their pain and struggle, what would you do? Would you beat them down? If you knew they were trying this really big, really hard thing and they slipped up sometimes, would you treat them like crap? No!
You’d be gentle and caring. You’d understand that this is huge. You would ask what you could do to help and motivate them to keep going!
That’s the exact attitude you must have with yourself.
Tip #3: View yourself as a close friend. Be gentle, caring and compassionate.
Early Sobriety Doesn’t Have To Be So Bad
Any sweeping life change is expected to incite fear and concern, but that shouldn’t stop you from going for what you want.
So many people have transcended alcohol abuse and dependence. You can add your name to that growing list.
Remember it all starts with how you think and what you believe.
- Force your mind to connect positive experiences with sobriety
- Use successful people just like you to convince yourself that you can do it too
- View yourself as your best friend – be gentle and caring
These three tips will help shift your mindset into beast mode. Those pesky fears will be absolutely obliterated — they won’t stand a chance.