5 Steps to Stop Drinking (and Stay Stopped!)
In my better drinking days, the idea of quitting alcohol seemed insane.
How would you speak to people at parties? How would you take a woman on a date? How would you even go to parties without alcohol in your system to lubricate the evening?
For me, alcohol was present in spirit even when it wasn’t actually in my system.
My head had become so dependent on the deep confidence boost alcohol would give me to break social norms and speak freely, that I couldn’t even consider life without it.
Being British further compounded this.
See, in England, folks have a tendency to keep everything bottled up and pretend they’re 100% normal nothing-to-see-here types, yet when the weekend breaks in man do people cut loose!
At this time, England enters this strange cultural/psychological space where it’s acceptable for everyone to be absolutely hammered with very, very no-holes-barred banter and people act… well, just, kind of weird.
The drunken weekend is sort of like the safety valve that keeps the Brits from exploding in our own repression. It’s the place where anything goes sandwiched between weekdays of convention.
Because almost everyone engages in this weekend carnival, a sort of get out of jail free passcode has been established, namely: ‘I did it when I was drunk’.
It’s like by being drunk you’re not really responsible for your behaviour; that the beast of Bacchus entered you after the sixth double vodka and the crazy antics you engaged in were not really you somehow.
Before I move on with the first reason, just let me recall a quick anecdote that contextualizes step 1.
I was once walking near London Bridge at about 2 in the afternoon when an open-top party bus (don’t ask, it was the weekend) went by and this posh looking blazered 30 something leant over towards me, glass of champagne in hand, started banging the side of the bus and shouting ‘WAAAAAHHHHHHEEEEEYYYYYY’ at me.
You couldn’t help but think, ‘what makes an otherwise normal guy shout at strangers in the middle of the day just because he’s on a bus?’
He couldn’t have been that hammered at 2pm (at least another 10 hours of booze and coke will be ahead for him) and that’s when it hit me – he’s not drunk but in the psychological space of alcohol.
For you to really commit to sobriety, you must celebrate what you are gaining by not drinking alcohol.
The clearest way this can be expressed is in the reframing of what alcohol is in terms of the psychological space it represents for humans culturally, socially and psychologically.
Put simply, alcohol provides an excuse.
Alcohol is a platform for you to act crazy, talk to hot women and become a larger version of yourself (literally and metaphorically), yet that platform exists in a non-space of personal growth.
In fact, the consuming of alcohol is directly damaging to your own personal growth and development.
Although it seems booze gives you the opportunity to talk to girls, to embrace ecstasy and let go, it actually does the opposite.
What really happens when we consume alcohol is we redefine a belief that we are inadequate and not capable of confidence, fun and frivolity without a substance in our systems.
As someone deeply interested in self-development, this proved to be a major breakthrough for me.
It’s the classic short-term pain for long-term gain game at play.
If you can be bold as a man and refuse substances in order to transcend your current limitations and face your fears, life will begin to bless you.
You need not take my word for it – give it an honest go for a few months and see for yourself what happens….
Sure, talking to a very attractive woman sober for the first few times is damn scary, as is actually engaging with real people, rather than the people the booze tells you others are.
Yet in these initially awkward interactions, we begin to go through the fear that is the boundary to our deeper self-realisation.
We realise we are capable of breaking our self-limiting beliefs and achieving social pleasure, confidence flirting and security in self whenever we want.
If you are brave enough to venture into the unknown space without the comfort blanket of booze and face down your social anxieties, however embarrassed you get at first, you are ready for truly elite life lessons and skills to be handed on to you.
Challenge Yourself. You are on a Quest.
Once you have alcohol’s role in your life correctly ‘framed’, you can begin the quest of a lifetime.
You now have the freedom to approach your true purpose in life without constraint.
Whatever that purpose is, only you can define.
It is worth spending an afternoon by yourself with a pad and a pen, talking a stroll and musing on what it is you really want in life.
Given we get one life, this is such an underused tool.
You’d think everyone has a clear definition of what they want and who they are, yet few people really take a few hours to decide what course they actually want their life to take.
This power is in your hands NOW and the sooner you can devise your purpose, the sooner you can begin to define your goals.
The benefits of setting goals have been proven time and time again. Goals not only frame our purpose in the world, but they construct the meaning of our very reality.
By defining your purpose in life and then laying out attendant goals, you are already half way to becoming a greater version of yourself simply by attaining the self-knowledge of what you’re about and how you can get it.
That is the essence of a man on a mission.
Meet Sober (or non-Alcohol Obsessed) pals – Yes, they really exist!
I have met one guy who doesn’t drink and still frequents the bars with his friends once or twice a week as they drink themselves to oblivion (although even he told me once he gets bored), but he’s an exception, most sober folk need to find themselves some more exciting things to be doing.
This isn’t to say you must lose your drinking friends forever (although a few months off while you’re bedding into a sober life and finding your purpose wouldn’t go amiss) and I still enjoy catching up with friends to watch a football game at the pub.
But that’s just it – I’m going to see them and a football game, not to sit around while they drink to excess.
The time we are gifted in sobriety is time that is best spent with like-minded people who prioritise engaging with life over drunkenness.
Originally, I didn’t think that these people even existed, and if they did they were boring sods with nothing interesting to say.
But that’s all just fear wrapped up in judgement and perceived superiority to others.
There are millions of people out there who enjoy all manner of things: cycling, football, arts, singing, music, politics, car racing, running, painting, engineering, camping, fishing, rock-climbing, working-out and so on. And they do this with little or no drinking!
Another facet of finding new pals is the social experience it gives us.
It’s good to force yourself into new situations and learn new skills. Once we take that step, we never regret it in the end.
Establish Your Character and Values
Establishing values is something that can scare many people.
There is so much convoluted information going around the web that the notion of character and values has been thrown in with personal tastes.
Values are much deeper than that. They are things we discover in ourselves, not things we throw on like new clothing.
The amazing thing about discovering your value system and inner character is that if you’re free from intoxicants, have established your purpose and goals, and are meeting like-minded forward-thinking folk, your values will be revealed to you.
All you need to is pay attention.
As a man in transition to his deeper, authentic self, you needn’t fear the feelings inside you any longer, for they hold the key to your freedom.
If you find yourself feeling guilty, even very mildly, you can follow that action back to a core instance in which your values will be found.
Let me give you a personal example.
I once worked as an editor in a busy publishing house and I had the responsibility to manage other writers.
It was a cutthroat, boisterous environment largely dominated by coked-up sales guys and quietly kept ticking over by meek, idealistic editors straight out of university.
One young editor I managed deeply feared the boss of that place. He’d cower in his presence and be embarrassingly sycophantic towards people he feared.
The boss had a tendency to lose his shit from time to time, and as I watched this, I saw the young editor become more fearful, more withdrawn and more afraid of making mistakes.
I knew I had to take an approach of calm, protective and patient with him, and it largely worked, allowing me to gain his trust.
However, one day I was extremely busy, under pressure and highly stressed.
The young pedantic editor kept asking me questions that morning, and eventually, I cracked and yelled at him to get on with his work quietly.
He then withdrew and became wary of me.
Once the anger had subsided, I felt an immediate sense of guilt.
That young editor felt alone and scared in the office and had found a source of security in me, which I had abused.
Through this experience, I was able to discover my core value was one of how I believe people should learn.
It is deeply embedded within me that people should be able to learn by asking questions in a non-aggressive atmosphere.
That I had betrayed that inner notion may have given me short-term pain, but if I am willing to find the value and learn the lesson, I am able to gain in terms of self-knowledge.
It is by following this outline of self-reflection that you can begin to orient yourself in the world and discover what values govern your essence of being.
Keeping a diary can be highly useful for such an endeavour.
Don’t Resent or Look Down on Drinkers
Resentment, as the saying goes, is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
As we’ve established, quitting drinking isn’t really about ‘quitting’ anything at all, but gaining purpose, direction, skills and health on a deeply powerful personal quest.
While on this quest, we will be confronted by drinkers, critics and people who refuse to let a man define his own path in life.
If we want to remain sober and delve deeply into a life of meaning, we must take care of our own business and not seek to control others in any way, nor look down on (or up) at other people’s behaviour.
The reason for this is simple: quitting drinking is about becoming the best version of yourself. Only you can do that. Therefore looking at others for guidance or coordinates with regard to your own life will only lead to disaster.
We are unique and can only take the path life gives us, not define ourselves on the experiences of others.
In this way of being, you open yourself up to limitless potential, free from the dogma of what others dictate you should think, do or feel.