For the best part of 10 years I knew that I was on a self destruct course and that if I didn’t quit drinking soon, I’d end up losing just about everything I valued. I knew more or less at the end of my University days that I was a poor drinker. I.e. someone who didn’t take a lot to get drunk, who had a tendency to make a fool of himself and when drunk act a person that had a different set of morals and beliefs that his sober self had.
Fear was at the heart of my decision to continue drinking. I was terrified of losing friends, my position within my group, girlfriends and most of all I was terrified of looking and feeling un-cool. For all those reasons, I continued to drink, safe in the knowledge that I was part of the gang and had friends I could rely on because I was one of them. I’d tried to stop drinking a couple of times and weathered a barrage of abuse from ‘friends’ who tried to convince me that I could handle drink, that going sober was really the worst thing I could do. I’d tried to give up around University exams in order to clear my head and get good grades. At least I knew then that drinking made me more stressed and anxious. Giving up drinking for those short moments enabled me to see that I could do it.
But those moments never lasted. I’d always go back to the boys and the promise to myself that I’d have just 4 beers and all would be cool and I’d go home in the small hours having borrowed money and drunk double. Going out with friends and drinking gave me great comfort, it felt right. All the movies you ever see have people drinking in them and they are cool, aren’t they? In the end I was confronted by a situation where I realised that I really did fear giving it up. Fear was the single reason why I hadn’t ever successfully given up before. I was scared to give up, scared I’d be out on my own and scared that I’d lose everything. But it was really fear that was to blame. I confronted it and overcame it.
I went to hundreds of salsa lessons determined that I’d know how to dance so I’d never look uncool on the dance floor. I was determined to succeed. It took a lot of effort and a huge amount of self belief. Many times I stood behind the front door crying to myself, asking why the hell I was subjecting myself to a sober night dancing in a night club learning how to dance. And I have two left feet. What was I thinking?! But I pushed myself to go and those were the nights when I had the most fun. I always said to myself, ‘What was the worst thing that could possibly happen’, and it never did. That is the fear telling you that you need drink, when in fact you don’t.
In the months after giving up I attended weddings, funerals and birthday parties, without drinking a drop and more importantly, without needing to feel that I had to drink. Those early days of surviving sober gave me so much strength. I knew I’d confronted my fears about losing friends (I didn’t, I actually gained friends!), I didn’t become uncool (I can now dance Salsa :o)). The guys at SoberIsSexy (You’re doing great promoting being sober as being sexy). In fact I became a bit of a hero at work because of my dance lessons. I still have two feet, but they are slightly more co-ordinated than they ever used to be.
If you’re still drinking and fear losing more than you would gain giving up drinking, believe me that you’ll be ok. I wish dearly that I gave up drinking years before I actually did. Good luck and if you’re happy to, please share your experience.