Warning: This video includes language some may find offensive. Great song, but if profanity bothers you, please do not hit the play button.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Sloppy and slurry. Miserable and stuck. Numbed out and disconnected. This was me a little over seven years ago. A housewife, mother, masters student, TV producer, and wine drinker extraordinaire.
I was the party girl who never grew out of her habit. A boozy lush who developed an impressive ability to stomach wine. As the years went by and I gathered up all the accouterments of an adult life (kids, mortgage, saggy skin), I simultaneously developed an impressive ability to stomach wine. Bottle after bottle after bottle would flow down my throat every week.
But my fun habit slowly turned nasty and destructive. Towards the end of my drinking days, just shy of my fortieth birthday, I was awash with booze and utterly miserable. Also, deeply conflicted and confused.
Why was I so confused? I clearly had a problem with drinking. It should have been a straightforward and easy decision for me to quit. But the problem was that the hard wiring in my brain told me alcohol was an ordinary part of life. My neural pathways were deeply ingrained to believe that drinking booze was the best way to relax, bond with friends, celebrate wins, mourn losses. For my entire life alcohol had been presented to me – by my family, community and society in general – as a positive thing.
Yet for me it was deeply negative. Hence the confusion. It took a huge amount of strength to push through the confusion and admit the truth. I couldn’t control alcohol – it had to go from my life.
A big part of giving up for me was choosing to ignore what others were doing and ignore all of the messages around me and focus only on me and my truth. I had to keep reminding myself of the destructive nature of my habit. I had to remind myself constantly all of my sloppy, sneaky behaviors when drunk. The extra three glasses of wine when hubby had already gone to bed. The toast binges late at night. The slurring. The vomiting. Those were my truths, and I knew that always keeping them top of mind was going to help me change.
My own brain tried to trick me out of it. I’d form romantic images of drinking in my head. The glistening glass of chardonnay on a sunny afternoon. The casual glass of bubbles at a trendy bar. I had to force myself to remember that ‘romantic’ and ‘drinking’ were not words that went together in my reality. My drinking was far from romantic. The glistening glass of chardonnay always led to stumbling and mumbling. The casual glass of bubbles always led to ranting and raving.
Slowly as the days and weeks went by and I managed not to not pick up, I realized that so many of the images of alcohol that are presented to us through the media are false. We’ve been fed this steady stream of marketing messages that more often than not don’t marry up with reality. They sure didn’t match up with my reality anyway.
It’s such hard work transforming yourself from someone who lives boozily to someone who lives sober, especially in this world that glorifies and normalizes alcohol. But absolutely it can be done. And there are things you can do to make it easier.
Remember your truth. Don’t kid yourself that things weren’t as bad as they actually were. Don’t let yourself forget the truth about your drinking. Imprint your worst memories on your brain – write them down if need be!
Reframe your thinking. Just because you’ve thought one way for years and years doesn’t mean it’s true. Challenge all your hardwired beliefs about alcohol having all these positive qualities. Remember the facts. Turn your thinking around.
Recognize propaganda when you see it. Don’t let a glossy advertisement about alcohol make you feel left out like a loser. Just because it’s in print or on the television doesn’t make it true. Those adverts aren’t speaking truths – they’re just trying to sell a product. Remember that the person in the image is an actor being paid to look like they’re feeling a certain way.
Like I said before – it takes a lot of effort to change your life, and it’s especially hard when you’re not just fighting your own thoughts but all of the messaging that is around you. This brings me to one of the most important things that I think is necessary when seeking to reshape your life.
Connect with others who understand what you are doing. This is vital. We need to be communicating with others who understand what it’s like to be going through a monumental life change with regards to our alcohol habits. Find people who share the struggle. People who know that it’s not a simple case of ‘just have one’. People who are kind and empathetic and understanding and non-judgmental. This can be done online or in person (or both!), but must be done. The people already around you might not be those people – even if they are loving and supportive – because they might not understand fully what you’re doing (that was the case for me). So seek out others who really know, and talk. And here is my final tip….
Get it out. Get all of your thoughts and beliefs about alcohol out of your brain. Externalize them. Release them from the private recesses of your mind. Do this by talking to others (online or in person) or by writing privately to yourself. However you do it.. get the thoughts and beliefs out of your brain and into the world. Turning our twisted thoughts and incorrect beliefs into words is incredibly empowering, it gives us a greater ability to unpick them and turn them around. So often we get lost in our heads with a messy bunch of thoughts, feelings and emotions swirling around. So get them out. Share them with others if possible, and watch as things start to turn around.
Post Submitted By: Lotta Dann
Lotta Dann is the author of Mrs. D. Is Going Without and the star of the Mrs. D. Is Going Without Blog where her journey to sobriety started. She also partnered with the New Zealand Drug Foundation and the Health Promotion Agency to create Living Sober, a community website designed to support people examining their relationship with alcohol.