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Day 2: Stuck In Wanting

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me.
― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

For years, I would tell myself the same thing after a night of drinking one too many: When I’m 30, I’ll finally have this all figured out.

I had no idea how it would happen, but until then change could wait. I was sure that once I reached that milestone my life would just magically fall into place.

Unsurprisingly to perhaps no one but me, things didn’t exactly turn out that way.

My 30th birthday came and went, and I was no wiser than I had been the day before. Yet again I marked the occasion by drinking too much and saying things I wished I could take back. The next morning, soaked in regret and shame, I lay in bed trying to piece together the night.

From the time that I started college at 17, alcohol was by my side whenever it came to having fun. The insecurity that gnawed at me before going out disappeared. The hang-ups whispering in my ear dissolved. When I was drunk, I was carefree, confident, and outgoing. I didn’t want to mess with a good thing.

By my twenties, a part of me worried that I took things too far. I didn’t need a drink to get through the day. I wasn’t tippling from a secret flask. I drank socially. I drank at parties. I drank at bars. I drank a lot, but so did every twenty-something around me. Yet most of my friends seemed to get to a point where they called it quits. I, on the other hand, seemed to have a broken off-switch.

My drinking wasn’t the only problem. I was expert in self-loathing. Everywhere I looked, I saw unmet expectations. I had so many flaws. So many things to fix. I was terrified of failing and obsessed with measuring up. I felt broken. All I could see was a litany of problems that I had no idea how to tackle. But I knew one thing: relief was always waiting for me at the bar.

Of course, the temporary respite I got from a drink (or three, or four, or too many to remember) only led to more problems and more shame. Again and again, I came back to the same questions: Why couldn’t I drink like everyone else? What was wrong with me?

I desperately wanted things to be different. I wanted alcohol not to be an issue. I wanted to drink like a “normal” person. I wanted to be the funny, confident, outgoing version of myself without needing a glass in my hand.

I was stuck in wanting. The problem was that wanting required nothing of me. All I had to do was sit back, stew in self-pity, and wish that things were different. All the while wondering: Why me? Why did I have to deal with this?

I didn’t know it at the time, but I stayed stuck in wanting because it was safe. I didn’t have to take action or risk feeling uncomfortable. When all was said and done, although I swore up and down that I was desperate to change my drinking, I was terrified of the discomfort necessary to make change a reality.

I didn’t want to feel the restlessness of saying no to my desire. I didn’t want to brave a party sober. I didn’t want to answer people’s questions about why I was drinking club soda. I didn’t want to feel awkward, insecure, or judged. Wanting was a security blanket that got me nowhere.

What I needed was commitment. If I truly wanted to create change in my life, I needed to commit to doing things differently. A commitment to take action. A commitment to venturing outside of my comfort zone. A commitment to say no, even when saying no felt anything but easy. I needed to embrace discomfort, the very thing that pouring a drink had for so long helped me avoid.

And that’s what I did. I shifted from wanting to committing. Less than a year later, I took a break from drinking. As I crossed days off a calendar, I promised myself that I would finally understand why I felt like I needed a drink in certain situations and more importantly how not to. If I really wanted to learn how to be carefree, confident, and outgoing on my own, I had to practice showing up that way without a drink. Along the way, something amazing happened: the more I stopped running from discomfort the more I discovered I was a lot braver and stronger than I ever thought possible.

Reaching some arbitrary milestone or sitting around and wanting things to be different was never going to magically fix what wasn’t working in my life. True change required commitment and a willingness to be uncomfortable. I had to move toward the things that made me want to run and hide so that my brain could learn they weren’t nearly as scary as I thought.

It wasn’t always easy. Commitment asked me to keep showing up for myself even when my brain insisted it was too hard to continue. Even when I was consumed by worry, doubt, and fear. Commitment urged me to keep going even when I didn’t feel like it and a little voice inside of me declared that today had been too hard, I was too overwhelmed, and that one drink wouldn’t hurt.

What I discovered transformed everything. My drinking wasn’t a sign that I was broken or an indication that something was wrong with me or my brain. I had unknowingly taught myself to use a drink to cope with how I felt because no one had ever shown me another way. Alcohol quieted my merciless self-critic. It put me at ease in social situations. It let me blow off steam after a hard day’s work. It gave me permission to throw caution to the wind and actually be spontaneous. But the more I relied on a drink as a quick fix, the more I depended on it to feel better. Suddenly, my drinking made perfect sense. I was simply doing the best for myself the only way I knew how. Now it was time to do better.

Today when my birthday rolls around I’m no longer hoping that my life will magically fall into place, because I’m committed to creating a life that way more exciting and fulfilling than anything found at the bottom of my glass.

Post Submitted By: Rachel Hart
Rachel Hart is a master certified life coach, the host of the podcast Take a Break from Drinking, and the author of the book Why Can’t I Drink Like Everyone Else?: A Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding Why You Drink and Knowing How to Take a Break. You can learn more about her work at rachelhart.com.

11 thoughts on “Day 2: Stuck In Wanting

  1. Rabbit

    Wow…this post really resonates with me and really hits home in so many ways.
    I think it’s so important to explore WHY we drink too much and keep exploring it. I have been examining my relationship with alcohol for a few years now and have big chunks of sobriety mixed in with a few sloppy nights here and there. Committing to Dryuary as my journey continues.

    Thanks Rachel.

  2. No Wine Nancy

    Well, I just joined this forum today, but I stopped drinking on NYEve. This forum is and will continue to be very important to my success in staying committed to not drinking; it’s my stepping stone to better health and well-being. Thank you!

  3. Graham

    Day 2 of dryuary. Better than yesterday which was rough from the hangover caused by my new year eve binge. Still a bit agitated internally probably from some minor withdrawals/detox but it’ll improve. I’m a bit worried about a couple parties/events later in the month and not slipping during those but I guess it’s best to just take it day by day. Glad to have found this site to help me through dryuary.

  4. LynnieD

    Great article…so much of resonates with me as well. I knew for at least a couple of years that I needed to get my drinking under control when my little voice would say, “when do I get to drink again” or “oh, I can drink again at that party”…this was probably about 4 years into retirement of 7 years. I thought I was moderating because my little voice would tell me when I could drink again, but it was getting more and more that the voice was calculating and planning when I could/would drink again…and the kicker was this past Christmas time. I started to drink more at parties and my voice would say “no one would notice” (vs. at home where I’d just have 2 or glasses of wine)…THEN the voice said on Dec. 26, “drink several glasses of wine first, then play with the grand kids” The next morning I had extreme anxiety over this thought, so enough was enough; they are far more important than drinking. Day 2 down, it’s gonna be hard but gotta do it.

  5. Rudy

    So my problem isn’t any of this. I binge on the weekends but I really don’t know why. I like the feeling of being buzzed, but the day after sucks.

    1. Kary May Hickey Post author

      Man, I know. If we could just have the good stuff without the consequences. Although I was a daily drinker, I found that most the time I drank out of boredom or just because it’s what I’d always done, I didn’t know how to do anything else. If I didn’t come home from work and fix a drink when I came in the door, what was I supposed to do? If I didn’t get rip-roaring drunk on Friday night, what was the point of Friday night? What was I going to look forward to all week?

      That’s part of the purpose of Dryuary, to help us realize how much we are missing in our life because we fill up so much of it with drinking. And, not just while we’re doing the drinking itself, but when we’re recovering from it, or even anticipating it. I spent a good major portion of my life drinking-what else could I have been doing?

    2. Graham

      I hear you. It was getting to the point that I would get drunk nearly every time I drank. I wasn’t drinking everyday but the day after I would always feel like hell. Good to get a month time out from it at least.

    3. Swebby

      This is exactly my problem! I never think about drinking during the week.. never crosses my mind. But come weekend and it’s time to go be “social”, there’s not one thing that I do that doesn’t include friends and drinking. My problem is that once I have 1, I have 10. It’s ridiculous. There is no off switch! No matter how many tricks I try to use – drinking water in between – pacing myself by the clock. It’s at most a temp fix and I quickly fall back. Going 30 days will be zero problem for me. I might get bored on the weekends, but I don’t think I’ll have an issue saying no. We’ll see I guess. I’ve recently joined Moderation Management. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have found them. AA just never felt right for me at all. I’m excited about using this month to get in balance and see what tools I can learn to moderate in the future. Just know you’re not alone.. I always felt like I didn’t fit with other “problem” drinkers, because I don’t have the cravings or the addiction aspect of it. Good luck to you!

  6. Kary May Hickey Post author

    First, I need to clarify something here, I am not the post author, I’m just the person who uploaded the post to this website. The posts authors are as stated in the signature blurb at the end of each post. I did author a few posts, including yesterday’s Day 1 Post, but I didn’t author all of them. Now, where was I?

    I kept telling myself, “I obsess about my drinking more than other people, that’s the problem. Other people drink just as much as me, they just don’t worry about it. I need to quit worrying about it.” I couldn’t understand the people that came into work on Monday morning laughing about how hungover they were on Saturday, I had so much shame. I needed to learn to be more like them.

    It never worked. For 25+years, it never worked. I never got to where I took my drinking lightly-that frigging small voice inside of me that kept saying, “This isn’t who you are.” just wouldn’t shut up.” I was stuck in wanting to be comfortable with my drinking and that wasn’t happening, I needed to commit to changing my drinking. I joined MM when I was 48 and tried to moderate and found that I didn’t have the commitment to reducing my drinking that was necessary and I didn’t want to waste anymore of my life trying to get it. I wanted to be done with my obsession with drinking by the time I was 50. So, I finally quit, and now that small, quiet voice isn’t quite as mouthy. lol

    1. Jerry Porter

      Me too: Other people drink just as much as me, they just don’t worry about it. I need to quit worrying about it.”

  7. Jerry Porter

    I didn’t know it at the time, but I stayed stuck in wanting because it was safe. I didn’t have to take action or risk feeling uncomfortable. When all was said and done, although I swore up and down that I was desperate to change my drinking, I was terrified of the discomfort necessary to make change a reality.
    I didn’t want to feel the restlessness of saying no to my desire.
    What I needed was commitment. If I truly wanted to create change in my life, I needed to commit to doing things differently. A commitment to take action. A commitment to venturing outside of my comfort zone. A commitment to say no, even when saying no felt anything but easy. I needed to embrace discomfort, the very thing that pouring a drink had for so long helped me avoid.

    I lifted those passages as they are what resonated most with me. I value when another person articulates what I am feeling and that in turn validates me.

    I have nothing to add and everything to ponder.
    Thank you Rachel

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