This is my third experience ‘quitting’ for a substantial time. The first time lasted over a year and the second lasted 3 months. Quitting is half the job – my biggest challenge is maintaining.
After some initial hard work with quitting I seem to travel along quite happily. I throw myself into other personal challenges to focus on positive things and to replace my drinking routines.
Then I’ve abruptly fallen off the wagon with some of these traps:
- Success breeds complacency – I start to take sobriety for granted and forget how much of a problem that drinking was. I remember events but I forget the associated feelings like anxiety, shame, fear, powerlessness, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, frustration, disappointment, and physical pain or discomfort. The negative motivations fade away and lose power.
- I’ve earned this – So I’m coasting along feeling happy and in control. I’ve been really disciplined to reach my other goals (running a marathon, losing weight etc). Then I reach goal and think ‘well now what?’. I feel so in control that I lose my momentum which then leads to…
- Just this once – I’m not giving up on quitting but <<insert special event>> is happening and I’ve been doing so well, I feel in control, and I just want to relax a bit and join in with everyone else… so it’s OK to drink just this once. (that’s what I tell myself)
Then I have fun and don’t drink too much so I’m left with a false sense of control. Then another special event happens 2-3 weeks later… and then another special event and before I know it – I’m celebrating Wednesday evening with vodka.
There’s also an elephant in the room which I’m just not willing to address (yet). I’ve never told my partner and friends why I go through periods of not drinking. I hide behind a smokescreen of “it’s for health and cancer reasons” and “I’m training for a marathon”. Everyone’s really supportive – but then when I begin to waver they don’t realise what’s at stake.
One day I might have to do something about this one. I know that my partner and friends would be supportive after some initial awkwardness. So what stops me? It’s probably ego, pride, embarrassment, and the stigma of being defined and getting a label. Maybe I could let go of that shit too.