One of the biggest factors that keeps us stuck in anything and from moving forward are the fears we have about leaving our comfort zone and entering new territory. Fear is a bitch. It's also a beautiful indicator of what we must do...an internal compass that screams at us until we pay attention and act.
Jack Canfield said, "Everything you want is on the other side of fear," and this I know for sure. Everything I have ever wanted out of life was on the other side of my terror about: how my drinking was showing up in my life before I quit; what life would be like without weekends in Napa and IPAs after work; navigating life as a sober human in a drinking world.
If sobriety is whispering sweet nothings in your ear (or drinking is fucking your shit up) and you're finding yourself in a fear state over what it all means, you're not alone. You're in fact in majorly good company, because to some degree, many people that drink have some fear around their relationship with it (the same way that, say, most people who smoke have some fear around how it shows up). The fear we have typically translates into incapacitation, non-action, and suffering; we’d rather keep going forward with our shitty relationship with booze than lift the veil or gain awareness; it feels to terrifying because: what if we if we have to do something about it? Or worse: What if we try and do something about it and we fail?
I originally wrote this in 2014 as a way to say, Hey friend, it isn’t the awareness or examination that makes us sick, it’s the refusal to look at all. And also to say: Heyyyy friend, let’s look at all the reasons you feel like this might be the end of the world for you one-by-one, and dispell those mother fuckers.
And with that, I give you:
11 common fears people have that keep them from exploring the sober side of things, dispelled.
Fear #1: I don't have the discipline or willpower to do it.
Great, because those things aren't necessary. It is not about discipline or deprivation on any level, and isn't about willpower. We limit ourselves to think that there are only two options—we are one of two types of humans: one that can drink, or one that cannot drink; a normie, an alcoholic. There is, however, a third, lesser known category: people who consciously choose not to not drink because drinking is a toxic, bullshit waste of time. And this option is open to all (the same way not smoking cigarettes is open to all). If it were about having discipline or willpower I wouldn't be here typing this blog. If it were about deprivation, I would have never tried not drinking in the first place. This is about a better life, and you don’t have to have some fabled amounts of willpower to do it—just will, just willingness.
Anyone can become a non-drinker. You simply need to reframe your relationship with it through knowledge, decide to not drink, have the right tools and support system in place, and act on your decision. You can always change your mind. (Try Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Control Alcohol or Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind for support on this. Also helpful is David Rock’s Your Brain at Work.)
FEAR #2: I'm terrified I'll become boring.
I know this one well. I was terrified that I would become really lame, too. I was always the girl at the bar buying shots. I was the one who plowed onto beaches tearing off my clothes getting my girlfriends to run naked with me. I was Beyonce on the dance floor (check, I thought I was). And I was Aretha on the mic at the Mint. (check check, I thought I was). I stayed out until 4am playing beer pong, I partook in something called whiskey slapping. I was terrifically awesome when I was drunk. Shenanigans. All the time. So there felt like there was a lot of personality to lose.
The truth is two fold. One, drinking doesn't change what is already there. It just removes the inhibitions to get there. But so does true courage to be yourself—which you will find when you no longer feel like alcohol controls you. So "Party You" is still there. Two, artificial highs always lead to artificial lows. A you that doesn't have spikes and dips in energy from drinking—a consistent you—will for sure, without a doubt, be less boring. And if anyone tells you that you are less fun, that's most likely because they still need to drink to have fun. I still engage in shenanigans; I still have edge and I still push the boundaries; I still dance and laugh and sing and provoke and make people uncomfortable; none of that has changed. What has changed is that I remember it all, that I mean to do what I do, that I am interesting because I dare to be who I truly am in this world. That is what sobriety gives us: true courage, the chance to show up as who we are, as our true selves; it risks off the masks and begs us to become and nothing could be less boring.
FEAR #3: i’m terrified my life will become boring.
No honey no. Life is what you make of it. When you stop drinking, something miraculous happens—you feel like a kid again. You can see the world with new fresh eyes, you have more energy, and there isn't enough time in the day for all you want to do. Before I stopped drinking, my options were generally limited to stuff that included alcohol. Which bar, which happy hour, which restaurant had the best drinks or Italian reds. Pub crawls, party buses, music festivals, street fairs, sharing a bottle of wine, popping over here for a lushy brunch. Things that were fun at one point in my life, that became incredibly boring over time. The things I do now are decidedly more interesting than anything before. They are the things I wished I was doing instead when I was drinking; things full of meaning that I can get lost in without having to take drugs to make it fun.
FEAR #4: THE Boring tri-fectA. I'm terrified I will have to do something that is boring, and I won't be able to drink through it.
If you have to drink to do something, you shouldn't be doing it.
FEAR #5: I have FOMO, and I'm terrified that I'm going to miss out by not drinking.
This I feel you on more than anything. I, too, have major FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. Here is the thing. America is an Alco-genic (alcohol centric) culture. There are no two ways around it. Your friends and your social events will still happen, they will still revolve around or include alcohol, and there is no rule anywhere that you have to miss out because you're not getting shitfaced with them.
But you will find—for certain—that it gets really old doing the same thing over and over again (as you probably suspected to begin with). The beauty of going in to any time commitment full sober and having to actually be present means that you actually see how you are spending your time, and painfully, clearly so. Maybe the stuff you're FOMO'ing about is lame and you never knew it or were just too drunk to remember. Sobriety is, in fact, FOMOs best friend. It works in cahoots, keeping you clear enough to see what you are doing (thumbs up it's rad, stay! thumbs DOWN, run!), giving you the vagina to NOT do time-suck-boring things (standing up for yourself, asserting your needs), and giving you more energy and time to do more interesting things.
FEAR #6: If I admit I can't control it, it means I'm an "alcoholic.”
Nope. Fuck that shit too. Not true. First, it's an addictive drug and everyone —including my mom who has one glass of wine a week—has to exert some amount of control over it. You're a non-drinker who has decided not to drink—that is the essence of control my friend. Vegans don't say they can't control their meat intake. Vegans don't eat meat. And you don't have to admit anything to anyone. It's your reality, it's your right to own your story. Here's another way to frame this one (because it's such a big one…) Alcohol is the only drug in America where you have to explain why you aren't using, and further, the only drug you are deemed to have a problem with when you STOP using it. When a coke user stops using cocaine is not the moment they are deemed to have a problem - they are assumed to have a problem while they are using it. Apply that same logic here and rest assured that when you stop using it is not the indication of a problem. It's the end of a problem. (Try: Reading 9 Reasons The Label Alcoholic Should Die.)
FEAR #7: I'll lose my friends.
You will not lose your friends. You will never lose your real friends. You will, however, most definitely lose people that were in your life because of alcohol. They'll go first and you won't notice. And some of your real friends might need to take a vacation from you until they get comfortable. You'll notice those and it will probably hurt a bit (your confidence and decision will freak people out - you're a flashlight and some people would rather be left in the dark). A lot of people transitioned out of my life. But a lot of badass people that were on the fringes that I hadn't explored came closer. Others who I had lost long ago came back. And then more and more like minded ones flooded in. New, beautiful friendships blossomed. My posse today is huge and wide and they are the real deal. Drinkers, non-drinkers, whatevers. They are fantastic and I'm the luckiest when it comes to community and an ever evolving circle of friends. Alcohol doesn't make friendships, it makes commonalities. You make friendships. (Try: Reading 11 Ways to Make Friends in Sobriety.)
FEAR #8: People will talk about me.
Yes they will. Because people can be assholes, and people are scared. Before I stopped drinking, I was a wee bit of an asshole (I still am, just a kinder asshole). Anyway,I didn't want friends who didn't drink, and I judged. And why? Because I was terrified that I had a problem with alcohol. Whatever anyone says about you, or to you—good or bad—is a reflection of themselves, of the relationship they have with themselves. It is never a reflection of you. How you react to them is the only reflection of you and the only thing under your control. And the courage you gain from taking control of your life will help fortify you when this does come up. Take it from me—I lived and breathed for what others' thought of me (and I still absolutely care— I'm human and I'm sensitive!), but I learned to love me and find me and I know my truth. I know when I'm judging someone, I'm only judging myself. I know when someone is judging me, they are only judging themselves. So don't worry about this part. Love this part; it’s how you solidify.
FEAR #9: I WON’T HAVE A COPING MECHANISM.
Well, kind of. The thing is, while we think alcohol is a coping mechanism—it does take the edge off and helps us cope in a moment—we forget that it doesn't solve problems. It temporarily makes us forget, and then we sober up, the warmth of the buzz goes away, and we not only have the problem we started out with, but also a second one—a depressed system from drinking and possibly a hangover, increased anxiety, and so forth. The really good news is when you stop drinking, you give yourself a chance to work on the real things that drove behavior that made you need to cope in the first place, and you develop super healthy coping mechanisms. Like meditation, exercise, good foods, teas, sleep, baths, supplements, aroma therapy, breathing, yoga, practices, and on and on. I still spin out, but I am no longer the victim of my spins. I know what's up, I know where it's coming from, and I'm not afraid of anything that comes at me anymore. I.e., I'm not afraid of me. (Try: How To Build A Sobriety Toolbox.)
FEAR #10: WHAT ABOUT RELAPSE? OR BEING IN RECOVERY FOREVER?
Recovery from alcohol forever? No. When you stop drinking, you stop drinking. You don't need perpetual recovery from something you don't do. You are not addicted to a substance you don't ingest. People who stop smoking cigarettes are not in perpetual cigarette recovery forever, they aren't cigaretteholics that take it one day at a time. The same goes for drinking. And relapse is just failure with a fancier, scarier name. We try things and we fail at them ALL THE TIME. Elon Musk failed miserably at launching a rocket into orbit. Also: Elon Musk launched a rocket into orbit! Because Elon Musk tried, failed, and tried again. This is no different than any other endeavor. Recovery from alcohol ends when you stop drinking, and recovery of your best self begins. That's what never ends—the unpacking of yourself, the evolution of yourself, the recovery and nurturing of you. And that's the best part. Because you are a one-of-a-kind badass and there is all kinds of treasure buried in there. (Try: How To Fail In Recovery.)
FEAR #11: I’M TERRIFIED NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME. EVER.
No, it won't. It will be better. I promise you this. No one ever regrets quitting drinking. And if you truly do regret it, it's really easy to start again.