Here are five things I thought would really suck about quitting alcohol that ended up not sucking at all. I hope sharing what I feared about sobriety and recovery will help you realise that whatever your worries about going sober, things will likely not turn out as bad as you thought.
Losing My Beloved Boozer
When I was drinking, I, like the cast from Cheers, had a place where everybody knew my name. The weird thing was, no-one was ever called by their name in my local bar. No-one was just called Dave; there was Coke Dave, T-shirt Dave, and Dodgy Dave. But no Daves.
I loved that pub, despite being barred from it twice. The reason I loved it was that they only barred me twice and usually let me get on with drinking myself to death in peace. As you can tell from the plethora of nicknames, it wasn't the most salubrious place. That's precisely why I liked it. No-one there moaned about my drinking, which my “normal” friends did. People there just accepted me.
Since I got sober, I've exchanged the boozer for parks, cafes, art galleries, and other nice places I would never have gone before. And I discovered that my normal friends aren't moany whinge-pots now that I'm not a nightmare to be around. They support my sobriety and the good ones have always accepted me, whether I've been self-destructive or succeeding.
Starting a New Sober Life
When most people think of starting afresh, I guess it's liberating. For me, it wasn't. I found the idea of having to essentially start being a proper adult from scratch very embarrassing.
I'd entered higher education, held down jobs, and achieved some cool things while drinking, but realising that I didn't have the faintest idea how to care for myself as a person made me feel like a child. I felt humiliated sitting in groups talking about my troubles with alcohol and all my stupid failures to cope.
Thankfully, many people on my journey of recovery pointed out how hard I was on myself and how much I beat myself up. In time, I was able to forgive myself for my fuck-ups. Overcoming challenges in my new sober life was rewarding and I stopped being miserable about having missed out on learning how to deal with life before.
The Ickiness of Sober Intimacy
I started drinking copious amounts in my teens, and by the time I got sober, I'd literally never started a relationship without being drunk. I couldn't imagine the unbearable ickiness of actually having a sober conversation about liking someone, dating, or having sex.
Most people who become alcoholics have endured trauma. In my case, I'd endured deep attachment wounds which meant I didn't trust anyone. I had a classic approach-avoidant style in relationships. Rejection? No thanks. Not going there.
Somehow, this was fine when I met the right person. I flirted. He flirted back. I didn't run away in horror or push him away. I started the first of many fun and fulfilling relationships while entirely sober. Intimacy with new partners wasn't as painful alcohol-free as I'd imagined. Going to recovery groups has also helped me trust people, so I'm better at expressing my feelings.
Recovery Is a Lifelong Commitment
What? I have to focus on my recovery every single day for the rest of my life? Ooh-er. How about a day off every now and then, a little break where I can chill, forget myself, and have a beer? (I never chilled out and drank one beer. Ever.)
Considering my well-being was new to me. And often, we find unfamiliar tasks unpleasant and somewhat overwhelming. I'd never thought I'd make it to 30, so having to commit to a plan for a life I never thought I'd have was mind-boggling. Let alone, doing the whole thing sober.
At first, the idea of not ever drinking again – like, ever – was horrifying to me. After a year, it was just normal. And keeping on top of recovery isn't the hassle I thought it would be. I go to therapy as needed. I go to a weekly meeting with cool people; it's enjoyable, helps me grow, and doesn't feel like work.
The Boredom of Not Boozing
Although my life of drinking was sometimes horrific, ugly, and traumatising, there was no time for boredom. Living in the chaos of alcoholism is often awful, sometimes fun, but never boring. What I most feared about sobriety was that not only would life be boring, but I would be a boring person.
This was actually very easy to counter. I had to develop new interests and get to work on things I was passionate about. I had to not be afraid of doing wild and wonderful things without Dutch courage. I had to choose to explore myself and the world.
My life isn't boring and neither am I. I travel, write, do work I love, help others, and generally enjoy life. Life in recovery is what you make it; it can be far more interesting and fun than drinking ever was.
Does Quitting Alcohol Suck?
No, it doesn't. The worst thing about quitting alcohol is the withdrawal period and getting over that safely. You will need help to deal with why you developed an addiction; fellowships and/or addiction therapists can help a great deal with this.
As you start healing and getting to grips with living sober, the world becomes your oyster. If you're worried about sober life, don't be. Recovery will likely be the best thing you ever did.
by Beth Burgess, Therapist and award-winning author of The Recovery Formula, The Happy Addict, and Instant Wisdom.