Alcohol-free but still waiting for the benefits?

There’s no doubt it’s easier to stay sober when things are going well. Not only do you feel more hopeful and have a higher degree of faith in yourself to stay committed to an alcohol-free life, but you’re far less likely to hit the self-destruct button when you’re feeling happy.

When things are looking less rosy it can be all too tempting to throw the towel in and get submerged in booze as a way of blotting out the darker aspects of life. For those who have successfully cut out alcohol but are yet to notice any earth-shatteringly positive results, read on…

Life doesn’t become great simply because you stop drinking (at least not for everyone). Many heavy drinkers will have developed their alcohol habit directly because they are attempting to disguise an element of their life which they are fundamentally unhappy with. This may be a bad relationship, a job which is unfulfilling and/or stressful, or a painful bereavement. Alcohol, despite its numerous and severely damaging consequences, does work well in the short-term in numbing emotional suffering thus it’s an obvious choice of self-medication when times are tough.

When you quit drinking, the cushioning and fog disappear leaving the raw truth; this may not always be what you want as your reality.

So what’s the answer; continue drinking and cover the problem areas up (but also have to cope with the untold additional traumas that arise from heavy drinking) or stay alcohol-free and change the factors of life that are less than satisfactory?

There’s no definitive answer – the choice, as always, is down to you the individual. Being told that you should stop drinking by anyone is never going to be effective for your successful sobriety.

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A few years ago when I became alcohol-free there were areas of my life that I didn’t particularly like and that all of a sudden seemed to slam up close, impossible to ignore and demanding attention – any kind of attention. One such problem was that I suddenly realised I desperately wanted a second chance at being a mum and to be a part of a happy family following my acrimonious divorce and the subsequent years of single-parenthood. (The above photograph is of me, four months pregnant with my baby, Lily. To reach this point I had to work through my issues of low self-esteem and depression, both of which took a great deal of effort and time).

As I had spent 20 years blotting things out, covering stuff up and burying my head in a large glass of red I was somewhat unaccustomed to considering difficulties, developing tactics to deal with them and then putting my plans into action. One thing I really noticed as a newly alcohol-free person was that I craved instant gratification – I didn’t want to put any effort into working through issues. I just wanted them to go away, and NOW!

But real life isn’t like that. The big problems that may rear their ugly heads in a newly sober person’s life will not disappear at a click of the fingers. Such matters usually demand a reasonable amount of thought, effort and time (and sometimes a lot of heartache) if they are to be conquered and/or banished for good.

But the benefits to be derived from putting in this extra effort are;

a) reinforced self-confidence

b) increased self-esteem

c) the resolution of whatever the problem was in the first place

d) strengthened commitment to sobriety (because you have proved you can get through the bad times minus the booze).

There is nobody but you who truly knows whether it’s worth staying sober to fight the fight. But there’s nobody but you who will experience first-hand the full rewards of an alcohol-free life either – in the end, it’s a choice only you can make.

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7 thoughts on “Alcohol-free but still waiting for the benefits?

  1. Fab post and you are so right that quitting alcohol is a choice and there isn’t an automatic benefit UNLESS YOU CHOOSE THERE TO BE. No one is going to turn up with a certificate saying, you are officially happy and sorted. Often quitting drinking is only the first step in a long journey towards self discovery, a journey which can be pretty hard. I stopped drinking eight months ago and felt like crap for about six of those months. It is only in the last couple of months as my brain is starting to recover (I hope) that I can see what I was missing – real life, in all its good and bad. One thing I do know is that no one else is responsible for making my world a pleasant one except me. xxx

    • julie jones says:

      Hi Binki am new to the site and now AF for 10 days but its So hard!!! Feel like my personality has gone, as only able to socialise when drinking. Not confident enough to face people sober yet and is still early days ? Was hoping to feel some benefit but so far ,none, not even a teeny bit of weight loss LOL. Will carry on, as i am determined though?

  2. lauredann says:

    Thanks for posting that Lucy. I”m reading your book right now (6 weeks) and am on Day 25. Went to a shindig last night where I was encouraged to drink, but politely declined over and over again. Didn’t want to be a party pooper and leave early so I stayed. It was interesting being on the other end of things. I felt grateful this morning when I didn’t wake up with a banging headache. I know there is work to be done spiritually and that’s a work in progress. One never finishes that type of work. You’re right, the problems don’t go away, but we are better equipped to deal with them in a sober state of mind. Take care! Thanks.

  3. Liz says:

    I went to a family wedding on Saturday; the first social event since I became AF three weeks ago and something I was apprehensive about. I did not drink at all and although I was pleased about that I am inexplicably depressed today……..there is a childlike need to be congratulated about every success and I guess I’m going to have to get over that! My problems are still here and I can’t put them off by anaesthetising them.

  4. Learning to cope with emotions and to be able to react to them does take time and practice, but is something that brings a really positive change. It will also help with your independence. The instant gratification thing is behind a lot of addictive behaviour from alcohol through to even love, but again is something that will calm down, particularly if you practice something something such as mindfulness.

    I have a different set of values to when I first stopped drinking as a result of looking at my reactions to certain events that have happened.
    I am reading “Love and addiction” which has been reissued on kindle a couple of weeks ago, which was a revolutionary book in the 1970’s that questioned the values that many have in modern life and also the ways that people attempt to recover. It was way ahead of its time, and is great book for looking at the different ways that addictive behaviour can have an impact on our lives, that are not always obvious.

    I certainly feel that it is important to fill our lives with really healthy, positive alternatives to substance abuse so that we can see and feel the advantages that a sober life brings. When you have a better alternative to drinking alcohol you will naturally choose it! Finding that alternative does take some work,as well as time, and for me, a drastically different approach to that offered by AA was required.

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