Figuring out Why I wanted to quit drinking helped me get into recovery, and years later it helps me stay booze-free.
I tried to quit drinking on and off for years, but the timing never felt right. I honestly don’t know what my ideal time to stop drinking looked like. (Spoiler Alert: there’s never a perfect time to do something challenging! You just have to … do it anyway.) For every reason I had to cut back on booze, I had a dozen more reasons to keep partying. I finally ditched booze for good when I figured out Why I wanted to stop drinking: to focus on writing.
Before you go on a sober date. Before you celebrate 30 days booze-free. Before you talk to your loved ones about your plans to drink less, you have to figure out why you’re stepping back to evaluate your relationship with alcohol in the first place. If you’ve been alcohol-free for a while now, it’s always nice to remember why you stopped drinking in the first place.
Remember that it’s not up to anyone other than you to decide if you have a drinking problem. But I can say from first-hand experience that if you’ve ever Googled “Do I have a drinking problem?”, tried to cut back on booze, or realized that alcohol might be doing a disservice to your life, you might benefit from a Dry Month or practicing mindful drinking for a while.
“Sometimes people don’t see their drinking as a problem. People become so involved in their use and surroundings that they don’t see their drinking as objectively dangerous,” Keegan Herring, queer LPC and mindfulness-based therapist, shared with me on a recent Zoom call. This definitely happened to me. When surrounded by people who binge drink, consuming alcohol to excess feels like the norm. Once I zoomed out to look at my alcohol intake from a macro perspective, I could see it for what it was: dangerous.
Whether you’re sober-curious, newly sober, or in long-term recovery, it’s important to identify the role alcohol plays or played in our lives. Here are a few ways to get in touch with your Why.
Write Down Your Why
- Did/Does alcohol help you feel confident on dates?
- Did/Does alcohol make you more outgoing at social events?
- Did/Does alcohol help you numb out a traumatic moment of your life?
Remember there are no wrong answers here since we each have our own unique journey. Write about why you’re thinking about giving up booze or drinking less alcohol.
- Do you want to address that trauma in a healthy way, with a mental health professional or support group?
- Do you want to find booze-free ways to feel confident in the bedroom? Maybe you want to find a social circle that doesn’t drink heavily.
Let the words flow out of you with as little judgment as possible. Close your eyes, take a breath, then read what you wrote. Notice any themes? Any repeated words or ideas? Pull a few sentences out that epitomize why you’re not drinking today. This is your why!
Share Your Why
The first step of any recovery program is admitting that we need help with something. Apply that logic here, too. You can read the aforementioned journal entry to a therapist or someone else you trust. But most importantly, share your Why with them, and ask them to help keep you accountable. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, that’s okay! There’s no rush. Sharing this vulnerable part of yourself should only happen when you’re completely ready to do so.
Remember Your Why
Ask your sponsor or an accountability buddy to text you sporadically with random reminders about Why you’re not drinking today. You can schedule these affirmations as random emails to yourself. Maybe every Friday you need a reminder of your Why as those weekend party invites start rolling in. You can also plug these sentences into a photo app to make a personalized lock screen or backdrop for your phone. Or maybe even write your Why on sticky notes and place them around your home. Think of your Why as your mantra. You can repeat it when you’re at a party and feel tempted to drink or when you’re about to go on your first sober date.
When I was newly sober, I reminded myself that I stopped drinking for two main reasons:
- To focus on my writing
- To fall in love with the real me
I’ve been booze-free since November 30th, 2015, and I still remind myself of my Why regularly.