Dear Someone Who Decided To Stop Drinking:

Congratulations. What you’ve just decided to do for yourself is huge.

It’s also scary. I know this. I have been where you are. It’s a lover who has turned on you, but you have become so used to having it around that its abrupt removal from the picture is nothing short of terrifying. Despite its abusiveness, despite its empty promises and all the problems it has heaped upon you, you miss it with a desperation that borders on pathology.

I won’t lie to you – it’s going to be hard as hell for a little while. This is why you must reach out and talk to somebody who will understand; doesn’t have to be one particular group of somebodies (there are many such groups, and all of them are helpful), but you will fare better for having a genuinely empathetic ear – or several – to bend. It’s also why you must tell people when you’re hurting or struggling. Do not keep this shit to yourself. There is absolutely no reason for you to suffer in silence. It’s not stoic. It’s not brave. When it comes to addiction, it’s suicide.

Take note of the little things that will come to you almost immediately. The first morning I woke up without a hangover was such a goddamn miracle I broke down and wept. I don’t ever want to forget that. There are other things, too, like not having a pocket full of mysterious ATM receipts you have no recollection of accumulating. That’s pretty awesome.

Friends. You will lose some. Please don’t take it personally. You cannot expect the world to stop doing what it does because you’re not drinking anymore. To demand that your friends completely change their habits to suit your new lifestyle is simply not realistic. I will say this, however: if your friends can’t – or won’t – take your feelings into consideration at least once in a while, if they regularly disregard or take no notice of your discomfort or won’t occasionally make plans with you that don’t involve drinking, then you must accept that the nature of the friendship has to change. Otherwise you are going to be regularly hurt. And it should go without saying that if their drinking trumps spending time with you, you may need to rethink the friendship altogether. This is one of the hardest, most painful lessons I’ve had to learn.

It will be okay, though. In sobriety, you will not want for friends. You will make some new friends, both sober friends and “social drinker” friends. Other friends you’ll have had since before you got sober. Sobriety will give you the ability to both recognize and cultivate quality friendships. To be a good listener. To apologize when you’re in the wrong, and to be gracious when someone apologizes to you.

This is not to say that you’re going to be some kind of saint. You don’t suddenly and miraculously develop fabulous coping mechanisms the second you stop drinking. You will still blow up at people, say stupid shit, leave your socks in the middle of the living room. If you’re like me, you will make some pretty fucking spectacular mistakes, even with a few years of sobriety under your belt.

But you’ll live. And you won’t drink over it. Over any of it.

You’ll learn about being in the moment. When you are sad, you won’t drink to make yourself feel better. When you are happy, you won’t drink to make yourself happier. You’ll come to understand that “this too shall pass” goes BOTH ways, and to therefore feel your feelings. You do not have to drink to “get through” them, avoid them, or enhance them.

Do you know who John Taylor is? He’s the dreamiest member of Duran Duran (this is not open to debate). He wrote a song about this very thing…the thing in the paragraph above this one.

When I am feeling something I don’t think I want to be feeling, I imagine John Taylor on a rooftop with a bullhorn: FEELINGS ARE GOOD. It works for me, because it’s ridiculous and it makes me laugh and also because John Taylor is wicked hot. If it does nothing for you, don’t worry; you’ll find something that does work.

You and I (and countless others) live in a culture where we’re more or less told that drinking is glamorous, makes your food taste better, makes you sexier, makes you more sociable and entertaining…oh, all kinds of crap. And for people who aren’t like us, that’s probably mostly true. But we can’t drink. We can’t drink, because it will kill us. Maybe not right away, but it WILL kill us. You’ll find that a lot of people don’t understand that. We should be able to “control” it or something. I’ve tried putting it this way: “Oh, look – you have a mosquito bite. Don’t scratch that! No – DON’T SCRATCH IT. What’s that? You scratched it? What’s the matter with you? Don’t you have any WILLPOWER?” Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, it’s okay. YOU know what the deal is.

You can’t drink. But there are a lot of other things you CAN do. Some of it is stuff that you forgot you liked to do. Some of it will be stuff you didn’t know you liked to do. And this is why you mustn’t give up. If you slip and drink, don’t clobber yourself. But don’t give up.

I promise you that it will get easier.

19 thoughts on “Dear Someone Who Decided To Stop Drinking:

  1. Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing this post. I have forwarded it onto family! I have a brother who is struggling and has been sober almost a year. A brother with 4 years under his belt and a dad with 30 years under his belt. It is a struggle and it is huge. Congrats to you for your sobriety!!! Thank you for sharing!
    Be well,
    Julie Briden Dondero

  2. Very funny, and right on target. I love the idea of wandering through the city with a bullhorn shouting “Feelings Are Good.” It takes awhile to feel them, though, after all those years of numbing.

    Glad to have found your blog, chin hairs and all.

  3. Reblogged this on Running On Sober and commented:
    Brilliant post from a blog I’ve just discovered! It’s my pleasure to share. “You’ll learn about being in the moment. When you are sad, you won’t drink to make yourself feel better. When you are happy, you won’t drink to make yourself happier. You’ll come to understand that “this too shall pass” goes BOTH ways, and to therefore feel your feelings…”

  4. Hi Lisa, this is Christy from Running on Sober. I reblogged this post, wow, back in 2012, and I just remembered it when a friend asked for helpful links. I’m going to pass along this post, and maybe even reblog it again at the end of the week with an updated intro, assuming you’re okay with that? Your message is as vital today as it was then, and I’d love for new eyes to see it. But if you’d rather I not, just let me know. Thanks much, -christy

  5. Pingback: Dear Someone Who Decided to Stop Drinking: a helpful post from Lisa McColgan | Running on Sober

  6. This is amaze. Thank you.* I especially connect to – ‘When you are sad, you won’t drink to make yourself feel better. When you are happy, you won’t drink to make yourself happier.’

  7. This is amazing. exactly how I feel at the moment and glad to know that it does get better. things do change. I’ve never had more than 64 days sober but hoping this will be my ;last try and to actually get it done. I’m saving this to read before bed at night xoxo

  8. Thanks for linking this on your blog today. I’m glad it’s making the rounds again. I strung together 111 days last fall/winter, but went AWOL for about 6 months. I am struggling with my own sobriety and this is so perfect to read today. Just what I needed.

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