Five Things I Wish I Had Known When I Quit Drinking


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I am so excited to be participating in the 1000 Hours Dry Challenge. If you haven’t heard of it, the idea is that you give up drinking (or any unhealthy addiction/habit) from May 1-June 11 (or indefinitely). I’m a little over four months sober, but I’m still focusing on giving up alcohol because 4 months is still pretty early in recovery. That said, I’ve learned a ton in the last 120+ days about what gives me the best chance at being successful in my recovery and minimizes the chance of relapse. I put together a list of just a few ideas of things you can do as you quit drinking/using to help you in early recovery. [Disclaimer: this is 100% my opinion as a person in recovery, not as a medical professional. Please consult with a doctor if you are physically addicted to drugs or alcohol and are looking to quit.]

  • Know that it will be hard: this probably seems so obvious but I can’t underscore it enough. I have been through many things in my life: losing my brother, having a difficult pregnancy, birthing a baby, but the hardest thing I’ve ever done? Giving up alcohol. Recovering from addiction is no joke and not for the faint of heart. That said, I recommend it wholeheartedly and would do it again 1000 times. But you need to mentally prepare yourself for a very difficult experience if you want to persevere.

  • Create a toolbox of resources you can use instead of using: you will be tempted to drink or use your drug of choice and will need some serious safeguards in place. First, get rid of all of your booze, drugs, cigarettes, whatever. Sell it, flush it, do whatever you need to to get it out of your space. Next, create a list of at least 5 things you can do when you want to use. Here are some of mine: reach out to a sober friend, get coffee/sparkling water (something about drinking something helps distract me), have some chocolate (dopamine!), take a bath if possible, do a guided meditation (love the Calm app!). Trust me, even if you have superhuman willpower, you’ll reach a point where you’ve got nothing left to give and you’ll be tempted to do what you’ve always done— use. Use your toolbox!!! (P.S. Holly Whitaker wrote an amazing piece about this!)

  • Educate yourself about addiction: to break the addiction cycle, you need to truly understand what it is doing to your brain when you use. Dr. Ruth Potee and Dr. Nora Volkow both have a lot of videos and articles that explain how addiction hijacks your brain and essentially holds you hostage. A personal favorite of mine is the interview with Dr. Ruth Potee on the Home Podcast. Also, The Temper has so many amazing pieces about the science behind addiction. Please know that your drinking or drug problem is not an issue based on lack of will power and it’s not a moral deficiency. Drugs and alcohol change our brains and eventually, it becomes impossible to simply will your way out of it. Go easy on yourself, you’re doing hard things.

  • Join a sober community: if you’re into it, try an AA meeting, but if that’s not for you, don’t give up on finding a sober community. I started engaging with sober people on Instagram and it grew into a really safe space for me. Other ideas: see if there is a local sobriety meet up (check Facebook or Google) or just find a group of people who are doing something other than drinking/using drugs. Join a community garden (AOC would be so proud!) or volunteer for a cause you care about. The Temper has an amazing piece on just this. Just avoid social isolation even if you are no longer socializing the way you used to.

  • Tell some people you care about: if you can bring yourself to, share with some trusted individuals in your life that you are quitting drinking or using. As helpful as a sobriety toolbox is, the emotional support you’ll need from humans is so crucial. If you can’t do this, rely on your sober community, but if you can find just one person in your life who you can be open about this with, it will be a huge help. Ask them to check in on you and if you can reach out if you’re struggling. Having a network of support helped me immensely in early recovery and is still key to my recovery today.

So there you go, just a few things I wish I had known when I started on this path. I’m sure there is a ton I’m forgetting but that’s the gist. Again, if you are physically addicted to alcohol (you have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t use for an expended period of time) PLEASE talk to a doctor before you try to detox on your own.