Before we enact any kind of big change in life, we tend to think about things for a long while. After all, making one change, like switching jobs, moving, or going back to school, means other things in our lives will change as well.
Giving up alcohol is another one of those changes we contemplate. If you’re questioning your relationship with alcohol, you’ve likely realized that letting go of drinking might have a domino effect of sorts. Changing one big thing like your nightly glass of wine will also mean coming up with a new night-time routine. Going to get-togethers and events without drinking means figuring out what to drink instead and how to socialize without the salve of alcohol.
In short, quitting drinking—and all of the change that comes with it—can be scary. If, so far, fear of leaving alcohol behind has stopped you from moving forward, rest assured that you’re not alone. Almost anyone who has given up alcohol will tell you that it was scary. That’s not to say, though, that it cannot be done and that life on the other side of alcohol isn’t pretty incredible.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common fears around quitting drinking, and we’ve enlisted the help of Tempest Recovery Coach, Dani Medrano, to help us overcome them.
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1. I’ll Lose All of My Friends
The people who love you for you, with or without booze, will always be a part of your life if you want them in it. So in short, no, you won’t lose all of your friends. However, you will most likely lose the people that were in your life because of alcohol. The truth is that when you give up drinking, your perspective changes, and you might find that you’d like people in your life who align with your new way of thinking. As you grow into this new version of yourself, you’ll find new friends along the way. The beauty of cultivating friendships in sobriety is that the connections are more authentic and satisfying because they don’t revolve around a substance.
2. I Won’t Have a Social Life
If your social life revolves around alcohol, then it’s true it will likely change if you stop drinking. That doesn’t mean you’ll be sitting at home in your living room, binge-watching Netflix every weekend though. When you give up alcohol, you might find a new motivation to try out some new things or reacquaint yourself with old hobbies. As you find new things to do, your social life will evolve.
3. I’m Afraid of Trying and Failing
Is it failing if you quit drinking and start again, but in the process, you learned something really valuable about yourself? Nope. Lots of people think that if you quit drinking, that’s it. The process should be one and done. But for so many people, quitting and starting and quitting again is part of the journey. The only way you can truly fail is if you give up, even though quitting is something you really want.
4. If I Have to Quit Drinking, I Must be an Alcoholic
Getting hung up on the label of “alcoholic” can keep us stuck and prevent us from taking a closer look at our relationship with alcohol. If you find it helpful to identify as an alcoholic, then by all means, go for it—labels can be empowering for some, and they can limit others. The thing is, alcohol is a toxin. If you give up processed foods as part of your daily diet or put sunscreen on rather than letting your skin bake, you’re considered healthy. We can look at giving up alcohol the same way, and doing so doesn’t require a label.
5. My Personality Will Change
You might think that quitting drinking also means you’ll automatically forget how to be funny or that you’ll default to boring. Whether or not your personality will change when you quit drinking is a fear many people have. True, alcohol might have made it easier to crack jokes in a social situation, but that doesn’t mean you’re inherently boring. In fact, many find that when they put down alcohol, they have the opportunity to get in touch with their true nature. Quitting booze might actually help your personality shine.
6. I Won’t Know How to Cope With Life Without Alcohol
It’s true—a lot of us used alcohol as a coping mechanism. When we have a stressful day, when we’re feeling anxious or depressed, when the world seems too heavy, we tend to reach for alcohol because that’s what society tells us to do. In reality though, there are many, many better and healthier ways to cope, we just have to give some a try to figure out what works for us.
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How to Overcome Your Fears
“So here’s the thing: it *is* scary (to quit drinking),” says Medrano. “There are plenty of legit concerns (like the ones listed above), and I wouldn’t be doing my job as a recovery coach if I said otherwise.”
The truth is, though, that no matter what kind of life change we’re making, fear is a part of the process.
“Generally speaking, fear stops us because we think we have to rid ourselves of it in order to take action. We want to follow our dreams, or move in a new direction, but as long as fear is driving the car, it’s challenging to even leave the parking lot.
“If we can accept that fear is part of the ride—rather than an indication that there’s something wrong with the ride—then we can get curious. We can be in conversation with our fear, rather than letting it stop us in our tracks.”
So what does that look like?
Start With Curiosity
Rather than letting fear stop you in your tracks, start asking yourself some questions. Investigate. Pull out those retired Where-in-the-World-is-Carmen-Sandiego skills and apply them to your fears.
“When I approach fear with curiosity, fear is a teacher,” Medrano explains. “I begin to observe, and question it. More often than not it’s a product of my social conditioning, cultural upbring, habituated thought patterns, or some combination of these (or other!) factors.”
She continues, “The good news is, these are all things I have a say over. As I push back on these factors, fear begins to loosen it’s hold. Even though it might not ever fully disappear, I can begin to trust my hands on the steering wheel.”
Have you ever wondered why we worry about what others will think if we quit drinking but we don’t have the same worry around, say, quitting hard drugs?
“The most helpful reframe for me is reminding myself that alcohol is the only substance that people balk at if you question your relationship to it,” Medrano says. “When I break this down in my head, it makes no sense, which helps diffuse the fear.”
You don’t worry about what people will think if you start a new exercise regimen or explore your love of travel. These things are widely considered acceptable and healthy. So even though society has an issue with questioning alcohol doesn’t mean you have to.
Know That Fear is Normal
Just like joy, contentment, anger, and sorrow are normal, so is fear!
“Feelings such as these are so totally normal. It’s impossible to know how the process will go! These fears make so much sense, and it would be weird if we didn’t consider how our lives would change by removing alcohol.
When we normalize fear, it makes it easier to work with the emotion rather than trying to avoid it.
Consider The Positive Side of “What If?”
We often view the “what ifs” as negatives, but there’s a balance to everything. You might try looking on the positive, and if that’s too much, maybe consider that catastrophe isn’t the only outcome.
“My advice is to allow the possibility that a life beyond your wildest imagination might become available to you by leaving alcohol behind,” Medrano says. “Be scared. That is you being human. And, what would it be like to let possibility, potential and power live alongside that fear?”
“What might become available to you if you were liberated from drinking, thinking about drinking, worrying about drinking, moderating, managing hangovers, and so on?”
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Sure, life with alcohol might be what you’re used to. It might even be a comfort, but if you’re questioning your relationship with booze, it might also be worth it to give something new a try.