My journey on how I became and, up to now, stayed sober, is one I’ve been thinking about sharing for a while. The reason why now is a good moment is because it is time to let my experience help others. Another reason is that I am now offering sober coaching. It is my purpose to show others the way to a better life. Having a good example and support while going on a path like this is vital. That is how I have experienced it and I want to share that with those who are looking to change their life and get sober.
Showing others my journey to becoming sober, can help them recognize certain types of behaviors and patterns. And open their eyes to some of the signs as they reflect on their relationship with substances. On top of that, this story will also show a different case of a heavy alcoholic. It is my belief that classifying myself as an alcoholic, which I have the potential to become, would undermine the gravity of those who are completely dependent on alcohol or drugs. The way I see it, I have a problem with alcohol. But there are levels and it is my view that I haven’t reached those levels. Having said that, I do think of myself as an alcoholic. But I have been fortunate enough to have stopped before I reached the extreme levels.
My relationship with alcohol
One thing that often surprises people is when I tell them that I don’t drink when I’m alone. And I didn’t do so even during my heaviest drinking days. I prefer to drink tea or plain water. Back in the day that would have been a cola or some other fizzy drink, for sure, but not alcohol. I didn’t like it or feel the need for it. Yet when I would go out and have that first drink, then the floodgates would open. Do I regret those times? After a lot of exploring those moments of my past, Iḿ convinced that I don’t. But I do realize that I was lucky enough to have understood the dangers it poses to me. This realization is an underlying belief of how I managed to become and stay sober.
The staying sober part is something that will be an ongoing process. One that will require me to stay vigilant all the time. And I know of myself, that even if it went wrong, it would stay with one time. At least the probability of it being a one-time thing is higher because I don’t drink when I’m alone. This part of the story provides me with a buffer to examine my actions. But that’s not the point of why I don’t want to fall back. Staying sober is a decision I have made. And I understand the risk that even one night could ruin the life I’m trying to build. Moreover, I know where it could take me mentally. Because it used to take me on a spiral down to negative thoughts.
Moderation at Zero
The Stoics talk about temperance, which is one of the cardinal virtues. People would then say that abstinence isn’t a practice of moderation. But for me it is. I know what happens to my state of mind when I have a drink. And I’m also certain that this one will lead to more until my control is completely gone. If you have a problem with a substance, one you become dependent on, then the scale of moderation becomes very small. My scale falls between zero and one. And I know what happens with either one of them. Thus my level of moderation is by cutting it out completely.
There are plenty of stories I can think of, the moments I can still remember, and I don’t mind talking about them. As I tell them, the funny anecdotes come up and it makes for good conversation. But I also remember the mornings after. During those moments I felt horrible about myself, so bad that it touched the level of depression. It brought me to a state where I didn’t want to go out and face the world. The fear of not knowing what had happened was almost paralyzing. Wallowing in self-pity, and seeing myself as a victim didn’t help either. I remember that an invitation to a party would cause me anxiety and stress for days or weeks. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to control myself. And would end up drunk, out of control, and miserable the day after.
The start of my sober journey
To be correct, I started my journey before Stoicism entered my life. As I was going through some difficult moments in more recent years. I found myself going out a few times reaching college levels of partying. All this to suppress the feelings I didn’t want to deal with. These evenings weren’t as spectacular, and in retrospect, most of the earlier ones weren’t either. But the days after were getting worse. One morning I woke up, feeling horrendous, and I looked at myself and knew this had to stop. I wasn’t the victim here, I was the one doing this.
That’s when I made certain rules about not drinking, doing exercise, reading more, etc. Find the complete rules and the ideas behind them in this article here. During this time I didn’t drink either. But the difference with now was that I was shying away from social gatherings. The decision of not drinking hadn’t been made, I was avoiding the trigger moments. Which was a good place to start because it gave me time to think about the next steps.
It wasn’t Stoicism alone that gave me that final push to rid alcohol out of my life and to become sober. It was also due to some good examples around me, such as my sister and my cousin. They showed me that it was possible and they gave me some good advice. This is again part of my drive to share this story and start coaching others to become sober. But learning about Stoicism and the virtues, especially temperance, showed me my way. The good thing about the Stoics is that they place the responsibility for your actions right where it matters, with you.
The Stoics also taught me that the opinions of others are of no concern to me. I should live my life the way that is best for me. Which I started practicing and am still working on. But one practice Stoicism offers has been key to stopping me from taking that first drink. This is called negative visualization. When someone offers me a drink or I am thinking about having one, I remind myself about the consequences. In my mind, the film of the possible night and morning play out before itself. This foreshadowing is one of the mental tools to keep me on my sober path.
Gratitude for life
After having experienced a few parties sober, I started to notice that I was enjoying myself a lot more. And I can now remember everything that had happened. The anxiety before a party is gone, and I wake up energized and ready for the day. It has given me a deep feeling of gratitude for life. During my drunken years, I have dodged many possible bad experiences. And I know I’d be pushing my luck if I were to continue. Life is too precious to throw away and the more you oppress your coherence by substances, the less you get to live life.
People offer me drinks all the time still, and I don’t mind. It’s good practice in learning to say no more. There’s also no problem with being around people who do drink. That actually reinforces my will not to drink, because I can picture myself in that state and that’s not something I want to do anymore. One thing that I have learned, is that it all starts with you. No one else can do this for you and you have to be ready for it. Yet, before being able to surround yourself with those who drink, one needs to be strong enough in their beliefs to withstand the social pressure. Reaching this stage does show you how far you have come.
“Remaining dry and sober takes a good deal more strength of will when everyone about one is puking drunk.”Seneca, Letter From A Stoic, Letter XVIII
Looking for support is important, and that’s what we offer with sober coaching. But at the end of the day, it requires a mindset shift in you. One idea that can strengthen you, is that it is possible. I am still doing it, and I’ve seen many examples of great people around me who enjoy their sober life. If you want to learn more about how we can help, check out sober coaching.
“Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 6.19