Be honest with me – have you ever typed any of these questions into Google:
Am I drinking too much? How do I stop drinking? How much wine is dangerous? Am I an alcoholic? What is the definition of an alcoholic? Can I cut down instead of quitting? What is normal drinking? How do you quit drinking for good?
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of contradictory information online and frankly, some of the ‘advice’ I stumbled across actually put me off doing something about my drinking.
So today I want to talk about 3 common myths about sobriety that can hold you back from quitting. Don’t fall for these!
1. You need to call yourself an alcoholic, or else you’re in denial
If you identify with this label and it supports your efforts to change, then that’s great. But if you don’t like this label – and it doesn’t feel good to you – then you really can ditch it.
Consider yourself to be someone who chooses not to drink, because that’s what makes you feel at your best. It’s a lifestyle you enjoy. You choose not to drink in the same way that you choose not to sniff glue, pop pills, smoke cigarettes or eat cheap burgers.
The problem with the term alcoholic is that it implies it’s abnormal to get addicted to alcohol, when that really isn’t the case. Alcohol is a widely available, well advertised, highly addictive, mind-altering drug that tends to be presented as the solution to all our problems. Who wouldn’t get addicted to that?!
If alcohol is making us feel unhappy – and we’re ready to recognise that and take action – then we should be able to change our behaviour without having to justify ourselves, or be forced into acquiring some new alcoholic identity.
2. You need to hit rock bottom
The idea that you need to wait until your drinking is ‘bad enough’ before you quit is a dangerous myth. I still see this idea referenced in articles today and it makes me mad.
What exactly is rock bottom anyway? It will vary from person to person, surely? There is no definition of it. And doesn’t the idea of hitting rock bottom imply that sobriety is so hideous, it can only be a last resort – something to be considered when your life is falling apart and all other options have been exhausted?
Trust me, you do not need to wait until you’re pouring vodka on your weetabix in the morning before you decide it’s time to quit. It’s perfectly fine to stop drinking without a collection of booze related war stories.
Ultimately, drinking is all about how you feel, and if alcohol is not making you feel great, then that’s all the information you need. None of us need to be anywhere near rock bottom before we decide to stop hurting ourselves.
3. It will be a daily battle
This is something that is really worrying. The idea that stopping or controlling your drinking means entering into some kind of continuous test of willpower is really depressing.
Here’s what I’ve discovered since then.
Yes, changing a habit does require effort in the early days. It requires commitment. But alcohol-free, or moderation, is NOT hard work forever. Honestly – it gets easier and easier.
Alcohol basically is engine fuel. If you want to put this toxic poison up on a pedestal, romanticise the heck out of it and continuously mourn the fact that you can’t have it, you can do. That’s one option.
Alternatively, you can educate yourself about drinking and learn about the myths and illusions (i.e. what science tells us alcohol can do, vs what we’re led to believe it can do).
This myth-busting approach makes change a lot easier, because you start to see that a lot of the ‘benefits’ to drinking are really just smoke and mirrors, and a bit of wishful thinking!