Category Archives: Get Sober Get Free

Get Sober Get Free – Honesty

HONESTY

What are my drinking patterns?

getsober7 thumb copyWe are going to start by looking at your relationship with alcohol. As problem drinkers we often fudge the details and consequences of our drinking. Alcoholics and problem drinkers are masters of rationalising their drinking and pretending it’s ‘normal’. The purpose of this exercise is to get the facts on paper, so there’s no escaping them. The decision to stop drinking must be followed by action. By completing these exercises you are taking action towards sustaining your sobriety. Because alcohol abuse has been so normalised in our culture, it’s very difficult for us to accept that we ourselves have a problem. We tend to measure ourselves against extreme examples and because we don’t meet those extremes we convince ourselves that our drinking is ‘normal’ or at least not harmful. We need to let go of all of those pre-conceived ideas and really look closely at how alcohol affects us.

In many ways it’s quite simple. Every problem drinker asks themselves the same question at a certain point: am I an alcoholic or not?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

It’s the question many people who drink to excess find themselves asking at some point or another.

Could I be an alcoholic? A sinking feeling in your stomach, followed by a desperate scramble to try to reassure yourself that you’re not, usually follows this thought. I know, because I’ve done it. When I was going to college and drinking vodka in the toilets before a 9am lecture it occurred to me that this is what alcoholics do. My stomach lurched in fear and I thought to myself, ‘No, I can’t be an alcoholic, because alcoholics enjoy drinking alcohol and I’m only drinking because I have to.’

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I used to get really bad panic attacks and the only thing that really worked in calming them was booze. At twenty-three years old I couldn’t be in a group situation sober so I really struggled in college and work environments where I couldn’t drink. I would often nip to the pub at lunchtime and have a drink or two to get me through the afternoon. Not enough to get drunk; just enough to calm the fear and enable me to function.

But I was no good if I had to do any kind of group activity in the morning. I had to go to college and I had to go to work. These things were important so I had to find a way to get through without having a panic attack. Prescription drugs only ever seemed to work for a while. Booze was the only thing I could rely on.

Which is why, in my desperation to rationalise that I wasn’t an alcoholic, I came up with the conclusion that I wasn’t alcoholic, as I was drinking out of necessity.

Of course now I can see how crazy that is. But the truth is that I actually had no idea what an alcoholic really was. I thought it was a smelly old man on a bench. I thought there were certain criteria that you needed to fulfill in order to be classed an alcoholic. I was certain that homelessness was one of them, and I was a college student for goodness sake. So I was definitely not an alcoholic.

I was wrong.

I was in full-blown alcoholism and it took me four more years to see this. I resisted right till the end because I was never physically addicted to alcohol, and I thought physical addiction was definitely one of the criteria for defining an alcoholic. I couldn’t see that I was psychologically addicted and that my whole life was defined by drink. When that last delusion was stripped from me, I had nowhere left to hide.

Still unable to accept the truth, someone told me something that changed my life. They said alcoholics do three things:

  • They drink.
  • They think about drinking.
  • They think about not drinking.

Oh wow, that was me. Right there. That was all the definition I needed. I was an alcoholic. And strangely, the feeling that followed that admission was actually relief. Because when I finally accepted and realised what my problem actually was, it meant I could finally start doing something about it. It was when I started doing something about my problem that everything changed.

If you are still having that debate with yourself then the following questions are designed to help you decide if you have a drinking problem.


This is an exclusive extract from my second book Get Sober Get Free which will be out in December 2015. It is designed to help you delve deeper into the reasons you may drink destructively so you can develop effective strategies to overcome your drinking. It is a follow-up to my best selling book Why you drink and How to stop.

How pride keeps us drunk

Liabilities and assets

getsober7 thumb copyIf it were as easy as just stopping drinking, we would all just stop drinking as soon as we realised we had a problem.

But it isn’t that easy, is it?

Which is why we need to look at how we are working against ourselves. Because in many ways we are our own worst enemy. If we have made the decision to get sober then we have to look at our liabilities, the parts of our character that hold us back. When someone has an alcohol problem, they usually have pretty low self-esteem, for instance. Low self-esteem will have an enormous impact on our choices and actions.

We don’t want to over-focus on the negative stuff, so we are also going to look at your assets – the parts of your personality that work for you – and see how we can build on those strengths.

But let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way first and look at liabilities. Remember this is not about beating ourselves up; it’s about taking a good honest look at ourselves so we can move forward into a better future.

In ‘recovery speak’ this is sometimes known as ‘character defects’. But I’m not keen on the term ‘defects’ as it’s so negative. It really is just looking at parts of our character that work against us rather than for us.

Pride

The first liability is pride. We all suffer from too much pride and it always trips us up. This process is not about getting rid of all of these parts of ourselves; it’s about getting them in balance. It’s totally fine to feel pride for what we have achieved; what harms us is when we let pride govern us. Let me explain what pride really is: pride is the fear of what we think other people think about us. Ponder that one for a moment.

You have absolutely no idea what other people think about you. None. Yet we will make decisions and take actions based on how we think other people may react, or how we think they will feel towards us.

Everybody wants to be liked, that is a natural human need; however, it’s a fact that not everyone will like us. We are just not everyone’s cup of tea.

I know I’m not.

Not everyone who meets me, likes me. However, enough people do and that’s really all that matters. I have not always felt this way. Back when I was drinking I would turn cartwheels to try to get people to like me. Often it was people I didn’t like very much myself, but for some totally crazy reason, it really mattered to me that they thought I was ‘something’. Because according to my crazy logic, if enough people thought I was ‘something’ then surely it would mean I actually was.

My pride also meant I could never ask for help and I could never ever admit I was vulnerable. Those things terrified me. I wanted you to believe the best of me, and if I admitted I was really struggling then surely you would see the worst of me, and that was something I could not bear.

So I created a prison for myself based on pride. Have you done the same?

Believe me that is not a successful way to live. Being able to live free of the good or bad opinion of other people is true freedom. Because then I started to like myself. I realised that when I tried to be the person I thought other people wanted, I was miserable and hated who I had become (hence the drinking). When I sobered up and started living my truth, I realised that the most important thing was that I should like myself.

This is an exclusive exerpt from my new book ‘Get Sober, Get Free.’ Currently available on Amazon.

Get Sober Get Free

getsober7 thumb copy

I’m really excited to announce that my new book Get Sober Get Free will be available in December.

Get Sober, Get Free is for anyone who would like to understand their drinking and develop strategies to stay alcohol free. It’s a practical handbook for achieving sustainable sobriety.

Divided into three sections – Honesty, Reality, Freedom – the book takes you through a series of specifically designed questions that will enable you to understand why you abuse alcohol and help you to create your own plan to stay sober.

Here is an exclusive exerpt from the book that looks at the relationship between feelings and drinking. The whole purpose of the book is to help you understand the motivations behind your drinking:

Drinking to deal with feelings

Many of us have a history of stress, pain or abuse. In some cases our background includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape or incest. Often we came from families where one or more members were substance dependent. Maybe we just weren’t parented well and our emotional needs were not adequately met, and we felt lonely, isolated or just different from other people. Often we were scared of other people.

Some of us responded to the pain and stress in our lives by using substances. But pain and stress do not cause us to become dependent or abuse alcohol or drugs. The drugs or alcohol may have eased or distracted us from pain, fear or anger, but many people go through painful experiences without using alcohol or other drugs. We, on the other hand, started abusing alcohol or drugs and found we couldn’t stop using them.

Using alcohol or drugs to deaden emotional pain and deal with fear is something we learn how to do.

There are more appropriate ways of dealing with our negative emotions and fears, and recovery is about learning some of those ways.

Activity – Feelings

  1. Describe two situations when you have been in emotional pain or felt fear and have responded by using alcohol or drugs. What were you thinking and how did you feel before, during and after you picked up? Be specific.
  2. Is there a particular feeling you can’t cope with that always leads you to drink?
  3. Is there a particular situation that you find difficult that you always use alcohol to cope with?

The answers to these questions will reveal how you rely on alcohol to cope. Which means it has gone from something you find pleasurable to being a crutch. If alcohol is our crutch then it is not something that is going to help. There are better ways to deal with feelings and situations we find challenging.

I really hope this book will empower everyone who reads it to put down the booze and walk into a brand new life of recovery.