When my close friend Susie stopped drinking alcohol, I was really fascinated and also very curious… HOW CAN SHE DO IT? What is her secret?
This was at a time when I really could not ever see myself being able to stop drinking permanently. Even though I thought that my life would be easier and better if I stopped drinking, I just did not believe I could manage it
Susie had had some medical issues and, although they resolved quickly, she was advised to stop drinking by her doctor. And she did it. Just like that.
I remember thinking that, even with a strong imperative, I didn’t think I could do it.
Anyway, Susie really helped me along the road as she showed me some of the AF drinks she had found. She had got into the habit of having an AF beer in the evenings when she felt like it. Later, her husband also started drinking some AF beers too.
Their routines had changed and when Susie said that she thought the AF drinks were better than the boozy ones, I listened and also bought some myself to try. I think that Heineken 0.0 and Seedlip Garden are still my fave AF drinks because of the emotions they stir, gratitude that my friend gave them to me to try and relief that they seemed to open a door to grown up drinking that wouldn’t cause harm.
But I still was amazed at how my friend had managed to actually stop. I also missed being able to talk to Susie about my own ups and downs with alcohol. Susie had been, and she’d tell you this herself, a grey area drinker, someone who, like me, had to have some firm rules in places to stop herself drinking more and more as she got older. She and I had chatted though the guilt of hangovers, the feelings of being a bit trapped, the anguish of self-reproach. Now I felt I couldn’t talk to her about all that… as… what could she say except: Just stop? And that wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
For many, many years, the thought of just stopping made me feel a deep pain right around my heart. The thought of just stopping genuinely brought tears to my eyes. There was no JUST in just stopping for me.
I knew that I could stop for short periods and even once for a year, but the idea of stopping forever was a massive NO NO NO in my brain, body and emotions.
Even in 2013 when I stopped for a whole year, whenever I thought about never drinking again, I felt that physical pain and tears immediately pricked in my eyes. My emotional reaction to the thought of extending beyond that one year was very intense and absolutely immediate.
My amazement at people who had stopped forever was intense too. I met plenty of them in 2013, mainly at AA meetings. My incredulity at their ability to stop lasted all year. How did they do it? I never could!
But what was it that I was so afraid of losing?
Whatever it was, that emotional reaction meant that, whilst I completed my year off alcohol in 2013, I then had a glass of wine on Day 366.
I was certain I would be able to keep my drinking well and truly under control… which worked for a while…. as ever… but not for long enough.
Stopping drinking had seemed utterly impossible for me, beyond the scope of my ability to imagine far less implement. So what did happen, to make such a huge mind shift? I am still working it all out but I am sure that there were many building blocks, and that seeing Susie and other friends stopping drinking and still being happy and healthy was an important one of them.