The Lancet recently published an article that said drinking alcohol kills 2.8 million people globally each year. That means it’s responsible for 5% of deaths worldwide, according to The World Health Organisation.
Despite these frightening facts about drinking, when people seek help to get sober, they are met with a lack of actionable support.
Leading organisations which have been set up with the exclusive purpose of helping people to get sober tell people that they are powerless over the drug. That they, now labelled “alcoholics”, are the problem. Not that drinking itself is the problem.
They are told that they’ll have a problem with drinking for the rest of their lives, even if they haven’t had a drink in 50 years. Drinking is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet, but if you’re not using it, you don’t have a problem.
Wanting to get sober, and live a life free from the damage it can do, is totally understandable.
So here are fiver simple steps, showing you how to get sober. And, you’ll be glad to hear, sitting around complaining is definitely not on the list!
1. Educating Yourself About Alcohol
Alcohol has had an incredible level of positive publicity. We see it through a lens of social conditioning, where drinking is presented as a glamorous activity. Whether it’s TV, film or advertising, we can probably all think of an example where the hero of a story is seen to be drinking.
The problem is that this tuxedo lifestyle is rarely what you get with drinking. Using First Principles thinking, we can evaluate the truth of this belief.
First Principles Thinking is best explained by thinking like a scientist. It encourages using logic instead of analogies to get to the truth of a situation instead of just accepting it.
Is this actually your experience with drinking? You’re far more likely to be waking up with last night’s kebab all over your top than feeling like James Bond.
Alcohol is advertised as a social lubricant, turning us all into charming, charismatic extroverts. The life and soul of a party. The centre of laughter, flirting and friendship.
But the reality is often very different. Using First Principles Thinking, you will discover that the problem is that drinking usually makes these social situations worse, not better. Someone will inevitably say or do something under the influence that spoils the evening. People wake up the next morning (or afternoon!) worried about what they said, who they said it to, and spend the next few days mending fractured relationships.
People never blame drinking for this, always the person drinking it. The individual is at fault for not being able to control themselves. “Why can’t he just have one?!” they ask, knowing full well nobody stops at one, including themselves.
It’s a commonly held belief that drinking gives you courage and confidence is widely accepted. “Dutch courage” is even a familiar saying, with films showing our tuxedo-clad hero finishing his drink before suavely chatting up that impossibly glamorous woman at the bar.
In reality, that glamorous woman would recoil in horror as a half-cut stranger slurred his flirtations too close to her face, and stood all over her expensive shoes.
Using First Principles Thinking we examine all of these beliefs around drinking. We might come to the conclusion that by robbing you of a little bit of the social fear you feel, you’ve lost your judgement about what’s appropriate in that situation.
The belief that drinking gives you something, or adds something that was missing to your personality is a common one. It’s easy to believe too, because with “just one drink” we can add that missing element. That we aren’t enough without it.
That’s not true. To think that these complex social interactions can be made easier by simply having one drink and we just simply become better across all these social markers is a very attractive thought. Like drinking an Alice in Wonderland potion.
But by allowing yourself to feel the reality of the social situation, you’ll get a far more accurate perception of it. That slightly heightened awareness helps you to avoid putting your foot in it, and you come across as far more charming and far less likely to offend someone.
2. Planning Your New Life
Once you’ve decided to get sober, the very next step, the one that happens virtually immediately, is to start planning your new life.
This new, sober life can be anything you want. I know it might be hard to believe right now, but when you take the right approach to stopping drinking, things become possible again. The trick is to not wait around. This is something that you should be actively involved in building yourself. You need to play an active role in building your new life.
The more clarity you have about what this life looks like, the easier it will be to plan the route to get there. Once you start working on those steps towards your new sober life, you’ll feel motivated and energised by the momentum you gather.
You do not need to wait for a magical moment. You do not need anyone’s permission to make changes in your life. You can get started planning your new life. Then, simply reverse engineering the steps to get you there.
Consider, as a starting point: where in the world you want to live, what work you’d like to do and find fulfilling, whether you want to be in a romantic relationship, what hobbies you’d enjoy.
This is a detailed activity that’s likely to take some time. But understanding that endpoint is essential to having something to focus your energy towards. This creates leverage in getting sober, and you won’t want to go back to drinking because you’ll understand that you’re not missing out on anything.
3. Set Short Term Goals
Your short term goals could be absolutely anything you want, but actionable and processed focused behaviours work best. Processed, focused behaviours are those tasks where you are certain whether you’ve achieved them or not. There’s no uncertainty about whether it “counts”.
What does “short term” mean? This could be something that you want to do every day, or every week. Anything much longer than that and it’s easy for it to get lost in all the other things you focus on.
The reason for making the goal short term is that it’s easier to get a habit streak, and that’s just as important as the task itself.
Having a short term goal to focus on your health is a popular choice. If you’ve been drinking for a while, it may be that your health hasn’t been a priority for you for a while. Perhaps it’s not been getting the attention it deserves.
That means that when you do start to focus some of your energy on your health, you’ll see enormous benefits really quickly.
At the most essential level, this could look like including one piece of fruit or a vegetable into your diet every day. This is a clear task, and you can focus on building this into a habit. You might choose to focus on drinking a glass of water every morning as soon as you get out of bed. You could walk outside for 10 minutes during your lunch hour.
You might even want to get really serious and join a gym. Some people invest in a personal trainer to give them some guidance on where to focus their attention. This is a great way to make sure they can do the basic movements safely, and build some accountability into their new training practices.
Using meditation apps, such as Headspace to build in 5 minutes of mindful breathwork each day is a great way to include a positive emotional and mental practice. Meditation is an ancient spiritual practice. It involves a close focus on counting breaths in and counting breaths out to stay in the present moment.
4. Activities Which Don’t Revolve Around Drinking
You will likely find that after getting sober, you have a lot more energy than you did when you were drinking. This is partially due to improvements in sleep quality and quantity. This may mean that you have more energy to spend on trying out some new activities which don’t involve drinking that might interest you.
We talked already about the health benefits of exercise and joining a gym. Joining a sports team can be a brilliant way to reconnect with the activities that you enjoyed before you discovered alcohol. It can also be a way to make new friends.
Reigniting a passion for a hobby, or discovering a new hobby is also popular, with reading, crafting or studying for business or personal development being among the most pursued activities.
If you particularly enjoy the benefits you get from your meditation practice, it may appeal to you to try keeping a journal. This gives you a place to be introspective and can work especially well for people who are setting ambitious plans in motion for their new sober lifestyles.
Lots of people worry when they stop drinking that their lives will be boring, or that there’ll be something missing in their lives when they get sober. But by spending time on interesting activities which don’t revolve around alcohol, you see that you’re not missing out by being sober. You might even start to wonder why you didn’t get sober before.
5. Sober Relationships
When you decide to stop drinking and you want to get sober, there’s an opportunity to make new friends from areas of your life that don’t involve drinking. These new friendships might blossom from any number of new places. Sports teams you’ve joined, people you met through the gym or from hobby groups.
Sometimes, old friendships don’t always survive. It can make people feel uncomfortable that you are choosing to make a positive change in your life, and if that friendship was only built on the common activity of drinking together, it may not last. That’s ok – now you know that all the friendships you have got are based on actual, meaningful liking. Not just the convenience of someone to go to the pub with.
You may find that you want to avoid people who don’t support you in your decision to get sober. You may even have to be quite firm with people who think it’s acceptable to pressure you with comments like “just have one!”
Be reassured that you don’t have to explain your decision to get sober to anyone. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell then, “no thanks” with no further explanation. If you want to explain to them that you’re stopping drinking, that’s fine too.
Your friends care about you and will want to see you taking your health seriously and prioritising your sobriety, even if they choose to continue drinking.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need all your friends to be sober too.
That’s not the point. Drinking will be a non-issue in your life so if others want to drink, that’s up to them. You don’t need to convert them to your sober way of living.
Choosing to get sober might set an example for your friends. They may even ask you how you’re looking so healthy. They may look to you as an example to lead them into managing their own drinking.
The most important thing when you decide to get sober is that you not only stop – but that you stay stopped. You don’t stop drinking for a weekend, or a week, or even a month.
You are going to undergo an important shift in your identity; from a drinker to a non-drinker. That identity is going to be cast off easily, even in cases when it’s been carried around for years.
By following the steps outlined here, you can find the process not only simple and easy but enjoyable too. You will find that far from being powerless, you actually have total control over the life you choose to create for yourself.
You will find that the damage that drinking does in your life stops immediately when you choose to get sober and stop drinking.
You are free to start this new sober life whenever you want.