When you are contemplating giving up alcohol, it’s entirely natural to wonder if life is better without it.
I get asked this question a lot in coaching sessions and I always laugh in response – not because I’m making fun of anyone but because ‘better’ is such an insipid word to describe life without alcohol. It’s AMAZING!
So many of our associations with alcohol are around pleasure and enjoyable activities so it’s unsurprising that you might be asking yourself; “Is life better without alcohol?”
But have you ever thought about the role pleasure plays in your life?
As I crept out of childhood, I learned that pleasure could be found by hiding with my grandma and having her feed me. For a few hours, I would feel safe and loved and could enjoy a short respite from whatever drama was happening at home.
It’s no wonder then that I spent most of my life eating for comfort. Getting sober meant having to learn how to eat for fuel and not comfort and pleasure.
My first experience of alcohol at the age of 13 has a similar pleasurable association. Half a bottle of cider meant laughter, joy, dancing, freedom and lots of stretching my wings.
Those highs lasted until adulthood when alcohol inevitably became a crutch that helped me limp through life. But, the association with pleasure was hard-wired by then. I was always chasing that dopamine hit that would bring youth, freedom and happier days.
Obviously, as you know, those feelings of pleasure get harder and almost impossible to find when you drink every day for decades. Pleasure is still available, but scant and momentarily fleeting.
The pleasure of sobriety can be quite hard to imagine if you’ve never experienced it for any length of time.
As an aside, it’s important to identify the difference between the relief you will experience when you crack sobriety and the pleasure it will ultimately bring. The relief of not waking up with a hangover, or not having to beat yourself up for drinking is, of course, wonderful. However, the true joy of knowing you are free of alcohol is better than any short-lived dopamine hit.
Future Without Alcohol
The pleasure of sobriety, however, is a little more hard-won.
It can be quite challenging to try and project yourself into a pleasurable future without alcohol. What does that even look like?
But this is one of the important keys to giving alcohol up for good and it can take time for your heart and mind to really get it.
When we embark on adopting new habits, the early stages always feel like hard work. I’m about to create new exercise habits and I already know that I am going to have to be organised and disciplined about it if I am to have any chance of succeeding.
I know in those early weeks I won’t find it pleasurable to be sweaty and achy. I will negotiate with myself trying not to do it, I will give myself excuses about being busy and lie to myself about being unwell so I can cop out.
However, my intelligence tells me that sticking with it, even on the days when I’m telling myself I don’t want to, there will come a point where I forget that I am working at it. I will just get on and do it. I won’t need to keep forcing a schedule into my life to make it happen because I will want it to happen.
At that point, I will have finally associated exercise with pleasure and know that I will be able to continue in this way for the rest of my life.
Is Life Better Without Alcohol?
The process of gaining your sobriety is no different but it is a process that requires, at least in the early days, an application of pressure, discipline, reminders and organisation that will help you get to the part where it’s easy. At first, life definitely won’t feel better. It will feel awkward, tiring and scratchy.
But as you make progress and feel alcohol leaving your mind and body and enjoy the pleasure of a more energised body and clear mind, you will begin to see how much better life can be.
One day you will have what Maslow calls a ‘peak experience’ and realise just how much life is better without alcohol but when you begin you don’t know when your day will come because it’s different for everyone. You might get it on day one, day 21 or later.
But you will get there.
How Will You Get There?
And you can choose HOW you get there. You can get there kicking and screaming, fighting yourself every step of the way so that you exhaust yourself into sobriety. Or you can get clear about the goal you are trying to reach, create a plan, stick to it and make it easy on yourself. You could, if you are so inclined, make it fun!
My fitness goal is to be lean and fit so that as I skip into my later years I will have the energy to enjoy them and not be a burden to my children. The second part of that goal is the most motivating part for me.
Where Did It Start For You?
What pleasure/dopamine hit did you start drinking for? Was it freedom from restrictions at home, numbing from difficulties, or the best fun ever with the girls? Think back to what you initially enjoyed about drinking. Do you still get the same hit that you did in the beginning? I would say it’s unlikely.
We continue out of habit because, today, we don’t know what the alternative will be like.
Trusting Yourself And Taking Action
That means you have to trust in the action you took to be here. You already have your goal, perhaps it might require a bit more detail and some actions to get started, but you know what you want.
Nothing happens without action. Thoughts about giving up are generally a form of personal torture if you aren’t applying action to them.
This is where you build pleasure – in the actions of doing something. The moment you begin to take action and start doing things towards your goal you will be taking one step closer to the pleasure you crave of waking every day with a clear head and the energy to live a life of enjoyment, love and happiness.
You might even get a little thrill of excitement at being able to add another sober day to your week.
What about you?
Have you had enough of chasing a pleasurable experience you are never going to get again? Are you ready to start doing a little bit of organised, action-oriented planning to get you started?
Life isn’t perfect if you don’t drink alcohol. You still have the same annoying people in your life, the same stressful job, the same amount of stuff to do. Those things don’t go away. But life is so much better without alcohol because you will be dealing with it all with calm and grace and maybe even a sense of humour!
Pleasure, true pleasure, is in looking out at the world and knowing you can shape it in any way you wish. Are you ready?
Much love always, Jules xxx
P.S. If you want to find out just how good life can be without alcohol but know you need some support to get there, you can check out the support available to you here: FREEBIES or ONE TO ONE COACHING