Here it is, New Year’s Day. A new year, a blank slate, a list of things you know you need or want to do differently, and an aching thumb from scrolling through endless “New Year, New You” bullshit on social media.
Ok, it’s not necessarily bullshit. But it IS overblown in terms of unwelcome pressure. Between every other person telling you about their resolutions and every ad hammering you with ways to transform into a new and better you, it’s nearly impossible not to feel as if you simply MUST make some huge commitment to a life transformation on January 1st.
In actuality, life transformations don’t happen in grand fell swoops. And in reality, January 1st is really just another freezing, dreary Tuesday full of laundry, Netflix and coffee. At least for me 🙂
I’m not belittling the desire to make changes; striving for the best version of ourselves is the good stuff. What I AM saying is that January 1st is just another day that ends in “y”. So, let’s calm down, look at our situation with a little more perspective, and assume that we’re not going to transform into entirely different humans today, ok? Ok.
What you MIGHT do, though, is start a new habit. Or take the first step to starting to a new habit. Or even THINK about taking the first step to starting a new habit. And guess what? That’s enough! You’re already on your way.
I can’t even tell you how many years I wrote down “Stop drinking” on December 31st and shuddered at the thought of being in the same place 365 days later – yet there I was, year after year. Usually alone, often buzzed, feeling worse and, God knows, looking worse that I did the year before. But here’s what I look back and realize: the whole concept of writing “Stop drinking” on December 31st thinking I’d wake up like Sleeping Beauty, flawless and sober, is part of the damn problem.
I meant well! Of course I did. And I know you do, too. But we don’t always turn a life-long habit on its ear overnight. If you know someone who has done so, and there are some of us, that’s incredible and commendable! I just don’t want you to feel alone if you’re sitting there today, already a drink (or three) in and beating yourself up because you’ve already “failed”. You haven’t failed. Today just wasn’t the day. But you have a day and it’s coming.
Deep down inside where I kept the truth, I knew I had a drinking problem long before I ever admitted it to myself and even longer before I ever admitted it to another person. But I just couldn’t imagine my life without it. And frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I wanted to in theory. I liked the idea of being one of those dewy fresh-faced gals who carried a yoga mat, didn’t need booze and looked freakishly happy sober (not only was I not one of those people, I didn’t even like to hang out with those people). But deep down, I admired them. So sometimes, when I was alone, I would allow myself to do some things that possibly changed the course of my life. To this day, I wonder if I would be here sober if I had not done these things. There’s no real way of knowing.
Life is not random. Your thoughts, your words, your actions are all ingredients to what you will manifest this year. The last several years of my drinking, I believed in the power of manifestation. I believed that I was the product of my own words, beliefs, and thoughts. And while I felt helpless in terms of ever achieving a life completely devoid of alcohol, I started changing what I said to myself. I started re-writing the script. It felt ridiculous at times. I felt like a fraud, even to myself, but I did it anyway. So, when the pitch finally came to step out and admit I had a problem and needed help, I swung and I swung hard. I’ve never looked back. I wonder, had I not done what I’m about to tell you about, if I would have missed that pitch. Or, worse, if I would have been too afraid to swing. Telling that “I’m fine” lie, promising myself I’d pick another day. But I didn’t. And now I’m here, happier, healthier, and more at peace than I have been in over 15 years.
So if you’re not sure you’re ready, if you don’t feel prepared, or if you’re not entirely sure you even WANT to stop drinking, here’s some things you can do in the meantime.
I don’t remember when I started reading about drinking, but once I started it got, well – addictive. I was checking memoirs out from the library, ordering books online, smuggling articles I saw at the dentist’s office. Recently I found a stash that I had kept hidden under my bathroom sink. I guess you could say addictive behavior is a pattern for me 😉 But what I was doing was gathering like a hunter. I was learning that there are many people like me. I was reading about how others conquered their addiction. I was finding hope in the stories of others and learning facts about the disease itself. It was all part of the arsenal that I eventually needed when the time came to make a different choice and fight for my life.
Much like reading, I started watching documentaries. Movies about women and men in addiction and recovery. Again, I was learning, but I was also forcing myself to accept that even though they often “looked” worse than I did or their situations were “worse” than mine, they were still me. And I them. Watching movies and documentaries put real faces to stories and sobered me emotionally. I knew that I was no different. I also knew that there was hope (at least for some of these people, even if not for me yet).
This one that sounds so wacky that I semi-cringe as I sit and write it. I used to secretly listen to AA speakers ALL the time. Especially in the past few years. There’s a saying in AA about “wanting what they have” and I did. I wanted the same peace, joy, laughter, self-assuredness and community. I just had ZERO idea of how to actually get it and I really wanted it without having to give up the glass of wine that I was perpetually nursing. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but sadly, it’s true. So, while it seems so absurd, I do believe that while I sat there sipping wine, I was simultaneously retraining my brain by taking in these hour-long tales of happiness, joyousness, and freedom, one after the other. I may have still been doing the exact thing I wanted to stop, but I was changing the messages I was receiving. Slowly but surely. It began sinking in.
Around this same time, I started saying something to myself. Again, often while I was drinking. I would tell myself things about who I wanted to be. Truths that I wanted to have. Things that were much the antithesis of my reality, but I said and wrote them anyway. I told myself I was sober.
Some examples of things I said in the mirror, in my journal, taking a shower, and even as I was pouring a drink:
“I don’t drink.”
“I’m not a drinker.”
“I don’t like wine.”
“I’ve don’t care for alcohol.”
“Booze doesn’t do anything for me.”
Just so you know, all of these things were so far from the truth that I might as well have been telling myself I was a doorknob. A lampshade. Beyonce Knowles. But I said it. Over and over and over again. And now it’s true.
I’ve always been a writer, but it’s something doesn’t come naturally to everyone. To this, I say: give it a try. Whether you write in short spurts, long-winded gusts, make lists, scribble words, just write.
There is something that happens magically when you take a thought and commit it to paper. It gives it life. It makes it real.
I used to write about my alcohol struggles in my journal often, but I would never dare call it by name. I knew it was cowardly, but I couldn’t write it down, even for my own self to read. I would call it an “issue” or something obscure, so that anyone else who read it wouldn’t quite know what it meant. When I started writing the words in black and white, I could no longer keep the lie going.
So, even if you don’t write normally, I recommend that you give it a chance. My absolute favorite method of writing for mental health and personal breakthrough is the Morning Pages technique by Julia Cameron. I’ve used it for years. It’s like mediation in action. Click on the link to read more about it – I promise you won’t regret working this into your daily routine!
You’ve heard it before and you’re about to hear it again. Change your environment. This also did not happen overnight. In typical cautious-me style, I started researching a few pro-sobriety celebs from afar. I started following them on social media and then I started following “real” people. Average Joes like me who shared their struggles, victories, and ultimately their passion for sobriety. I started following organizations who advocated abstinence. I became inspired, connected, happy for the accomplishments of others. I wanted what they had. And I continued to realize that I wasn’t alone.
I started deleting anything I followed that promoted Mommy Wine culture. I stopped liking posts by friends celebrating their end of week drink or “parenting punch”. It kind of stopped being funny. My eyes were opening. My sober soul was awakening.
Maybe the fact that I drank through all of this makes me seem like a hypocrite, but I beg to differ. I believe that, like some of you, I simply wasn’t ready. It just wasn’t the day. I didn’t know how to make a grand transformation, so I just did one little thing. I just looked up one YouTube video. I said one affirmation out loud. Every day.
I didn’t know how to be, let alone thrive, as a sober woman. I had to plant some seeds first. I had to put tools in my toolbox. I had to till some soil and widen my circle. I had to learn that no one grows a garden overnight just because they say they “resolve” to have a green thumb one night in late December. You have to do your research. You must have patience. You need to weather some seasons. And then you take root and growth begins. A sprout at first, then bam!
Think people who gush about sobriety are sellin’ magic beans?
That’s what I thought, too.
Until I bought into my own ability to break through the frozen ground of addiction and really grow.
And now I’m sober. 9 months.
Jacq and the motherfucking beanstalk.
Plant one seed today.
Love on January 1st and every day,