It’s funny that we see alcohol as both a magic elixir and a poison. First we think that drinking is the solution to our problems. Whatever ills us, we turn to a drink to fix it. Not too long afterwards we start to blame the alcohol for all of our problems and think that giving up drinking will now solve all of our problems. So what is the truth? What should I expect when I give up drinking?
Some things will get better
You’ll see some improvements when you stop drinking. Those that are lucky will see those improvements immediately. You might notice you have more energy, you’re sleeping better or your appetite has improved. Your skin might look better, you could be losing weight, and just overall feel happier. These are all really great things and by all means – celebrate them!
It won’t all happen overnight
The flip side is that everything may not change overnight. In fact – you might feel worse before you feel better. Withdrawals can suck. You could also expect to deal with fatigue, an upset stomach, anxiety and a host of other symptoms. That, unfortunately, is normal too. I will say – it’s worth sticking with it. No one wants to go through withdrawals multiple times, so you may as well tough it out. Stock up on water, nourish yourself, and give yourself permission to lay on the couch all weekend and do nothing if that is what you need. While it doesn’t feel good, your body is, in fact, pouring its energy into healing itself.
Some things won’t get better
Giving up alcohol is not a genie in a bottle. It can’t make everything better. In fact, there are going to be certain things that you’ll find harder to deal with initially. Emotions can be a huge stumbling block. We’ve conditioned ourselves to use alcohol as a numbing agent whenever unpleasant things or emotions happen, so navigating those without alcohol and feeling our feelings can be a doozy! Social gatherings, dating and even work functions might be awkward at first because we aren’t used to doing these things unaltered. Remember that everything feels awkward initially and with time and experience, it does get easier.
It will take work
So you stopped drinking. That really truly is great. It’s not enough though. Now – the work comes in. I can’t tell you how much work that will entail or how long it will take. Think of yourself as a project car. You need to strip it all the way down and rebuild it piece by piece. You’ll be working on repairing yourself – mentally and physically. Repairing relationships, finances, careers, and perhaps legal matters. Expect the unexpected to come up as you’re doing the work and remember that a drink won’t “fix” any of it.
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Comparison is the thief of joy
The absolute worst thing you can expect when you give up drinking is that your story will be the same as someone else’s. You are not living their life. What you feel, think, experience and believe is unique to you. So your path to an alcohol free life won’t look or feel like my story, your best friend’s or anyone else’s. That doesn’t make it wrong. It makes it different and it makes it yours. Be proud – even if your story isn’t all sunshine in rainbows. In fact – be honest and let others know – hey, this sucked sometimes, but I persevered. Alcohol Free.