I think the world of alcohol should operate on a Bradley Cooper Scale. Kinda like The Beaufort Scale but for grog. On the one side you would have the calm breeze of Bradley Cooper (sober for 11 years, and also my man crush. Just saying…) and at the other end of the scale would be the gale force in the character he plays in A Star is Born, Jackson Maine. Who, erm, without giving too much away to those who haven’t seen it, hasn’t been sober for 11 years.
Jackson, from the outside to those looking in, has it all. A rock star with fame, fortune and influence. Except we all know that appearances can be deceptive and behind closed doors we see the super cool rockstar at his most vulnerable. Shockingly so. I’d imagine the reason Bradley Cooper smashes this one out of the park is BECAUSE he went through it himself. His performance is heart breakingly believable. He shows how easy it is to put on this public face that hides what is really going on inside. It’s what we all do isn’t it? No one thinks we’re *that* bad until we decide to stop. Unless of course, like Jackson, the public face we put on to hide our reality starts to fade. The mask starts to slip. Paul McCartney said it beautifully in Eleanor Rigby;
“Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?”
So. How is your mask? Is it starting to slip? Do you give the world the impression that all is well, when deep down, or not so deep down, you realise you are sliding precariously down The Bradley Cooper Scale, away from Bradley Cooper and further towards the tortured Jackson Maine? I often hear people say they won’t stop drinking because they don’t need to. But will you know when that moment arrives? How will that moment look? It may still look like you have everything from the outside but no one sees those 3am wake ups when your heart feels like it is trying to breach your body. To escape from your chest and bringing with it a crushing anxiety. You write off sleep, waiting to struggle through another day until it all starts again. So you think to yourself,
“This has to stop!”
But you’re scared. You’re scared of changing something you have always done. You’re scared of whether you will even be able to change. You’re scared of what people around you will say. You’re scared that your life will become so BORING! I get it. I was one of those people, but I’m here now to say that you don’t have to be scared about any of those things. The world is full of people changing their drinking, or stopping completely. The world is full of people realising that alcohol is just one big con. You don’t need to have a drink to celebrate. Or to enjoy the sunshine, or enjoy the fire, or to hang out with friends, to go on holiday, to sleep, to get courage or to relax after work. All of those things are great anyway, it’s just that booze gets the credit for them. So I’ll say it again. You have nothing to be scared of. There is advice everywhere on how to stop drinking, and stay stopped. Some of it will work, some of it will not. Because we are all different right? Here are a few things that have helped me get to 668 days sober. In no particular order, and by no means a comprehensive coverall. Merely a snapshot. A snippet of sobriety secrets:
Admit you have a problem.
This is quite a biggie. Because what follows on from that admission is the knowledge that to improve your life, something has to give. And I’m not talking “Am I homeless and drinking stolen vodka from a paper bag?” kind of problem. It is simply whether the cost of you drinking (spiritually here, more than financially) outweighs the benefit. Basically, if you have to ask yourself that question, whether you are drinking too much (for you, forget comparisons), then you probably already know the answer.
A want to change
I’m not talking about the wishy washy, waking up from a hangover kind of want to never drink again. This has to come from your soul. From the very depths of your being. It is something you have to feel in every cell of your body. Because if you don’t want to stop, then you won’t. It’s that simple. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink right?
Arm yourself with knowledge
A phrase I didn’t know existed until I got sober was ‘Quit-Lit’. Books about stopping drinking basically. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are some that are autobiographical, some that are science based, some that teach techniques and some that will make you laugh and cry in equal measures. The ones that I would recommend are Kick The Drink Easily by Jason Vale, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley, Alcohol Explained by William Porter and one that is collectively written by friends of mine from my Facebook group, How to be a Mindful Drinker. Which leads me to…
Join a sobriety Facebook group
I joined Club Soda on Facebook on my first day sober and I have been there ever since (I’m now an admin on there so if you do join, no funny business ok?…). There are of course many others. Community is vital in sobriety in my opinion. Because we are going against the grain of society it can feel very lonely, often like we are the only people in the world trying to stop drinking. Online groups are a fantastic place to share what we are going through with like minded people. They are a great place for tips and advice as well. Whatever you are feeling and whatever you are going through, there will be someone that has experienced the same. Join one. Now.
Get medical advice
If you have a physical dependence on alcohol then it can be very dangerous to stop cold turkey. In fact it can kill you. So it is always best to have a chat to your doctor first, regardless of whether you think you need to or not. They can allow you to come off the booze safely if they think you might need to. Again, don’t compare to others. What might not be a dangerous level for someone else might be a dangerous level to you. And don’t use the fact you need to contact a doctor first as an excuse not to stop. Because that’s lame. And you may need to rethink your ‘Do I want to do this’ stage…
Try alcohol free alternatives
These were a god send for me. They helped so much with cravings when I first stopped. And it is a massive market now so the choice is incredible. They also satisfied the habit for wanting a beer after work, or on a hot day, or at a pub or party when you don’t want shitty coke or warm orange juice. It can be quite a contentious issue in sober world though because I know AA are strictly against them. For some people they can be a bit of a trigger. For others not at all. As far as I’m concerned if they help you stay sober, and they don’t make you want the real thing, then I’m all for them.
This one is awesome. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar, so when you stop you may find you have an insatiable appetite for sweet things. And yeah, I know. Sugar isn’t healthy. Yeah, but neither is getting pissed every night. Tackle one problem at a time. When you crave, reaching for something sweet can stop it in its tracks. Even just a boiled sweet. When I stopped I often ate a litre of ice cream in one sitting (this didn’t last, for the record). I also didn’t think I liked cake, when it turns out I fucking love cake. Do not be surprised if you crave, and eat All The Sweet Things.
Join AA or Smart Meetings
I didn’t do this so can’t say much about them, but I know many people that swear by them. It’s the community thing again you see. Don’t write them off is all I will say.
One day at a time
Some people say straight off the bat, “I’m done. That’s me and drinking over with forever” (I was one of these). Others find that looking that far ahead can be, if not daunting then frankly terrifying. Whichever camp you sit in, it is always worth doing one day at a time. Just stay sober for that day. At the end of each day I would say out loud to myself, just before I closed my eyes, “Well done for staying sober mate”. I did this for over 200 days, because it was working for me. And the thought of not being able to say this to myself was horrible. So it helped keep me sober.
Do what works FOR YOU!
Obvious really. Some of this may help, some may not. Which is why, if it isn’t working then you need to switch it up a bit. And also why it is so important to arm yourself with as much knowledge about it as you can. If you can’t stop trying things one way, then try them another way, and another. Until you have a winning formula.
“If nothing changes, then nothing changes”
I know people who have done a dry month, and all they were doing was counting down the days until they could drink again. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you feel you are depriving yourself by not drinking then, sooner or later, you will fail. There is no deprivation. It’s all in the mind you see. Sobriety gives you clarity. It gives you peace. It gives you confidence, reduces anxiety and depression, improves you sleep (enormously!), reduces your risk of strokes, heart attacks, liver and kidney disease, various cancers and brain damage. There is not a single cell in your body that doesn’t detest alcohol. Oh and you save a shit tonne of money. The world wants you to think you need booze. You don’t.
Bradley Cooper doesn’t regret going sober. In fact he admits that since he stopped drinking he has done some of the best work of his life and that he has never been happier. And I have met hundreds of other people who don’t regret going sober either. On the contrary, they say (myself included) that it is the best thing they have ever done. So when all is said and done, and you’re thinking of stopping, just do it. Be more like all of those other people. Be more Bradley Cooper.
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