Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Sobriety Can be Easy
Right off the bat, eyebrows furl, teeth grit, and minds begin to spin at the preposterous nature of such a statement. But why? Why is this statement met with such disdain, contempt, and backlash? If I said, "Doing an Olympic distance triathlon can be easy" would it be met with a similar objection? Probably not and with valid reasoning. The word "can" is the operative word. I am not saying it is, but I am saying, it can be. If I properly train for a triathlon and show up on the day of the event well prepared, the triathlon can be easy. I should know, I have done it. If swimming a mile, riding a bicycle 26 miles followed by running 6 miles can be easy, why can't anything else we set our minds to as well? The truth is, it can be. If you believe it to be possible and you take the proper steps to prepare, almost anything can be easy.
Why then the push back? I believe there is a lot behind why this statement is received so poorly in the sober community. There is a longstanding belief touted by the most known of programs that once you're an addict, you're always an addict; otherwise known as the disease theory. There are beliefs surrounding the idea that alcoholism is a disease, and it is a disease that can never be cured. This theory leads a person to believe they will always struggle with their addiction and therefore they need to stay involved with certain programs and follow specific rules to help them stay free from their affliction or they will die. Yes, I have heard those words used to describe what will happen to a person who does not follow the rules associated with "their" version of alcoholism. There is nothing easy about that way of thinking.
There are also stories upon stories told by authentic people who struggled through years and years of sobriety. Follow a sobriety group online, watch television shows, movies, and or read literature about paths to recovery. The overwhelming majority of stories we hear about sobriety in real life or in fiction are stories of struggle, pain, and discontent. If this is the only model we have to choose from, how is it possible for someone to experience anything other than the same excruciating experience we continue to hear about? It's pretty unlikely. Again, I never intend to dismiss the struggles people have already experienced in their sober journeys. They are real and those who have persevered in spite of those struggles are truly remarkable and deserve a tremendous amount of respect. It is my intent to suggest there are other ways to embark on a sober path. It does not have to be so difficult. It can, in fact, be quite easy. If, you believe it.
Detach from the rhetoric
The first and foremost most important aspect of core belief one is the willingness and desire to detach yourself from the common rhetoric associated with alcoholism and sobriety. Let it go. Forget about what you have heard, read, and seen. This is your story, your journey, and you are the only person who can dictate the experience you are going to have. Yes, I know this can be easier said than done, but it is truly the most beneficial thing you can do for your sobriety. I suggest actively seeking out stories of positive experiences about sobriety. They are out there, though they are much harder to find. If you here a story that feels negative or makes you want to run away from the idea, disregard it and keep looking for the stories that make you say, "I want to do that." Keep your eyes and ears open for people around you who may have already gone through what you are going through. There may be someone out there who has experienced easier sobriety too. Interestingly, there are people, like my wife, who found sobriety to be so easy they don't even talk about it anymore. They have simply moved on and away from the society of alcohol altogether. They are more than willing to pass along their insight and experience if ask, but you will have to find them, they will not be out looking for you.
Start looking for new circles of friends. Believe it or not, there are people out there who do not rely on alcohol to have a good time, and guess what? They surround themselves with like-minded people too. There are groups of people who do not drink or drink very little who go through life having a great time, doing amazing things, and sharing their experiences as well. The best thing about these people is they do not incessantly talk about drinking, looking forward to drinking, and when and where they are going to get their next drink. They talk about other things, and the other things people who don't drink talk about are actually quite interesting and fun, not to mention a great distraction for the early stages of sobriety. The point is, remove yourself as much as you can from the common discourse about drinking, struggling not to drink, and anything negative about the journey you are embarking on.
Use Positive Self-Talk
Once you have removed the negativity associated with much of the alcoholic rhetoric, it is time to begin learning how to talk about yourself in a more positive way. This can be very difficult for addicts because it is part of the reason we started using in the first place. We did not like who we were, what we did, or how we behaved. We have to begin seeing ourselves differently and therefore talking about ourselves differently. Here is the thing. You do not even have to believe it, at first. Just start talking to and about yourself with positive language, especially in regard to your sobriety. Look for and acknowledge when you say things like, "I can't..." "I am not good enough." "I always mess things up." "I always do the wrong thing." All of these statements are negative self-talk and do you more harm than good. Do not beat yourself up for using them, they have been your coping mechanism for years. Instead, acknowledge them and immediately change them into more positive statements. "I can..." "I am good enough." "I learn from my mistakes." "I know how to do the right thing." These positive statements about yourself have an enormous power even if you do not believe them at first. The same is true for your sobriety.
If you begin your sobriety with this belief, "Sobriety is going to suck." I promise you it will. Unfortunately, statements like this are more abundant than positive statements about sobriety. You have to learn how to tune them out and listen for the more positive ones. You can start by making your own. "Sobriety is going to be amazing." "I love living with a clear mind." "I look forward to sober mornings." "I am more productive sober." "Sober life is amazing." It may sound corny at first, but guess what? You will be saying these things in sobriety anyway, so you might as well get used to it now. Like I said, even if you do not believe these statements, your mind will listen to you. It's the repetition, like weight lifting. The more you say them, the more your mind will begin to adopt them as true. In time, they will turn from statements of hope to statements of fact. It is at this time when your sobriety shifts from something you feel like you have to do to something you get to do. You will celebrate it, not mourn it. You will feel as if your sobriety is easy.
The most important aspect of easy sobriety is simply the belief that it is possible. Nobody approaches a difficult task or event with negative feelings and experiences an easy time with it. Think about the triathlon. Let's say you prepared mentally and physically for the event. If you begin the event believing you may not finish, or that every step of the way is going to be painful, it most likely will be. Your mind listens to you and does the best it can to give you what you want. The more you talk a certain way about something, the more likely what you are talking about will come true. Start experimenting with it, you might be surprised. Try walking through a day telling yourself you are truly happy and you love the day and your life. If you even remotely believe it to be true, it will be hard to have a bad day. Why don't we do this every day if it is so easy? Life is full of distractions. Life gets in the way. Nevertheless, that is part of the process. We have to learn to shift our beliefs in ways that support us and what we want. It can take a little time or it can occur immediately. It is ultimately up to us how quickly our minds and core beliefs shift to a more positive outlook. We just have to believe.
Focus your mind and attention on what you want, not what you do not want. This is the entire philosophy of core beliefs. If I continually tell myself I am a screw-up, my mind will automatically focus all it's attention on finding evidence to support that belief, whether or not it is true. My mind will disregard all the good things I do because those things do not support the belief that I am a screw-up. It's a horribly tragic cycle. Nevertheless, there is a silver lining. If our minds are powerful enough to support negative core beliefs to such an extreme level, they are powerful enough to support positive core beliefs to equally extreme levels as well. What do you want in your sobriety? Write down in detail what you want out of sobriety. Write about as if it has already occurred. Do not say I want ... Say, I am ... Put your writing somewhere where you will remember to read it often. Talk through your wants and desires on your way to work, in the shower, while working out, and or any time you have a few extra minutes to yourself. Say it as if it is already true and your mind will begin to believe you.
Here is an example of a sober mantra but come up with your own, it has to be something personal to you, something you can believe.
I do not drink. I am strong and in control of my life. I love being present in my life. I love going to bed sober and waking up feeling refreshed. I am proud of who I am. I live life well and with intention. I am the best version of myself. I am a great man/woman. Sobriety is easy. Living alcohol-free is the best thing I have ever done. I am who I always knew I could be.
Now, go believe those things to be true and begin living your life on your terms.