This morning, while chatting with one of my clients, she asked, “How do I cope with the guilt of setting myself up for failure by not following through with a set goal?”. I believe she was actually experiencing shame, not guilt. (My homegirl, Brene Brown has made a career out of identifying the difference between the two feelings). The goal my client was referring to was her participation in an online accountability group I started this month called #soberinjune. A few days into June, my client realized she was not in a place where she can take on this challenge.
I answered her question by asking a few of my own: “What’s your Why? Why did you initially decide to be sober for a month, and why did you change your mind?” This “ask why” advice can actually be applied to most aspects of goal setting.
For example, instead of saying “I want to run a marathon”, dig deep into your intentions and figure out why you want to
do something so crazy run 26.2 miles. Maybe you’d answer …“I want to run a full marathon because it will require me to practice determination, consistency, and I’ll look sexy AF from all of the training”. Staying in close relationship with your Why will keep you motivated and more likely to remain on track.
On November 30th, 2015, I finally found my “Why” to quit drinking. I was sick of hangovers. I was done missing morning workouts because my head felt like it was going to explode. I was tired of trying to figure out what the hell I did the night before by using drunk texts, scattered bruises, and random receipts as my puzzle pieces.
As I dive deeper into my sobriety, my Why has expanded to a list of several reasons. I’m enjoying healthy friendships and relationships that are not based on partying. I’m committed to this blog. My sobriety is how I’m able to be of service to others. I enjoy remembering conversations, song lyrics, and random trivia. Money formerly spent on whiskey can now go towards new shoes or Broadway shows.
There are countless times in my life when I’ve “tried on” sobriety and it just didn’t fit. It never fit because I had no idea why I wanted it to. Sobriety was like a dress I tried to convince myself I liked because it looked great on a mannequin: After trying it on, I realized it looked horrible on me, so I’d avoid trying on clothes until I felt better about myself. I’d tell myself that I’d go a week, two weeks, even a month without drinking. Sometimes I’d stick to it; sometimes I wouldn’t.
I thought sobriety was for old people who lost their families, houses, and jobs because they couldn’t balance fun and responsibility. I was soooo different from them. I worked out, juggled multiple jobs, taught fitness classes, and helped care for my aging grandmothers. There’s no way I could have a drinking problem when I’m a high functioning person, right?!?! I told myself what I had to in order to justify my drinks.
I deserve to be able to drink like this; I work so hard! I can quit drinking anytime – I just don’t want to right now. I’ve finally learned how to have “just one” drink. A double Jack Daniels on the rocks counts as one drink, right? I haven’t lost anything from drinking, so I’m fine.
I actually had lost quite a bit, I just couldn’t see it until I finally put the bottle down. I’d lost years of my life, tens of thousands of dollars, friendships, boyfriends, opportunities, memories, and self-esteem.
What was missing from my “trial runs” at sobriety was accountability. I didn’t tell anyone when I was trying to avoid alcohol because subconsciously I still wanted them to invite me to bars so I could drink again. I didn’t want to be held accountable. I wanted to dance on tables and smoke cigarettes and flirt with bad boys and buy rounds of Jagerbombs and call people a “pussy” for not taking their shot but secretly being happy because that meant that I could take their shot for them.
Looking back, those “trial runs” at sobriety are red flags to me. My body knew I needed to quit drinking, it just took my brain awhile to realize it, too. I firmly believe that the main reason sobriety stuck this time around is accountability. I told the people I saw daily that I was going to give up alcohol for a week. I asked them not to invite me to any bars. That one week turned into two. Those two weeks turned into a month. I’m happy to say that six months in, I know I’ll never drink again. Oh, and if you’re worried that your friends won’t like you if you quit drinking with them, they’re not your friends, dude! The people who helped me out in the beginning are still some of the strongest supporters in my corner.
If I never asked my friends for help, I’d be stuck in that fitting room … trying on the same damn dress. Wondering Why it just doesn’t fit.