Hands Up Sober Warriors
When you’re trying to stop drinking, you’re often faced with something of a contradiction: at the very time when you need to be bigging yourself up, bursting with self-belief, you are actually on the floor, full of self-loathing and regarding yourself to be nothing more than useless.
I know this to be true because seven years ago, I had zero confidence in my ability to be successful in any way, shape or form. On numerous occasions, I even struggled with the basic stuff like asking for my fare when getting on a bus, or chatting with a fellow parent at the school gates for five minutes. When I very first quit drinking, I barely left the house for well over a week other than to do the essentials like buying the shopping or walking my daughter to school.
But as I’ve spent more time not drinking alcohol, my confidence has blossomed massively (no surprise there!) and I now have no problem whatsoever facing challenges of any sort – even appearing on live TV or speaking at conferences in front of hundreds of people.
In part, this transformation has stemmed from the simple act of just not touching booze – alcohol disrupts our central nervous system, which is the reason why we feel twitchy and lacking in self-belief a lot of the time when we drink, especially on the mornings after a big session. But equally important in this change occurring is the fact that I started to tell myself I could do whatever I wanted. I started to perceive myself as a warrior.
When we drink too much and do stupid things, embarrass ourselves and wake up feeling ashamed because of something we have done when drunk, we are at the opposite end of the spectrum of bravery. Our inner critic goes onto overdrive and we are regularly overwhelmed with notions of inferiority and self-hatred.
But afterwards, when we are sober, it becomes possible to be a little kinder towards ourselves, to tell ourselves that we are actually not that bad – hey, maybe we are even good people! When you can tell yourself (and truly believe the words) that you are a warrior, and that whatever life throws at you, you will be able to deal with it, you begin to build the foundations of courage and mental strength. The process of quitting drinking does this all by itself because it is a HUGE thing to do – and don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy and everyday: it isn’t and it’s not.
Once you know that you can navigate your way through the triggers, the regrets, the shame, the feelings of nothingness, the self-destruction and the pain, and walk away from the battleground with your head held high, a sober warrior, then you know that you can cope with whatever life throws your way. In a sense, becoming dependent upon alcohol and then beating it is one of the best things that can happen to you long term – because it builds you up from the inside out, allows you to appreciate the little things that you previously always took for granted, makes you value yourself and, most of all, it helps you to perceive yourself as tough and ready to take on the world.
And that gift is priceless.