How I quit drinking after trying for years. How CBD oil, along with four other tricks, helped sobriety to finally stick. I hope this article motivates you to take some steps toward sobriety or changing your drinking habits if you feel called to do so.
The Goddess/Universe/Almighty Kitty Cat In The Sky must have really had a chuckle (meow-ckle?) when she made me: A woman with a deep, intense love for performing who harbors an introverted personality and moderate social anxiety.
Yes, I am an introvert with social anxiety who sings in public for a living. You couldn’t get more of an opposing job to fit my personality.
With the help of my Frenemy, alcohol, I quickly found the shortcut to being more relaxed and outgoing in social situations.
I built a well-woven neural network, a.k.a a habit, of managing my social anxiety with alcohol. It morphed from a mild to moderate drinking problem with a high potential of becoming a severe one.
Since I didn’t practice much socializing sober, I became really shitty at it and depended on alcohol even more.
When I would try to quit, I’d do it for two weeks and white-knuckle my way through every…single….moment. At gigs, or social situations, I constantly craved it and felt like I was “missing out” on all the fun, or not able to fully calm down and enjoy myself.
I have since learned a few tricks that have helped me to not only stop drinking, but to not desire it anymore.
Here’s what helped me:
I finally connected to a strong, emotional reason to quit
I found out why I was drinking
I found healthy replacements
I found the beliefs that were making me fail and I reframed them
I found that all of these have to be in place for this to work. I couldn’t have healthy alternatives, without connecting to a deep, emotional reason to quit. I couldn’t desire to quit without reframing my thoughts around drinking. This is why I failed so many times before.
So, let’s dive a little deeper into each one, shall we?
Side Note: Please don’t think I have all the answers. I am not a healthcare professional. I only hope my journey will inspire you to take a step toward sobriety. I hope to give you a few tricks that could help alongside care and help from professionals or AA.
I finally had a strong, emotionally-driven reason to quit
First and foremost, when you’re making any big change in your life, there has to be a deep, emotional drive for it to happen.
We make every single decision based on emotions. Even the ones that seem logical, if you look deep enough, are based on an emotion. We all desire to avoid pain or seek pleasure in some way.
When I wanted to quit drinking, the deep desire was never really there. My desire to “have fun” or alleviate anxiety was stronger than a desire to quit. I wanted it logically, but never emotionally.
Like a good ‘recovering Catholic’, fear really motivates me. I was motivated to quit drinking based out of a strong fear to avoid pain.
I was having stomach pains and I went to the doctor. She was going to put me on a heavy dose of ant-acids that would have neutralized my stomach acids. I was afraid of the side effects from these pills. I was also terrified that the pains could be something much worse than high stomach acid.
This motivated me to stop drinking for a bit to see if it would alleviate the pain. If all else failed, I would take the ant-acids, but it worked! My stomach pains went away when I stopped drinking.
I ended up finding so many benefits to sobriety that I have stuck with it ever since. My motivation to stay sober is now based on a strong, emotional desire to keep reaping these benefits.
I never realized how much energy it took to manage my drinking problem. When I got it under control, I had so much more mental space. I could use this for furthering my career, being more present with friends and family and so much more.
Find your deep, emotional reason you want to quit and really let it drive you: a fear of becoming an alcoholic, of wasting your life and never living up to your full potential, etc…
It could also be a positive driving emotion: a deep desire for a healthier body, a more productive life, etc….
Logic alone will not cut it. Whatever it may be, it can’t be a half-assed emotion. It has to really tug at your core.
I discovered the reasons I was drinking
My drinking had become an automatic, knee jerk reaction. It was my solution anytime I was nervous in public, anxious about performing or wanting to have fun on the weekend.
When we develop habits like this, it can be hard to know what drives them. There isn’t a lot of time to stop and assess your motivations, you just follow that well-woven neural pathway and don’t ask any questions.
It seems so simple that you should take a look at the reason you’re drinking, but it can be too overwhelming for the conscious mind at times. We end up pushing it into the subconscious.
I spent time journaling and meditating. I also worked on creating space when a craving popped up by focusing on my breath. I took this time to reflect on what emotions were pushing me to drink.
This sucked and was not easy. When I was finally able to do it, I discovered the emotions that were motivating me to drink:
The biggest reason was to alleviate social anxiety
To numb myself from the pain of past traumas
To alleviate self-doubt and feel more confident in social situations
To not feel like I was missing out on all the “fun”
To alleviate boredom
To mask feelings of stagnation and restlessness in my life and career
Take some time, whether with a therapist, a journal or a close friend to really sit and think about what motivates you to drink. If you don’t know what hole you’re filling with alcohol, you can’t find healthier ways to fill it.
The next time you’re craving a drink, count to ten. Focus on your breath. Create a little space between yourself and the habit. Take a look at what’s motivating you. Feel where the emotions are in your body. Do you have a tight chest, clammy hands, racing thoughts? Take a peek behind the curtains. See who or what is in the driver’s seat.
I framed it in my mind as ‘replacing’ instead of ‘quitting’
Since the neural-network to drink is already well embedded, instead of using all of my energy to battle against it, I went through the motions of drinking without actually drinking. Willpower will only take you so far, and the more tired you are, the less willpower you have.
I found I needed two things to trick my mind into thinking I was drinking: a relaxed, mellowed-out feeling and the fizzy, fun mouthfeel of a beer or cocktail.
For the relaxed, mellowed-out feeling I took a high dose of CBD oil. For the fizzy sensation of beer, I drank soda water with cranberry juice and a lime.
I started at 10mg. I kept upping the dose until I found the sweet-spot at 30-50mg. I found that this dose of high-quality CBD oil alleviated my social anxiety, and therefore my main motivation for drinking. Find a dose that works for you.
A high quality, well-tested brand that I love and use is Green Roads. Here is my affiliate link if you’d like to support my blog. This stuff is the real deal. I started with the 550mg bottle and now buy the 1500mg bottle so that I don’t have to buy it as often.
I also have an anti-anxiety pill that my doctor prescribed for me. I use this pill for more extreme anxiety attacks like when I’m flying (I’m a very nervous flyer). I don’t like the side effects of this pill, so I use it sparingly. Talk with your doctor and see what they say.
Other ways I manage my anxiety: spending time with friends, 45 minutes of exercise 3 days a week, meditation, journaling and yoga (but not the BS yoga that only focuses on getting a six pack). Find a teacher that takes you deeper than that. Here’s an article to give you an idea of what yoga is really about.
I also found healthy alternatives for the other reasons I listed for drinking. This is a work in progress, but here’s what I found so far:
To numb myself from past traumas - Still working through some of this. I journal, talk to friends and take CBD. I should probably see a therapist, but I need to find one that I feel comfortable with. This is a work in progress
To alleviate self-doubt and feel more confident in social situations - Again, the CBD helps. Sometimes take an anti-anxiety pill (from my doctor) when my CBD runs out. I also remind myself how we’re all going to die and my self-doubt really is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
To not feel like I was missing out on all the “fun” - After going sober for a few times, I learned that I could have more fun being sober. I could also enjoy my mornings more since I wasn’t hung over the next day.
To alleviate boredom: I scheduled in time for things I enjoyed. I went to pole class and yoga more. I tried to see my friends more. I discovered a deep love for adult board games (Pandemic, anyone?)
To alleviate feelings of stagnation and restlessness in my life and career: I invested in my career by buying an e-course that I had been wanting for a while. It gave me steps to take to get my blogging career out of the rut. It helped me to focus. I made a content calendar and stuck to it. I stopped worrying, and started creating.
On another side note, don’t try to quit or change anything else in your life when you quit drinking. Don’t start an exercise plan, go on a diet, or any other radical change. One major change at a time is enough.
I found the beliefs that were making me fail, and I reframed them
In the book, The subtle art of not giving a fuck, the author Mark Manson says that every shitty decision in our life is based on a shitty belief.
I took a good, hard look at the beliefs that were holding me back from quitting alcohol and I reframed them:
I’m too weak, I always fuck up - people fuck up all the time. The path to success is paved with fuck-ups.
I don’t really have that bad of a problem - Since I feel like I ‘need’ alcohol in certain situations, I have a problem
There are some benefits to drinking - The negatives vastly outweigh the positives for me. It makes my depression severe and hard to manage.
Drinking is fun and I’ll be missing out - I can have just as much fun being sober and I’m only missing out on the hangover.
I also started focusing on the positives of sobriety. The longer I stayed sober, the more benefits I saw, which in turn made me more motivated to not drink:
freed up mental energy that was once used for managing my drinking problem
waking up without guilt over what I might have done the night before
more manageable depression and anxiety.
having energy on the weekend mornings to try new things
not being as bloated
a lower risk of certain cancers
To sum it all up
I hope some of these tips help you on your path to sobriety. I found that for sobriety to work I had to have all of the pillars in place: A strong, emotional reason to quit, knowing why I was drinking, finding healthy replacements, and reframing my beliefs and thoughts about drinking.
I finally found out that I was drinking mainly to manage my anxiety. Once I found a solution to managing that, along with putting the other pillars into place, I was able to make sobriety stick.
Please leave me your stories below. I’d love to hear about your journey.