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How I Kicked Alcoholism

How I Kicked Alcoholism

My Dear Reader,

I am intentionally writing this article without referencing outside sources like A.A. or other “experts,” because I want it to be a letter from my heart directly to yours. This is how I recovered from alcoholism. If I can do it, anybody can. If even one other person is inspired by my story and achieves sobriety, I will have been repaid a hundredfold for my efforts.

Here’s a quick rundown of my story with alcoholism. I started drinking when I was 23, about a year into my first rotten marriage. I was a chronic insomniac of many years, and after trying every sleep remedy under the sun, I discovered that alcohol was the only thing that quieted my mind reliably enough to allow me to sleep.

A habit that started with one or two beers or a glass of wine a night quickly blossomed into four, five, six… at my peak, I could easily polish off most of a fifth of vodka every single night. Half of it put me to sleep, and the other half put me back to sleep after I “rebounded” halfway through the night. Toward the end of my drinking career, I kept a small bottle hidden away in my desk drawer at work as a “hair of the dog” hangover cure and to help me cope with the stress. I never missed a day of work, although there were times I probably should have. I never drank more than a glass of wine around others, and even though toward the last I definitely drove a few times when I shouldn’t have, fortunately, I never wrecked my car or got pulled over for a DUI. I was lucky.

I took my last drink on April 16th, 2011 and never looked back. I was 43. Here’s how I did it.

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1. I forgave myself.

Drinking is actually a fairly honorable thing to do. We all want to feel good, and if we’re suffering, we want to feel better. This is simply human nature; there’s nothing wrong with it.

2. I realized nobody else was going to do it for me.

Taking pills didn’t do it. Going to therapy didn’t do it. Going to A.A. didn’t do it. Having my significant others hide the booze didn’t do it. Asking my partners to support me by stopping their own drinking didn’t do it – after all, they didn’t have a problem with alcohol, so why should they quit just because I wanted to? No, I had to do it by myself.

3. I decided I wanted to quit drinking more than anything else in the world, and I would do whatever it took to stop.

I had to want to quit more than I wanted to sleep, more than I wanted to numb out from my stressful job, more than I wanted to be in my less-than-wonderful romantic relationship. I needed every ounce of desire I had to carry me through the tough times ahead.

4. *THIS IS HUGE*: I stopped adding “spin” to the topic of addiction.

If you’re familiar with Law of Attraction, you might have come across the plates-on-sticks analogy. Remember the juggling acts in which the juggler kept dinner plates spinning on the top ends of long sticks? The juggler had to keep wiggling the sticks to keep the plates spinning, and if he stopped, everything fell down.

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Spinning Plate

    Well, according to Law of Attraction, things – good or bad – show up in our lives because we’re wiggling the sticks that keep those plates spinning. If we stop wiggling the sticks, the plates may spin for a little while by themselves, but eventually they’ll lose momentum and fall down.

    How do we wiggle the stick of addiction? By thinking about it. Focusing energy on it. Making it a problem. Therapy wiggles the stick. Drugs like Antabuse wiggle the stick. Programs like A.A. wiggle the stick. Rehab programs wiggle the stick. Doctors wiggle the stick. Beating ourselves up wiggles the stick. Talking about it wiggles the stick. Here’s how I stopped wiggling the stick:

    5. I thought of my alcoholism as a food allergy.

    This took a lot of the “spin” off of the alcoholism plate for me. Some people have to avoid wheat or soy. I have to avoid alcohol. It’s really not that big a deal.

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    6. I used discipline to redirect my thoughts.

    The long, sleepless nights were the hardest part of my recovery, and when my eyes refused to close at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. it was really tempting to sneak into the kitchen and break open a bottle of my partner’s beer. Yeah, it was tough — REALLY tough! But I reminded myself that, no, I had already been down that road many times and I knew where it led. So I got up, made a cup of tea, and read a book to distract my thoughts until I felt sleepy, or until it was time to get up. Insomnia hadn’t killed me before, so I knew I’d be okay. Eventually, I learned to make peace with insomnia, and even to sleep normally again.

    7. I appreciated the freedom!

    No more hangovers. No more reeking, using a tongue scraper and brushing my teeth to try to hide my alcohol breath. No more worrying about stopping at the liquor store to replenish my stash, not to mention all of the money I was saving! No more sneaking around, drinking my partner’s alcohol and then replacing it before anyone noticed it was gone. What a relief!

    Epilogue:

    Now, three years later, I am celebrating my third year of sobriety. In the last three years, I suppose you could say my life turned upside-down and then came back together right-side-up. The lousy relationship I was in ended, and I fell in love with and married another non-drinker. I quit my stressful job and started my own business. And while I still have occasional bouts of insomnia, they feel more like “ho-hums” than big problems. Most nights, I sleep like a baby. And I’m happier, saner, more alert, and more alive than I’ve ever been before.

    I hope you find my story inspiring, and that you find the strength within you to kick your own habit. There are a lot of us who started out exactly where you are. We won, and so can you.

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    All my best to you,

    Catharine

    Featured photo credit: Collection of Glasses / Billy Wilson via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on January 24, 2021

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

    For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

    It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

    And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

    The Importance of Saying No

    When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

    Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

    When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

    From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

    We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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    At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

    The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

    How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

    Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

    But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

    3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

    If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

    2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

    When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

    Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

    3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

    6 Ways to Start Saying No

    Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

    One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

    2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

    3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

    Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

    Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

    You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

    4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

    Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

    Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

    5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

    When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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    How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

      Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

      Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

      6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

      If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

      Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

      Final Thoughts

      Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

      Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

      Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

      More Tips on How to Say No

      Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
      [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
      [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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