3 Things I Learned When I Finally Stopped Drinking Too Much

I usually opened a bottle of wine because I was feeling stressed and wanted a quick way to relax.


Often it was a grueling day maneuvering between hurt/angry divorce parties and particularly zealous attorneys.


Just as likely it was my personal life. My hormonal teen kids challenging me or squabbling with each other. My elderly mother wanting more attention. My new husband telling me I’m doing it wrong.


I used to think if I could stop at half a glass, or even one glass, then I’d be at the perfect place.


I’d get the benefit of how alcohol calms me down as it eases into my bloodstream, without the negative consequences of drinking too much.


The problem was I never stopped at one. After drinking the first, all I could think was more alcohol meant more numbed out bliss and I no longer cared what came later:

·        Dehydrated, tired and groggy the next day.

·        Feeling like I failed as a mom and wife by not being meaningfully present the night before.

·        Ashamed that no matter how many times I said I wouldn’t, it was the same, night after night.


When I finally made changes, they were gradual. Slowly, when I drank, I had less. Feeling better physically, I began putting more time in between nights I drank. Over time, I shifted from intellectually knowing I was better off not drinking much, to experiencing it on a subconscious level.


Yes, I worked with a coach who specializes in overdrinking. I was surprised how quickly things changed.


In hindsight, and having coached clients to stop overdrinking since then, I learned three things:


1. Feeling bad because of what’s going on in our head is unavoidable.


Looking back, it was me telling myself I was failing as a parent and messing up my kids. It was me turning over in my mind that I was messing up this marriage too, and would be alone, a cat lady allergic to cats. It was my brain going to the place of being destitute if numbers in my business were down that week.


Each of these thoughts caused me to reach for the bottle.


Everyone has scary thoughts pop into their head.


2. Drinking too much delays and then multiplies the negative thinking.

Alcohol drowns out background noise in our head, temporarily. Thoughts about being a bad parent, messing up, being rejected and abandoned didn’t go away. They were only suppressed when I was drinking. And when the alcohol wore off, I had new thoughts about messing up and not being good enough, only this time they were about drinking.


In this way, beating myself up about drinking too much overshadowed fears and shame about my relationships, behavior and ability.


3. Allowing yourself to feel bad sober feels better than trying to avoid feeling bad with drinking.


Ah, this is a hard sell. It sounds good. But in reality, we don’t believe it until we’ve experienced it multiple times. Fortunately, it happens around the same time you’re feeling better physically from drinking less.


Something clicks. We start to get it. Momentum builds and we want to go further.


I believe this is why most clients, myself included, start off wanting to cut back to one or two drinks a couple of times per week and end up deciding they would really rather not drink much or often at all.

Julie Ernst