The 5 stages of quitting alcohol

No interventions necessary

The 5 stages of quitting alcohol

Words: Nash Mariah | Illustration: Lapin Blanc 

It would usually begin around Thursday, or maybe even Wednesday. I'd feel great. I'd go out. Drink a lot. Have fun (I think?). Feel bad the next day. Convince myself it didn't matter. Stay in on Friday night. Wake up early. Go to brunch. Go to a club. The club would close. Why am I doing this again? I'd try to sleep but couldn't. When I eventually did fall asleep I'd keep waking up feeling anxious. I was depressed so I'd order food and just like that the weekend was over. 

Monday I'd avoid interacting with anyone at work. Thank goodness for headphones. Tuesday wasn't much better. I'd try to laugh at someone's joke but it felt fake and just made me hate myself even more. I'd start feeling normal (whatever that is) about halfway through the week. Then I'd do it all over again. 

This same cycle had been going on for years, and over time started to feel like I was chasing something I'd never quite reach. I was nearing 30, my anxiety was at an all time high, I was uncomfortable in my own skin and unhappy with everything going on around me. And then one day I was hit by something completely unexpected – clarity. Suddenly I saw my life for what it was. Recognised the routine. The highs and the lows and the impact this was having on my health, my career and my relationships. I saw the person I was becoming and the person I was moving further away from. It was like a switch flipped in my head and I decided right there and then that that was it. I was done. For real this time. And this is what happened next. 

The Shock

When you first quit drinking it's like learning to walk again. You realise that so many aspects of your life, from social events, to office parties, birthdays and even dinners with friends all revolve around alcohol. In the first few weeks I found that my mere presence outside of the office was met with surprise and sometimes even grave concern. It amazed me to discover how difficult it was for people to comprehend that I could still have a social life – and it started to make me question whether they were right and if I should really be in these environments anymore.

The Overhaul

Once you remove one toxic element of your life, you start to question everything. Suddenly all your choices need to be healthier ones. For me, no alcohol meant I could either drink sodas or water when I was out, but what's the point of replacing one unhealthy choice with another? So water it was. But wait, there's unhealthy ingredients in more than just what I was drinking. My whole diet needed to change. Sure, diet's important, but what about exercise? Okay, but what type of exercise is really good for you? And what type of diet is the best one? Thanks to my obsessive nature, mixed with a sudden influx of free time and the wonder of YouTube, I became consumed with discovering what the "perfect healthy life" was, and for a while the changes I began implementing had great results.

The High

100 days into being sober and I was waking up earlier and getting more done. My skin looked great, and my anxiety and depression didn't feel as overwhelming. Me not drinking became less shocking to people. I went out, but my stamina wasn't as good as it used to be. A small price to pay. My friends constantly complimented me. I loved it. I was happy, I was energised, I had changed almost every aspect of my life, but I was yoyo-ing from one "healthy" regime to the next, and was completely unaware that I was heading for a rude awakening.

The Low

When you stop drinking you lose the ability to escape. Escape from a shitty day, a shitty feeling, or a shitty environment. You're left to deal with your emotions – as they are. After cutting it out I tried to distract myself again with finding the answer to what a healthy life was really about, but after a while there was nowhere left to run, and what I was left with, was me. Now, for the first time I had no other choice but to face my problems head on and it was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to go through. My body, which had been thriving, was suddenly falling to pieces and I was struggling to hold myself together. I had quit alcohol, changed my diet, started exercising, started meditating, stopped going out and had reached the point where I finally realised that the problem wasn't even alcohol to begin with, the problem was my anxiety.

The New Routine

Reaching this point would probably be where a lot of people would lose hope, but being able to hit rock bottom allowed me to identify the root cause of the problem, and to finally begin moving forward. Realising that my anxiety wasn't caused by alcohol (although alcohol was definitely not helping either) allowed me to see that no matter what distraction I created in its place, it was never going to solve my anxiety – for that, in my case, medication was the answer.

Now I'm not saying that I'm completely cured and that my life is amazing and everything is perfect, but going through this allowed me to put things in perspective. Using that perspective I was able to create a new routine, which is made up of getting help when I need it, of not being afraid to admit that everything isn't perfect, and finding comfort in people who've been through or are going through the same thing as I am. When you start doing this it becomes a lot easier to identify how you're feeling, why you're feeling a certain way, and what you need to do to feel happy again. 

Or for the first time ever.

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