For drinkers, their partners, family and friends
You hear so much talked and written about drinking, but there are two areas that aren’t often explored, namely: understanding the strength of your desire for alcohol by testing it, and trying to imagine yourself leading a sober, or near-sober life.
These two things will tell you huge amounts about your own as yet unrealised feelings towards alcohol and sobriety (my drinking memoir outlines this in greater detail). Testing your own desire requires discipline and patience. Imagining your sober self is a bit more abstract.
If it’s a loved one of yours who is drinking excessively , try to persuade them to use the techniques outlined on this site as a way of enjoying and controlling their intake of alcohol rather than as (yet another) way of getting them to cut down or consider quitting. The sad reality is that many of those closest to dependent drinkers face a lifetime of rebuttals, their every approach becoming counter-productive over time. All that loved ones can hope for is a change of attitude in the drinker. After all, “you have to want it” is the mantra of recovery, and without it, there is almost no hope. So, what do you do if your drinker doesn’t want recovery? You are at a loss, almost by definition. Your solace has to be to look at ways you can help yourself, not them. If that’s you, and you are struggling to communicate with your dependent drinker, then this site offers you an alternative approach.
Notalcoholicbut.com promotes a counter-intuitive method for you to introduce to your drinker – it’s an approach that suggests better ways for them to enjoy alcohol – leading to real knowledge of what they want from it, followed by better control, and eventually an objectivity that will allow them to re-evaluate their habit, and maybe, just maybe, look for help themselves.
notalcoholicbut.com offers tools to help dependent drinkers connect with their desire for alcohol in a more positive way by helping them find real personal control over the various ways they use alcohol in all the circumstances they drink it. This is counter-intuitive because it is helping drinkers enjoy alcohol rather than help take it away from them. The way it encourages enjoyment is by offering control. And it’s this control that in time helps drinkers evaluate their relationship with alcohol dispassionately.
I would argue that ‘dispassionate evaluation’ is a better place to start your journey towards sobriety than forcing yourself, reluctantly to comply with a loved one’s pleas to slow down and/or quit.
So, you could say that this site isn’t about how to quit. It’s a whole step back from that. This site is all about helping you to evaluate your relationship with alcohol in order to improve it – not replace it. It’s important to start on a positive note, on a mission you actually want to engage in, rather than one you feel prejudiced against from the very start.
So, this site is really a pre-beginning. It’s not even a beginning. It’s about helping drinkers to the start line.
Imagining your sober (or near-sober) self
Picture the social-drinking version of you; the one who never gets drunk either on their own or in public; the one who never makes a scene, or wakes next day feeling shameful. Imagine you are viewing this version of you through a lens or on a screen. This is about the image of you, going about your business. The exercise is designed to help you gain perspective on your drinking. Focus on your actions. Perhaps you are imagining yourself meeting friends in a restaurant or going to the cinema. Or you are in the pub or bar, at Christmas with boozy family members, or on holiday in the evening.
By visualising a happy, controlled version of yourself, it will help you to believe in the concept of a happy, controlled you. This is important because as drinkers we tell ourselves that we could never be happy without lots of alcohol in our lives. Try to picture the version of you that is unbothered by alcohol; the version of you who shares a drink (one drink) with friends, but not to get drunk. The version of you whose life is not centred around alcohol.
Keep working on it…
Keep thinking about the sober, or near-sober, version of yourself over the next few days in order to build some strong, positive feelings towards the idea of being in control and happy without alcohol. Even if you don’t believe this is possible in reality, just imagine how it would look if it were. To help you, you can either re-run scenes from the past and imagine how they would look if you had been happy with merely one or two drinks – or none at all. Perhaps take as an example, an occasion when you had far too much to drink and things went wrong. Imagine the sober version of you, content with drinking coke, or perhaps one beer, and how the evening might have gone. Remember that this version of you is content with being sober, so don’t focus on how frustrated you might feel at not being able to drink! Or you can think of future scenes in a similar way – meeting friends, having a laugh and then driving on somewhere else – happy and in control. (my drinking memoir demonstrates this kind of thinking)
Controlling what you want from alcohol
This exercise is about appreciation of alcohol
I think if you ask yourself what you want from alcohol, it’s probably not to get hopelessly intoxicated – falling down, sick, forgetful, unconscious, even if that’s what ends up happening much of the time.
The reality is, you probably just don’t really know what you want from it, beyond the very vague notions of relaxing or switching off. As a result, when you drink, you just keep going and going without knowing when to stop. (there’s lots more on this in my drinking memoir)
So, this is the method: the next time you are about to have a drink, either on your own or in company, try and spend a few minutes before-hand thinking about what you want from the alcohol. Think of the actual feelings that the alcohol is going to stimulate when you drink it. Maybe it’s that you want to be disconnected from the awkwardness of sobriety; to float off, detached from reality. Maybe you want to untie your self-restraint, open up a bit, take a few risks. What is it about the alcohol that is allowing you to do this? Be aware of your lessening inhibition. Have a sense of how far you would like to take that – be honest with yourself. There are no rights or wrongs here. This is about you.
Then, when you take the first sip, think about how the alcohol is achieving the thing you want – is it any different to the way you imagined before you started? If possible, write down your thoughts.
Is it making you feel more relaxed? Are you switching off? Think about that. How is it working for you? Perhaps you have achieved something very difficult that day and you want to relax, congratulate yourself, reward yourself. As you drink alcohol, how is it helping you to detach yourself from the day? By forgetting it? Or distorting it? Do you find you want to hold onto some of your daytime sobriety in order to be fully aware of what you are doing? Are you getting mixed emotions coming in – like sadness, anger, remorse, frustration? As you get more intoxicated try to focus on whether you are happy with what the alcohol is doing for you – is it what you wanted it to do?
Try to be aware of the emotions and feelings you are experiencing and the ones you would like to be feeling. This is rather different from the more passive approach to alcohol where you drink without thinking what you want from it or without analysing afterwards what it has done for you. Try to be as aware as possible how the alcohol is making you act and feel. Is it pleasurable? Do you feel in control? Has your mood changed? Is it what you wanted from it?
How and why is this is going to bring benefit to you?
This type of analysis is empowering. That’s because it helps you to take control of the feelings that alcohol is inducing. Being aware of the sensations you get from each sip of booze and analysing whether they are welcome feelings helps you determine what you like and dislike about alcohol in the moment – unique to you. It helps establish a causal link between the substance being consumed, the emotions and sensations perceived, and the level of desirability of these sensations. This is the basis of control. It may lead to a reduction in consumption – but that will be a by-product of the process rather than an end in itself. This is important because if you don’t have a desire to cut down at the start then you won’t want to address your drinking at all.
Here is a check list of questions to help you:
- Think about what each drink promises to deliver. Then analyse how well it matches up to expectation.
- Ask yourself why your drunk state of mind is better than it was before drinking.
- Think about your sober state and why you want to leave it behind when you drink. Is it the sober state or the problems you want to leave behind?
- If you want to “switch off” and give yourself some “me time” how exactly is alcohol achieving this in the moment? Why is the feeling of intoxication good?
- Be aware of the emotions you want to feel when drinking and the ones you want to leave behind.
Try the above exercises as many times as you can over the next few drinking occasions. They will get you to a point where you have a better understanding of your relationship with alcohol. You will know its strengths and weaknesses; what you want from it, when it fails to deliver and when it does the trick. The understanding you derive from these 2 exercises will help you decide if you are happy with your current drinking, or not.
For loved ones, it’s fair to say that only you will know how to introduce the above method to your drinking partner, friend or relative, but I would suggest that a unique selling point of it is the fact you are not asking them to do anything more than to find a better way to enjoy alcohol, and that maybe they owe it to you to give it a go! (But I accept that life is rarely as simple and clear-cut as that!)
Inspiration and desire for sobriety are absolutely key in my view. I know that they can’t just be plucked from nowhere. And yet, I also know that they can materialise without a trace, and when they do, it’s a game-changer. I realise too that it won’t work for everyone. But what I can say is, if you embrace the concept of sobriety with warmth, then nurture the positivity you draw from it until you fall in love with the very idea of being sober, you can turn your life into a miracle – whatever your circumstances.
I strongly urge you to read my short memoir on this subject. It isn’t preachy or evangelical in tone. It’s honest and straight talking.
Here’s what a few independent reviewers have said about it.
“I thought this book was great because it made you examine why you drink and what value you are getting out of alcohol. I imagine it took courage to write and publish such an honest account of his relationship with alcohol. So thank you for going to the trouble Will!”
…and another review…
“The best book if you are worried about being an alcoholic”. There is a thin line between being an alcoholic & not. I think this book can help you decide which side you are on & steer you away from grabbing a drink when you really don,t need one and probably shouldn’t have one! Ching ching. Nigel.”
…and another review…
“Witty, informative and thought-provoking. Thoroughly recommend this even if you don’t think you have a drink problem, immensely readable but helpful at the same time.”
…and another review…
“I found this book to be written from the heart and to be an honest and open account of a rocky relationship with alcohol. I took a lot from it.”
…and another review…
“It described everything I was and that I am not alone in recognising the power alcohol can have. Great book”
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