Quitting Alcohol: Why Success Breeds Failure
Whether you’ve already quit drinking or are thinking about quitting alcohol, you should be aware of a common obstacle to success caused, strangely enough, by success itself. I want to share with you how success breeds failure — if you’re not prepared for it.
The story of one of the members on my private Facebook page is not an uncommon one: After nine months sober, Mike was amazed at how his life had gotten exponentially better. He had regained his health, his relationships were improving, and he was enjoying his success.
Then one day, he had a seemingly innocent thought. “Just one drink won’t hurt.” And just like that, he threw away nine months of sobriety and within weeks he was drinking as much as he had been before he quit in the first place. He was devastated — but he was also genuinely confused. He hadn’t been having cravings.
He hadn’t been using willpower to fight the urge to drink. Since taking my online course, quitting had actually been easy. He had been successful. So what happened?
Quitting Had Been Easy
By the time you realize you need to quit drinking, you have likely developed a routine.
Your day starts with feelings of guilt and shame at having drunk the night before, so with head pounding, reeking of regret, you resolve not to drink again that night. But by late afternoon you inexplicably have a drink in your hand. And next thing you know it’s morning again and you realize the bad dream doesn’t go away when you open your eyes because you are in a horrible cycle of guilt, regret, and repetition.
And the pain of it all is horrible.
When you first quit drinking, that pain is very fresh, raw, and real. You’re acutely aware of not only the damage you are doing to yourself but to those around you. Your own guilt is compounded by the awareness that your drinking doesn’t just affect you, but everyone you love and everyone who loves you.
Just seeing the look of disappointment in their eyes cuts you deep.
The Pleasure/Pain Balance
That’s actually when it’s easiest to make a change. The driving behavioral force behind making change is a desire to increase pleasure and decrease pain. By the time you are finally ready to quit drinking, the amount of pain involved in staying where you are is unbearable and the pleasure being promised from being freed from the cycle is immense.
And when the pain is fresh — it seems so obvious!
In the beginning, you have the advantage of discovering very quickly how much better your life is without alcohol as well as a fresh memory of the harm you were doing to yourself and others. So, it seems easy. And you feel certain you won’t ever want to drink again.
As time passes, you put enough distance between you and the acute pain and your memory starts to play tricks on you. You can no longer quite remember how miserable you were.
You will begin to recall with fondness so many of your pleasant memories where alcohol was present. In our western culture, it’s hard to think of a pleasant memory that didn’t involve alcohol, because it’s always present. You can’t have a wedding without champagne. You can’t have a backyard party without a case of beer. These days you can’t even go to the movies or get a manicure without a glass of wine.
Don’t Give Credit To Alcohol
It wasn’t the alcohol that made the memory special, but it was there because it always is.
So a seed has been planted and you begin to develop a new thought: maybe alcohol wasn’t that bad; maybe you didn’t really have a problem. Maybe you laugh and tell yourself you were just being overdramatic. And once that thought takes hold, the Evil Clown, the voice of addiction that has been waiting for just this moment, whispers another thought to you in the form of the most dangerous five words you will hear.
I can not overemphasize the power these five words have to destroy everything that you have built, how they may be the last words you hear before you begin a very long dark journey that could take months or years to come back from — if you’re not prepared.
The Five Most Dangerous Words
The five words are: Just One Drink Won’t Hurt.
It will seem harmless. At a wedding someone will put a glass of champagne in your hands for a toast — Just one drink won’t hurt. At a pub, a new friend buys you a beer — Just one drink won’t hurt.
And the tricky thing is that if you are like most people, you won’t even really enjoy that one drink; it may even taste awful. And while you think this might reinforce your choice not to drink, it does the opposite. You use that information to convince yourself that if you had that one drink and didn’t really even enjoy it, then you must not have a problem with alcohol.
And your Evil Clown is laughing because now the door is opened and within days, weeks, or months, you are back into the horrible daily loop of drink, regret, and repeat.
Breaking The Loop
This is what happened to my Facebook member, Mike. And this is what can happen to anyone of us after we quit drinking unless we are acutely aware of the inherent danger that comes with success when we move farther away from the pain and unless we are prepared for how we will respond when we hear those dangerous five words: Just one drink won’t hurt.
Whether your are still in that painful cycle of drinking and wanting to quit, or have recently quit and want to know how to prepare for some of these dangerous obstacles, I invite you to join me for a free quit drinking webinar. I will even give you a free copy of my guide to quitting alcohol.