I do not know if you have ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a Peace Officer’s Fellowship (POF) meeting, but I have. There is a common theme to many of the stories shared. It is one of regret. Person after person talks about feeling regretful about things they said and did when they were drinking — regret for losing everything and having to start over (again and again) and regret for their inability to see that doing the same thing but expecting different results would not get them anywhere new. Over time, they have learned it is not possible to drink your problems away. They know from experience that alcohol negatively impacts judgment, relationships and eventually, your personality.
To be present for your family and friends with a clear mind can be very rewarding. Just try to imagine all you have missed while sitting on a stool nursing a highball on the rocks. Is it worth not being there for your friends? Is it worth missing the quality time with your family? Some things happen once in a lifetime, like your child’s first home run or his/her piano recital. These are things you cannot get back, and your chance at having those memorable moments are lost forever. They also can lead to your relationships being lost forever if you are not careful.
Another common story shared is the experience of arriving in a place where people recognize their need to leave alcohol behind. These same people share how much better life has been for them since making and sticking with this choice. They are also clear in their stories that, while living without alcohol is not the end of the world, that it does take effort. The decision can raise questions about what sort of a person you will be without alcohol. It can also be very empowering no longer letting alcohol control your life, making clear decisions daily and becoming fully aware and conscious of the world around you. This is a significant leap of faith, but one well worth taking.
The reality of this is that the challenge does not end with making the decision to stop. When people find out that you are no longer drinking, it can be (and often is) difficult for them to hear. They want to know why. They might make jokes. They may even have a hard time believing you. It is important that you have a plan for how to handle these types of scenarios so you can be successful. Here are some ways to tell someone you do not drink anymore or that you are not interested in a drink:
• “Drinking wasn’t doing me any good.”
• “I’m trying to treat my body better, so I’ve challenged myself to stop drinking alcohol for the year.” (If they try to push, you can tell them, “You’re not going to break me.”)
• “My partner told me I’d be sexier without my beer belly.”
• “I didn’t like the person I was when I drank.”
• “I’m driving.”
• “I’m not drinking anymore. I’ve already drunk my lifetime quota.”
• “I’m an all-or-nothing person, and nothing is easier.”
• “Personal choice, and I appreciate it if you respected it.”
An effort may also be needed if the people in your life are not supportive of your choice. One option here is to sit down with them to talk about your situation and ask them to be supportive of your decision. Another option is to reconsider your friendship. It is OK to let go of relationships that are not supportive of your interest in self-improvement. While certainly not easy, it can be helpful to find friends who have been through what you are going through and/or friends who can offer you support in your decision to make this change. If you are not sure where to find such people, maybe check out a meeting (AA or POF).
So, ask yourself this question, “Will my life be better without alcohol?” If your answer is yes, now is the time to be proactive. Reach out for help and develop a plan to get sober. Psychological Services Bureau (PSB)/Substance Abuse Resource Program is an excellent place to start. Services are free and confidential and can be accessed by calling (213) 738-3500. This will be one of your best calls to preserve your future success.