I ended up trapped in alcohol addiction for almost two decades – a huge chunk of my life that I can never get back. It didn’t have to be that way. Here are the seven reason for why it took me almost two decades to break away from alcohol:
1. I Gave Myself the Option to Relapse
I used the claim that ‘relapse is a normal part of recovery’ as a ‘get out of jail free’ card – I adopted the catchphrase, “of course I’m drinking again, I’m an alcoholic”. I didn’t realize that I could just decide to give up drinnking forever without allowing myself this relapse option. Instead I took on the role of a powerless victim, and I refused to take responsibility for my returns to alcohol. It wasn’t until I committed to breaking away from drinking forever that I became able to let go of relapse option.
2. I Never Gave Up Being an Alcoholic
I would manage to stop drinking for long periods (once I lasted for two years with the help of AA), but I never gave up being an alcoholic. I know some people are able to build a good life by taking on the persona of the ‘recovering alcoholic’, but this didn’t work for me because it meant alcohol continued to be on the center stage in my life. My drinking problems ended when I quit the booze for the last time in 2006. I not only gave up alcohol, I gave up being an alcoholic.
3. I Believed I Was Too Young to Quit Drinking
I hit my first treatment center at age nineteen, but I didn’t stop drinking for good until I’d reached my mid-thirties. My exploits with alcohol led to a great deal of suffering in my life, but there would always be this idea in the back of my mind that I was too young to quit. It was complete bullshit of course – alcohol sucked all the goodness out of my life, and I was never too young to choose happiness.
4. I Didn’t Have a Good Enough Reason to Quit Drinking
After I hit my first treatment center, I knew that I ‘should’ give up alcohol. The other strong motivation for my regular attempts to quit was fear – I didn’t want to endure the horrible death of the alcoholic. The problem is that ‘should’ and ‘fear’ are the two shittiest reasons in the world for giving up anything – neither is going to provide strong and lasting motivation. In the end my motivation for giving up drinking was the same for why I turned to alcohol in the first place – I wanted to find inner-peace and happiness.
5. I Focused on What I Was Giving Up and Not What I Was Gaining
Giving up something is hard but taking action in order to gain something you really want is much easier. I stopped drinking because I wanted to find happiness, so it no longer felt like I was giving anything up.
6. I Blamed All of My Problems on Alcohol
My alcohol problems ended the day I gave up drinking for good – since then I’ve had life problems just like everyone else. For years I would blame everything on alcoholism – I’d even do this during my sober periods. I didn’t realize that I’m just a human that had an alcohol problem and not some type of special entity called an ‘alcoholic’.
7. I Focused on Excuses for Being an Alcoholic Instead of Taking Action
The problem with focusing on excuses is that it just sucks away all my motivation. There is always going to be an excuse not to do something, yet successful people still manage to get things done all the time. Thinking about the reasons I couldn’t stop drinking only kept me trapped in failure, but when I diverted my energy to taking action and away from making excuses, the most amazing things began to happen.
How to Avoid My Mistakes and Avoid Wasting Years to Alcoholism
If you are getting what you need from a 12-Step program, you might want to stop reading at this point – some of these suggestions are almost the opposite of what is recommended by AA. Here are my suggestions for how you can avoid my mistakes: