thinking about ‘never’ gets us stuck

K says: “so grateful to be a part of this challenge – it is helping me in so many ways.”

then I say “can you elaborate?” and she says …

Well, i have to say that i have about 100 reasons not to drink, but when i have a craving or someone asks me if i want to go out for beers … i often can’t think of a single one of my reasons to not drink. [it’s going to make me feel like absolute hell tomorrow? it’s expensive? i will look like a fool when one of my roommates wakes up to pee at four in the morning and i’m alone in the dark living room, hammered and still drinking like tomorrow is not a word in my vocabulary?] All of those reasons seem to disappear when I want to drink. Or i tell myself i will behave this time and will drink normally, and go to bed when everyone else does. (i never do.)

Being a part of the challenge has eliminated alcohol as an option for me, so when asked to go drinking in the last few weeks, my answer is an absolute, “no thank you.” It’s the first and only thing that comes to my mind.

also what i like about the challenge is that it is 100 days — not forever. in the past, i have gone from drinking my brains out, to saying i am going to stop forever. and then a really enticing opportunity to drink would arise and i would think, “well forever can start tomorrow, or after xyz event.” A hundred days is a very short time compared to forever, and for now it is a number that seems more significant than 30 and easier to swallow than, say, 365.


It’s funny that K wrote about “forever” because I had just written something along the same lines to Carrie.  And I wrote this for Carrie twice, cuz in the space of 24 hrs, she asked virtually the same question two separate times 🙂

I do believe that thinking about ‘never’ gets us stuck.  in early sobriety, everything is hard. so the BIG idea of ‘never’ is just too much to do right now.

the only plan I have is to not drink today.  and perhaps not drink tomorrow.  the rest of it, I’ll deal with it when it comes.  and the longer I’m sober, the more I realize that I’m likely to continue treating it the same way I have up to now. and that is a huge giant fucking relief.

is it never? I don’t even have to think about what never means.  I just have to do my thing.  and keep doing it.  rise, lather, repeat.  sure, I’m sure that ‘never’ gives a kind of comfort, but I’m just the kind of girl who hates rigid rules and might just rebel.  so I know me well enough, that if I’ve found something that’s working, I’m not changing it.  not even a tiny bit.  I’m just doing this.  again.  and again tomorrow 🙂

All of the muddled up thoughts (“is this forever?”) do stop.  It’s just wolfie rebelling, trying to find loopholes, ways out, ways to drink again.  and here’s the TRUTH:  you’re doing fine. even if you don’t believe me.  [this is why you’ve reached out for advice from others, because you truly can’t tell… that you’re ALREADY doing everything right.]

you’re not drinking.  that’s it. That’s all you have to do 🙂


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • My friends don’t understand the decision and want to know why I don’t drink anymore, it’s annoying to have to justify myself for making a good choice!

  • I am not drinking today. Getting back on track after nearly 7 months is hard and although I already thought that I never ever want to drink again, this is just the way to go now. I have 100 days in mind, but practically I am thinking of not drinking today, and not tomorrow. Just to keep rolling. So grateful to have a plan again!!

  • I think one thing that AA does really well is to tell us to ‘keep it in the day’. This works with everything, not just drinking. Like you say Belle, “everything is everything”! Currently I am off sick with anxiety and panic attacks. What works in decreasing the anxiety is remembering that the things that I am anxious about have not happened, may not happen, and whatever – they aren’t here right now!

  • It’s day one, of 30 day ones at least this year. That’s starting over once a month forever. That’s a dismal forever. I’ll try this thing instead. I ate breakfast. I’m taking a bath. These are different things than I normally do when I start over. Usually I punish myself for drinking. I’m going to reward myself for not.

  • I just woke up to day 2. My pain is almost unbearable right now. It’s not that I want to drink, I just want the pain and self loathing to go away. I want to climb back in bed and not get up. I also feel so narcissistic because all I do is think of poor me. Please be patient with me through my self pity.

  • This was great. I have often said I was never going to drink again but it never works. I’m just not going to do it today, then I will wash,lather,repeat tomorrow. One day at a time.

  • Hi Belle. I’m not sure how I found your blog, but I’m grateful. I tried AA but I have such a hard time being around people. Today I begin the challenge and I just read about Wolfie. You, I have depression to but drinking doesn’t fix it. Thank you for your blog!! Mary Anne

  • Hm, 2 days with no alcohol. I find myself thinking of all of the upcoming ‘events’ with alcohol, with dread.

    • same thing happens to me when i look ahead even just to a weekend…i get nervous about no alcohol. BUT when i take it one event at a time and think about the weekend as a day like any other, it helps. I dont even mind being around other people who are drinking. Im my own temptation. I really like to drink whether im alone, or no matter the occasion…so…. I can relate to your dread but think how great no hangover, impaired driving, and no stupid remarks can be!!

  • Forever is very hard to digest. It’s a nice way to think about it, that it doesn’t matter what it means and we don’t have to think about it. Just don’t drink today. I am not drinking today. and I haven’t drank for 25 full days before today. Thank you for this post

  • Forever is really scary. I look back at today one year ago, and it seems like ages and ages. So much happens in just one year. For me, my goal is one year, and then in one year, I’ll reassess and make more plans.

  • Thank you. 30 days AF. This is such a part of my subconscious right now (forever!) even when I just try to think day to day. I needed to read this post.

  • So good, I love how these posts and all the comments (yep, I read them all, thanks for sharing everyone!) twist my thinking around and show me something new.
    I apply this concept to other areas of my life so not sure why I didn’t apply it to drinking before. I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for 25 years, don’t even think about it anymore, I don’t apply a label on myself as it’s what I eat, not who I am (eg. I AM a vegetarian) and I prefer to focus on the choice not a label, none of my friends eat my way, and it just doesn’t matter, they don’t mind and neither do I. New people might ask me, “you’re a vegetarian? You’ll never eat meat again!?” and I usually reply, “I might choose a steak tomorrow, who knows, I won’t say never, but I highly doubt it as it’s been 25 years and I feel so good without it so for today, it’s a no.” That works for me… and now I’ll apply it to drinking. Perfect!

  • Day 4. Struggling today with not drinking. Because I want to so much. I want to do the thing that works for me when I want to relax, and avoid my whirling mind. But I don’t want the aftermath of that – which is self-hate, returning to that drinking spiral, and a sense of lack of control. So today instead of thinking about not drinking forever I’ll just think about not drinking today. And then tomorrow might be easier to make the same choice.

    • I’m not even sure if my reply will show up, being that is a couple of years after the original post… Anyway, this. This is how I feel.Half-assed, today is day 5. But because I had one drink yesterday, today is day 1. Farts. It’s scary.

  • I’m three weeks into this sober thang and, actually, I find “NEVER” to be rather comforting, not restrictive at all. I said “never” when I stopped eating meat a couple of decades ago, and didn’t look back once. I said “never” to drugs in any form, and never even took one puff of a joint, despite dating (and marrying) guys who did, early and often (NB: husband said “nevermore” to marijuana when he graduated from law school, and never started back up, thank goodness)—so, I have no problem with the idea of sobriety being “forever.” For a while, I thought this was because I assumed I’d eventually moderate, but now that I’ve concluded that I’ll never (that word again!) be able to do that, well, here’s to the rest of my life without drinking. Ever.

    • There are lots of people who feel good with the word ‘never’ – and that’s fabulous. and i’m sure it’s quite a nice solid feeling. I am not one of them 🙂 I do much better with “not for now, i have too much to do, i’ve got a busy life, got no time for that stuff.”

  • I will have to explain to my drinking pal this weekend that I will not be having wine with her. I’m planning on just saying I’m doing this 100 day detox or maybe more, but I will cross that bridge when I get there. I often would stay over because she lives far away, but I have already said no to that and I’m proud of myself for protecting myself. The 100 days may give those around us the time to adjust too.

  • I was just talking about “never” with my therapist. How it freaks the hell out of me…and she suggested just taking 90 days, for example. And then reevalute then. My only problem is, what if then I evalutate that I can drink again!? I don’t want any reasons that my addictive mind can latch onto…like “I’ve done the 90 days, now I can drink!”
    I could also try doing one day at a time. But what if one day, I decided that that day I can drink? Or do I wake up every morning and say “today, I am only focusing on today, and today I will not drink”?
    I don’t know. This all just seems so impossible. But then again, my brain keeps thinking of “forever” and “never” so…

    • what has worked for me has been to consistently adjust the ‘finish’ line. at day 95 you renew to day 180. at day 175 you update to day 365. and so on. my current plan is to drink in 23 years when i retire. that seems to work for my brain. because ‘never’ doesn’t work for me either …

  • I was just talking about this today with a good friend of mine. The words “forever” and “never” scare the living stuffings out of me. So instead i am going to take it 30 days at a time until i hit 90 days. I feel small steps can lead me to big steps.

  • I agree – never is harrowing to think of. But to be fair “never” for anything is not something the human brain copes with very well I think. Imagine being told you are never going to have sugar again or some other substance. The fact is we would probably cope without sugar but the “never” makes it incomprehensible and all of a sudden what is our reaction – panic – must obtain before “never” starts! It is unnecessary to use this terminology. I for one have a deep desire to stay alcohol free and enjoy all these wonderful benefits I am experiencing. Its all in the wording!!

    • I agree as well, getting “never” out of the vocabulary all together is a great idea. I’ve had a lot of time to think in my short 26 days sober so far, and I tend to go over and over in my mind why I’m not drinking; as if I’m telling someone else, but also telling myself. And truthfully, it’s starting to sound good. I don’t drink because it doesn’t make me feel good…I don’t sleep, I get sick more often, and it is not good for my body or my health. I want to now immerse myself in more healthy habits, and drinking just doesn’t fit into that new life.

      This message today was a good reminder to me to stop thinking about ‘never’ and just think about what is making me feel good NOW. What is working for me right NOW. Who knows what the future will bring and what lessons I have in my future, but for right now, NOT drinking is helping me gather a BOAT LOAD of good information about how I want to live my today and my tomorrow.

  • After feeling like there can’t possibly be anyone else out there that goes through what I go through with sobriety, I read another blog that sounds like I wrote it. Word for word. Forever is a VERY scary word for me. Thank you for all of your advice on how to deal. You have no idea how much I appreciate it while trying to get abstinent days behind me.

  • That word FOREVER and NEVER has also twisted my way of thinking. It’s so scary and to big for me also. I’m trying to train my brain to think just for today. I just did eleven days of sobriety and I thought that was forever. I will try again and only think for today. Thanks !

  • Thanks for bringing this to my attention as the notion to me too was bringing about the rebel in me (I don’t like to be told ‘never’ for anything). So just for today is all I’ll concentrate on.

  • Some people have no problem with the “never” or “forever” – and that’s great. I can’t make that promise. I am pretty sure I won’t drink again. I’d like to think that what I am doing is doing the trick. My intentions are good about not picking up. But I can’t guarantee forever. Or never. So one day at a time is fine. Very early on that is all I could cling on to…just not drink for that day. It was important for me to get that little abstinence time behind me as I worked on my recovery, doing what I needed to do to not just stop, but stay stopped. And however it works for you, then that is what works for you now.

    I used to get tangled up in “never” and “forever” – it became too big for me. I needed bite sized chunks to get my head around easier. These days it’s not so much an urgent one day at a time thing – I see where my path is and what I need to do…the mental obsession has been lifted, but I have to still be vigilant…every day. So what you say here and the comments are wonderful and bang on.

    Great stuff!


  • Today is now easier than it was in the beginning, tomorrow is okay too but forever still gets me feeling like I need to leave the room, push it out of sight. It’s too big to contemplate and I am just hoping that if I can keep doing today and tomorrow, I’ll look up one day and think holy shit, there is no way I can throw that away now, its so big it makes forever look smaller!

    • that’s it exactly. today becomes tomorrow … and that’s it. that’s all the magic we need. that’s exactly how i got to (freaking) 9 months .. because i can assure you that my longest time sober, before, was 9 days. i’d get to 7 days, i’d start to think about forever, i’d decide that if i was going to drink eventually i might as well drink now, etc. Thankfully the longer this goes on (9 months) the more i can count on myself to say “today and tomorrow and the next day.” but at first it was “let me make it to 10 pm so i can go to bed!” : )

      • That’s what I’ve been doing, thinking about forever. Reading this just took a ton of weight off my shoulders. I wish I could make it past 6 days. I tend to freak out on Friday, like “I have to hang on to this drunk shit” even if it’s only one. I can’t seem to make it past Friday, I’m scared to death.

  • Today is all we really ever have; I have learned that the very hardest way of all: losing both younger sibs in three years, before either of them was 50. They left kids in school, grandchildren, heartbroken spouses and a sister who still cannot make sense of it all. But I have stayed sober thru it all and I am really glad for that.

    Today I will stay sane. Tomorrow I will try to do the same. Beyond that… will take care of itself as long as we stay away from alcohol.

  • Ha ha! Seems I have a tendency to repeat myself even when I am not boozed! Got it now Belle, thanks. 🙂

  • I say I will re-evaluate at 80. That way it is not forever, but it is a looong way away. There is no reason for me to drink before that. And I figure if I want to drink then, I will just be hurting myself.

  • You are so right about the word never.

    As a drunk I couldn’t reach a goal, so I’m not drinking for today works for me being sober. I suppose it can be applied to going on a diet among other things. It would be more productive to tell myself I will treat my body good today as opposed to I can never have sweets again. Eeck. ;).

    Belle – you bring up some great points in our blog. Today’s blog was something I needed to read today.

    Thank you –

    • I am thankful for all of the great emails and comments I get every day from genius sober people like you : ) thanks and thanks again. It’s JUST like dieting. All we’re in charge of is today. This minute. What we’re eating (or drinking) today. The rest will take care of itself…