The Click

From Lurker D:  From other experiences, I know that once “the click” happens [for me and sobriety] — the switch that says I WILL do this — it’s like invisible tracks are laid down and even though it’s still hard, it’s almost like a foregone conclusion … I’ve gone through periods of not drinking that actually weren’t too bad, I just can’t seem to make the CLICK happen now to want to be sober again.

Can you offer any sense of how you finally made the click happen — why was it different when you finally gave up drinking? What made the switch? I’m sure you’d thought of it so many other times. What was different?

me:  You’re asking interesting questions. I think that a lot of people have to have some kind of a ‘bottom’ before they quit. Something at risk, something in jeopardy.

The problem then, of course, is that even when they want to quit, the wolfie voice that says “it’s not so bad you can just have one” is so loud that they can’t barely turn it off even when they’re going to lose their job, lose their kids, lose their marriages.

I didn’t have a CLICK either. I guess you could argue that I didn’t have to get sober. I hadn’t … lost my job (yet), lost my marriage (yet), gotten a DUI (yet). Except that I knew that I was missing out — on opportunities, on feeling good, on good sleep, on restful vacations. I knew that i was drinking more than I wanted to. I just couldn’t figure out how to drink less…

I didn’t have a CLICK.  Instead, I realized that if it was so hard for me to quit even for a few days, then that was probably already an indication of a problem. And if it wasn’t a problem YET, it was going to soon become one.

So I thought I’d prove to myself that I was in control, and that even though my life was ‘fine’ (ha!), I tried to quit for 30 days (Dry July).  It was hard. Very hard. And I couldn’t do it alone. Couldn’t do it without knowing someone else who’d also done it.

The feelings of being ‘outside’ when you first stop drinking are hard. But once you are brave enough to reach out to people who understand that, have ideas on how to navigate that, and who’ve lived through that — well, without support it was too hard for me to do. I couldn’t do it ‘alone’. [You do not have to be a blogger to be sober. At all. But if you don’t blog, you might benefit hugely from having a sober penpal.]

I didn’t have a CLICK. I did not wake up one day determined to get and be sober.

Instead, I thought “I’ll give up drinking for 30 days and then I’ll decide.” That’s all.

And at about 9 days sober I realized it was much harder than I thought… so I got some accountability and some help by commenting on sober blogs, and then I started my own blog. But not everyone needs to blog, that’s me.

But yes, I felt ‘outside’ and sad about being sober. But not for very long.  I felt antsy and irritated that the rest of my life wasn’t magically glorious once I got sober. But that sad feeling didn’t last for long either. The benefits of being sober far, far outweighed the downsides once I got some sober time together.

in the early sober days, it’s just too hard to decide anything. The wolfie voice is too loud. The only way I know to get the fucking voice to shut up long enough for me to make a sensible decision was to be sober, continuously, for at least 90 days … which is why the ‘100 day’ challenge … in my mind, it gives you the gift of clarity.

If you don’t think sobriety is worth it, you could drink again at the end of 100 days.  But if you get to 100 days, things really DO seem different just by being there.  Every single sober person I’ve communicated with has complained that the wolfie voice won’t stop when they’re first trying to quit drinking. The only answers I’ve ever read (or experienced) that made any sense to me are:  stop drinking and talk to other people who have been through the same thing to realize that you’re not crazy.  Get a sober penpal. Read sober blogs. And have faith that it will get better.

And after a bit of time, when i was reading sober blogs, I realized that I ‘wanted what they seemed to have’: the people with longer term sobriety seemed to have a peace of mind and a relief from the compulsive crazy thoughts that just.don’t.stop.  Well, the compulsive crazy feelings do NOT stop until you dehydrate the wolf… (I wrote this on day 50ish of sobriety: ).  Get sober.  Everything else happens after that point.

I hope some of this is helpful.  hugs from me


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

  • Thank you all! Belle, I am honored to be included in your blog and am so grateful to everyone’s comments.

    I didn’t know this post was coming and the excerpt is from an email exchange Belle and I had quite some time ago. When I read this yesterday, I felt much consternation, caught up in frustration that I hadn’t explained myself properly (I think only a couple people got what I meant). By no means does the Click refer to a Bottom or Very Bad Things (though they could potentially prompt the click). Rather, it refers to that internal shift–the shift that moves you from thinking about something to actually doing it (whether in the job category, exercise, children, etc., could be anything), and without it, it doesn’t matter what the goal you set for yourself–week, month, 100 days, year–the goal doesn’t hook into your psyche and can so easily be discarded. Perhaps I should have included an “or” question, which is this: How do you make yourself want to and actually do it when 80% of you is saying “Noooooooo! I’m not ready yet!”

    Believe me, in the last six months I’ve read widely on the subject (my specialty) and tried any number of things to kickstart change, including “committing” to 100 days. But the ‘you’re fine’ voice kept winning out. My ‘yet’ isn’t anything dramatic (eg, I cannot imagine driving while intoxicated, for example, and with absolute respect for other views, I don’t believe these things are progressive for everyone and I don’t subscribe to the AA or disease view). In a way, it’s far worse (because it’s easier to ignore), it’s way more about unrealized potential–skipped runs, slower race times, extra pounds, not trying harder at career stuff, not facing difficult decisions…not trying harder generally–but of course, these are the very essence of life.

    Anyway, as I was giving all this thought yesterday, provoked by this post, a part of me realized, all of my thinking was beside the point, because: It is time to get off the freaking fence already. So I had a click of sorts, I suppose, but I can see already that this time it’s not going to make it all that much easier, but it still needs to be done, and this time for good (previously I’ve gone months and even years).

    Anyway, thank you to everyone, there is definitely something special about seeing the issue in black and white like this and feeling heard.

    • Lurker D, I’m so glad you feel this post was helpful : ) I definitely understood exactly the click you were talking about. Lots of people can wake up and ‘change’ and others need to ‘fall down’ before they change. Others do a lot of research first and then dip their toe into ‘change’. Your question is completely valid.

      One thing that is similar for all of us though — we reach a point where it just isn’t ‘good’ enough any more. the way we’re living isn’t good enough. we want something else, something better. something different (and unknown perhaps) but something ELSE. Cuz what we’re doing ain’t working. So we’re on to Plan B. Let’s try 100 days of sobriety and see how that feels. (And man-o-man it turns out it’s a hard thing to do AND it feel pretty great.)

      much love from me. hear you loud and clear.

  • I decided to quit after a binging on vacation. I realized that I can not be moderate and it will be easier to just stop then to try to ever imagine being moderate again….I too am lucky that I did not have any run ins with the law, DUI….could have and that would have been terrible. My job depends on driving, I do home visits for the elderly. So I did not hit rock bottom, It did just kind of clicked in my brain, at first I was just going to do the 100 day challenge but then it turned into maybe this could be it. I am done drinking.

  • That’s interesting. I’ve really been planning too. I wanted it to be “for real” — not like when you feel like shit and you have this reflex and say “that’s it I quit” but you don’t really mean it.

  • AA didn’t resonate with me, either. I did find a lot of support on the Women for Sobriety boards. What I like about it is that it’s designed to build your self-esteem. There are many women on there who are long-term sober but who still hear wolfie occasionally. The difference is that you get the tools to stick it out….and stop feeling guilty and crappy. My “mistake” was straying from the boards and convincing myself that I could moderate. Epistemologyofaperpetualstruggle, you CAN do this. I’m doing the 100 day challenge. Do it with me.

  • I am battling that Voice and it is winning. Someone in AA–a program I despise–said that once you decide to quit you don’t have to battle anymore. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am out of my mind right now. Thank you for this post as it gives me a glimmer of hope that if I stick it out I will get relief.

  • I’ve known for a long time that I needed to quit – totally. No moderation would work for me. I wanted to quit while it was still my decision and before something awful happened. I needed a plan. I thought of it as my toolbox. I planned a date, found and read all of the sober blogs, read some great sober books, and the day before my “date” I drank up all the wine in the house. I was pumped up and ready to go. On that date – I didn’t drink and haven’t drunk in 89 days. Haven’t had any problems with it. Loving my new life. Now…I may not be typical, but that’s how it worked for me. Oh – I also began attending AA and found a sponsor. I wear the “fuck you wolfie” bracelet every day and am a dedicated member of Belle’s 100 day challenge. My toolbox is full – of support if I need it!

  • Well…I’ve been through all those “yets,” and, it wasn’t one of those that made me feel “the click.” I wonder why, after everything that happened, after all the remorse (I was re-reading my “day after” diaries the other day=OOF), why that one day back in June 2012? All I can say is, I had had enough. I was so tired of failing, I guess, to remain sober, so tired of chasing the buzz; it was mainly about proving to myself that I could finally DO THIS, and that I could be safe against a Bad Thing every happening again, or a horrible hangover.

    Like Belle says, and it was true for me, I just had had enough, but…the longer I was sober, the more and more I realized why I got sober, and why I had to. And then I gained momentum, and that “blind choice” to quit (is what it felt like), where you can’t see what’s ahead and you’re fighting the cravings for what, you can’t really see–that choice starts to become more real, less of a click that seems outside your own grasp. Getting into your sober car and just pressing on the gas is the nature of it; we can only start to see the scenery if we’re driving in that car.

  • I think “the bottom” might be a bad thing. Everyone knows you don’t quit until you hit “rock bottom,” right? Except I am far, far from rock bottom but still pretty uncomfortable with how much I drink, and just want to see what sobriety has to teach me. I’m pretty open to stretching my 30 days into longer, and longer. Anyway it just makes me wonder how many people stay in denial longer because they are only “yets,” so they don’t think it’s a problem… yet.

  • I very, very much understand the ‘click’ – what a great way to put into words something I haven’t been able to articulate. For me, it’s not the same as a Bad Thing Happening, or something that resembles a ‘bottom’. It’s an intangible, undefined force within me that makes things happen. And it scares the sh*t out of me because just as easy as it can be flipped on (seemingly with no rhyme or reason), it seems it can also flip off. I quit for nine months a year ago because the switch flipped and so it went. Then, all of a sudden, the force was gone. And I went back to drinking. So, now it’s back – having flipped on after a bad night of drunkenness but it’s not like that night was the worst I’d had or even that remarkable in any way – and I’m riding it out by ‘almost’ enjoying this quit. I worry it will go away though…and it’s almost like when it does, it’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll drink.

    It’s not only drinking that I’ve experienced this click either. I once exercised four times a week, without missing a DAY, for two years. Through broken toes, pregnancies, stomach flus, sleepless nights, vacations, whatever. The switch was flipped and so it was. Then, it went away and I’ve never been able to recapture that force or motivation again.

  • I was sober for over two years before I made the recent mistake in thinking that I could have “just one or two.” It wasn’t triggered by anything other than “maybe I got this thing beat. What the hell? Give moderation a try.” And a few times, I was fine. But then there were the other times when Bad Things Happened. I don’t have to elaborate on what *those* are. So, I am at the point now where I’m accepting of the obvious: moderation is not possible. My “click” before was almost getting a DUI…which would have resulted in the loss of child custody, loss of my license and therefore my job (which was an hour plus commute) and I could go on and on. My “click” now is the realization that if I drink, it’s just a ticking time bomb. I was and still am a member of the Women For Sobriety boards. Lurker D, they call people like you and I and Belle in what she related, “Yets.” You haven’t lost your job. YET. You haven’t lost your relationship. YET. You haven’t landed yourself in a horrid situation like a DUI, accident or arrest. YET. It’s an inevitability that you will if you don’t stop. Drinking is a nasty, progressive thing. It takes over after a while, and wolfie will justify it any way it can. Getting into the headspace of YET is so important. That’s how I shut wolfie up the first time and that’s how I’m shutting it up this time. For me, the mantra of, “I am too old for this shit AND I am not willing to be a YET anymore” is incredibly helpful. I was a 2x a day drinker since I was a teen. I haven’t reached that point yet this time, nor am I willing to. I am here. I am back and participating in the WFS boards. I am talking to sober friends. I am reluctantly starting therapy. Reluctantly, only because dredging up old shit is incredibly painful, and since I drank to avoid pain, that makes it harder before it gets better. The “click” will happen. It just takes time.