from my inbox:
Rambling Rose (penpal #2512):
"So something has been bothering me for a few weeks on the issue of readiness when it comes to being sober. I've heard on a number of occasions "in the rooms" that you just have to be really ready to quit drinking before you stay with recovery. I have heard it mostly in the context of people relapsing. It almost comes off as an accusation that he/she just didn't want it enough (recovery). Another thing I hear often is, "In your heart of hearts, do you want to quit?" UGH. YES.
There's something very flippant to me about this. I know people, myself included, who have wanted to quit for years - sincerely, in our heart of hearts - and hate being in addiction/excessive drinking limbo. It hurts. It isn't even enjoyable. It's not to "feel better" - for me, it was to feel less bad. But, of course that less-bad feeling starts to turn into a consistent and repetitive horror.
Drinking is the worst kind of hell, and it isn't that I (the true me) wanted to keep drinking, not when it got bad. I just didn't know how to stop it. I think that's why we surrender or reach out, because of course our brains will want booze.
I've brought it up to people (sponsors, sober women, etc.) before, and I usually get the same answers about not wanting it bad enough or not having some God moment where all of my sins, er, sorry, cravings (hah) were magically lifted.
It scares me when people say things like this, because I do want to stay sober, with all of my heart. But there hasn't been some God moment or change in my thinking. Not yet. Isn't that where the work and the supports come in?
Anyway. What made you know that you were totally done for good?
Do you think it is different for everyone?
Thanks. Whew, good to get that out of my head. It was upsetting me today, and kind of freaking me out."
me: I think that the idea of readiness is sort of like the idea of willpower. it’s assuming that the tool is in us. I think that the tools are outside us and that if someone is relapsing, they don’t have enough tools/supports/accountability. Us alone in our heads has us all drinking, me included.
but with the right amount of supports (different for each person) we can do this sober thing.
the challenge is getting people to try different supports when the original ones aren’t (or have stopped) working. we’re so stubborn and wolfie wants to keep us stuck, so that’s the hardest part of this. it’s not that rehab doesn’t work, it’s that no one wants to go. it’s not that antabuse doesn’t work, it’s that it’s hard to convince someone to take it because if they take it they can’t relapse and wolfie hates that. wolfie will argue against most supports.
wolfie wants you alone at home with a bottle. that’s the challenge as far as I can see: helping people to see that wolfie is bullshit and that there’s sunshine OUT HERE.
You might not agree with my advice to Rambling Rose. How do you feel about being 'ready'? Post a comment below.
Feedback from the new (free) meditation audio series:
Auntie Briggy: “Love this! Meditation is one thing for me that needs to be non-negotiable part of my tool box! You did a great job - meditation is just like sobriety - some days are shit and you don't pay attention for 2 seconds - some days you feel refreshed after but you keep staying with it. It was great to hear you doing something outside your comfort zone and trying a new tool! It teaches us courage to do things like this - try things - and keep trying them and adding things in.” Listen here.
I think “ready” means that you have to be willing to try any and all supports, so in that respect, then yes, I think you have to be ready. I am willing to be on antabuse. I am willing to be on anti-depressants. I am willing to try to find an AA meeting I like. Or a SMART meeting. I am willing to pay to be a penpal. I am willing to try treats and other self-care. I keep my doctors appointments. I am ready.
Now this is a very good point. You are never ready. It was frustrating to read well known sobriety authors say , or at least the way I read it, that once you ‘hit the switch’ you’ll never go back…I was promised that if I read that book correctly, and slowly, that by the end of that book my thinking would forever be changed and I wouldn’t go back. Well, that for sure wasn’t true for me. There is no ‘off switch’ where you just don’t ever never ever think about it again but the switch is a dimmer light and that brightness goes down and the constant glare of advertisements, facebook posts , etc etc goes away after you have put yourself under covers for a few months – and only comes up to glare in your face now and again. What’s the point. For me, there is still sometimes a tug and a desire to drink – so we are never ready, over the fence, clear and away – light switch off – there are many things some groups have correct and the biggest of all – one day at a time.
I was ready 20 years ago and I quit for a year. Wolfie convinced me to drink “as an exception” when I was on vacation. What could it hurt? Other than undo all my progress! 🙄 I’ve pretty much been regretting it ever since and have had many attempts to get sober again. I’ve made lists of all the reasons I want to quit; I bought (and read part of) The Naked Mind; I tried substituting interesting nonalcoholic drinks, but nothing was enough. Wolfie was too loud and convincing. I feel like I really hit my final low point recently, so I quit for real. I had been really trying hard to at least cut back for the last 2 years, but never lasted more than 5 days. Now I’m on Day 34 and thrilled that I am here. The first week was easier than in the past because I had a concussion, so it felt like my hangover lasted all week (a good deterrent). I had a big gash in my forehead and a black eye to remind me why I want to be sober, too. I know I have REALLY wanted to quit for a long time, but I think the circumstances had to come together in a way to really help me reframe my drinking.
Tools are definitely outside ourselves.We ourselves, are not enough. We drink because of ourselves. For me, I wanted so bad in the end to quit, but still kept going. Then one morning, knowing it was going to be really bad if I didn’t have a drink by 9am, something (to this day I cannot tell you what) made me think I would not drink anything … I was told I could have a rehab previously. I declined … I needed to put myself through that absolute hell (the same but different kind of hell when drinking) to keep that memory in my head of what it was actually like,what I actually went through, building up absolute hate for alcohol for what it did to me, in case a moment arrived that I ever thought of picking up a drink again. I knew the horrible way I felt would go away if I just had a drink. But I didn’t. I went online on day 1, and typed in “thinking about quitting drinking” in Google. Belle came up. I signed up within 5 minutes. I sat in PJs in front of my laptop and listened to one minute messages for three days straight to stop myself from drinking. Because Belle said I could do it. I needed to hear that one person believed I could when if didn’t even believe it myself. I still cannot give anyone a straight answer as to why and how I decided. Perhaps divine intervention. I added supports, tried different things, changed things, and hung in there by my fingernails until I found exactly what I needed. It’s not easy to find what you need- it’s a moving feast. But it took less work to find and USE those supports (even when I didn’t want to- that’s when I knew I had to the most) than it did to carry on the way I was when drinking. I don’t think anyone is ever “ready” because your head will make you procrastinate, will make up excuses why today is not a good day. And it will never happen. No one is ever “ready” to have cancer, or give birth, experience the death of a loved one, or have any other horrible thing happen that life can and will throw at you. But you do it anyway, you fight anyway, you work your way through anyway. Because there is only one other option. A box in the ground, or being scattered in the wind.
I was never ready. I kept having repeated day ones, hating it, but still wasn’t “ready” to just give it all up. I didn’t know how. Until I found this site and believed that what Belle and the longer term sober people were writing about. I took the plunge of not drinking, believing that it would get better, because Belle actually provides information about tools that are tangible, to help get past that crummy day one part. And the leap of faith has paid off. I tried tools, I tried different, I tried treats, and I stay connected. And Belle and the longer term sober people on here are not lying – it is so much better.
What crap. But of course it’s what we humans do: when one of our herd falls prey to a predator, we figure out a way to distance ourselves from that person, to justify why it happened to them and WON’T happen to us. Cancer? Well they smoked, or ate badly or didn’t exercise. Won’t happen to me. Divorce? Well they didn’t prioritize their relationship, or they chose wrong partners in the first place (I never thought he was right for her). Won’t happen to us. And here, with a complex addiction, and attendant mental frameworks that have to be smashed and rebuilt, and a society which at every turn tells us to drink, we say about a fallen comrade “she just didn’t want it enough—her heart wasn’t right.”
This is self protection for the speaker, NOT a helpful piece of wisdom for the person spoken of. Many people (Belle included) start their sobriety thinking of it as temporary—30 days, 100 days—certainly that would fall outside the strictures of the “You Gotta Want It” camp.
Judgement (which this piece of flim flam is, dressed up as some kind of tough love) is always more about the judgor than the judge.
All I can say each morning is I am choosing to be sober one more day, and choosing to honor the momentum I have by continuing to engage in my tried and true supports, adding on as needed. And one of those supports is encouraging others who are on the same road, and being humbly thankful for those who have gone ahead and have illuminated the lanes. NOT bashing the drivers who are momentarily pausing on the side of the road to fix a flat.
When I think back on it, I guess I had been ready to quit since I started drinking. I just didn’t realize it fully. Limiting, attempting to moderate, setting ground rules for myself before going out, all things I failed horribly at. I’m not sure what perfect storm of failures occurred that led to the idea to (gasp) stop drinking entirely rather than continue on this tumultuous path of setting out to do one thing (have one or two, which turned into 3 or 4 or 10), then feeling disappointed in myself for not doing what I set out to do, then starting over. But whatever it was, I am glad that I made that attempt. I haven’t gotten it down perfect yet, but I will say its a hell of a lot better that what I was doing before. I’m not sure you’re ever actually “ready to quit” rather you have to be “ready to try another way.” I think we’re all just trying different ways of making this work until we find the one (or ones) that do.
I agree with Belle’s advice to Rambling Rose…it’s about reaching out and being willing to try something different. I will never knock AA if it works for you, but the advice Rambling Rose describes from AA is to try harder, not different. At some point, willpower gives out for us all – whether it be drinking or trying to lose weight – which is why we need many other tools to get us through those times.
Being ready seems a little like the idea that we have to hit “rock bottom.” It’s just different for everyone. Some of us have those moments, some of us don’t. Or maybe we all have different definitions of what those terms mean. I suppose I had a ‘readiness’ moment. But it was more like, “here we go,” and I just got in my sober car and started driving. I still didn’t really know where I was going, I but I just pointed the car away from alcohol and went. I was so tired of being embarrassed and angry with myself, and I do think I hit some sort of quota on feeling shitty.
For me, if I had waited until I was completely “ready” to stop drinking, I may not have ever started sobriety. All I knew was that I was sick & tired of being sick & tired, of making a mess of my life, and being mired in despair and depression. My supports right now are friends who don’t drink, a LOT of reading about sober women & their journeys, following Belle and other online sober supports, and a weekly AA meeting. One of the amazing things I learned about was how to “act my way into right thinking”; in other words- I just had to start by not drinking, then my thinking started to change. If I had sat around and thought about what was the right day, month, or year to stop drinking, perhaps that day would not have come. But doing the thing (not drinking) — that’s what gave me the space to experience that sober really is so much better, so much more wonderful and happy!
The hardest part about this piece of sobriety is that Wolfie f*cks with our “readiness lever” and makes us believe that it is indeed within us, but we don’t really need it. Here’s something I wrote on day 2 in my journal (I’m on day 40 today): “Yesterday afternoon, as I was walking back from the chicken coop with the dogs, my head was aching and my stomach felt sour. My mind automatically went to drinking, how I needed a drink to take the felling away. Isn’t that odd, I thought, that the very poison that caused me to feel ill is exactly what my brain is telling me I need to feel better.
Hair of the dog, it works to get rid of the yucky feeling, replacing it with numbness. This is a sign of an addictive substance. I read something by Belle yesterday, that alluded to the continuous dance with day ones, that they keep coming and going. That it is an elevator that only goes down. That no one ever negotiates with themselves about how few drinks or how little they can drink when they go out, or open the bottle. It’s always a negotiation with how much we can get away with.
Today it’s just for today, no counting, no lofty goals, no promises to turn the giant groaning ship around this time. Just for today.”
I was ‘ready’ to quit drinking for a long time…years even…but being ready wasnt enough. I needed to do something, for me that was joining an online group and reaching out to Belle for accountability. Got myself a day counter where I write my own raw motivations…
The supports were out there but until I started to use them I just kept drinking. I’d tried will power but it just ran out. Now when Wolfie starts whispering I reach for a tool.
I’m no more ‘ready’ this time than i was the other countless times I tried to quit it’s just that this time I know I’m not on my own and better, if this isn’t working there are other things I can add.
The stunning realization that it not only made me feel badly… Which was old… That it not only took my days away… Which was old… But that I truly had no off switch. And that was the boozes doing not mine. After numerous tries over 40 years I know this is it. Like a lightbulb.
“It scares me when people say things like this, because I do want to stay sober, with all of my heart. But there hasn’t been some God moment or change in my thinking.”
This is where I am right now – I do want this – I have for a long time – I just haven’t figured out how to get there and stay there. I’m realizing the answer isn’t inside me because if it were then it would be easy – the answer is to reach out outside of me and listen to the people who are where I want to be.
I was ready when I finally got the message that it could be so much better And easier to be sober. The biggest hurdle for me was that there were lots of people in my life who weren’t going to be onboard with that. So grateful that I had Belle atTired of Thinking About Drinking to give me so many tips and tools to get me over that hump. If you’re ready, you can get over that hump by seeking and finding somewhere to turn for the tools and accountability you need.
I’ve had many starts and stops but I’d say that each time I was ‘ready’ at the start but then it waned if I didn’t keep up with the supports and daily maintenance. We soon forget the ‘bad’ of drinking and only remember the ‘good’, which if we look at closely really wasn’t that good either. We must keep going and daily keep up with our supports and adding more if needed.
For me, I know I have to be ready or I don’t even try. But then again, even when I am ready and I know I am going to do this thing, something always happens that makes me think it would be a good idea to have a few drinks because this or that or the other thing happened. For me, I cannot even let it be an option in my thoughts. As soon as I let my thoughts start going down that path, then it’s all over. I have to stop the thoughts in their tracks to even get close to having a dry night.
I’d like to reframe the question. I was never ready to stop drinking (if I was, then ‘cold turkey’ & ‘white-knuckling’ would be surefire methods). But I was ready to find supports and find a way to stop drinking. That was when I finally found the path to the exit. You don’t need the ‘right willpower’ to stop drinking, but you do need the courage to ask for help, to reach for supports, to make a plan. That becomes the ‘aha’ moment.
The ‘aha’ moment is not when you hurdle your body off the high-dive….where when you land you celebrate the success of hitting that cold water and the job is done. It’s much more akin to signing up for diving lessons where a certified instructor is going to walk you through the process. I’m not just recklessly jumping once….I’m going to become an accomplished beautiful diver because I’m going to LEARN how to do this. With supports, with information, with a plan.
All that inner dialogue about ‘not wanting it enough,’ ‘not being ready,’ ‘lacking willpower,’ etc., that’s all just the alcohol in our brains telling us we’re going to fail so why try. Tell THAT voice to shut up. You can do it, because anyone can. It’s not magical….it’s learning.
Can you just squeeze your eyes shut and cross your fingers and WISH you could speak Chinese? No. But you can want it badly enough that you go way outside your comfort zone and sign up for a class. You buy the book, you go to the class, you speak out loud, and sound foolish and are embarrassed; you see everyone is in the same boat with you; you read and study; you do flash cards all day long; you play tapes; you talk to others; you reward yourself for a good quiz grade. And lo and behold, day by day, you learn. Before you know it, you’re executing a graceful dive off the high platform, speaking Chinese all the way to the water!!
I knew that I wanted to stop drinking for a long time. I felt like such a hypocrite. During the day I exercised, ate healthy, and yet at night after work wine was the first thing I did when I got home. My friends and coworkers think I am a health nut and I am except for my nightly wine habit. 😜I was unhappy with my weight, couldn’t remember how movies ended, afraid to answer the phone because I had too much to drink. Every morning I would wake up and give myself a pep talk…today was the day things would be different but I always caved by 5 o’clock. I always had a good excuse to drink. I ordered some “quit lit” books, listened to sober podcasts trying to figure out how to stop drinking. I started to feel like my body was in a constant state of toxicity. So one of the books I read was Belle’s 100 day challenge. This challenge some how reached the me who wanted to quit drinking. I am trying new supports like posting on this blog. This is scary to me because it is new but I want to stay sober and somehow I knew I was ready….went to my company Christmas party last night. Bartender was super supportive and made a mock tail for me. Thank you to everyone sharing on this blog.
I spent [wasted] years waiting for a magical mystical moment when I would quit. Turns out, there isn’t one. You just try. And if it doesn’t work, you add some more supports (something I did not understand for a long time) and try again. Some of those supports might be internal, some external. You have to set aside the belief that everything has to be perfect, roll up your sleeves, and start.
You’re never ready for anything so start before you’re ready. Marie Forleo says it; the Bible says it (take your bed up and walk). Things are not meant to be that easy. At least that is my opinion.