When you consider ending your relationship with alcohol; one of the fears that will fight for the status quo is withdrawal. Our expectations blossom from the seed of societal conditioning, and so, if we are addicted to something then surely we are going to suffer from a withdrawal of that something?
So what are these withdrawal symptoms?
The commonly recorded symptoms are nervousness, shakes, anxiety, irritability, depression, fatigue and a difficulty thinking clearly. People find comfort when they seek answers in biological determinism, and so they prefer to be told that their body is missing the alcohol to such a degree that these physical events will unfold.
The other reason that physical withdrawal symptoms are so appealing is because it makes us feel as if our decision not to quit, long ago, was one based on a solid intellectual thesis. Our ego simply won’t allow you to believe that alcohol withdrawal is so simple and stress free, so it has created a collective belief around the globe that it’s difficult.
Do withdrawal symptoms make it difficult to quit?
If I was analysed by a member of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) I doubt I would pass their criteria of alcoholism, and yet I not only drank every day, but my habit was out of control. So to me, I was an alcoholic, as are so many of my unsuspecting family and friends.
When I decided to go cold turkey I did suffer some of these stereotypical withdrawal pangs, but not in a negative sense. For example, I suffered from anxiety, but I wasn’t anxious because I was missing alcohol. I was anxious because without alcohol I had so much free time on my hands and didn’t know what to do?
I also experienced severe bouts of irritability. Once again these emotions were not brought on by the loss of alcohol, but instead, the sheer frustration that nobody was choosing to follow my lead and quit.
Once you open your eyes to the illusion of the alcohol trap, it’s very difficult to watch other people suffer unnecessarily.
The one withdrawal symptom that I did have, and still haven’t totally conquered four years on, is how to fit back into society once you have stopped drinking. This is an extremely important issue, and the most common reason people relapse.
When I quit, I immediately found myself falling out of line with the way normal life flowed in my society. Activities such as a bottle of wine with my wife on a Friday night; beers with the boys after a game of football, and a Saturday night with friends and family became very difficult occasions to partake in.
The difficulties were not borne out of the fact that I was pining for alcohol. Let me make this point extremely clear, I NEVER PINED OR NEEDED TO DRINK ALCOHOL, but instead I no longer enjoyed myself in the company of people who were drunk.
Allen Carr always said that I would enjoy social occasions more once I had stopped drinking. For many years I thought he was wrong and even wrote to the Allen Carr Foundation to offer my assistance in an area of his teachings I believed he had gotten wrong. My social life was non-existent, and my relationships crumbled along with it.
Suddenly I was alone
Although I NEVER considered relapsing, I did often wonder what the point was? How could the cessation of drinking heal my heart, when it was slowly being broken through isolation?
Today, I understand what Allen Carr was saying. He was right all along, but I misconstrued his point. I do enjoy social occasions more than ever, but they are different social experiences with different people. I was so hell-bent on trying to fit back into my old way of living, that I was blinded by the reality that there are more options than heading to the club on a Saturday night.
It’s tough at first, especially if you are trying so hard to fit back into your old life, but once you come to terms with the fact that you are a non drinker, and start to live a Lean Life then your interests and friends will slowly change to fit into your new ideal.
There is so much more out there
My life has completely changed as a result of my decision to stop drinking alcohol. I practise transcendental meditation, I am continually evolving and becoming a better businessperson, friend, father and loving husband, and all of these changes have been brought on by the different interests that I have pursued since quitting alcohol.
What about your old friends?
There is no sugar coating this one so I will just give it to you as it is. You will outgrow your friends and family. Not all of them, but the large majority of them. They will look at you as if you are from another planet. They will mock you for your advancements in the sub-conscious hope that their friend returns to the only world they know. Their interests will not be yours, and they will not be interested in a single thing you have to say.
Relationships are a two way street, so not only will you start to feel uncomfortable in their presence, but they will too. So most of your friendships will just gradually drift away as some relationships do. The difficult ones involve those that are closest to you and more often than not this will be your family.
If your family and friends truly love you, then they will listen to your reasons for change and respect them. We have to take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in our lives. If our friends and family are making us feel uncomfortable over choices we have made, then we need to tell them that their actions are hurting us. If we don’t then we only have ourselves to blame. If we do, and they don’t stop, then game over. Their loss will be your gain as you continue your path of personal continuous improvement.
Have you found a problem in this area? If so have your say in the comment section below.
Photo courtesy of Cristiano Betta cc @ Flickr.com