How NOT to Stay Sober


From a wealth of experience, some even remembered, I would like to start an un-checklist of things to avoid.

It just so happens I am an expert on how NOT to stay sober. Here are some pitfalls that played out over and over again in my own life. Feel free to add your own.

Don’t do these things! (An un-check list)

Play the victim. Even though you are the victim of a devastatingly addictive substance, playing the victim keeps you stuck. Don’t allow your mind to continually revisit the past, especially knowing that your brain is cleverly weeding out the shitty and emphasizing the sublime, so that it can once again turn you into its shady dealer.

You are not helpless. You are not defeated. You are still alive, and you can still win this battle.

Bathe in guilt. There is an allure to guilt. Sometimes it feels like you are punishing yourself (righteously!) the way you think you should be punished. But guilt has no place in early recovery, if anywhere at all. Guilt makes you feel like drinking. It makes you drink when other people aren’t watching. It makes you feel unworthy, and that eventually translates into feeling unworthy of healing. I used to force myself to review moments of bad behavior, and believe me, it didn’t bolster my will to succeed. It made me feel hopeless and ashamed.

Betray your own cause. I used to switch sides in the battle against alcohol like the worst traitor. Instead of siding with my self, my life, my children’s lives, my God, my better angels, my best intentions, my desperate handwritten pledges to stop drinking, I would gaze across the battlefield and see what the enemy had to offer. I would then sneak across battle lines in the middle of the night, like the turncoat I was, and begin plotting to allow myself to drink. I joined the enemy in shooting down help from the outside world and from my wiser self. You can’t help but lose when you abandon your own cause.

Let your thoughts rule you. One of the most freeing things I’ve learned since nixing the Cosmos is that I am respnsible for my thoughts. It’s not life that will cause you to drink again. It’s your thoughts about life and yourself that will cause you to drink.

If I’m not watching my thoughts, I will be controlled by them. The minute I start thinking, “Why can’t I have a drink? Everybody else is,” and then wallow in that self-pity, I have set the stage for eventual drinking.

Instead, I can hear the thought, recognize it as damaging and untrue, tell myself I am way beyond this kind of thinking, and then let it go. I then immediately substitute a thought like “I am healthy and happy.” I let that thought wash over me, and repeat it until I feel healthy and happy. Believe me when I say this becomes so second nature that the thought to drink becomes more like an annoying gnat than an alluring siren’s call.

Be accommodating. This was a huge factor in keeping me trapped for so long. I didn’t want to disappoint my drinking buddies. I wanted romantic relationships to stay the same. I wanted to continue the life I had, while somehow finding the fortitude not to drink. And I didn’t want to inconvenience other people.


You must put yourself first, no matter what. This is counter-intuitive to everyone who has been beaten down by alcohol. We must accommodate other people so that we don’t get fired, dumped, or exposed.

I remember a friend called me in one of my earlier attempts at sobriety, and she was upset. She begged me to meet her at a bar to ‘talk.’ It was 9:30 on a school night. I said no at first, but she pleaded, saying that I was the only one who would understand. I went. Three hours later, I was drinking, she was off dancing with someone, and I eventually had to call a cab because my friend wanted to stay.

She didn’t need me. I needed me. She could have easily called someone else. And I didn’t really help her, except by listening, which could have been done over the phone. On the other hand, I had betrayed my own cause and wrecked my sobriety. Was it worth it? It never ever is. Never.

So … what’s on your “un-check” list?

39 thoughts on “How NOT to Stay Sober

    1. Me too. It’s just a safeguard for me against a weak moment. If I have to go in search of a drink, I’m more likely to just let the feeling pass. HOWEVER, in my former life I had wine available for when friends might stop by. Guess who ended up drinking it?


  1. 1) Keeping alcohol in the house.
    2) Worrying about disappointing my old drinking buddies and family in South Africa and how they will feel if I stop. (I only see them once every year maybe even every two years but this has severely impacted on my relapses.
    3) Not learning to deal with my emotions.
    4) Not doing the other spiritual and emotional work required for sustained sobriety.
    5) Romanticising drinking! This is a big one!
    6) Thinking that drinking is normal and required for living a wonderful life.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. How could I miss romanticizing the drink! I was soooo good at that (and still am, if I let myself). I can so picture myself in some beautiful setting with a vodka sunrise in hand. When I was actually drinking but trying to stop, I used to try to remind myself, “Here I am. Drink in hand. Beautiful sunset. It ain’t that great. I’m sick and dull, and not having fun. There is no euphoria.” I try to remember that, along with a few other choice nightmarish moments, to de-romanticize the drink.
      Thank you!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Great list! I agree that playing victim was my M.O while drinking. I let things from the past rule me and to justify my drinking. But as to your list, yes, I have to stay on my side of the street so to speak and focus on my recovery first and foremost. These days it’s not “work” per se – I do the things that help keep me centered – meditation, prayer, exercise, talking to others in recovery, writing, etc. Moving away from those, and also doing the things you mentioned are a path to unwellness…and eventually, a drink.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Exactly! I’m wondering how I could have tried the same things over and over again for so long without really seeing the patterns. It’s a shame that it seems only experience teaches us these lessons.
      Playing the victim and accommodating others were my biggest hang-ups. Oh, and I forgot to mention minimizing the problem. I used to think through peanut butter, which made it so hard to see reality.
      Thanks, Paul!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for this post – yes all of these are so true.
    Playing the victim is a classic one. Then the guilt, “well I am so bloody useless and totally lack and self control, so why not – who cares about me anyway, no one understands what it’s like” blah blah and more blah

    good for you xx
    Michelle xx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Don’t stop doing what got you sober / maintained your sobriety, or replace these things with appropriate healthy actions or routines. \

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I’ve made that mistake before. I start feeling like “I’ve got this,” and then end up questions whether I really needed to quit drinking at all. I am then given the chance to relive the cycle of alcohol addiction all over again.


  5. Can I add: “Think that you have to be strong enough to overcome your triggers and then beat yourself up over even having triggers.” I see many people beat themselves up over the fact that they have to avoid functions where they serve alcohol, etc, because they think they need to develop willpower of steel to be “successful.” NO, just know your own limits and act accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh yes, this is me. Betraying my own cause. Constantly trying to find a loop hole, so I can drink again. Creating ridiculous plans revolved around drinking again. Also feeling cured, like I can now finally take it or leave it, so I take it, and find out I can’t leave it. So I have to quit all over again. Love this thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love It!
    What’s amazing about this list is the fact we have to be mindful of them regardless of how much clean time we have.
    The disease don’t say go drink or go have a hit of your drug of choice.
    No its job is to make you feel bad about yourself to the point you don’t come out clean.
    We are undergoing a continual process of ego-deflation.
    That’s why not letting our thoughts rule us stood out the most to me.
    My mind always trying to trick me into thinking I can handle life on my own.
    Great post!👌🏿

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Vernon. And you are so right — this ego deflation is a life-long process. And it is the ego that tells me I am missing out on life because I am not hanging out with the same old drinking buddies. I have to catch myself and remember what life was really like while drinking. It’s not fun to live as an unhealthy addicted mess and THAT is the thought I need to hang on to.


  8. “don’t be accomodating” is so huge — I just learned this recently and I think it’s going to influence my long-term success by a landslide! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

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