I set up my group, Club Sober to offer a space for women choosing to stop drinking to meet and support each other. As my friend Lily says, to be with other women who “get it”. Considering that I have not been especially proactive in promoting the group, I have had quite a bit of interest. The third Club Sober meet up is this week and in the meantime I have also met up with a couple of others on a one to one basis.
Meeting other women contemplating the prospect of giving up drinking has had me thinking about what it felt like when I knew in my heart that I had a problem with alcohol which I needed to address, but I just wasn’t ready to face it. I used every excuse I could to delay having to confront the problem – it was going to be my birthday soon – of course I would be having a drink, I had a lot on at work, it would be too stressful to try to cut back on my drinking but I could think about it when work calmed down. We were going on holiday with our old friends, it would be really off of me not to drink – anyway didn’t everyone drink too much on holiday ??
I also determined I had things which I need to sort out before my drinking – losing some weight, eating more healthily, going to yoga, sorting out the house… When all of those are done I told myself, I’ll think about cutting down on my drinking, perhaps even stopping for while. By that time I would probably find I was drinking normally anyway so the problem (if in deed there was a problem and just me overreacting) would have disappeared. Yes, I told myself, that was the most sensible approach.
Looking back now, I can see that this the Contemplation Stage of the Stages of Change model. This is the stage at which people intend to change in the next six months. They are more aware of the pros of changing, but are also acutely aware of the cons. This weighing up of pros and cons can lead to profound ambivalence and people often remain in this stage for long periods of time. For me, this stage probably lasted 18 months or so. Looking back, I think this was possibly the hardest part of my sober journey so far. This was the time when drinking or thinking about drinking dominated everything. It was absolutely exhausting and utterly relentless.
Several of the women I have met are at this stage right now. As I listen to them, in my head I can hear my own voice saying the very same things. They are going round and round in circles, alternating between elation perhaps when moderation is going well, to despair, when despite good intentions they find themselves drinking too much again. It is difficult to watch. I am someone who wants to make things better and it can be hard to step back and allow these women to go through the process, find their own way. But I know that for me and for them that is what I have to do.