Alcohol and identity: willingness to change
A big part of our personal identity is tied up with our drinking habits.
Partly because culturally drinking is a big part of our history and conversation, but also because when we drink more than we want, we find ways of normalising our drinking behaviours and embedding them in our identity.
The good news is that our personal identity is forever evolving. An individual may have a self image in later life that is vastly different from their self image in their teens.
I believe that a key part of changing your drinking habits is changing your self-identity, getting rid of past ideas and beliefs about alcohol, and deciding on who it is you want to be in the near future.
I had ideas, beliefs, motivations, and behaviours that were influenced by my long association with alcohol, and also because of my underlying embarrassment of my drinking behaviours.
I also found myself in a job that affected my personal identity and made me miserable. Which in turn led to me making drinking a more important part of my life. I did not manage to quit drinking until I moved away from that job, and created a new professional identity.
Ideas and beliefs about alcohol
Some of these ideas and beliefs may be familiar to you:
- The idea that sober people are dull
- The priority in life is to drink and find people to drink with
- The idea that certain styles of clothing or ‘getting ready to go out’ rituals can only be done when drinking
- The belief that you can only be sociable with a drink in your hand
- The belief that drinking makes people more creative
- The idea that certain types of music are associated with drinking
- Willingness to use dishonesty to achieve a goal
- The idea that you can only win business over a boozy lunch
- Distrust of professionals (those that tell you drinking is bad for you!)
- The belief that achievements should be celebrated with alcohol
- The belief that alcohol provides comfort when life gets bumpy or when you are stressed
- The belief that you feel young again or more carefree after drinking
- The belief that drinking is ‘me time’ and a reward for caring or other responsibilities.
Change takes a willingness to review your identity
Drinking not only affects how you view the world, but also how you see yourself. When you take the alcohol away it can leave a hole in your life.
You need to let go of your old identity to really change your drinking for good. They say a dry drunk is someone who has not let go of an old identity, and so is continually resisting alcohol. Club Soda members are seeking a freedom from both the substance, and the need for and the thoughts of drinking. So embracing a new you is important – and takes some work.
Your drinking identity is likely to be so ingrained that you will need to actively seek to escape it. The following actions make this more likely to happen:
- Avoid old drinking mates, they will only draw you back to the old identity. Maybe see people in that group individually, in a new location, or avoid them until you feel more confident
- Build a new network of sober friends. These friends can help you establish a new self image that does not involve alcohol. Club Soda allows you to do this online and at our regular socials. They are worth travelling for
- Read others people’s stories and books to get inspiration – know that a new sober identity is not only possible but also joyful
- Learn new more effective coping mechanisms – deal with the stress and anxiety rather than drinking and putting it off for another day
- Help others change their drinking – be a buddy, support others in the group. You don’t have to have nailed your own goal yet to help others
- Know that experimenting and trying new things is part of the process of finding a new self-image that is comfortable to wear
- Most of all, decide who you want to be in the near future. What are your strengths, the things you value the most, what is important to you? Make a decision, take action, and change your drinking so that you are more likely to get to the future you want to be.
For everything we feel we may lose when we change our drinking we can gain twice as much.
The future you is an amazing person – so stop putting off meeting them.
You can watch Laura’s webinar on these topics below.