As a coach I guide spiritual individuals to thrive through life transitions. Today I am fortunate to be able to do what I love, however this was not always the case. Like all of us, I come with many stories woven throughout my life molding me into the woman you see before you today. This particular one is how I overcame my addiction to alcohol and cigarettes. I want to share the insights I learned along the way in hopes of inspiring others along their journey.
For years I was addicted to alcohol, however, most of those around me never knew. I was highly functional, don’t you know! Always there for others, met my commitments, had a successful corporate career, lots of great friends, vacations, however I had a secret that was eating at my soul.
I often get asked “HOW” I managed to quit drinking (6 years and counting).
Like most, I started out as an occasional drinker, on the weekends, birthdays, Christmas, family celebrations, vacations etc. There never seemed to be a shortage of “reasons” to drink. Unfortunately as the emotional stresses in my life grew so did the use of my coping mechanism of choice, alcohol and cigarettes. First, it was a couple of evenings a week just to unwind or escape reality. Without even realizing it I had formed an addiction and was no longer calling the shots. My life felt like I was on a hamster wheel living the same reality over and over again. I was walking through a maze with no idea how to get out! My soul was softly whispering to me to “wake up there is more to life than this, we came here to do big things!” I would continually make false promises to myself such as “this is the last time I will drink!” Only for the addiction to call my bluff and have the cycle start all over again. The shame and guilt from this cycle allowed me to deny the truth and kept me stuck in a self-imposed prison.
To be clear, it was a process of multiple things that finally led me to quit drinking and smoking. When I did make the decision, I quit cold turkey and have never looked back since. Here are some of my learnings that allowed me to do this.
Acknowledging the addiction was the first step. You can’t change something you don’t acknowledge. Next, I started praying /meditating daily asking God for guidance, a way out of this self-imposed prison. I attended personal development seminars and programs such as Hoffman, Unleash The Power Within and Leadership Academy. I hired two coaches, one with Tony Robbins to learn life strategizes and another who specialized in addiction. I started reading and educating myself on the effects of alcohol on my mind and body. I invested in myself. (Resources listed at the end of this article.)
How do you know if an addiction is lurking? You start negotiating!
It could look something like “I’ll only have 4 beer at the BBQ, or I’ll only drink on the weekends or after 5 pm, I’ll only have two glasses of wine a night.” Note: people without an addiction don’t negotiate. They don’t have a discussion with themselves to justify their behavior about when, where, how many and how often. An addiction can justify just about any behavior to get what it wants.
When “it” starts calling your name more than you call it… that’s an addiction. It could come in many forms like shopping, food, gambling, porn, your iPhone. It comes in all different kinds of wrapping paper and is not biased to race, gender or creed.
A big part of my success I attribute to the ability to disassociate myself from the addiction. I knew it was not my authentic self. If you make your behavior who you are, you will feel powerless to change it. Our souls do not come here with any addictions, we are pure love and potential. However, I realized I had an addiction taking up residency in my body, like a parasite feeding on me.
I started looking at what alcohol was costing me? Drinking was no longer fun like it used to be. Who had I become? I brought the pain of what drinking was costing me right to my face. I looked at everything it was robbing me from. Such as tapping into my full potential, deep intimate connections, pursuing my passion, pushing my comfort zones. This quote sums it up perfectly. “Hell would be if God were to show me what I could have done had I only believed in myself.” I was finally in enough pain I was willing to venture into the fear of the unknown…life without alcohol.
I shifted my identity. Nothing in life changes unless your identity changes. As per Tony Robbins “ The strongest pull in human psychology is to align your actions with who you believe you are.” So I started asking myself “Who do I need to become to get the life I want? What would my life look like one year from now if I gave up alcohol? Five years from now? What could I accomplish if nothing controlled me?” This was when the Lioness was born. She was the woman I needed to become to get the life that I wanted.
I got crystal clear on who she was, writing down exactly what her life looked like, her beliefs, values, her daily rituals, down to the type of food in her fridge. Every day I aligned my actions with what she would do, thus creating different results. I put up post-it notes all around my house to remind myself of where I was going and drown out the addictions voice. Quotes like “ Know your bottom line,” “Be willing to do what others are not,” “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”
I chose quotes that stopped me in my tracks, causing me to pause and think before I engaged in anything. I started “parenting” myself. An addiction is like a child that throws a tantrum because it wants what it wants when it wants it. If you teach a child that if they scream and yell loud enough they will eventually get what they want. They will control you. “It’s the tail wagging the dog.” The Lioness did not negotiate with the addiction. I started loving myself through my ACTIONS not just words. I kept asking myself quality questions such as “If I loved myself would I put this in my body? What’s a loving action instead?”
My favorite quote is “How does one become a butterfly? You have to want to fly so bad you are willing to give up being the caterpillar.” The excitement of what my life could look like with NOTHING controlling me fueled me through my darkest hours. Every time I had a craving I would pause and ask myself “ Are you committed to being a caterpillar or do you want to see what your life feels like as a butterfly?”
I changed up my daily routine identifying my triggers, and then came up with a plan and followed through whether I felt like it or not! If I had to put myself to bed at 4 pm for a 30-minute “time out” until the craving passed I did it. If I had to reach out to a friend and talk for an hour I did it. If I had to get out in nature for a walk I did it.
I practiced living in the present moment until one day, I realized I was no longer counting the days without alcohol. My identity had shifted, I was The Lioness, I no longer had to consciously align my decisions to be her.
Through this experience, I tapped into a power I had never before experienced. I used it as fuel to create the incredible life I have today. My core belief is life is happening FOR us not to us, to prepare us for our life’s purpose. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing the information, wisdom is living through it.
On a final note, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I lost the key, the good news is the door was never locked.” You already have everything in you to succeed, you just have to be willing to venture within to get the answers you are seeking. Don’t be afraid to step out and ask for help. Be willing to do what others are not, you are your greatest investment!
Nik Gardiner: Life Strategist Coach
There’s More To Quitting Drinking Than Quitting Drinking – Dr. Paul O Drinking A Love Story – By Caroline Knapp