Being Sober – You Can’t Just Think About It

Getting sober requires more than just thinking about it

When I talk to someone about options they have for recovery and being sober, I’m often told that they will “think about it.” I usually give a wide range of suggestions, from AA meetings to psychiatrists to rehab.

I know the phrase “let me think about it” is tantamount to doing nothing. It’s choosing to not make a decision, to not take any actions. In fact, when a friend invites us to do something, “let me think about it,” is usually a polite way to decline the invitation.

Sobriety is for people who do it

To recover, people need to make choices, they need to make changes, they need to make a start. Change doesn’t come through thinking. People sometimes think about getting sober every time they wake up with a hangover, day after day for years on end. They think (or hope) that today will be different.

In life, change doesn’t happen just by thinking. To graduate from college, we must apply, go to classes, and take tests. It’s a consistent action over four years. To start a family, we must choose a partner and prepare our lives for children.

You can’t think yourself sober

I think about the would-be entrepreneur, filled with great ideas but unable to take action. Or the person that wants to open a restaurant but never takes any steps. Thinking about opening a restaurant is just that; thoughts. To really do it you need to plan a menu, rent a space, hire a contractor. Change happens when we do physical activities to make change.

Being sober is about living sober every day

Everyone can identify with needing to change a diet or begin an exercise program. When we say, I will “think about” going to the gym, in out minds we know we are lying to ourselves. We don’t begin to get into shape until the day that we take action, joining a gym, hiring a trainer, or going for a jog, again.

Thinking about recovering from an addiction is also nothing more than thoughts. Taking action every day, ideally several actions ever day, towards recovery is how change in our drinking habits happens.

When I work with someone that is contemplating recovery, and getting overwhelmed with the all the work that must be done, and the long road ahead, I often quote the Chinese proverb by Lao Tzu.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

There is no better metaphor for starting recovery. When someone thinks that they will have to change their drinking and everything that includes, new places to hang out, new friends, rehab, and a lifetime of dedication to recovery, it can seem like too much to even start. But that journey begins by taking one action.

We have all heard the adage that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Drinking is a habit, and if we don’t make concrete changes that habit will remain unchanged. Understanding the 21/90 rule can shed light on this process.

What is the 21/90 Rule?

The 21/90 rule suggests that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and create a new better habit, and that it takes 90 days for that new, better habit to take hold.

The 90 day mark is celebrated in 12 Step meetings. It’s a big deal! At 90 days, a new lifestyle is emerging, the fear around living sober has subsided, and there’s hope and excitement about the future. Being sober is becoming a habit.

Breaking recovery down into small milestones can be helpful. 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months, and one year. Every milestone should be celebrated. Breaking it down in this way can also be a lot more manageable than thinking about being sober “forever.” To someone just starting out on the road of recovery, “forever” can be very intimidating.

Don’t think about ‘forever’ just think about today

That’s why I encourage the people that I speak with to take an action, today, towards recovery. Make a plan to attend a meeting, make a plan to attend treatment. Once we start taking real, concrete actions, recovery starts falling into place.

About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one. 

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. 

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