Inspired by your comments, feedback and ideas over the past 12 months, this is part 1 in a 3 part series. The purpose of this series is to confront the three things that almost broke me after I made the decision to quit drinking, 17 months ago.
Here in part 1, I share my struggle setting personal boundaries with drinkers. I’m not an expert of any kind, I’m simply laying out my experiences. In parts 2 and 3 I will confront two other meaty challenges … watch this space.
I want to do this three part series in the hope that someone, somewhere might find inspiration so that their alcoholfree journey is a bit easier. Even just a little bit.
Personal Boundaries – what are they?
We all have different perspectives when it comes to personal boundaries. I researched various sources and would like to offer a succinct, clear definition that resonated with me the most. It’s from a site you might find interesting called Essential Life Skills.
‘Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others.’ ~ Essential Life Skills
Personal Boundaries – why is it such a big deal?
After I quit drinking, it took me 9-12 months before I could comfortably set personal boundaries with drinkers. Sounds like a long time, I know. And at times, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say ‘Fuck it! I can’t do this anymore! I’m going to have a drink.’ But I didn’t. That would have been the easy way out. When it came to drinking, I was used to doing what I had always done, and that’s to do what everyone else is doing. I was used to caving into the peer pressure and heading off to the pub.
Personal Boundaries – what was my problem?
My problem with setting personal boundaries was that as I drinker, I never had to set these kinds of boundaries before. As a drinker, I had always just gone with the flow. I’d always said YES to a drink. I’d always said YES to boozy girls weekends away. I always said YES to wine while making tea because ‘I deserved it’ or ‘I’d had a hard day’ or some other bullshit I concocted in my little head to justify the YES.
But now I was saying NO.
People didn’t like it when I said NO. They didn’t want to hear it. They wanted everything to be how it had always been – easy. And it was the biggest drinkers that made my life hell. I couldn’t really see it at the time but now I’ve clocked them. Those few people are no longer in my life and have been replaced ten-fold by a new tribe of respectful, like-minded and loving human beings.
My second problem with setting personal boundaries was that I HATED the interrogations with a passion. So many people couldn’t accept my choice to not drink. And because I had never set personal drinking boundaries before, it almost broke me on many occasions.
I genuinely believe that not everyone interrogated me with malicious intent. I think that most people were genuinely shocked and let’s be honest, I understand why. Firstly, I was a drinker. Not just a 1-2 glass drinker, I mean a DRINKER. Secondly. I don’t know anyone (except one person) that was a pisshead like me and quit for real. So I can understand their curiosity and confusion. But that didn’t make it easier at the time; in fact it crushed me … devastated me … on many occasions. But thanks to my awesome partner (he’s my rock!) I didn’t cave in. I held my line.
Personal boundaries – how did I get comfortable with setting them?
OK so this is the hardest piece of the blog. As mentioned, it took me a year to truely get OK within myself with saying NO and genuinely not give a f&$k what people thought or said about it.
Here are the three things that got me comfortable with setting personal boundaries:
- TIME. You know that saying about the scars on your back making you stronger? That’s the concept that springs to mind. The more I was faced with drinking situations that I needed to walk away from, the more I became ok with putting the ‘alcoholfree me’ first.
- SUPPORT. Whether it’s a close friend, a family member, your other half, online groups or something else, get yourself support. Becoming alcoholfree in a heavy drinking society that pressures people to conform means the odds are stacked against us. Please don’t be ashamed to reach out and seek support from someone you love. Because when the pressure comes on and you’re at tipping point, having a reasoned and trusted buddy could be the difference between getting through it or not.
- READ, READ, READ. Blogs, books, anything you can get your mitts on that offers methods for setting boundaries. Knowledge is power. I read tones of stuff but without the other two items on my list, reading alone would have gotten me nowhere.
So that’s my take on personal (drinking) boundaries in a nutshell. If you would like some real life examples, you can find many here in my blog. For example, I offer you My Sober Vegas Vacation blogs… THAT was a true test of my ability to set personal drinking boundaries!!!! I was only five months off the booze at that stage and we went to Vegas for eight days with two other couples. There was no backing out of it as our airfares and accommodation was already booked from before I had quit drinking. So here I was, a petrified newly-ex drinker in Vegas with two other couples including some dawn-to-dusk hardcore drinkers. I was a disaster waiting to happen. But against all odds, I did it! After getting through that I now think I could get through most peer pressure drinking scenarios … but let’s not get too overconfident.
Thanks for reading! All the best with becoming a strong personal drinking boundary setter. Your mind, body, confidence and inner peace will flourish. xoxo
Virtual alcholfree hugs,
P.S. you’ve probably seen truck loads of quotes on your social media feeds about boundaries. I’m offering you the following because it sums up my last year brilliantly. I also love the image: railway tracks. My interpretation:
- People WILL try and railroad our alcoholfree journeys.
- People WILL try and throw us off course for their own drinking pleasure.
- But if we hold true to ourselves, we will come out dancing. And people who love us will honour and respect us for it. 🕺🏾🎶🎉🕺🏾🎶