“I cannot ever drink alcohol again”.

That phrase strikes fear amongst many within the sobersphere who quit drinking through a non traditional (non-AA) method. But not for the reason you might think!

As an alcoholic I spent so many years feeling out of control. Unable to control my cravings. Unable to control that ‘5pm’ pull. Unable to say tell myself no. The feeling that loss of control brings can be incredibly undermining to your self confidence. Many people think alcoholics choose to be that way. They choose to keep picking up a drink. They understand the consequences but still pick up instead of putting down. When you have an addiction, there is no choice, choice is quashed by compulsion.

When I quit drinking I didn’t say ‘I can’t ever drink again’. The thought was far too terrifying. I wanted to leave that door on the latch, as slamming it shut felt too final. In doing so, I was handing myself the gift of control. The ability to choose my path, to choose my outcome, to choose the way my story ends.

There is a huge difference between the words ‘I can’t’ and ‘I won’t’. Their outcome is the same, but the conviction behind the first exudes helplessness whilst the second exudes control. The first feels restrictive and suffocating whilst the second is empowered. For some people, simply saying ‘I won’t’ is too dangerous. Leaving that door on the latch it is too tempting and will result in you running though that door the second no-one is watching. 

Those two phrases however, are not mutually exclusive. You can use both. Understanding your limitations but in a way that allows control. So my phrase that I say to myself is “I can’t control myself when I drink, so I won’t drink’. The dynamic just seems different.