Need vs Want (or How I Stopped Drinking Without Really Trying)

Turning need into want changes the outcome.

Need vs Want (or How I Stopped Drinking Without Really Trying)
Photo by Lucas Santos / Unsplash

I haven’t had alcohol in over five years.

I’m not actually counting the days because I never intended to stop drinking altogether.

But my sobriety didn't just happen.

What happened was I made one tiny change that shifted my perspective.

I shifted my “need” into a “want”.

I went from obligation to desire.

And it made all the difference.

When setting out to attain a goal, many people look at the final objective.

In my case, I thought I should stop drinking because…

I needed to lose weight;

I needed to get healthy;

I needed to prove that my crankiness was justified and not because of the glass or two of red wine I had at the end of every day.

But filling “needs” is draining, exhaustive, demanding – and over the long term, it’s unsuccessful. I tried six ways to Sunday to curb my drinking (drank only on the weekends, limited myself to one glass of wine, did  30-day cleanse).  Need may have spurred me into action, but that action wasn’t sustainable over the long run.

Turning that need into want, however, changed my perspective – and the narrative.

I wanted to stop drinking because…

I wanted to spend time connecting with my teenage daughter at night (the only time of the day she was chatty and pleasant) without being too exhausted to be present, because she's the funniest person I know.

I wanted to get better sleep at night so I could get more out of my workouts the next morning.

I wanted to read a few more pages of my book at night so I could have my “me” time which helped me stay calm throughout the day.

I wanted to discover the root of that crankiness.

Want is desire. Want is fueling, energetic, constructive. When I focused on what I wanted, I stayed present and was rewarded by the results of both intended and unanticipated outcomes.

Yes, I had a closer connection to my daughter, balance in my day, better workouts.


I laughed more, had more energy, more fun (who knew that not drinking could be so much fun?!?), stronger connections to all of my children, a much better relationship with my husband, less anger, more peace, more clarity. Outcomes I didn’t even know were possible.

Those rewards became something I didn’t want to give up. I wanted those outcomes more than I wanted the temporary pleasure of wine. Letting go of what I thought I needed allowed so much more of what I wanted into my life.

I was talking to a trainer about how to set attainable, sustainable goals in our lives – at the gym and at home. He told me that his original goal of having more balance in his schedule led him to sleeping in an extra hour on the mornings he didn’t have to go to work early. He needed more sleep to feel balanced.  See that word “need”?

But he realized that in that extra hour of sleep he was getting in the morning, he was missing uninterrupted free time with his son (who is young and gets up early) – and that was time that truly made him feel balanced. That discovery led him to understand that if he shifted his perspective from “I need more sleep” to “I want to go to bed an hour earlier so I can be more present with my son in the morning”, he was more apt to turn off the tv at night knowing that he was fulfilling a desire, not a need. And he got both – more sleep and time with his son.

A balance win-win.


This isn’t a post about how to stop drinking, really. But if that’s your goal - whatever your goal - find a small step built around DESIRE that you can achieve every day.

And see if that doesn’t take you to your goal – and further past it than you ever imagined possible.