I gave up alcohol for over 30 days, including Christmas parties and Christmas Day. Since finishing my 30 Day Sobriety, I have cut back.
It really wasn’t a challenge to stay alcohol free. Given that towards the end of the school year, the pressure and stress ramped up, add in the multiple Christmas celebrations, and I think that makes it more impressive.
Of course, there were times I felt like a drink. When that automatic physical reaction kicked in, say on a perfect afternoon with clear skies, when I could actually feel a nice cold glass in my hand and feel the joy of having a drink with Mr S in the peace after a busy day.
And the last day of the school year! I always celebrate with a drink! It’s like a big sigh, letting go of the year.
So why was it not hard? Here’s some thoughts/strategies/reasons in no particular order.
- Firstly, I committed to it 100%. I thought of drinking as I do of shoplifting. I would no more take a little thing without paying than I would steal something of value. So, one little drink was out. This meant I wasn’t tempted by the alcohol in the house. I just wasn’t going to drink. Will power can be strong but on its own it won’t work. Not for long anyway.
- I reminded myself of the intense physical pain I get from drinking white wine. Since suffering from this, I am never tempted to even sip white white lest I suffer again. There is no way the joy of drinking white wine is ever worth the pain. If I can stop drinking white wine, surely I can relate the same principle to all alcohol.
- I thought, and wrote, down my long term goals. Goals that I would achieve by not drinking – healthy living and saving money for travel. Reminding myself regularly of these goals helped me on track. The balance is between short term reward (ie drinking and the mellow feeling) and long term goals (health and financial). I put more on the long term goals.
- I ate more chocolate and drink sweet drinks for the first couple of weeks. I didn’t beat myself up over this. My body was craving the sugar in alcohol. If I cracked down on the sweets, I may have faltered altogether.
- I mediated and did guided visualisations on what I wanted to achieve.
- I reminded myself of the embarrassing things I have done while drunk. This was harsh: I put myself in the place of my colleagues. How would they see me? I don’t want to be that person. And I know how harshly I judge people!
- I made another analogy. I related drinking to something I have no desire to do: gambling. I can walk through a casino and not feel any desire to gamble. So why can’t I go to a pub and not need to have a drink?
- I journalled daily for much of the month. By handwriting in a journal I made my goals and progress concrete. Journalling also kept me busy in the afternoon when I normally would be bored and restless and thus reach for a drink.
- I contributed to an online forum with other women who were trying to cut back. Encouraging others helps as much as their words to me.
- I challenged the place of alcohol in our society’s view (and mine) of celebrations and holidays and fun and socialising. I don’t want to be a wowser. Nothing worse! But really, we can have fun without it. I can holiday without it. I am holidaying without it. And having great fun!!!
The book, 30 Day Sobriety Solution, helped enormously. It kept me on track; helped me reflect on my drinking; kept me busy. Many of the ideas I have have written in this post, came from the book. I recommend getting a hold of it.
You know, I didn’t drink on New Year’s Eve!
Do you know that thing where you have “just a couple” and by the third lose the switch to stop? Lest you think I’m too smug, I still have that part of me saying “just one more”. Now, I remind myself that more won’t keep the nice feeling. More will make me feel sick. So I stop, even though the desire to keep the fun going is there.
I appreciate that for some, giving up is not as easy as it was for me.
For me it was more about breaking the habit of wine o’clock. Putting things in place to do of an evening; dealing with work stress on different ways.
Some or none of the steps I took may help you. Maybe you don’t need to cut back. But clearly many do. Look at the amount of alcohol that is seen as healthy by doctors! Hardly enough to wet the whistle.
My test will come when the pressure of work returns. I will face that challenge then.