Lessons in going dry

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. 

    7 thoughts on “Lessons in going dry

    1. That’s an incredibly focussed way to go about it. I’m intrigued by the comment “intense physical pain” from white wine. Are you talking about hangover headaches? Or a reaction of some kind?

      The social context of alcohol in Australia is such a big part of it. If you can go all through the holiday season without it, that’s a huge re-programming.

      But ah: stress and the type of job you have. Going back to work will be a far bigger challenge than Christmas/New Year without. What strategies will you use to replace that de-stressor of a glass at night?

      I’ve probably had alcohol almost every day of these holidays, now that I think about it (living with a French colleague, we’d always have one drink with dinner.)

      But it’s been a re-education of sorts. I almost never stop at one drink at home. I go without a drink say for a week, but will then have 3-4 in one sitting i.e. essentially drinking to get tipsy/forget the work week. I haven’t done that for nearly 2 months now. I also never drank in front of the kids at shared meals (my colleague did.) It was interesting getting in the habit of just drinking chilled water at restaurants every time we went out. I’ve really re-evaluated the style of consumption that I / my friends have. I was really in denial about how crappy alcohol made me feel the next day. New goal for this year is avoiding the 3-4 glass ceiling I had before. Do you have a particular ongoing goal?

      • I got the worst ever headache, like my brain was being crushed, and felt like food poisoning. I didn’t vomit but was in such pain I thought I was dying and was nauseous. Happened twice and both times we nearly called the ambulance. The first time we blamed the food. Second time the only common factor was I drank white wine, which I rarely do. Haven’t had drink white wine since and haven’t had the reaction. Possibly it may have developed from menopause. I have been told by others they have developed similar things.

        I don’t fancy a glass of wine with dinner. And I generally don’t stop at one. Three to four is my usual too.

        I’m going to go back to my technique of walking and exercising as stress relief. I’ve also turned off my emails and won’t have them come through to my phone so I can disconnect. And I’ve booked French lessons for once a week!!

    2. Well done Lucinda – I wouldn’t have guessed you to be a journaller, but then again, it’s a small step from journalling to blogging right?

      I like my relationship to alcohol. I’ve been too cheap in my youth (like university days) and that slowed me down. Now, I can have a glass pre dinner. That’s all. I had two last night (on a ‘date’ of sorts). I tend to not drink anything but water whilst I eat (ie I’ll pause on any alcohol and resume post eating. I know that I get quite refluxy or similar from too much too, and i don’t enjoy that at all. And I feel no pressure to drink from peers. It’s a good place to be in. Now… sweets – that’s where my weakness is currently. I’ve gone and stayed sugar free but it clearly has not stuck!

      • I don’t like drinking alcohol while eating either.

        I’m not a journaller. So you picked right. Not into American style motivational quotes either. But tried both as I followed the book. And, well, it worked.

        Woo hoo. A sort of date!

    3. I’ve just been away for a week (your neck of the woods, actually! Steamy weather is a bit of an incentive to have a cool drink or seventeen); and the people we were away with are much bigger drinkers than I am when left to my own devices. I’m a one or two drinks, once or twice a week kind of drinker – with reasonably regular “dry spells” of a couple of weeks dotted through the year. The week we spent in Sydney, we would hit the beer/wine/cider and salty snacks when we got back from the day’s shenanigans and sip casually until bed time. (Or sip quickly. Ahem. And sometimes remember to feed the kids before 8pm. Oops) Anyway, I consumed my fair share over the week. Now I’m back, I’ve resumed normal programming (suspect I’m entering a “dry spell”, weirdly enough!)

      But one thing I did notice when I got back, aside from an all consuming desire to *not* drink alcohol, is that I appear to have broken a different habit – I used to come home from work, grab a handful of lollies from the jar and a glass of juice or cordial (or two, sometimes three. Sugar is my friend, lol). Same over the course of the weekend. The jar is currently empty, although there are lollies *in* the pantry. I’ve not even been slightly tempted to refill the jar. I’ve not reached for the salty snacks, either. Ok, we’ve been back for three days, so it’s early days yet. But I didn’t buy biscuits when I did my weekly work shop yesterday, and I’m also not snacking as much at work. We shall see…

      • Good habit to break that lolly one.

        Hot humid weather does encourage drinking. If only to get to sleep. I can see why they drink more in NT. If I lived there I’d want to be perennially drink.

        Hope you had a good break up north? With fun beachy times.

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