The past year has been tough. For many it has been tougher than we could ever have imagined. In hard times, we look to find some form of comfort that will help us through the days and get us through those long nights of wall to wall Netflix. Recent reports from various health agencies have commented on the sharp rise in the amount of alcohol that we are consuming as a nation.
In a social setting, sharing a meal and drinks with friends or family is fun. Many people like to kick back, after a hard day in front of zoom with a large glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a G&T. But what do you do, if you start to suspect that you are drinking a bit too much for your liking? What do you do when you wake up in the morning feeling groggy and not your best self because alcohol messes with the quality of your sleep. What do you when you promise yourself ‘just the one’ only to be faced with an empty bottle a few hours later. What do you do when you are racked with guilt because you know that you want to stop, but the promises to yourself never seem to come good?
You make a decision.
Making the decision to stop, is not easy. You may have many reasons why you think that not drinking will be the course of action for you. If you have made the decision, you’ve already taken the first and possibly the hardest step.
Here are a few tips to help you on your way.
First and most important, if you decide to stop, do it for yourself. Be scrupulously honest. List the reasons why you think it will be best for you. Disregard and should’s and ought’s. Examine the secondary gains and make the commitment to you. Note I use the word commitment and not promise. By committing yourself to stop drinking, you are on the path to becoming the best you you can be,
Try not to be too hard on yourself. Make sure you set yourself goals that you can achieve. You may want to stop drinking for a week, a month, a year, forever. Having such long-term goals may seem unattainable. So in the words of AA: take it one day at a time. If a day is too long, take it an hour at a time. If that’s too long, take it minute for minute.
Remember, although the cravings may seem too strong, they only last a few seconds. The way to manage this is by distraction. Turn some music on and dance, run on the stop, do some press ups. Do whatever you can until the urge stops. And it will stop. And as the days go past, the urges will become less overwhelming and less frequent.
Surround yourself with people who will support you. Join a support group. The obvious one is AA, but if that’s not your thing, there are many online groups who are friendly and support.
Make time to self care. Caring for yourself is not selfish. It’s fundamental to your well-being. Self care involves more than eating well, staying hydrated, exercising and having a good sleep hygiene.
Check your triggers to reach for a drink. Remember the acronym HALT which stands for Hunger/thirsty, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
Effective self care means you take the time and space for yourself to do the things that you enjoy. Good self-care involves making time for yourself to have fun.
Start a new hobby or do something that you’ve always wanted to, but have never had the time to tackle. This is the perfect way to usefully spend hours that you used to spend drinking.
Reading is a great way to get to grips with the reasons why you over-drink. There are also many inspiring books by people who got sober and stayed sober. You may also wanted to delve into more factual books that support you in your journey. The early months of recovery are a great time to read all of the books that you’ve been meaning to read for years. Joining a book club is a great way to meet new people. You will find a list of books that you may find helpful in the resources section.
Journalling is a really helpful way of releasing the emotions that may overwhelm you. It’s amazing how much clarity you will get just writing it all down.
Some people find that starting a spiritual practice helps them deal with the thoughts and feelings that accompany giving up alcohol. Mindfulness and meditation are great for this. There are many apps available, some with free trial periods. Find the one that suits you best. Don’t rush it. It takes practice, but you’ll get there in the end.
Every day sober is a victory so make time to celebrate your success and reward yourself.
Think of the process as a pleasure, as the gift that keeps on giving.
In a nutshell:
Be kind to yourself
Set short term, achievable goals
Cravings are finite so distract, distract, distract
Surround yourself with supportive people; an online community such as http://www.boomrethinkthedrink.com is a great place to start.
Make time to self care: hydrate, eat, sleep, exercise, have fun!
Read and journal
A good therapist who understands addiction can be of great help in supporting you to deal with the the wave of emotions that will rush over you and could be overwhelming.
Like giving up anything, stopping drinking is not about being weak or strong, having willpower or not. It’s not about beating yourself if you take a step backwards. It’s might more simple than that. It’s more to do with accepting the decision that you have made for yourself and not giving two hoots about what anyone has got to say about it. You have your reasons, accept them and look forward to the better future that your decision will bring with it.
Give yourself credit for what you are achieving. Don’t compare yourself to others, you are on your own unique journey. Let go of the missteps. Celebrate your successes. The important thing is just to keep going. If you stumble, reach out, pick yourself up and start again. Remember, you are giving yourself the gift of sobriety because you deserve it.
If you need immediate help phone or email Alcoholics Anonymous
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