Thinking about stopping drinking?
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 say when your partner, family and friends start hinting that maybe you should ‘slow down a bit’? 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.
If you’re not convinced that you need to change your drinking habits download an app like ‘drinker’s helper’ or ‘drinkaware’ to show you the reality of your intake.
Making the decision to stop is not easy. You may have many reasons why you think that not drinking is not for you. But 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 importantly, if 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. We all know how easy it is to break even the most well intentioned promises. 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 are realistic and achievable. Small steps and building tiny habits work best. 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 to 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. As the days pass, 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 supportive. It really isn’t a great idea to spend time with your drinking buddies until you feel really confident in your new found sobriety.
Make time to self care. Caring for yourself is not selfish, It’s fundamental to your well-being. Self care is involves more than eating well, staying hydrated, exercising and having a good sleep hygiene and taking care of your mental health. Effective self care means to you take the time and space to look after yourself and do the things that you enjoy.
You may find that engaging in a spiritual practice such as mindfulness, yoga or meditation will help to counteract the anxiety that comes with early stages of becoming sober. Some people find that starting a spiritual practice helps them deal with the thoughts and feelings that accompany giving up alcohol. 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.
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.
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 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 toughing it out or beating yourself up if you take a step backwards. being strong and having will power can lead to inner conflict and feelings of inadequacy if you don’t achieve your goals. Moe often than not, being strong attacks your self-confidence and self esteem and can lead to a cycle of rinse and repeat. A kinder and gentler approach can make your task more simple. Accepting the decision that you have made for yourself and not giving two hoots about what anyone has got to say about it is a rally powerful mental strategy. 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 other, you are on your own unique journey. Celebrate your successes. The important thing is just to just keep going. Forgive yourself If you stumble, pick yourself up and start again. Remember, you are giving yourself the gift of sobriety; because you deserve it.
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