You’re officially a week down! No matter when you’re reading this, you’ve survived at least most of a weekend, for us in 2018 it’s Sunday so this post is going to be a bit of a rest. This is because rest is extremely important for your recovery. More than just a challenge of your willpower, quitting drinking for any amount of time is hard on your emotions, and mental capacity.
If you’ve been journalling, going to meetings, exercising and distracting yourself for the past week, you deserve some time to breathe. Quitting alcohol is a challenge, but it doesn’t need to feel like running a marathon. The only thing that you need to do to be sober is to NOT DRINK alcohol, so as long as you are doing that much, you’re winning.
So consider cheating on your diet a little, sleeping in, or skipping a gym session. Pray, meditate and take it easy. You’re doing great and you can being week 2 with more energy than if you had kept sprinting through today like a racehorse.
Not feeling strong enough to break your routine? That’s ok too! Do what YOU need to do, don’t listen to me if it doesn’t feel right.
Are you getting in the groove of things yet? Is your sobriety something you don’t need to think about? You may feel yourself wanting to slump back in to old habits, or being pulled toward temptation, this is normal. For some people who quit drinking, temptation follows them for decades after they quit. We live in a culture of alcohol consumption, so it’s hard to escape temptation when everyone is offering you a drink.
You get in to a groove the same way you get in to a rut (which may be why you decided to quit drinking in the first place): you do the same things over and over.
For you, this might mean changing your work commute so you don’t pass your favourite liquor store. You may need to mute the group-text convo where everyone is talking about how excited they are to get wasted this weekend. You might want to start a new good habit to replace an old bad habit.
Speaking from experience, if you decided you needed to quit drinking for a month, there’s a good chance you have an addictive personality. Take that weakness and turn it in to a strength by pouring yourself in to a new hobby, activity or other outlet for the energy you’d normally expend drinking. I got my Fitbit around the time I quit and I loved smashing those step-goals! That lead to going to the gym more, and before I knew it I was in a groove.
Day 3 might be the hardest day for you so far. Some people say that if you can get through the 3rd day, you can make through the rest of the month. There’s a chance you’re starting to feel normal again, like it’s no big deal. If you’re reading this in 2018, it’s only Wednesday, so you might not have had much temptation to go out. This is actually an enviable situation, you have a few days before the weekend comes and starts to make drinking feel like an obligation again.
Got a social event coming up on the weekend? Maybe a wedding with an open bar? In my first month of sobriety I cancelled these weekend plans and avoided social events like the plague.
“After work happy hour… I’d love to but I’m going to the gym”
“Your band is playing at the pub… sorry I’m seeing a movie that night”
“You’re watching the game… I’ve got to wake up early tomorrow for work”
Sure these excuses are lame, some people won’t accept them, and even some folks will know you’re lying. All that doesn’t really matter when you’re trying to reach a goal that’s this important. If you need to cloister yourself away in your house with a pizza and Netflix, or if you need to head to an AA meeting or to a church group, whatever you need to do, don’t feel badly blowing off your drinking buddies.
If you can get through the temptation of social obligation you can get through anything!
In the post about Sober October Day 1, I said you don’t have to quit drinking forever… just get through a single day without drinking. Getting through Day 1 is one of the hardest days, taking the plunge is one of the hardest parts. However, when I say “Stop Drinking for Life” I don’t mean that you need to commit to stop drinking for the rest of your life… I mean quit drinking so you can ENJOY YOUR LIFE.
Assuming you’ve already dumped all the beer, wine and spirits in your home, I suggest going for a walk, going to a movie, hitting the gym, and literally anything else that breaks the old habits that led to drinking in the first place. Think of sobriety as life, and drinking as death. Think of all the quality experiences you had to miss because you were wasted, or worse yet… the experiences you ruined, or don’t remember because you were wasted.
Prove to the monkey on your back that your life is more than drinking.
The hardest drink is always the last, especially when you know it’s going to be your last. Deciding is easy, taking action is hard. Deciding to finally put down the bottle, pour out the remainder and strap in for abstinence can be the hardest decision you make. If you are like me, and you decided to begin your sobriety journey on a set date, then it can be hard to draw a line in the sand for yourself. Do you need to stop drinking on September 30th before midnight? Or will waking up with a hangover on Oct 1st from staying out too late going to help you kick the habit with a throbbing headache? This is your journey, so hopefully you’ve already had your last drink hours ago.
Some ways to keep it as your last drink:
If there’s any booze left in your house, toss it or give it away
Eat food, drink water and get some exercise
Why? Well you want to do all of the following things to help keep you from breaking your streak: Get rid of temptation, nourish your body, and stay sane. Quitting alcohol is a big step, don’t make it harder than it has to be. If all else fails, remind yourself that you don’t have to quit drinking forever, you just need to prevent yourself from drinking until the end of the day. Then you can go to sleep, wake up refreshed tomorrow and scratch “Day 1” off your calendar and start it all again with Day 2.
Looking for more resources on how to quit drinking? Read more:
Your drinking has hurt you or someone you loved physically or emotionally
The stereotypical drunk person can barely stand, has trouble speaking and should NOT be driving a car. Alcohol impairs motor function causing drinkers to lose their balance, and have issues performing simple tasks. If you’re the type of person that has fallen, been in a car accident, or struck someone while under the influence of alcohol, it may be a clear sign that you have a problem.
Additionally, lashing out or getting in to a mentally or emotionally stressful situations with loved ones can be a sign that you no longer have control of your drinking. Impaired judgement is another symptom of alcohol intoxication. Making bad decisions, saying hurtful words and increased stress and anxiety while drunk are all signs that problematic drinking.
Drinking has costs you more than you can afford
We all know drinking can be expensive but putting your enjoyment before rent/mortgage payments is a major red flag. Again, impaired judgement is a sign of intoxication so if you’ve ever spent come home from a night out with an empty wallet it’s a very bad sign.
Additionally, a hangover is a given when celebrating with alcohol but losing jobs, friends, missing special events, or losing possessions like wedding rings is a very clear sign that your drinking is out of control. Sacrificing money, possessions and relationships with friends and family is not a good tradeoff for alcohol
You wish you could quit drinking
Drinking can be fun, and we’ve all likely wished we were having a drink instead of at work. However, if you’ve ever been drunk and simply thought “I wish I could stop” it’s a very clear indication that you should take steps to curb your drinking or stop all together.
Not everyone will come to this point in their life, but if you’re like me and one day wished you could stop, then you should try! Why would you continue to do something if there is even a small part of your brain that is wishing you would stop?
The lucky part is that you don’t need to wish! You don’t need a genie in a bottle or a shooting star to use magic to stop you from drinking. There are number of stop drinking programs you can use, books to read, support groups to attend and more. No wishes or magic needed!
If you would like to learn more about my journey to sobriety, you can read more blog posts at stopdrinking.solutions
I tried quitting for “Just a Month” in the past. My current streak is a continuation on those experiments. I started “Sober October” in 2010 as an experiment in mental and physical health, after reading an article about a Food Writer who needed a break from her constant imbibing.
I can’t find the original column, but the writer went on to praise the health and monetary benefits of her month of sobriety. She saved money, lost weight, and her first glass of wine in November was the best shed ever had. It sounded amazing, so I decided to take the plunge and it worked!
I didnt do the entire 31 days to be honest, I went to a Halloween party on the 30th, but I had successfully abstained from alcohol for 4.5 weekends. It doesnt seem like a lot now, but at the time it was a feat to be applauded. I dont think I had gone ONE weekend without drinking that year, much less 4 in a row.
I saved money, I lost some weight, I felt great! The party I went to for Halloween was better for it, although some of the money I saved through the month was spent on that last weekend. Like that, I powered through a month without alcohol and arrived in November with the same attitude as I had in September.
Although I had essentially only put my drinking on pause, I felt like Sober October was a great exercise for me. I knew there was alcoholism in my family, so to prove to myself that I could quit whenever I wanted felt good. For most people out there, one month without booze is enough to prove that you dont have an addiction. The next year, I realized this wasnt the case.
I brought this up in the first post, but Ill stress the point further here: I am not a doctor or scientist or anything of importance when it comes to mental or physical health. All I can really do is express my experience for you to learn from, and the account of Sober October 2011 is just that.
Im not sure what it was about 2011 that made Sober October that much different, but I think it had something to do with my living arrangements and who I was taking as friends. I just moved to the big city with an old friend and we were hitting the town quite a bit, and I was having the time of my life!
Theres always a chance that my abstaining in October of 2010 pushed me to drink more in 2011, but regardless I drank harder that year and Sober October 2011 proved a lot harder than I had expected. I wasnt exactly shaking with withdrawal tremors, but about 2 weeks in I felt worse than I have ever felt before.
The pains were a combination of depression (if you know, you know, if you dont imagine getting dumped and watching the last 15 minutes of Forest Gump everyday) and the sick feeling of being hungry, but going past the initial grumblings and hunger pangs to a deep aching pain in my stomach.
Still, after an uncomfortable month of not drinking I went to a Halloween party and got trashed! The party was a lot of fun, but as a result of all the fun I ended up with a cold. The booze had trashed my immune system, and walking around in October in just a Hobo costume and kissing a bunch of girls didnt help much either.
I had one more drink on November 1st and I remember being halfway through a Strongbow and wondering what I was doing. I was at a bar on a Wednesday night, and everything was normal, but I didnt really want to finish my drink. I thought a Strongbow would be taking it easy but between my cold and some new insights I now had I decided not to finish that drink and call off drinking until I was well.
Taking November off was great, and it helped me recover much faster than normal. Cold medication doesnt really do its job when youre going to the bar and staying out late 3 nights a week. I decided that I would continue my abstaining from alcohol straight on through until Valentines day of the next year. I would be going to Cuba with my family and that seemed like a good goal to have.
After 2.5 months without a drink I was getting into the mindset of a sober person. I was doing less Partying Sans-Booze and more Living My Actual Life it was great, and I was able to save up some money for my upcoming vacation. I was also eating pretty well and exercising which has almost 0 drawbacks, I felt like the king of the castle!
Cuba was a shit show. I’ll say it right now, I don’t think I was beyond the antics of the usual 20-something who goes to an All-Inclusive tropical resort, but my alcohol intake was quite high compared to normal. I remember feeling really weird taking the first few sips of the Cuban beer with my family, but before I knew it I was in the disco the next night doing shots of the worst rum I had ever tasted.
I was a maniac, literally I was in a complete state of mania. It was amazing to let go of myself in a way I had never done before, but it was kind of scary to think about how much I was drinking. I never really drank dangerously but I think that I would’ve suffered physically if I had stayed an extra week.
After Cuba I felt good, but almost immediately I was drinking again. I didnt take any time off to let my liver recover. If anything I wanted to drink more because of all the fun I had in Cuba. The dancing, the women, the techno music until 3am was everything drinking was supposed to be and I wanted my real life drinking to be more like that.
I thought I’d be fine, but in reality my drinking got worse. I didn’t notice at first, but during a music festival that summer I made a few dumb decisions. They weren’t even funny or exciting stories to tell, they were just sad moments of a person who had an alcohol problem. I was getting as drunk as I did in Cuba, but I wasn’t having any of the fun.
This realization hit me pretty hard as the next Sober October was coming up. At a point I was sitting in front of my computer at my desk and I realized I was depressed. I also realized I was 3 going on 4 beers on a weeknight (gross beer because I was too cheap). I was drunk, alone and wondering why my life sucked and then it finally clicked.
I actually said to myself “I wish I could stop drinking”. I didn’t think it would change my life immeasurably, I didn’t actually think it would be the magic ticket to help me live up to my potential (more on that in future posts), but it was just the realization I needed to decide that the coming Sober October would be different. I needed Sober October to become Sober Forever.
Take-away: Trying to quit for a month is great, but don’t be surprised if your alcohol problem just gets worse. You might not drink more, or become a maniacal party animal like I did, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it creates more problems than it solves. If nothing else it will give you a pretty clear picture of your problem as you spend 30 days analyzing what kind of person you are when you’re not drinking.
All that being said, if you think that you really have a problem with alcohol and you want to fix your life; cutting back or taking a month off isn’t going to fix it for you. There is a difference between abstaining and recovering.
If you think alcohol has become unmanageable in your life please contact a physician, mental health professional or someone else you can trust.
Find Out More:
In order to start making changes with your relationship with alcohol please visit the Alcohol Free Social Life website where you will learn specific techniques and examples of how to make changes now:
Weekends are rough. Especially when you first decide that you want to quit drinking, you have to think about how you are going to fill your weekend. Your friends are going to a Craft Beer Festival both days and you forgot you had a ticket. It cost $50 bucks per day and everyone is excited for a big party weekend. Continue reading “Surviving the Weekend | Stop Drinking Solutions”
Wow, Ive been getting some great feedback on this blog and heres the first bit of reader email.
Why the hell is this so hard?
Actually lets start this way. Hey, we barely know each other but I’ve enjoyed your work in other avenues, and now here we are, talking about the realest shit there is, because alcohol is something that unites us all, in some weird way. Ive had my ups and downs with it but always felt like I kept it under control. I had one episode years ago where I threw up on myself and got tossed at last call because I was celebrating a pay raise at work (ughthe worst night), but since then, I never got behind the wheel drunk and I rarely did/said anything while under the influence that I ended up regretting.
My thing with alcohol was (well, IS) that it ends up amplifying whatever sad shit might be rolling around in my head at any given time. I cant even pinpoint how it started, but Id gotten awfully comfortable with drinking 2-4 beers and/or a couple glasses of bourbon pretty much every single day (what am I saying pretty muchit was every single day) after work. That time between 5-9 p.m. Its my time to drink. While I was drinkingman, I cant even tell you so good. No other way to say it, I LOVE good beer and bourbon. But toward the tail end of every evening, Id just feel like total shit self-pity, self-doubt, self-loathing, the whole deal. No real reason my life is pretty great. Alcohol just makes me negatively introspective. Id wake up the next morning feelingeh, semi-OK, but never good. Never great. Justdrinking to drink. Every day. One, then another, then another.
Then, a little more than a week ago, I decided Thats enough. Just got sick of it. I still want (nay, crave) a cold beer when I walk in the door after work, but I just pour a big ginger ale instead. Working so far. Ive knocked out a few weeks here and there sober, but always got roped back into it at a social engagement or whatever. Always think I can just have one at dinner and sometimes, I can! But the next day, lets have two. Then its the weekend, and hell, its noon, I can have one with lunchwhy stop nowthe game is almost onand there is still five in the fridge
You know how it goes.
So Im feeling great right now. Sharp, focused, energized, 5 pounds lighter. All good. And your blog posts have been helpful, so please know that. And I appreciate you giving me your email to vent all this also super helpful. Youre an A+ dude and Im here for you to talk through all this (and anything else you wanna talk about). Thanks again.
Thats a pretty normal reaction for sure. The habitual drinking becomes common place before you notice, and then it slowly starts to wear you down. I remember thinking How does Don Draper do it? and then I have to remind myself that hes a character on a television show.
The social engagement thing is hard. Once you quit drinking you might start to realize how many free drinks float around, and/or how many situations where people expect you to drink. You tend to stick out like a sore thumb if you dont have a drink in your hand, and people tend to treat you with kid-gloves because they think you are broken. Its sick, and Ive skipped more than one social engagement because I didnt want to deal with crap.
Its hard for so many reasons, Im only starting to see how theyve creeped in to my life. My dad drank after work, especially while watching sports and I think I picked that up from him. That, and all the alcohol culture on television and in movies was a huge thing for me. Its still a trigger when I see some characters on television getting hammered and I want nothing more than to pound some liquor and get sloppy (its a very short window of deep desire, but its followed by some longing).
I think its also hard because of the age we live in. I dont know much about you, but if youre around my age and in my demographic youre likely underemployed and over educated. Sometimes we see where were at and think This is it, tomorrows going to be the same day as today. We long for more, but it seems impossible to change our life in a way thats meaningful (for any number of reasons). That feeling of gentle hopelessness makes booze a very attractive option.
You can turn off your brain, shake up your attitude and give yourself a kick in the pants with a stiff drink. After all these years of equating alcohol with good times, it feels great to have a drink after work. Its that climax at the end of the masturbation that is your day job. However, the pavlovian trigger of drinking doesnt really give you pleasure it just numbs you until you feel comfortable in your skin. Thats all fine and dandy after an especially hard day at work, or during a celebration but for people like us it becomes a habit that eventually numbs us to the point of depression.
Thats why its so hard, and it sucks because the hardest part isnt NOT DRINKING, its unplugging your brain from the triggers that make you want to drink. Some people need to uncover some childhood trauma to help them out, some people need to forgive themselves for something they did, I think people like us need to add more value to our lives in order to make it worth living without the constant burden of alcohol. Once were amazing people with too little free time to be boozing, we wont want to spend our evenings in a melancholy state of numbed bliss.
Thanks for reading this post. Check out the first post for more info on what this is all about. My advice and anecdotes are to be taken as entertainment and for inspirational purposes (definition: I’m NOT a doctor or addictions professional). If you think you have a serious drinking problem please visit a doctor. If you’re worried about telling a family doctor, you can always try a walk-in clinic or try this resource for help with substance abuse in Canada.