While some self-help authors and speakers preach a system of tapping in to your inner superhero, I take a more laid-back approach. I don’t think that any of us are particularly super, and I don’t think you can quit drinking by doing power-poses, positive thinking, or self-confidence alone. Alcoholism is a serious issue and treating it like the protagonist in a Marvel movie isn’t fair to those who struggle with it every day.
If you’re anything like me, at this point you may be barely keeping you head above the water. Neither going forwards or back, sinking or pulling yourself out, just staying the course. This is not the bad thing some make it out to be. Consider a functional alcoholic that is the head of a Fortune 500 company… on paper they may be moving 100 km/h and progressing their career in a way that makes them look like a real winner. Below the surface, there is a different story, one that doesn’t usually have the happiest of endings.
For us regular people, we can hold our heads high. Even if our chins are barely out of the water, and we wish we could start swimming toward our goals. We can take comfort in knowing that the longer we keep our heads dry, the stronger we become. The stronger we become the easier it will be to start the stroke that takes us from treading water, to swimming.
Here in Canada, today happens to be Thanksgiving. A day off of work to eat a giant meal with family is usually the type of thing where beer and wine flow freely, but for those of us who abstain it can be a mine-field of drama. Don’t feel bad about avoiding drunk relatives by taking frequent autumnal walks, or by being the sober person that can drive a few extra minutes to grab a few groceries at the one open store that’s across town.
Even if you don’t celebrate a holiday in early October, it’s still a good time to give thanks. Gratitude, prayer, meditation and mindfulness are techniques to help deal with the mental challenges that are sometimes associated with sobriety. Writing down, or saying out-loud all of the things that actually make your life worth living is a great way to remind yourself why you wanted to quit drinking in the first place.
So why not give some thanks? Unlike buying a round of drinks for your buddies, giving away thanks is completely free!
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.
No one likes being hungover, and if you have made it this far, congrats on 6 mornings with no hangovers! If you’re anything like me, you’re awake 2-3 hours before you’d normally get up. So what do you do with this time??
You may want to go out and make the most of the day, but I don’t think anyone will blame you if you need to hide out. If your previous Saturdays included getting day-drunk at brunch, then it might be ideal to make yourself some breakfast and tuck in.
If your previous weekend mornings included staying in bed until 2pm, you might want to finally go see what the AM is all about. I used to always sleep through the fast food breakfast, but after quitting drinking I can beat the rush and have a coffee, read the news and more all before 10am.
See what you can do now that you don’t need to worry about hangovers.
Going Sober in October is especially tough because of how many weekends the month seems to have. You may be lucky if it only has four weekends, but previous years have had five! Since the weekend is generally thought of as the time to get wasted, it makes for emotional challenges.
Halloween is a party day on its own. October 31st land on a Wednesday? People celebrate Halloween on the weekend before AND after. Big parties, scandalous costumes, and a general sense of hedonistic opportunity make Halloween up there with St Patrick’s day and New Year’s Eve as bonafide drinking holidays.
Since this is your first Friday sober, feel free to hideout. If you’re feeling off, take some time to treat yourself. Get takeout, watch some trash tv, eat a whole bag of candy. As you get more practice saying “No” to drinks and partying, you’ll feel more capable to have a soda-water at the club, but for now go easy on yourself.
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:
Many people call the choice to stop drinking and doing drugs “Recovery”. This is a powerful mind-set to get in when quitting. It takes your goal, and turns it from a chore to an active task in healing yourself.
In practice, you can stop eating French Fries for the rest of your life and still not be happy with your body. Just as you can stop drinking alcohol and still be unhappy with your life. It’s not just about the activity of drinking alcohol and doing drugs, it’s about the harm that it causes and changing your life in a way that repairs yourself from top to bottom, inside and out. Continue reading “Where are you in your journey?”