At day 15 you are just shy of 50% complete your challenge. You may be getting a second wind, or you may feel like the winds are pushing against you. The pressure inside, both physical and mental might be building up now that your body is realizing this experiment in abstinence is longer lived than anticipated.
This is exactly why you shouldn’t give up.
The pressure is what makes coal in to a diamond. Adapting to pressure is what differentiates good from great. When you hear about how it’s “Not the journey, it’s the destination” this is what they are talking about.
If you’ve been putting off self-care, now would be a great time to start. Yoga, meditation and gratitude can sound like fairly-tale magic until you get to a point where nothing else seems like a viable option. Here is where the pressure gets turned up, and coping tools are the release valve.
So what have you learned so far? It’s hard to quit drinking? It’s easy to quit drinking? You miss the beverage? Or maybe you miss the social experience? Whatever it is that is bugging or not bugging you lately, you can push that aside thinking about how you’ve almost hit 2 weeks without alcohol. It’s impressive enough to say no to a drink once, but it’s a whole other thing once you’ve said it 5 or 6 times.
You may start to think “If I can make it 12 days, do I really have to prove I can go all month?” or “If I can go twelve days this easily, I never really had a problem in the first place”. This type of self talk isn’t wrong or taboo, it can be dangerous, but on your journey you will have many conversations with yourself and others about this very thing.
If you’re coming up against questions like this, perhaps it’s time to go over a few of the reasons you wanted to quit in the first place. Revisit the pros and cons list, and add new ones that you’ve discovered in the past twelve days. You’re also not quite at half-way, so if you can’t even make it half-way… maybe you DO have a problem…
What should you do with your time now that you’re not drinking? Going to the bar to hang-out is stressful and can be fairly boring. Sitting at home alone is even worse. What you must find is an activity, that distracts you from alcohol while giving you a purpose.
Here’s a list of fun things to try when you’re trying to shake the feeling that you might drink out of sheer boredom.
Learn to play an instrument
Make an online dating profile (look for other sober singles)
Volunteer with a local non-profit
Take up painting
Go to a yoga class
Meditate (go to a class or use an app)
Ride, run or go play a sport (skip the after game beers)
Go to the library
Hit the steam room at your local gym
Listen to some poetry at a coffee shop
Sure, this advice is pretty generic and probably sounds boring if you’re used to partying all night. It’s generic because I want everyone to see this list and understand the sheer number of things people do when they aren’t drinking. The world is full of amazing places that don’t serve alcohol, and making these places a part of your life can make it better.
Know that life can seem boring at times, and that’s OK. Being bored gives you a chance to sit, think and feel. Give yourself the permission to do something ordinary like reading a book at the library. The more joy you can derive from simple pleasures, the less you will need to rely on alcohol to give you that same feeling of joy.
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!