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”
Ive said before; Im not a Doctor or Mental Health Professional. I am unqualified to give expert advice, but I hope my ramblings and navel gazing can offer you some help and inspiration to take a step in the right direction. I hope that step will be towards taking control of your vices, and making your life better, but thats up to you.
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.
Quitting alcohol is tough for a number of reasons. Physically, emotionally and even culturally there can be pressures to pick up a drink. A user I follow on Twitter mentioned that alcohol helps them fall asleep. I was the same way, and found that getting to sleep those first few nights was very hard and staying asleep was even harder. Continue reading “Committing to Your Goal | Stop Drinking Solutions”
I stopped by the StopDrinking Subreddit this morning and I noticed more than a few posts about relapsing. So far there have been 2 weekends this year, and for a lot of people the weekend is just a relapse waiting to happen. For most of my adult life, the weekend is when I got drunk. I allowed myself to indulge because I didnt have a lot to do on the weekends.
Even in situations where I DID have a lot to do during the weekend, it was hard to resist weekend drinking binges. Everyone else is out partying, all your friends are at the bar, house parties a-plenty, and even beers during Sunday afternoon football all made booze the drink of choice for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
While the support of your friends and family is not a golden ticket to sobriety, it can be the difference between recovery and a quick stint of white-knuckle sobriety. Here are some tips for getting support, and some situations to avoid:
Tell someone you can trust & rely on: Even if youre only quitting for a month, its probably a good idea to tell someone you trust. This will help you be accountable, because now that the cat is out of the bag, they are going to ask you about it later. You dont want to disappoint that person do you?
Bonus points if you tell someone you regularly spend time with. If youre about to head to a pub with a group of friends, having even ONE person who has your back is going to be extremely helpful. Then again, if that person gets wasted its going to be hard to stay on the straight and narrow.
Go to a meeting: even if youre not ready to join AA or try the SMART program, consider attending an open meeting. Open meeting are for anyone who has a desire to quit drinking, and are a good place to talk about your problems. Even if you dont say anything, listening can be extremely helpful.
Hearing about how others have struggled and succeeded is extremely therapeutic. Knowing that youre not the only one who suffers eases the pain, and can take the weight off of your shoulders. You may also learn a thing or two about how to control your cravings and deal with the pressures of life WITHOUT alcohol.
Situations to avoid: Personally I like to avoid any situation where drinking alcohol is the main event. If youre having a beer pong tournament, Im going to pass. Heading to a wine tasting? Yeah, Im not sure why you think Id enjoy that. Your Facebook event mentions getting Good and Shittered? Maybe youre not such a good influence on me.
I think you get the idea. Stopping is hard enough, so when youre trying to avoid the urge to drink its not smart to put yourself in the line of fire. Even if your willpower is rock solid, the endless questions about why you arent drinking can be infuriating. (Youll begin to realize that a lot of drinkers are uncomfortable having sober people around because it makes them self conscious about their own choices).
To stay on theme, find some friends who drink less, and spend a weekend with them. Stay within your comfort zone (your first go at salsa dancing might not be a good place to start) and you might find that you have a great evening and not even think about alcohol once.
Being left to your own devices. Playing the hermit card and hiding away from the temptations of booze will definitely help you get through the weekend, but hiding from your problems isnt the same as recovery. Eventually youll need to emerge back into normal life, or you might get cabin fever. It might work the first couple of weekends, but being left alone with nothing to do might make drinking that much more appealing.
If youre anything like me, alcohol was a great way to make anything boring into something fun. Bad movies, bad dates, bad food, bad mood, add alcohol and its instantly better (until its not). Being bored and without any outlet is going to make alcohol a very tempting outlet for your frustration.
I suggest planning the evening so youre not alone, or at least youve got something to distract you. You cant sleep the entire weekend away, but physical activities that can really help you forget about alcohol AND make you so tuckered out that youll be in bed before your boozey friends are done predrinking. These include working out at the gym, going for a really long walk (bring your camera for extra fun), pick-up sports (at your local gym or rec/community centre), and physical labour (build/fix that thing that you keep talking about).
Striking the balance between avoiding alcohol, and teaching yourself to have fun without alcohol is going to give you the best results. Having fun while surrounded by temptation and secluding yourself for temptation to the point of extreme boredom are two surefire ways to flirt with relapse.
Take it one step at a time, get some support from someone you trust and focus on the betterment of tomorrow instead of the crappiness of today. Good luck & stay strong friends!
Thanks for reading this post. Check out the first post, and the About Page 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 am 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.
You should also check out the great Stop Drinking Subreddit (I’m not affiliated with it, I just find it to be a great resource).
How’s your resolution to quit drinking going so far? Regardless of what your goals are, I hope you’re working towards meeting and/or exceeding them.
For those of you who have sworn off alcohol, here’s to another weekend free of temptation! If that doesn’t work, here’s to resisting temptation and avoiding the pain of a hangover, and the guilt of another weekend washed away by booze.
For me, one of the ways I was able to distract myself from drinking was to replace my normal after-work beer with an after-work jog. These didn’t last very long, maybe two weeks tops, but I feel like it was an important step I needed to take. It was a great distraction, and the runners high I got after a jog made me feel better than any beer ever could. Continue reading “Stop Drinking with Parallel Goals | Stop Drinking Solutions”
(Note: this post was originally written at the end of January)
Congratulations! If youre one of the people who wanted to stop drinking as a New Year Resolution, youre meer hours away from being off the sauce for an entire month. Even better news, there are only 28 days in February!
Im sure it was hard, painful, annoying, and trying. However if you did it, youre probably pretty proud of yourself. and you DESERVE TO BE!!!
Quitting booze is as much about method, as it is about mindset. There are times when your methods fail, and you get through on mindset and vice versa.
Stay strong and I wish you luck and strength in many more months. If you are deciding to have a few drinks tomorrow, then I have a few words of wisdom for you:
Not drinking for 1 month proves you can abstain, it doesnt prove you can quit. If you thought you needed to quit, and decided 1 month would be the deciding factor, dont rush so quickly back to binge drinking. You clearly had a solid reason for going sober for a month, and youre only reinforcing your original concerns if youre first priority in February is getting fucked up.
Just some food for thought. Even if you do drink tomorrow, you can always put the bottle down on Feb. 2 after that horrendous hangover kicks your ass and youre once again reevaluating your life.