Challenges are great motivation for both stopping and for cutting down drinking, and with such a variety of both free and paid for challenges, depending on the support you want, there’s something out there to suit most of us. Recently I wrote a post about how to prepare yourself for a challenge, but of course, there’s more to it, and we have to think about the best way to move forward after the challenge ends. The last thing we need is to slip up when we have done so well.
Some people might choose another challenge, overlapping one into another, until they feel more secure and able to go it alone so to speak, but realistically, while it’s a great idea, this won’t be feasible for all of us, so let’s look at what else we can do to help.
• Set your boundaries and stick to them. Sobriety isn’t for everyone, but it is a huge positive to so many of us. Don’t change your mind because other people suggest it, or to fit in with what other’s might expect. They aren’t in your shoes, and you are the only one in the position to choose what is right for you. I had many a comment about why I wasn’t drinking anymore and what a shame that was, but I honestly think that reflects more on other people’s concerns about themselves than on our own choices.
• Always make sure you aren’t thirsty, as this can lead us to think about drinking again. I always take a water bottle everywhere with me, not that I always need it, but especially in the early days, I didn’t want to think about needing a drink of any sort.
• Treat yourself. For many, the idea of reward and alcohol become intertwined, I think this is partially down to alcohol being so socially accepted and promoted, and it can feel like we are going against the grain a little. So find other things that you enjoy to reward yourself with. It can be anything, from lovely long soak in the bath, to a nice bit of chocolate cake, or a new item of clothing.
• Find a new release. Many of us who have come to rely on drinking for stress or anxiety will find it hard to replace it, but it can be done. Since I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve got a lot more physical. I do yoga, run, swim, kayak, walk, not all at the same time of course, but on the other hand, I also find time to read, draw and enjoy quiet time. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy, just find something that grabs your attention and keeps you away from temptation.
• Be kind to yourself. So many people count the days, saying they’ve only done XX amount, like it isn’t really enough. I cannot stress enough how important each and every day is. Each day is a win, so remember that. Don’t beat yourself up if you find it hard, just remember what you are achieving.
• Ask for help. It doesn’t have to mean paying someone for their services, although there are a lot of fantastic coaches out there, there are also lots of groups and meetings you can join. I always remember the brilliant saying, connection is the opposite of addiction. It really makes a huge difference, and don’t think I’m saying you have to go out telling people that you don’t know about your sobriety, although you can if you want. I’m just saying that by connecting with a like minded group of people you suddenly have a shared experience that links you. Those shared experiences make us stronger.
Above all, remember how far you’ve come, and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you put the hard work in, you’ll achieve everything you hope to.
Take care of yourselves,
Once upon a time I didn’t really think about how lucky I was to have all the things I do. I wasn’t ungrateful, maybe just a little complacent. The thing is, that when you struggle to get through something as challenging as recovery and emerge into the world as a newly sober butterfly, things feel different. At least they did to me. Now I am grateful for so much, and when you stop to write them down, it seems so much more. It’s not always the ‘big’ things either, the small things make just as much difference to me.
Here’s a few of the things I am grateful for today.
• My family, my husband and our four kids, even though they try my patience sometimes. I think that’s natural, and my response is better now.
• For the opportunity to get sober and live a healthier life.
• For being present in each and every moment.
• I’m grateful for my ability to be there when I need to be for whoever needs me whenever they need me. A prime example of this was when my Dad was poorly. It didn’t matter what time I needed to do something, alcohol was not a factor in my ability to help.
• I’m grateful for being able to build genuine relationships with people, rather than pretending to be someone else.
• To be able to share my story, knowing it will help someone who is where I was.
• Enjoying the moments as they happen, rather than trying to fast forward my way through the day, until the time I allowed myself to drink.
• All the little things. Patience. Time. Freedom. Happiness.
My life has changed in so many ways since I got sober. I’m the same person, just a genuinely better version. I’m stronger, happier and more relaxed, and if that is all I get from sobriety then it’s worth it, but it isn’t, there is so much more.
What are you grateful for today?
I signed up for so many challenges to try to help me slow down my drinking over the years before I got sober. I think I thought if I signed up, I’d just be able to do it, but of course, as many people may have found, it’s not always that easy. There is no magic quick fix. Sometimes I never even got further than the signing up; I certainly don’t remember ever finishing a challenge in the early days, but in hindsight it wasn’t the challenge that was wrong, but my mind set. You need to prepare to make any change in your life, and whether you are addicted to alcohol or not, if you are choosing to cut it out for a set period of time or for longer, it’s likely to make quite a difference to your life. Whether you drink socially or at home like I did, you’d be surprised at how much of your time alcohol actually takes up. So the first thing you’re going to notice is that you’ll have more time on your hands. Extra time isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It’s just something to be aware of so you’re not taken by surprise!
There are a lot of challenges at any time of the year, but with a couple coming up before Christmas, including a 60 day one with Bee Sober that I’m coaching on, I thought I’d put together a list of things that might help you stay the course, because sometimes, failure is not an option.
• If you can, begin to cut down what you drink well before the challenge starts. Once, I would have been of the thinking that I’d drink more beforehand to keep me going, but actually, it only makes it harder for your mind and your body to cope, so if you ease off gradually, it won’t be such a shock to the system.
• Remove the temptation. If it’s not in the house you can’t drink it, and if you don’t go to the pub you won’t feel the need to join in with others. It’s such a simple thing, but so effective.
• Be aware of the money you’re saving by not drinking, and set a target for how you’re going to spend the money instead. Fill a jar or make a chart so you can really see the amount grow.
• Find things to do. You might not want to go out, so find a new hobby you can do at home. Maybe you need to get out, and can use your new found time to go for a run, walk or swim. The days are so much longer without alcohol, so you can achieve so much more. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you enjoy it and it keeps you occupied.
• Join others in the challenge. This could be signing up with friends you know already, or alternatively making the effort to meet others who have already signed up for the challenge. Connecting with others will help no end, as you’ll have others that can help you when you’re having a tough day. There will most likely be times when your friends need your reassurance too. No one is infallible, but support makes a huge difference.
• Do your research and find some alcohol free alternatives to replace what you’d normally drink. There are so many options now from iced teas and fizzy drinks to alcohol free wines and beers. You are not missing out by not drinking alcohol, just choose something that you can enjoy and look forward to.
The biggest thing I would say is to make sure you get support. It doesn’t matter what form that comes in, as long as it suits you. Surround yourself in person or online with people who get you and what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine. There will be hard days, but you can do it. Trust me on that, because if I can do it, anyone can.
Take care and good luck! Claire x
We had a lovely evening out tonight at Paul Ainsworth's Travelling Feast! Good food, good music, good times and my family even if two of our boys were working and couldn’t come. I even had my first non-alcoholic Doom Bar, which was great because I felt like I was still doing something different, but keeping in control.
I think anyone that ever has questioned their relationship with drinking has probably realised just how ingrained alcohol is in our society. It’s literally everywhere, and promoted and pushed at us to remind us how normal and needed it is. Of course, once you stop drinking, you realise that’s not the truth, we do it because we’re conditioned to, until it becomes a habit or an addiction.
The thing is, the way society looks at alcohol can make it harder to break free from the alcohol trap. We feel we’re missing out and different from other people just by choosing not to drink. That can be tricky, particularly in the early days, but even now things catch me out.
Just recently I picked up a colouring book, you know the sort, the ones designed for adults to occupy them. I wanted one to distract myself from my phone in the evening, and also, the idea was that it would help me focus and be calm when I felt a bit anxious. I was quite careful choosing one, and picked one called, “Inspirational Quotes,” so imagine my surprise when part way through I found one that says, “Wine and Friends Make a Great Blend.” I’m not sure which part of this is meant to be inspirational, but the whole thing made me a bit cross. It’s not exactly what I was expecting, and I felt a bit let down to be honest. It’s the making light of drinking that makes it so frustrating. When it’s played down so much, and made into such a joke, that it makes it harder for people to acknowledge and face up to their problems. I know I looked everywhere I could for reassurance that I was okay, and little things like this colouring page would have been exactly what I wanted to see. It’s not helpful.
I wonder what we can do to change the perception of alcohol in society. I’m not saying that we should make alcohol illegal, or frown on everyone that drinks, but I do think it should be much less common place. Why can’t we look forward to a nice cup of tea instead of wine to relax and chat with our friends over? It’s what I do now, but back when I was in the midst of it, it seemed impossible to imagine living without wine.
These messages need to stop, and I’ll be honest, if I’d seen that message in the book before I bought it, I wouldn’t have paid any money for it. I would have chosen not to support the reinforcement in reliance on alcohol, but maybe that’s just me?
Take care of yourselves,
Last weekend I went to my first sober festival. It wasn’t an actual sober festival, I may well have been the only sober one there although I doubt it. I suppose what I mean is it’s the first time I’ve been to a festival completely sober.
My husband and I have been involved through work in some of the behind the scenes things, so I suppose I had a little more understanding of what to expect, and coupling that with the fact it was outdoors and fairly local, it seemed a no-brainer. Families were welcome too, and so, although two of our sons couldn’t come, we took our daughter Katie and little one Stanley and decided to go and have some fun.
I’ll admit that going in I was a little nervous. I’m not sure what of exactly, it’s just sometimes, when I push myself out of my comfort zone, I find it unsettling. I knew to expect to see people drinking, but I also knew that I would have a wide choice of drinks as it was a food and drink festival, so logically I had nothing to worry about. I’m pretty secure in my sobriety now, but I still occasionally get that twinge of, “I wish I could…” At these moments I always remind myself that I can, I just choose not to, which makes me feel the one in control (which I am), and normally makes me forget I even felt like I was missing out.
All in all, the food was great, the music was great; amongst others Rudimental were playing, and it was just a great night. I even ventured up to one of the Sharps Brewery trailers to check out their offerings, and found they do a Doom Bar Zero. I don’t normally drink alcohol free drinks, I suppose I’ve always felt it would be a bit of a step backwards for me as it took me so long to stop drinking, but then, in that situation I fancied one. As it wasn’t anything like the wine I used to drink, I thought it would be a nice change. After I got over the initial worry that I was somehow slipping off the wagon, and having checked the label about a million times, I realised I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It felt so good to be out doing something with other people after the crazy old year we’ve had, and after the rollercoaster I’ve been on during my journey into sobriety.
The thing I found most interesting was that if I’d been drinking alcohol I would have caned my way through glass after glass without a thought. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was thirsty or not, I would have drunk to excess. It’s just what I did. Yet during our night out, one bottle of 0% lasted me all night, except for an additional hot chocolate we got when it started to get colder. It was a funny comparison to make, but I suppose noticing all these little things are what makes the difference to me now. I appreciate much more what I am doing and what I have.
So, what I’ve learned during the weekend, or if not learned, but reinforced in my mind, is that sobriety is not boring, you don’t need alcohol to have fun, and after a night like that, it’s entirely possibly to get up early on a Sunday morning to go wild swimming with friends. That is something that certainly wouldn’t have happened with a hangover!!
So getting up at 5am to go for a swim in the sea certainly wasn’t something I would have considered a while back… but, here’s the proof I did it today! Yes it was cold, but we had the beach pretty much to ourselves and it was a great way to start the day!!
Oh, how different my life is now, compared to when I was drinking. This weekend has involved family, running, cold water swimming, and some yoga. Oh and driving with my daughter in the car she bought yesterday. Being able to drive with her while she’s still learning is great, I’m patient, and present and not running home to have a glass of wine! I hope you all had lovely weekends too?