Disclaimer; I am not a doctor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or whatever else might help someone stop drinking. Please don’t think that this is comprehensive or even accurate information!
** I specifically don’t talk about how much I drank. It’s not because of shame, or because I’m trying to be vague for the sake of privacy… When I drank alcohol, and would read books or blog posts about people who had given up drinking, I would often compare my drinking and story to theirs. ‘Well, I’m not homeless/turning yellow from liver failure/blacking out/screaming at my loved ones/getting fired for being drunk at work/drinking before 5pm/getting arrested for DUI, so I’m fine.’
I was not fine. I knew in my heart that my drinking wasn’t healthy. Tolerance and metabolism is so different for everyone. If you feel like you’re drinking more than you should, then you are. If there’s something nagging at you to take a break, then take a break. Don’t compare yourself to others in general, and especially when it comes to drinking. You can ALWAYS find someone who is worse off than you. Don’t race them to the bottom.
Short story; my drinking habits were becoming problematic. These practices helped me stop entirely. It has been 569 days as of 1.24.18 and I am REALLY proud of that. I didn’t stop immediately, there were a lot of attempts at stopping, a lot of internal debate about whether or not I needed to stop, and a lot of trial and error. I hope that this information is helpful, and please know, I am not a therapist, but I am a good listener. I am here if you need someone to chat with.
- Choose a special drink to enjoy at the end of the day. This is the important part; DON’T DRINK IT AT ANY OTHER TIMES DURING THE DAY. This is your special, ceremonial, end of the day treat alcohol substitution. Make it as complicated, or as easy as you want! Throw in splashes of fruit juice, top it with a garnish, put it in your prettiest glass. Drink as many as you want at the end of the day. GET WASTED ON LACROIX!
- I LOVE a star chart. Making them gets me really excited, and I love creating a reward for my accomplishment. It is, however, really easy for me to forget about a star chart after a few days. Luckily, your trusty phone can help with the visibility issue. I love the, ‘I’m Done Drinking,’ app and the, ‘Streaks,’ app. I’m done drinking allows you to input the average amount you’re drinking per day, the type of drink you’re most commonly consuming, and the amount you’re spending on drinks on average. It then keeps track of how many days you’ve gone without drinking, the amount of calories you haven’t consumed, and the amount of money you’ve saved. There have been SO many times when I’ve really wanted a drink, especially in the first few months, and looking at that app and seeing how far I’d come kept me from drinking. The Streaks app has you track healthy habits, and you’re required to record whether you’ve kept them up each day. It will send you a reminder every evening to track your habits, and shows a calendar with how many days you’ve kept it up. There’s something about seeing all those days in a row that is really encouraging.
- Write shit down. A lot of ‘stuff’ is going to come up. I basically drank every time I felt an emotion. When I was stressed and needed some relief, when I was mad and needed to chill out, when I was excited and wanted to celebrate, when I was bored and wanted something to do. If, like me, you don’t really like feeling strong emotions, it’s going to a be tough. Be prepared to feel a lot. And write it down. And see a therapist (everyone should see a therapist. everyone). Writing is also a nice way to remind yourself why you’re not drinking. Whether it’s a short break, or a permanent change, you should have a reason for not drinking. Remind yourself of that/those reason(s) on a daily basis, even if you’re writing the same things over and over each day.
- This one made me really sad when I stopped drinking, but you’re going to have to switch up your tv watching. For me, I couldn’t watch any Bravo shows for a few months. Not only because watching Real Housewives went hand in hand with drinking at the end of the day and it was a psychological trigger, but because there is SO MUCH DRINKING on the shows I was watching! I also had to stop watching House of Cards because it was too boozy. Don’t worry, I can now binge on Real Housewives with no problem. I just needed a break. Substitutions included; Parks & Recreation, West Wing, and Togetherness. My favorites lately are Godless, Catastrophe, and the Great British Bake Off.
- Have a period of time you’d like to give up alcohol in mind, but don’t be too attached to it? I started wanting to hit 90 days, and I think that was too rigid for me. It just seemed like SUCH a long time, and fixating on that made things difficult. I ended up using the Alcoholics Anonymous adage, ‘one day at a time,’ often. When I really wanted to drink, I’d tell myself, ‘you’re not drinking today. If you still want to drink tomorrow, drink tomorrow. Just not today.’ Giving myself permission to drink the following day helped me through a lot of days. You’ll be surprised how doing that day by day, over and over, can add up to a long period of time. Sort of a sub point to this tip is; I didn’t really tell anyone what I was doing. I have a tendency to make grand announcements when taking on something new, and then I feel bad when I don’t follow through. Not drinking was a really big decision for me. I have a very boozy family and drinking was a huge part of my life. In order to take some of the pressure off, I just kind of brushed off the questions of why I wasn’t drinking with an, ‘eh, I just don’t feel like it today,’ instead of saying, ‘I’m taking a break from drinking.’ Acting like it wasn’t a big deal that I wasn’t drinking made it less of a big deal in my head.
- Treat ‘yo Self. I am an extreme all or nothing person in every aspect of my life. I never saw the point in wasting calories or money on having one drink. What’s the point if you’re not getting a buzz? I also tend to want to change EVERYTHING instead of working on one thing. My brain wants to not only stop drinking, but also work out every day, eat really healthy food, meditate every day, have a perfectly clean house, start a blog, do more volunteer work, and learn how to play the piano. NOT DRINKING IS A BIG DEAL. Only focus on that. When I let go of the other stuff I thought I ‘should’ be doing, I was less likely to fail and one thing and give up all the things. When I gave myself a break on all aspects of what I imagine an instagram healthy life looks like, I was less likely to end up sitting on my couch with a bag of doritos and copious amounts of wine. I allowed myself to have as much ice cream as I wanted. It was wonderful. It didn’t/couldn’t last forever, but for the first couple of months it was really nice to have something to look forward to. BE CAREFUL with this, though. Sugar is, perhaps, the only substance on earth that I don’t feel an addictive inkling toward. However, it has been shown to be as addictive as heroin, and I know from plenty of Overeaters Anonymous meeting introductions that Alcoholism is easily replaced with sugar addiction. Sugar has just never been my thing. I can kind of take it or leave it? So choose something as a reward, but keep it in check. I feel like this tip was contradictory, but, such is life.
- I didn’t want not drinking to become something that kept me from socializing with friends. I do recommend making changes to your social life in the first few weeks or month of giving up alcohol, but eventually you’re going to want to go to a restaurant again! One of my longest stretches of not drinking, prior to this long stretch, ended because I went into a restaurant and didn’t prep myself. I was offered a free drink, took it very automatically, and then continued to drink all evening, and just like that, I was back to nightly drinking for a few months. It was a bummer, because I was so close to my 90 day goal! When I stopped drinking again, and got to the point where I wanted to go to a restaurant, I practiced what I would say when offered a drink, questioned for not drinking, and even practiced my non-alcohol drink order. ‘I’d like a sparkling water with lime, please.’ ‘No thanks, I’m good with water.’ ‘May I have perrier in a wine glass, please?’
- Hello Sunday Morning is a really cool group/movement that wants people to change their thinking around drinking. Alcohol has become such a huge part of our culture, media, and narrative. From their website, ‘Our vision is a world where drinking is an individual choice, not a cultural expectation. A world where confidence and identity aren’t measured in standard servings. A world of fewer hangovers and unforgettable Sunday mornings.’ They’re not trying to get people to stop drinking entirely, which is what I ultimately ended up doing, but they do want people to examine their relationship with alcohol instead of simply accepting it as a way of life.
- If you’re having a hard time, take a bath. It’s kind of my solution for everything. They’re magic.
If anyone has any other questions, please let me know. I’d love to chat.