And how to create lasting change
Who wants to ‘do’ dry? It sounds a bit dull and uninteresting to me. Especially if you’re all in, and are contributing to a great cause too, surely that’s something to be celebrated?
And, once this dry spell is over, after you spend 31 painful days dreaming of the end of the month, what happens then? You’re so excited not to be ‘dry’ that you write yourself off with 2 glasses of wine, or a few beers, because your body has adjusted to not having any alcohol in it. Then you feel like crap, so you drink again, to feel better, and around it goes.
If you’re going to choose to take a month off the drink, wouldn’t you rather do something that sounds more exciting?
What if, instead of gritting your teeth and hoping for the best, you created a month of discovery, filled with joyful things that you love, that nourish you? Things that perhaps you’ve let slide because opening a bottle is just so much easier?
The reality is change is hard, breaking habits is hard, but they are way harder if we are simply ‘trying not to do’ something. My mental shift, and what freed me from drinking, was discovering what was possible without a drink. I wanted to discover a new life full of joyful adventures and possibilities, not restrictions and misery.
I wanted to discover ways to create the feelings I got from alcohol, better ways. I wanted to find joy in life, not in the bottom of a bottle for a fleeting moment or two.
If this sounds interesting here are some tips I used in the early days of not drinking.
Choose a name for your month off that excites and inspires you
Joyful July, Amazing August, February Freedom, you get the idea.
Get clear on your reason why. Make it exciting and aspirational.
I’m off the grog for a month because I drink too much. No thanks!
I’m on an AF adventure to find more joy in my life and contribute to society in a meaningful way. Yes please!
Write down 5 things that alcohol ‘helps’ you with.
It helps me sleep, relax, relieves boredom, gives me confidence, wakes me up etc
Write down 5 alternative ways to meet the 5 needs above.
As we get older we can forget what makes us feel really alive and excited about life. It can be helpful if you think back to something you used to love as a child. It can bring back a sense of fun and adventure.
Examples: listen to music you love, take a walk, watch a documentary on a topic you enjoy, take a long bath/shower, call a friend, write a diary, doodle, dance….
Create a plan
Write down your main trigger points. The times of day you’d most likely feel like a drink. Get clear on what it is you’re seeking in those moments and write it down. Then go back to your list of alternatives and write them in as an action to take instead of drinking.
Here are some examples;
3pm – I need to wake up – I will play my favorite song, full whack, and dance like a loon.
6pm – I need to relieve boredom doing my chores – I have an inspirational podcast and will listen to it while I cook/clean/iron
7pm – I need to wind down and relax – I will get a glass, fill it with ice and my favorite non-alc drink. I will sit down, relax my body and mindfully sip my drink knowing I’ll feel 100% tomorrow.
Write out your plan and have it at the ready so when these moments arise you’re prepared with your better alternative choice.
Read and Repeat
You have to re-read your plan at least once a day, even if you don’t feel like it. Your brain needs reminding, over and over again, that you are not in ‘sacrifice’ mode. You are in ‘explore and enjoy new experiences’ mode. Your brain has had years of training on how to get all the feelings you’re seeking with alcohol. It works, but it’s only ever short term and it leads to undesirable consequences.
Now is the time to re-train your brain so it learns it can get these feelings in a healthier way. Do your brain a favour, it’s tired of feeling dull, numb, and defeated. Give it some real joy!
Trial and error – notice what works
After each successful time you replace drinking with a better alternative, stop and see what you notice. If you feel less tired/bored/stressed then stop intentionally and spend 15-30 seconds enjoying that feeling ( this is how we re-train our brains). Your brain will begin to get used to this feeling…and it will want more of it from the new way. The same way it got used to resorting to alcohol.
If you don’t feel better, try something else. Don’t give up! It may take a while to find what works.
Create lasting change
- Replace the old behaviour with a better alternative
2. See if it works. If it does repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes a new habit
3. If it doesn’t, try something different until you find something that works
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Then share your experiences with a friend, write it down ( to make it stick), and even post it in the facebook group. Not only will this help your brain to rewire, we’d also love to hear how you get on, and you might inspire someone else too.
Discover July with a clear head and heart, you may find what you’ve been missing out on is actually not booze.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you are suffering from addiction please consult a medical professional before you stop drinking as it may have dangerous health consequences. Same applies for alcohol-free alternatives that can be triggering, please proceed with caution.
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