It’s totally normal if you both want to take an alcohol break and don’t want to at the same time! That’s certainly how I felt. From some previous unsuccessful attempts to put boundaries around my drinking, when I didn’t have the right tools, I had lost confidence. I definitely worried that I’d be miserable or question my resolve half way through. And I definitely worried I’d let someone else or myself down.
Here are some tips to help make this a wonderful experience. You are already successful! If you are reading this, you are curious and that is honestly the magic ingredient.
Know That You’re Doing A Radical, Badass Thing
While Sober October and Dry January have gained a foothold in popular culture, it’s still a drop in the bucket in an alcohol-obsessed ocean. So you are bucking cultural norms and that takes guts. I started drinking at age 14 — a very good girl trying to be more of a trouble-maker. But I’ve found more of my badassery in my two and a half years sober than in all my years drinking!
Lean Hard Into Curiosity
It’s normal to judge ourselves and to get caught up in labels and stigma. What will it mean if giving up alcohol for 30 days is harder than I think? What does it mean if I can’t or don’t want to? The best way to clear that “cache” of judgment is with curiosity. It’s hard for judgment and curiosity to exist together, so double-down on curiosity. Not good or bad, not right or wrong, just curiosity. Be the author of your own personal science experiment and have fun with it. You don’t have to make any further commitment! I personally got a tremendous amount of value out of Annie Grace’s excellent, free 30-Day Alcohol Experiment, with daily science-based content and journal prompts. It gave me accountability and strengthened my resolve.
Make It A Luscious Sabbatical
What would you do if your boss gave you 1 month off? Very few people say they would burn the candle at both ends, but rather most people look for some kind of replenishment or rejuvenation. Can you approach your 30-day alcohol break in the same way? This should not be penitence but pampering! Eat delicious nutritious food that is satisfying and gives you energy (actually sitting down for it!) Give yourself the best chances for good restful sleep. Get outside to walk or run. Do things that bring joy. We probably all have things that we know we love, but for all kinds of reasons, we haven’t done them in a while. Is that painting, photography, gardening, dancing, speaking Italian, playing guitar, or riding a bike? A colleague told me that her happy place is roaming a book store. So this month, do that thing. Even if just for 20 minutes. Or take one step, like researching or making an appointment or reservation to do that thing. Again, this should be something that really brings you joy, not something you think you should do.
Is it hard for you to spend money on yourself? If you were drinking regularly, consider the amount of money spent on alcohol and allow yourself to buy yourself a present…some beautiful tea, a bath product, a journal, sports gear, a spa treatment, some sophisticated NA beverages! I took myself to a “tea bar,” struck up conversations with strangers, indulged in a decadent dessert, and bought myself a tin of matcha to enjoy as part of a new morning ritual. I went to a swing dance exercise class that challenged me and made me laugh.
Temporarily Interrupt Patterns
Buy fun supplies to concoct your evening beverage (tonics, citrus, fruits, herbs, bitters, juices, etc). Interrupt your routine around your trigger times with a different activity like a long walk with an inspirational podcast, an online exercise or art class, or a warm bath. If weather permits, maybe take your dinner to the porch or the park.
It’s An Addition, Not A Subtraction
Focus on the gains (a study from the Royal Free Hospital in London showed that participants in a 30-Day Break from alcohol reported feeling: Much Happier (92% of respondents), Improved Sleep (82%), Reduced Anxiety (74%), More Productive (73%) and Lost Weight (73%). Think of all the ways you are actually adding things in…..maybe you’ll be drinking more water, getting more fresh air, sleeping more, reading more, eating more high-quality chocolate, etc :)
Brains Being Brains!
Just know that the cravings are a healthy human brain at work! The brain’s reward system dumped dopamine every time we drank, and it helped create a pattern where the brain thinks alcohol, and alcohol in THAT particular situation or setting, is important for survival. And the most primitive part of our brain wants to move away from effort and pain, and toward pleasure and what is familiar. Drinking alcohol is familiar. But thanks to neuroplasticity, we can rewire our brains. Every time you choose a different response to a craving you’re carving the new neural pathway. Cravings arise, crest and recede and are shorter in duration than we think. Interrupting patterns helps, as does exercise and grounding. An easy example of grounding is to think about your feet…wiggle your toes and feel them inside your shoes….or as you walk slowly, feel the different parts of your foot meeting the ground. This temporarily sweeps you out of your thoughts and into your body. Crazy enough, it works. Another coach I know swears by jumping jacks. And a big glass of water can do wonders to knock back a craving to a manageable level. Most humans are chronically dehydrated and we often misinterpret cues of basic thirst.
My journey would have felt even more supported and fun if I’d had peers to talk to which is why I created programs like my small-group, coached Sober October. You can also connect with others via Facebook groups like Annie’s Grace’s Alcohol Experiment, Simon Chapple’s Be Sober And Quit, or the NA Beer Appreciation Society. Follow people on Instagram who are loving their life without alcohol (or their life of moderation!) and sharing ideas and reviews of products…..like @drinknolow, @joshthenonalcoholic, @zeroproofnation, @mybubblypop, @thesoberlush, @abalancedglass, and please follow me @clearpowercoaching.
Do you have tips to share that helped you on your journey? I’d love to hear them!
Martha Wright is a New Orleans-born wine industry veteran turned sobriety/mindful drinking coach. She works in small groups and 1:1 in her own practice, Clear Power Coaching, as well as coaching hundreds of people within This Naked Mind (founded by best-selling author Annie Grace) where she is a Senior Coach. She offers a path to regain control that focuses on understanding the neuroscience of habits, uncovering unconscious beliefs, honing coping tools and cultivating fun and play. The goal is not removing alcohol, but rather removing alcohol is just one tool in reconnecting to our best thriving lives. She loves sourcing and tasting the latest non-alcoholic beverages; inspirational podcasts (Ten Percent Happier, This Naked Mind and Take A Break are current faves); visiting her daughter in Paris; cooking and eating; and roller skating.