Sunday, 28 January 2018

My three top tips for staying alcohol-free after dry January

This morning I received an email from an old friend of mine with the subject 'Inspiration Required', stating: "I think a number of us, especially that are close to completing the usual dry January, could do with a pep talk blog to consider our path. I am not yet minded to abstain for the long term... but through to Easter is a possibility."

My intention is not to make my blog all preachy and self-righteous, I really don't mind if people choose to drink or not and I have no issue being around people who are drinking.  For example, last night I was at the Volvo Ocean Race Prize-Giving Gala Dinner. With well over 500 attendees, I was one of only a handful of non-drinkers but I still had a great night sipping my orange juice and mocktails.
© Erwan Her

However, if you are coming to the end of dry January and thinking maybe, just maybe, you could extend going alcohol-free for a while longer - here is some food for thought.

Change your perception about alcohol
In 'This Naked Mind' by Annie Grace, she discusses how 'almost everything in our society tells you, both consciously and unconsciously, that alcohol is the 'elixir of life', and without it in your life you would be missing a key ingredient'. However, throughout her book she dissects all our justifications for drinking, backed up by the latest scientific research.  She clearly outlines that 'when you completely change your mental (conscious and unconscious) perspective on alcohol, you begin to see the truth about drinking.  When this happens, no willpower is required, and it becomes a joy not to drink.'  

In Jason Vale's 'Kick the Drink... Easily' he states that 'the only thing that keeps people hooked is the illusion created by the drug itself and the years of conditioning and brainwashing'

I highly recommend reading Annie Grace's 'This Naked Mind' and/or Jason Vale's 'Kick the Drink... Easily'.  They have completely changed the way I think about drinking and have made it so much easier to stop.  As I've mentioned before I have joined some online sober support communities and countless members of these groups agree that having read these books their perception of drinking has changed, making it simpler to quit.

Focus on the benefits
Jason Vale highlights how ''When you stop drinking you are giving up absolutely … NOTHING! Oh sorry, apart from the headaches, the hangovers, the lethargy, the bad breath, the beer gut, the arguments, the violence, being overemotional, regretting things you have done but can’t remember doing, getting things out of proportion, putting things off all the time, the stress, the overdraft, the taxis, the guilt, the lies, the deceit, the brewer’s droop, the mood swings, the breakdown of the immune system, the lack of resistance to all kinds of diseases, the destruction of brain cells, not to mention the excess weight..."

For me, the benefits to date of going alcohol-free have been:  deep deep sleep; weight loss; increased energy levels; a more positive mindset; no more anxiety; no feelings of shame or embarrassment; generally feeling more able to cope with the crap that life can sometimes throw at us.  I also know that I am only just beginning to scratch the surface.  Things will only carry on getting better going forward.

If you have managed to get through dry January, you really have done the most difficult bit.  From my previous experiences of giving up alcohol for longer than a month, you really do start to reap the rewards from around six weeks onwards.  Why not give it a little longer, you really do have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Take back control
Maybe like I did, you had a nagging fear that alcohol was stealing your ability to manage your emotions and was causing unhappiness, irritability, fear, anxiety and/or a range of other negative emotions.  Maybe you've noticed that you feel more in control of things and more positive after a month of no drinking.

Annie Grace states that 'Alcohol erases a bit of you every time you drink it.  It can erase entire nights when you are on a binge.  Alcohol does not relieve stress; it erases your senses and your ability to think.  Alcohol ultimately erases your self.'  She goes on to state that - 'for many, alcohol ensnares them at such a slow pace that it's imperceptible.  The changes are subtle.  You come to depend on alcohol, feeling it gives you the courage to face the day, when in reality it steals confidence from you.'

Deep down we all know that alcohol is damaging and controlling us.  This is why we expend so much energy justifying why we are doing it.  Since I have taken back control and stopped drinking, I feel I have regained confidence and I am holding my head higher.  I finally feel a sense of peace and calm which I know I can never achieve when alcohol is controlling my life.

If you want to take back control longer term and feel you need some extra support then join a sober online community like Club Soda or Soberistas.  You will discover many different people from every walk of life facing exactly the same struggles as you.  Realising you are not alone and thousands of others are also wanting to beat booze out of their lives really helps to keep you on track.

So, if you are wondering what to do now that your dry January has come to an end.  Why not challenge yourself and extend it further?  You'll probably find it is far easier than you think.

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