What to do when the excuses fall away?
As we start to consider going back to the 'new normal', it's also time to consider the things we've been doing that have been 'out of the norm' to get through the uncertainty of the last 8 weeks or so. And, if you're anything like me, it's likely you have added both positive, and negative actions to your day to day lives.
As an example, swearing loudly has become the 'new norm' in my house and I've also discovered the world of free YouTube exercise videos! No gym membership required!
There's no doubt more people seem to be exercising outdoors, and families have certainly spent (a lot) more time together. But when it comes to the coping mechanisms many of us have adopted it is a fact that people have been drinking a lot more than normal and they are now questioning how they can rein it back in.
This is the tricky thing about habits. They sneak up on us when we're vulnerable, stressed or facing challenges. And what better than a global pandemic to lean on as an excuse for drinking more than we normally would?
My own period of over-drinking happened last year, way before I was confined to my office and asked to be teacher, mother, worker, cleaner and everything in between. But it was a similar situation. I was in an uncertain place, stressed and mourning, and when we have a 'good excuse' it's easy to justify dubious behaviours. So, whilst I am not rushing to the bottle shop anymore, I am hearing many around me lamenting their need to stop or cut back on drinking. I've been there, so I know the dialogue well.
The relentless but futile repetition of 'I've got to stop this' was getting boring. How many times could I tell myself the same thing, over and over again. And still pay no attention?
For years, in every diary and New Years resolution list I've written 'give up the drink' or words similar. Added to this is this insistent nag of regret and brain-ache, every time I have too much. And still, I'm not listening.
Every morning, even if I wasn't drinking the night before, I wake tired, depleted, de-motivated. My brain functions, but only just. I have forgotten what it feels like to operate at 100%. Last year I had the perfect excuse not to give up, Dad was dying and ' needed it, I told myself, to get through. But even in those many moments of pouring, slugging, and surrendering to the numbness I craved, there was a voice inside me saying "when will enough be enough?'.
So if you're asking yourself this question then there really is no better time to take action. I say this because for once you are not alone, and by that I mean openly, overtly and without shame, people are realising and admitting that this alcohol thing is doing them no good and they want to stop!
I have a deep admiration, or perhaps envy, or both, for people who don't appear to engage in or succumb to the inner battle I've outlined above. They just stop when they feel like it, or they never start. If only we could bottle will-power.
But will power has never really worked for me and, in fact it rarely works in the long term for anyone. So how can we realistically make the shift?
I have read this prescription and repeated it to myself so many times that it seems almost trite to write it down here, but I must remember that there are many people ( including me 7 months ago) that may find it helpful. If only to offer a more positive way of looking at cutting back or quitting drinking. So here it goes;
1. Until you see quitting as a gain, not a loss, you will always go back to it. You may succeed in the short term but the high value you place on alcohol is still there and it will hold that place in your memory, as something good, fun, helpful etc etc. So, in brief, you need to find a way to devalue it.
2. How? Focus on what it does to you & your body. Not in the short term but in the long term. Read about the negative effects of alcohol, research it, and, most importantly, write your own list and read it, often. I don't know of anyone who can, in a sober state, genuinely relay positive outcomes of a huge night on the booze.
3. Every time you don't turn to a drink take the time to congratulate yourself. Find a way to reward yourself with something and be mindful of the feeling you get when the craving has passed ( see surf the crave for more info on urge surfing). Enjoy the feeling of control & self-respect when you decide to take care of yourself.
4. Find other things to do. There are so many alternative ways to spend your time, and a growing number of options for drinking that don't contain alcohol. Use the new clarity and energy you have from not drinking to explore things you've always wanted to do, but didn't have the energy or clarity.
5. Find like-minded people who support you. Support networks are critical and there are so many out there. Visit the social page to connect with others in your area.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and, thankfully, there are more and more resources and options to help you make changes. As they say, one step, or day at a time & make sure you add a large measure of kindness to yourself along the process. Feeling warmth and compassion toward yourself beats the brief buzz of a drink hands down, every time.
If you have any tips or would like to contribute to this BLOG please email me firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear from you.