It’s really hard to offer off-the-shelf advice to someone who is attempting to go alcohol-free and looking for help in the early days. We all drink for different reasons, triggers vary from person to person, and what works as a distraction for one is not necessarily going to work for another.
BUT! If I had to summarise my advice to anyone starting out on their sober journey, then it would be this;
a) Alcohol will, guaranteed, have masked your emotions for all the years you’ve been drinking. Experiencing sadness, anger, excitement, joy and disappointment (to mention but a few) without booze seeping through your body taking the edge off it, demands some major getting used to. Feeling raw emotions is weird when you first put down the bottle so be prepared for this, but remember – if we do anything for long enough, that too will become the norm.
b) The world loves to drink. It’s a fact that most people drink alcohol, so going AF (alcohol-free) will initially make you feel a bit like the odd one out. To get around this awkwardness you need to OWN YOUR SOBRIETY; be proud of the fact that you know your own mind, you no longer make an idiot of yourself on nights out and you don’t throw up in the toilets. If you are proud of not drinking, your confident stance will shine out.
c) Fill the gap! When you quit drinking, you may feel as though you’re twiddling your thumbs, wondering what the hell to do with all that spare time and mental energy. Channel it into something exciting, pleasurable, rewarding and interesting. Not only will you no longer feel bored but you’ll start rebuilding that battered self-esteem.
d) Pinpoint friends who you know you really like – pissed or sober. It can become apparent that someone you’ve been going out boozing with for years is actually not such a great companion when the alcohol isn’t flowing. Real friends who you genuinely like will always make for a brilliant night out – be selective!
e) Stop doing the things you do that make you want a drink. Sounds simple – and it is! Pasta always made me crave red wine so I stopped eating it for a few months while I got used to not drinking; certain films/TV programmes had me lusting after a cold white wine to sip as I relaxed on the settee, so I watched alternative stuff. Going to the cinema rather than the pub made for a much less trigger-filled evening in the early weeks, so I spent a lot of time doing that. Be pragmatic about how you spend your time.
f) Be kind to yourself – we can all get sucked into the world of regrets but digging your way back to a healthier state of mind is a much better way to spend your time. You ARE worth an alcohol-free life, you ARE capable of change and your life CAN be just as happy as the next person’s – you just need to believe it.