Intention Not Habit

Human beings are conditioned, moulded to our own particular design keeping us trapped in repetitive behaviours. It’s easier to live by habit than intention, but when you do, you are ensuring that your life remains the same – fine if it’s all positive, but not so good if you’re unhappy.

I read this quote on Twitter a couple of days ago: “Live less out of habit and more out of focused intention” – Herman Siu. And it struck me that this is really so important, it amounts to an acutely mindful approach to living and when adhered to, this mantra allows us to continually grow and develop.

Mallorca sea

Drinking too much and suffering all of the associated self-loathing and regrets was only one element of my life that was an outcome of habit as opposed to intention. My intentions were always, don’t drink too much; drink water in between alcoholic drinks; leave whatever social event you are at early; don’t text old boyfriends late at night when you are feeling maudlin and pissed…and so on. But I operated out of habit and so perpetually broke all of my own rules.

I occasionally catch myself now leaning towards old habits. Not booze-related but behaviours that I don’t like and no longer wish to demonstrate. They’re like kneejerk reactions to situations; I slide into them before I even know where I’m headed. Sometimes I don’t think things through fully before I act, I have this impetuous nature that I consistently need to reign in. I have a tendency to the negative, which I hate. I have to really talk to myself quite sternly and switch things around so I expect good things to happen instead of the worst-case scenario (I think this is a hangover from my drinking days when bad things did happen all the time because I was always doing stupid things drunk). I can be slightly anti-social and talk myself into spending too much time alone, which never has a good effect on me but somehow I convince myself it’s OK.

To do the opposite of all of these things requires Herculean strength on some days – massive mind-over-matter brain games, strict talking-tos inside my head, unnatural actions that are completely opposed to my automated responses. It all feels very weird and difficult. But, when you act out of intention rather than habit, you can chip away at ingrained behaviours and start to carve out new ones. And that’s how your life changes – wholesale.

Be Proud Of Being A Non-Drinker

Sobriety was once a dirty word to me. Boring do-gooders avoided alcohol. Cool people drank, and drank a lot.

This was probably the biggest challenge for me in terms of deciding to stop drinking. I could not conceive of losing my ‘edge’ and metamorphosing into a quiet dullard who couldn’t let her hair down. I know I’m not alone in thinking these thoughts, and I often read about other people’s experiences with friends and family who are sceptical at best, or scathing and down right rude at worst with regards to that person’s new non-boozy status.

What is it about alcohol that prompts people to share their opinion on whether or not we should be taking part in this national pastime? If I sat down at a dinner with people I wasn’t overly familiar with and announced that I was a vegetarian, I would more than likely receive a lesser inquisition than if I declared my AF lifestyle and opted for a mineral water amongst the truckload of wine at the table. But why do other people care so much about our drinking habits? Could it be that they don’t wish to draw attention to their own alcohol consumption? Generally, I’ve found that the people who have the least to say about me being a non-drinker are the ones who barely drink themselves, the ones who most definitely have not got any issues with alcohol.

Anyway, the point of the above observations is that society frequently has a tendency to be more accepting of heavy drinkers than those of us who opt for an AF life, and this can be a major obstacle in quitting. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can contribute massively to ‘wobbles’ and, ultimately, to caving in and having a drink. In order to stay true to the path of sobriety, therefore, it is vital that we believe in the alcohol-free way. And I mean, really believe in it – to find it an aspirational way of life, fall in love with it, want it more than anything, and be proud to tell anyone who listens, “No thanks, I do not drink”.

shutterstock_185642075

I did not feel this way about not drinking until at least eighteen months into my sobriety. I was ashamed of my problem, angry because I ‘wasn’t allowed to drink’, lonely and full of regret. But eventually, something clicked inside me and all the monumental benefits of being a non-drinker dawned on me. What the hell was I being so negative about? Where is the need to feel demeaned by a choice that will provide me (and my family and friends too) with a far happier and healthier life? Why be secretive about declining to consume an addictive substance that has consistently made you fat and act foolishly, which has caused you to hurt both yourself and those you love, which has damaged your mental and physical health and routinely put the brakes on all your hopes and dreams for future happiness?

When you think about it, becoming AF is a lifestyle choice that we should be shouting from the rooftops! These days I am supremely proud of being a non-drinker.

I’m Running The Sheffield Half-Marathon Tomorrow!

Sixteen years ago I ran the Sheffield half-marathon. I was twenty-five years old, fairly new to running and still a bit of a boozer. I ran the race in two hours and twelve minutes, which I was pretty pleased with considering that only a year before I couldn’t even run a mile.

shutterstock_218859526

Tomorrow, I am running the same race for a second time. I’m now forty-one years old but haven’t touched alcohol for six years and feel the fittest I’ve ever felt. Despite this, I was a bit worried that I might not stick at the training so I set up a Just Giving page to raise money for the Pink Ribbon Foundation, and I am so pleased that I did. Loads of people have sponsored me and their support has really pushed me when I’ve felt like giving up.

There are similarities in training for a race and quitting drinking, the most obvious to me is that by making yourself accountable you improve your chances massively at success. There’s also the fact that you’ve set yourself a challenge and, if you are anything like me, it’s way too disappointing to sack it off midway and just give up. Wasting all that effort, going through the initial pain for nothing, feeling such disappointment in yourself for not making it to the finishing line…all of those things act as motivating forces when times are tough and you’re tempted to throw the towel in.

Setting yourself a challenge like becoming alcohol-free or running a long way is also an effective means of proving to yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. Who says you’ll never manage to get sober? Who says you’re not fit enough to run thirteen miles? You can do whatever you want to if you put your mind to it, and achieving those goals is all the reinforcement of this message you’ll ever need.

Today I’m relaxing and eating lots of carbs, drinking loads of water, and getting myself ready for a pretty tough run tomorrow. In the morning, I’ll be thinking of all you amazing Soberistas who have supported me by donating money to the Pink Ribbon Foundation and using those happy thoughts to help power my legs up those Sheffield hills! Big thanks to all of you, Lucy xx

PS. A supporter of mine and of Soberistas has also been doing his bit for another charity by writing some brilliant books with his 9-year-old son – all proceeds of which go to the National Autistic Society. You can buy the books here.

Making Connections – Sober

One of the reasons why alcohol can appeal to us is because it’s a social lubricant. It has the power to transform a shy, awkward wallflower into a wild, life-and-soul-of-the-party type – although for lots of people it unfortunately then has a habit of pushing things too far in that direction, drawing them into doing things they later regret. I used alcohol for social confidence, and over the years it became that I required more and more of it to get the same, initial hit. And when I consumed increasing amounts, I acted in an increasingly out-of-character manner of which I was deeply embarrassed and often ashamed the next morning.

But, a sense of connection is what so many of us are craving when we reach for a glass of something alcoholic at a social event, and it’s this crutch that can be so difficult to let go of when we decide we really would like to become alcohol-free. Is it possible then to achieve this connection when we are teetotal?

My answer to this question would be yes. Yes, you can obtain a sense of belonging, a feeling of unity with others, when you are stone cold sober – and the trick to doing so lies in self-confidence, patience and a solid belief in the knowledge that if you can’t control your alcohol consumption, people will far prefer you as you are naturally to when you are completely out of your mind.

shutterstock_316810985

It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that alcohol makes us wittier, sexier, more attractive and interesting, but in reality this is a fallacy created in our own drunken minds. To the sober onlooker, people who are inebriated are quite boring, and they look a bit of a mess. These days, I enjoy far more the company of those who don’t drink to excess, and if I am forced to spend time with people who are heavily under the influence then I’m desperate to escape their company as soon as possible! The truth is that people who are not drunk are way more interesting, sensitive and funnier – although you do need to ensure that you’re spending time with people who you actually like (it’s fairly common when you quit the booze to realise that many of those you’ve always socialised with as a drinker are, in reality people whom you don’t care for all that much at all when sober).

With time, patience and no more drinking, a person’s self-confidence can be restored remarkably quickly following sustained and heavy alcohol misuse. And with that confidence, and a more positive reaction from friends and family, it is soon the case that one enters into a virtuous circle: a good response to the non-drinking version of you reinforces your suspicion that you’re better off not drinking, and the longer you continue to be alcohol-free, the more of a positive response you receive from the people in your life.

What it boils down to is this: connectedness is all very well and good, but if YOU are the sort of person who becomes drunk each and every time you consume alcohol, you are not connecting with anyone; rather you are distancing yourself more and more from the people you love and who love you. If you are someone without a reliable off-switch (like me) then it is absolutely true that you will be loved far more and by many more people as an alcohol-free person. Try it and see for yourself.

Me, Myself and I

I stopped drinking alcohol approximately four and a half years ago. I am a non-drinker, a teetotaller, a Soberista. This is what I do well; I don’t drink. Society dictates that we need to drink alcohol in order to be normal and to fit in with the status quo. We exist in a world that is awash with booze, and if you step aside from that and opt out, then you stand out. You are a bit strange, like an alien wandering amongst so many who are all one and the same. Binge drinking is acceptable, society-approved mind alteration on a grand scale.

So normalized is this drinking culture in the UK that prior to 2011 when I stopped drinking for good, I did not consider myself to have that much of a problem with alcohol despite having found myself doing all of the following: falling into an empty bath in the middle of the night and banging my head viciously on the taps; sliding down several feet of a muddy, snow-covered bank of mud and landing in a tangle of raggedy rose bushes at the foot, not even registering the pain; falling into bed with men who I barely knew, didn’t like and who repulsed me in the morning when I woke up and acknowledged what had happened; being thrown out of nightclubs, too drunk to stand; finding myself covered in severe bruising and having no idea where or how the injuries had occurred.

But, no, I was not an alcoholic. I was just a woman who loved to drink, who knew how to have a good time.

Nowadays I’m rather quiet, and I like to spend my time running, or writing, or in the company of a very small number of friends. I enjoy being with my three-year-old and my sixteen-year-old, watching them develop their personalities and finding their feet in this world.

IMG_1275

I invest a good deal of time in inventing smoothies and juices, and I like to experiment with cooking healthy meals. I love my job, running Soberistas.com, and promoting the idea that being a non-drinker is a very nice way to live, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of for once having been dependent upon alcohol and then being strong enough to kick the habit and rebuild your life. I’m interested in Buddhism and Taoism and how tenets from both philosophies can help better my state of mind. I love reading books, and going to the cinema.

I will be forty years old tomorrow. All of the drinking stuff is a long way behind me now. I’ve entered and am firmly entrenched in this much healthier chapter of my life – it’s not a passing fad, as I maybe feared it would be when I first cut out alcohol four and a half years ago. This is who I am now, and I feel safe. I don’t worry about being pulled back into the madness because things are too nice over here on the other side.

Where will I be ten years from now, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday? There’s no certainty that I’ll be here at all but I quite like that knowledge, the acceptance of my own mortality that seems to have finally become real after so long behaving as though I was going to live forever (despite all the physical and mental abuse I once subjected myself to). I like the appreciation and gratitude for the small stuff that goes along with knowing my time on earth is finite. I love the road of personal discovery that seems to be never-ending; all the opportunities that potentially lie out there, the adventures waiting to happen, the people I have yet to meet and the places I’ve yet to visit. I’m so happy to know that all of this awaits me without any of the fog of drinking, with none of the regrets and self-hatred that were once so prevalent. If I am lucky enough to live a long and healthy life, then the years to come will all be alcohol-free – I can say that with certainty. Our time on this planet is too precious to piss it up the wall on booze. It demands that you grab hold of it with both hands and squeeze out every drop of life that comes your way.

The biggest lesson I have learnt so far is this: every one of us is amazing in our own unique way and we don’t need to be altered in any way by alcohol in order to be accepted, or liked, or self-confident. Believe in who you are and follow the path you were given in life, and everything will fall into place. Heavy drinking just messes with the equilibrium and slams the brakes on you reaching your full potential. And life is really very short, so it’s a good idea to start living it right now – minus the mind-altering alcohol fog.

Not Drinking Is A (Great) Way Of Life

Alcohol is a strange old business. Ostensibly it’s just another beverage, but we all know it’s so much more than that. Drinking can often become a person’s defining characteristic. It’s the stuff they are made from: the rebel, the sex goddess, the sympathetic friend, the party animal, the sophisticated hostess. It turns the ordinary into the extraordinary – or so we like to imagine. Wrapped up in booze is a massive array of interwoven emotions and hardwired associations – a glass of chilled white wine on a summer day, a pint of real ale in a country pub at the end of a bracing walk, a cold beer on a Friday evening after work. The connections we make between alcoholic drinks and life are tenacious. It takes a lot of work to undo them.

I think I constructed my old persona as one that was intrinsically linked to alcohol because it was a means of avoiding how ashamed I was of the amount I was consuming – I wore my binge-drinking like a badge of honour, at least on the outside, and this helped me to push the negativity to the back of my mind. Waking up in bed next to someone who I could barely remember speaking to the night before? This was something to be laughed off with bravado, a funny thing to do after yet another night of hard partying – except I wasn’t laughing on the inside. I was filled with self-loathing (not that anyone would have ever known).

In the years since I stopped drinking, I’ve fully embraced life as a Soberista. Of fundamental importance in staying alcohol-free is learning to love sobriety, not resenting the fact that alcohol is no more a part of life but loving that it isn’t. I never thought I’d be able to do that. In the initial sober months I hated how I couldn’t drink alcohol without becoming falling-over drunk. I hated how other people seemed to have an off-switch and I didn’t. I hated beer gardens on hot summer evenings, filled with people laughing and drinking. I hated everything about being sober.

070

I had to find a way of turning not drinking into something that worked for me. A new element of me that fitted with my personality, rather than this alien lifestyle choice that I had been forced to adopt (or, at least, that’s how it felt). Gradually, being a non-drinker became something that I was proud of. I stopped feeling so apologetic for it. I started to feel like I was a part of a new wave of people, a mini-revolution that had sprung up out of a widespread disaffection for wasted weekends, poor health and too many heartfelt regrets.

The things that mattered to me as a drinker still matter to me. The stuff that I was ashamed of, the less-than-perfect parts of my life have been resolved, dealt with, closed. The good bits have grown better. The crap has disappeared. I genuinely believe that kicking booze out your life is a very cool thing to do. Living free from the fog of alcohol, experiencing true clarity, knowing yourself inside and out, feeling intuition and being able to trust yourself to act upon it, loving and caring for yourself, feeling passionate about stuff other than drinking, knowing that you are doing your best in life – this is what being sober means to me. And I’m very happy to be feeling it all, right now, today – it’s a very good place to be.

FOUR Years of Life as a Soberista

Me at the start of a very boozy night - which ended badly as ever.

In April 2011 I awoke one morning in a hospital bed, my clothes plastered in my own cold, congealed vomit. It was an earth-shatteringly terrible moment in my life but one that led me finally to understand that the game was up – I could no longer fight the fight with my long-standing love, alcohol. I have never touched booze since that night, and I’ve come a very long way in almost all aspects of my life as a result.

Fortunate, and I never forget it. I am a lucky bugger. I woke up to the fact that alcohol was at the root of pretty much all the shit in my life. And when I was only thirty-five. I thank my lucky stars almost every day that I saw the writing on the wall and that I read it, understood it with such profound clarity that I was able to indisputably quit drinking for good. Things could have stayed as they were and I may not have ever come to recognise alcohol for what it actually is – a potentially lethal substance that draws you in repeatedly with promises that this time will be different, this time you will be able to moderate how much of the stuff you drink. I was very fortunate to see all of this. I’m very fortunate to still be here.

Over it. It took a while, and many, many books about stopping drinking (thanks Jason Vale, again), and days and weeks of soul-searching, and hundreds of miles of running, and hours and hours of meditation, and untold glorious moments of appreciation for the small stuff, and the love of friends and family, and the interaction with the fabulous people of Soberistas – but eventually, I got over it. I got over booze. I stopped fretting that my life would be dull without it. I stopped missing it when I went out. I stopped not cooking pasta because I couldn’t eat it without craving a large glass of red. I stopped staying in the house at night because I couldn’t face socialising without being off my head on drink. I got over my dependency. My life moved on.

Unrecognisable. In some respects I am unrecognisable from the person I was when I drank. In a lot of ways I am totally changed; I’m fitter, I’m calmer, I don’t live a calamitous life that throws me uncaringly from bad situation to worse situation, I look younger, my priorities are in the correct order, I am in control of my world. In other regards I am the same – stubborn, a bit silly, prone to the odd moment of impetuous behaviour just to get a thrill. But essentially the negative components of my existence have all but disappeared and I am fairly content with how things now look on the landscape of my life. Things have changed a lot, for the better.

Right. Stopping drinking was the right thing for me to do. I never needed it. I didn’t need to quieten my mind, or boost my confidence in social situations, or wipe out emotional pain that would have healed faster if only I had allowed myself to feel it as it occurred. There was no need for me to cover up my personality with that of a loudmouth party girl. I was fine as I was. I didn’t need to force myself to fit into situations that I didn’t feel comfortable in, or to blend in with people with whom I had nothing in common. I would never have been able to moderate my alcohol consumption therefore becoming a Soberista was my only choice if I was to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life, and to do my best to provide the same for my gorgeous girls. I was right to forge ahead with my belief that living completely alcohol-free was a good choice for me. It was the best decision I have ever made.

roc1

That Was Then And This Is Now – Sober Reflections

I have experienced a multitude of emotions with regards to alcohol since I last drank the stuff in 2011. At first I missed it dreadfully, and the love and devotion that I initially harboured towards my old friend, wine, eventually led to the idea behind my first book, The Sober Revolution (co-written by Sarah Turner). The book depicts booze as the wayward lover – not to be trusted, although deeply enchanting and difficult to extrapolate one’s self from.

A few months down the sober road, I remember becoming increasingly bitter towards booze, and angry at the alcohol industry for misrepresenting their products. It seemed that everywhere I looked there were adverts featuring glamorous, happy people enjoying a drink and not suffering any of the associated horrors that had become so firmly entrenched in my own experience of alcohol use. Where were the images of people collapsing in the street? The facial features that had drooped with alcoholic drowsiness? Why was nobody being honest about the effects this addictive substance was having upon such a large percentage of the population?

Eventually, I started to feel more positive about living life as a non-drinker. I recognised that not everyone has the same destructive relationship as I did with booze, although a deep mistrust of alcohol and those who sell it has remained with me. This is something which I feel has helped me enormously in staying on the sober road; whilst bitterness and anger are not emotions that we should embrace forever, a certain degree of ‘fighting back’ after years of being manipulated and possessed by alcohol is crucial (in my humble opinion) in building up an emotional resistance to this so-commonly accepted drug.

Me now, minus the internal struggles

Me now, a happy Soberista

In my third year of sobriety, everything settled down and became entirely normal. I no longer missed drinking at all, and had most definitely carved out a new identity for myself based on real things that matter, as opposed to the ghost-like fantasies that heavy alcohol consumption frequently initiates. I could say at that point that I knew myself, was aware of my foibles and strengths, had a healthy level of self-esteem, felt committed to the things in my life that I cared about, and had the confidence to believe in who I was and where I was heading. The self-loathing and regrets had long since fallen by the wayside and I had finally, at the age of thirty-eight, begun to enjoy living in the real world – with all of its challenges, ups and downs, and beauty. That was when I noticed a new sense of optimism in myself, a solid belief in things turning out OK. That in itself was a revelation, as previously I had always assumed everything would go wrong in my life.

And now, with hindsight, I often look back on my drinking years with an intense desire to gently put an arm around myself and whisper, ‘You don’t actually need alcohol to be OK. Your life would be much better without it.’ And then I feel an enormous sense of relief that I came to realise that my relationship with alcohol would never have changed – that off-switch would never have materialised, and my life would most definitely have continued to be characterised by shameful situations, wasted weekends and regrets so huge that they ate away at my soul.

Thank God I saw all of that. Thank God I became a Soberista.

The Best Birthday Present

On Wednesday, my eldest daughter will be sixteen. When I consider her age, I am starkly reminded of the swift passage of time and how much things have changed during the years she has spent on earth.

My eldest daughter, then three, with me and our beloved Mowgli

My eldest daughter, then three, with me aged twenty-six – 2002

I’m taking her away for a few days for her main present but I want to buy her a keepsake too, a special reminder of her first ‘grown-up’ birthday. But no matter what I end up choosing for her gift, I know that she has already received the best one I could ever give to her – a mum who doesn’t drink alcohol, and specifically, this mum who doesn’t drink alcohol.

There are, of course, many mums out there who drink and who can manage their intake of alcohol sufficiently well that it has no detrimental impact upon their children. But I wasn’t one of them.

Although I was never knocking the vodka back at 7 am or staggering up to the school gates at home time with bottles clanking in a plastic bag, I certainly prioritised alcohol fairly highly in my life, and it frequently affected my eldest child in a number of ways.

For a start, I used to rush through her bedtime stories in order to speedily tie up the day’s parenting duties. My desire to do so was, of course, due to the bottles of cold, white wine that would inevitably be resting in the fridge downstairs, the beads of condensation that coated the glass inviting me to dive in.

Secondly, I would frequently plan my spare time around drinking. This might have meant organising a little dinner party for friends (read, major piss-up), or a get-together in the local pub beer garden – somewhere where the kids could play, obviously, whilst the adults grew steadily more inebriated and less responsible. Sometimes it meant calling on the help of a babysitter so that I could indulge in my wish to achieve total mental obliteration via alcohol consumption.

Thirdly, the after effects of my drinking were apparent to anyone in my company, including my child. The lethargy and bad moods were almost certainly picked up on regularly by my daughter, although she probably had no idea why I was snapping at her for no good reason or why I had no energy to do anything other than lie around watching TV.

There were no major catastrophes, thank God. No medical emergencies where I was too out of it to respond quickly and appropriately. No occasions where I didn’t manage to drag myself out of bed to take her to school or collect her in the afternoons. I never lost my job or was threatened with losing my child to the care of the social services because I was deemed incapable of looking after her.

But there was a catalogue of alcohol-induced depressive episodes, unpredictable moods, of silly and irresponsible life choices that affected my daughter’s upbringing, of money spent on fags and booze that could have gone towards things of benefit to the two of us. And there was the relentless display of how a grown woman acts – an example that I set, week in and week out, that revolved around escaping my reality and living recklessly.

And so, the best gift I could ever have given my lovely daughter is the one I gave her almost four years ago, and which is the opposite of all of the above; a mum who is present and engaged with her children, a mum who is fit, healthy and cooks nutritious meals, encouraging an interest in a healthy lifestyle in both her children; a mum who displays a level mood, who doesn’t bite her children’s heads off for no reason, a mum who is up at 6 am most days taking care of running the house and providing a secure upbringing for her family, a mum who can be relied upon not to embarrass her children by being out of it; a mum who doesn’t drink alcohol.

Get Set, Ready, Go! 6 Steps to Reaching Your Alcohol Free Goal

It’s easy to declare ‘I will never drink alcohol again’. Not so simple is sticking to this intention through thick and thin, when the Wine Witch whispers (oh so convincingly) that ‘one won’t hurt’, when the sun comes out and it’s barbecue time, when it seems that everyone else is drinking merrily, and when the emotional vacuum that opens up in the early days of sobriety threatens never to close.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Making the choice to quit drinking doesn’t come from nowhere; rather it was a decision borne out of (more than likely) numerous bad experiences with booze, feelings of shame and embarrassment, and a sense of being unable to control alcohol.

So there are reasons, and good ones at that, for taking a stand and opting out of the booze trap. Now all you need to do is make sure you don’t forget those reasons next time you feel tempted to have a drink…

It’s important to set realistic goals in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed in the initial phases of sobriety, when everything feels strange and the cravings are at their most intense. Do consider this early period to be a little like going into battle; arm yourself with all the ammo you think you’ll require to get through it, and remember, preparation is crucial;

  1. First of all think of the big picture. Imagine your life in its entirety and consider how you want to look back on it – do you see alcohol as a permanent feature? Can you imagine that your relationship with alcohol might someday change, or will it always be a problem substance for you? Think about your relationships, your physical health and your self-fulfilment; can you honestly picture these working out as you’d like them to if you continue to drink?
  2. Break the big picture down into specific goals. If the big picture is that you want to eliminate alcohol from your life, now it’s time to hone in on the exact consequences you’re hoping for as a result of banishing the booze. Do you want to lose weight? Be a more patient parent? Improve your physical health? Write a list of the elements in your life that you would like to see improve as a result of not drinking. Be specific, so detail how much weight you would like to lose, or how you would like to be a better parent (more activities at the weekend, helping with homework, making an effort to pick your battles and let the more trivial stuff pass by, etc.), or what fitness goals you hope to achieve.
  3. Get SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-related). Taking the above stage to the next level, it’s a good idea to create a detailed action plan in relation to your goals. Don’t merely state that you want to be healthier by quitting drinking – set a specific target (i.e. lose weight), make it measurable (i.e. lose 1 stone), make it attainable (i.e. don’t aim to shed half your body weight in a month), make it relevant (if you lose weight, will this help motivate you to stay off the booze? Will it make you happier? Is now a good time to be focusing on this, or are there more pressing matters that you should be focusing on?), and finally, make it time-related (is there a wedding coming up that you want to lose weight for? A holiday? Or could you just pick a random date instead and work towards that?). However you strategize the timing of your goals, just ensure you do so in a manageable way.
  4. Take action. There is never a better time to make your dreams a reality than right now. Join a gym, sign up to an evening class, or pick up a prospectus from your local university or college, and do it TODAY; this will help solidify your dreams and help you perceive them as your reality. Stop putting it off until tomorrow and take action today – having tangible evidence of working towards your dreams will really motivate you to keep moving forwards. Occupying your time with something like a college course or sessions at the gym will also help keep you busy thus preventing you thinking so much about alcohol in the early days (don’t allow yourself to be bored!).
  5. Prioritise your goals and start a journal. Recording your journey in a diary works as a constant reminder of the goals you are aiming for. It helps keep you focused. Use the journal to prioritise your goals, as well as to keep a log of your progress. Perhaps weight loss will be first on the list, then a fitness-related goal. Rather than overwhelm yourself with trying to achieve everything all at once, take things one step at a time. The confidence and restored self-esteem you experience each time you tick a goal off the list will really help spur you on to tackle the next one. By writing everything down you will never forget how good it feels to achieve something positive.
  6. Reward yourself. How much did you spend on booze each month? Honestly? I know I spent easily in the region of £250 – £300 a month on alcohol and all the related purchases (cigarettes, late night pizzas, taxis). Bear this in mind when you are thinking about how to reward yourself for reaching your goals (not that you need to spend the same amount, but don’t get caught up with feelings of guilt for splashing out a bit – you’ll still be saving!).

 

There are numerous free rewards that you’ll hopefully start to see within the first couple of weeks of sobriety (better sleep, clearer skin, brighter eyes, no morning shame), but each time you reach one of your measured goals, spend a bit of cash on something special. It’s so important to reinforce the idea that not drinking is a positive lifestyle choice – only you will know how hard you’ve worked to kick the Wine Witch out of your world, so it stands to reason that you decide how to treat yourself. Just make it something extra special!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

A final tip is to spend a few minutes each day visualising yourself realising one of your goals – imagining yourself looking slimmer, graduating from university, or working in a new career that you’ve always longed for will help you to perceive your goals as real possibilities instead of pipe dreams. Remember, you are a human being exactly the same as everyone else, and there is no reason why you cannot be successful in achieving your goals too.

Don’t be frightened of arming yourself to the teeth with strategies, believe in yourself and go for it!

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????