Sober October is the second most popular alcohol free month of the year, followed by Dry January. As the weather gets cooler it's a perfect time to hunker down, and hit the reset button on your drinking before the holiday season picks up.
If you are like me, many sober experiments start with motivation and excitement. This can dwindle quickly when you are faced with your first cravings.
Here’s a few common tricks to avoid and treats to implement for a successful Sober October.
If you’re a regular drinker it will take some time for your mind, body, and spirit to reset. It is common to wake up and immediately wonder who many drinks you’ve had the night before. Dreaming about drinking is also very common. Without alcohol to numb your emotions you may experience intense emotions. This will be uncomfortable but you can allow yourself to move through it. Feelings are only temporary. With two full moons this month, your emotions might feel especially strong, but just knowing it is ok to feel the whole human experience, and not just positive feelings, should help you endure until it passes. I call it The Big Thaw when you start to feel everything you’ve been avoiding with alcohol at once. Be gentle and patient with yourself as these thoughts and feelings pass. You might be mad at yourself, mad at alcohol, or mad at people around you. This is all normal and treating yourself with compassion is the best way to survive.
Questioning the decision
Our drinking mind’s way to bring us back to the bottle, is to wonder why we are even doing this in the first place. You arrived at Sober October for a reason, you’ve decided to curb your drinking for a month and give the alcohol free lifestyle a try. Almost immediately you can expect your brain to romanticize alcohol and minimize the effects on you. “It’s not really that bad. I am being too dramatic. I don’t have a problem. I don’t want or need to quit. This is stupid.”
This is the tricky drinking brain trying to pull you back in before you’ve even seen any success, or had an opportunity to experience any benefits. The best way to handle this is to keep your commitment to yourself. Never question the decision. You’ve already made the decision to go 31 days alcohol free. Keep this commitment to yourself. This will free up a lot of mental energy so you can focus on reaching your goal, not going back and giving up on yourself.
The minute we give up alcohol for a moment, the self sabotage creeps in. We start to think about the holidays coming up, the vacation around the corner, or whatever future event might have champagne and we think we might want a sip. So we throw our hands in the air and say yes to a glass of wine today, because 2 months from now we think we might want to drink. This is very common. I recommend staying present with yourself and repeat a mantra of “I am not drinking right now.” This doesn’t mean you will never drink again, but for 31 days get curious about your reactions to not drinking. By Day 31 you will feel differently than you do on Day 2. Give yourself a chance at success by staying present with yourself for 31 Days. When you get to the future event you think you might want to drink at, you can decide then. For now, you are doing 31 Days Alcohol Free. The saying “just for today” holds a lot of power.
You are used to rewarding yourself after a long day with a glass of wine, so you must trick your brain out of a glass of wine, by finding another way to reward yourself. Quitting alcohol is hard, but you don’t need to endure unnecessary suffering. Find another treat at the end of the day. It can be a new activity, such as a time alone, a bath, a workout. It can be a new drink, special tea, fizzy water, or an NA beer if that suits you. It could be a little luxury like a new candle, fuzzy socks, or renting a movie. Just because you have given up alcohol, doesn’t mean you don’t get to unwind and reward yourself at the end of the day. It is ok to invest time and money in treats that feel rewarding to you. I have heard the saying “give yourself an island to row to.” You can give yourself a little treat every single day for making it through without alcohol. This gives you something to look forward to and satisfies the pleasure center in your brain.
A positive mindset is everything. Yes, you are giving up alcohol, but you are also giving up hangovers, wasted money, and lost sleep. You can focus on what you are gaining, increased confidence, better health, and mental clarity. Too often we view the alcohol lifestyle as deprivation, but I have found it to be nothing of the sort. Without alcohol I have been able to start my own business, make new friends, and go on new adventures, including a trip to Africa. This never would have happened if I was still drinking. By giving up one thing, alcohol, I gained so much more. Put your focus on what you are gaining by ditching the drink, and not just what you are giving up. What would 31 days alcohol free look like for you? What would you be able to do and feel during this time if you weren’t drinking? Paint a picture for yourself.
When you are in the drinking loop every evening looks the same. You drink. When you quit drinking, a whole new world of possibilities opens up. To combat the feeling of boredom, you can plan non drinking activities for you and your friends. When I was drinking my life was like GroundHog Day, doing the same thing over and over again. Since getting sober, I have found there is so much to do and never enough time to do it. A hike in the woods, a booze free brunch, an art class, or just coffee and dessert dates are a few ideas. When you remove the automatic habit of reaching for alcohol, you are free to explore other activities. Your social life can actually improve when you don’t have to worry about the consequences of alcohol.
For more Sober October support you can download my Alcohol Free Starter Kit at www.ditchedthedrink.com