“That’s it, I’m giving up alcohol for good!”
It’s a phrase uttered by millions around the world as they slowly open their eyes on Sunday morning. They’ll most likely be suffering from a throbbing headache, dehydration and stomach cramps. Not to mention the vague sense of memory loss. And as the coffee machine is heating up, many contemplate giving up alcohol.
Sadly, seven days and six nights later, most are back at it again! If you find yourself stuck in this Groundhog Day-style loop, here’s some good news: You can break the cycle! All you need are some concrete steps, a few long term habits and, as always, a bit of willpower!
Whatever habit you are trying to develop, you’ll need the right mental skills to tackle life’s challenges. Start “The Art of Stoic Living” and build the mental habits required to excel in life!
The First Day of Giving Up Alcohol
When it comes to giving up alcohol, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot. You’ll probably be at your most willing to take a break from alcohol while nursing a hangover. Use that to your advantage!
It’s easy to forget the downside of binge drinking. Our minds are capable of downplaying the negatives and exaggerating the positives of any habit, so you’ll need a way to counter that bias.
Set in Stone
Now, the last thing you’d probably want to do when you’re hungover is start writing a journal! But find a way to document your thought process regarding why giving up alcohol is so important. This could be in the form of a note on your phone, a voice recording or even a video log. But don’t underestimate the effectiveness of simply writing words down on a piece of paper. Placing it somewhere visible ensures you get periodic reminders of why you are abstaining from drinking.
Describe not just how you feel in the present moment, but how you feel about the time you spent drinking. Think of the money you spent and the way you behaved. It’s natural to feel regret and self-loathing after abusing alcohol. Put those feelings to good use by recording them. Days or weeks later, when your mind flirts with the idea of drinking again, you can look back on the recording and remember why you’re giving up alcohol.
Have a Game Plan
So now you’ve become convinced of the importance of giving up alcohol. Let’s quickly move to the next step (because right now it’s all about momentum!) As you recover from your last drinking session, start planning for the next seven days. The aim is to stay away from alcohol, so the first step is to take a peek at the calendar. Are there any weekend/holiday parties coming up?
One of the keys to executing a successful plan is timing. Vowing to quit drinking three days before a long awaited party with friends might not be practical. However, follow your instinct. If you truly want to take a break from alcohol, you don’t have to postpone that for anyone. The first priority is your physical and mental health!
So how are you going to free yourself from any alcohol-related activity for the next seven days? Here’s a tip that might come in handy. Telling friends and family that you are giving up alcohol might lead to a lot of questions and drawn out conversation. Instead, simply say that you are taking a break. Or better still, starting a challenge! Not everyone agrees with abstaining from alcohol. But no one will argue how exciting it is to win a challenge!
Feeling daunted about taking a break from drinking? The “Self-Discipline: Mental Toughness” Get Inspired session in the app’s Make Me Fabulous section will help you visualize your end goal!
Bait and Switch
Remember, simply dodging your drinking buddies’ calls won’t be enough in the long run. Sure, you’ll coast on the excitement of this new challenge for a few days, but, sooner or later, life will tempt you to drink again. In medical terms, these situations are known as triggers. A stressful day at work is the most common, but by no means the only trigger you might have. Think of all the times you’ve sighed and thought about having a drink. Something in that environment was your trigger. Anger, frustration and sadness are all emotions that will prompt you to consume alcohol. The solution, however, is not to stay happy, because that too can be a trigger!
You can’t live life tip toeing around situations and emotions that will trigger you to drink. Instead, develop a classic “bait and switch”. Rather than heading for the bar right after a frustrating day at work, drive to the gym. Spend an hour kickboxing rather than methodically manufacturing a future headache. Drinking is not the solution to your emotional discomfort. Drinking is merely the activity you indulge in to recover from that discomfort. Switch the activity, and you’ll get the same results without any of the terrible short and long term side effects!
The 3 G’s of Giving Up Alcohol
Let’s say you’ve managed two whole weeks without alcohol. First off, congratulations! You might’ve experienced moments of irritation and stress during this time. But instead of reaching for the bottle, you dealt with the emotional upheaval through dedication, distraction and maybe some minor habit adjustments. These are all great coping mechanisms, but they won’t be enough.
You may have won the battle, but the war’s not over yet. Whether you’re simply taking a break from alcohol or breaking free from alcohol abuse, take this opportunity to develop life long habits. They’ll act like walls that protect you from temptation and triggers.
While there are plenty of great habits you can look into, it’s best to first focus on the 3 G’s:
This doesn’t mean you have to lift weights right away. Simply start small with any physical activity that’s sufficiently challenging and more importantly, something you can be consistent at. It could be an aerobics class, yoga, dance lessons or even rock climbing. In short, aim for an activity that makes you sweat! There are plenty of benefits to be reaped, and having a frame of mind that allows you to stay away from alcohol is just one of them.
Buying groceries is a sure sign that you’re heading in the right direction. Instead of ordering take out or buying highly processed meals, dedicate a portion of your week to securing nutritious groceries. Fuelling your body with the right ingredients will drastically improve your life. And once you develop a taste for green, clean vegetables and fruits, greasy fries and a beer won’t feel so appetizing!
There’s a reason why it’s “good” rather than “enough” or “plenty” of sleep. While 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day is a worthy goal, the quality of your sleep matters as well. Having six hours of deep sleep is far better than 10 fitful hours with your eyes closed. Acquiring and perfecting your sleep habits takes time, so start with just the basics: Sleep early, get up early!
Struggling to get deep, restful sleep? Check out the A Fabulous Night Journey to find your deep sleep groove!
Cross Off Your Bucket List
Our minds crave information. So when you decide to give up alcohol, there will naturally be a voice in your head that asks, “Until when?” Replying, “Maybe for good?” might not just be unrealistic, but counterproductive. The very thought of never ever sipping a beer again will make your mind desire it intensely. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say
So, what you need is a time-frame that satisfies your mind’s curiosity. The good news is you’ll start to see the physical and mental benefits of giving up alcohol within 6 weeks. But instead of drearily crossing off each day and watching the clock tick by, here’s how you can make the time fly
Start a project. Cross something off your bucket list. Always wanted to run a 5K? Good, make a plan for the next four months. Instead of denying yourself alcohol for an entire season, entice it with the possibility of success. Picture the photo you’ll take after completing that race! That’s the fuel that’ll drive you away from daily temptation and slip-ups.
When you are breaking a bad habit, it’s important to have a good support structure. When giving up alcohol, it’s even more crucial. After all, one of the major reasons we drink is to socialize. It’s extremely common for a person to give up alcohol and then battle feelings of loneliness. So if you decide to give up alcohol, it’s a good idea to seek out others who’ve made the same decision.
Spending time with people who have a common goal makes it easier for you to avoid temptation. Not to mention you’ll grow as a person when you share your thoughts and lessons learnt along the way. Birds of a feather flock together. So take the time to find those with matching feathers!
Don’t Worry About Giving Up
In every aspect of life, there comes a time for “course correction”. That’s why we take a few hours at the end of the week to clean our house of clutter, or make a timetable in the office to catch up on pending work. It’s the same principle with alcohol.
Sometimes a spate of consecutive holidays or an especially festive vacation means we end up indulging in alcohol past moderation. When that happens, it’s okay to give up. Giving up alcohol does not have to a rigid lifelong choice. Rather just something you do to clean up the clutter in your mind and body.
And once you’ve started to abstain, don’t beat yourself up if you give up and have a beer. Relapsing when it comes to breaking a bad habit is part of the experience. Loathing yourself will do more damage than good. Instead, get back on track as quickly and confidently as possible. Don’t worry about giving up alcohol forever. Don’t worry if you give up on giving up alcohol. Good health is, after all, a lifelong process.
Being hard on yourself can quickly turn into self-loathing if you’re not careful! Make sure your thoughts are healthy by periodically practising “The Compassion Meditation” session in the app’s Make Me Fabulous section.