Need some advice on how to successfully complete an alcohol free challenge? Don't blame you! Undertaking a period of time off alcohol is no walk in the park. Planning what to expect and how to manage it in advance is a great way to make Sober October easier. Here are our top tips for going alcohol free...
To yourself that is. It’s not unheard of for people to fall off the wagon and drink alcohol during a month assigned to not drinking alcohol. Who woulda thought eh?! Our best advice: go easy on yourself.
You haven’t ruined things by having a few slip ups. Just pick up where you left off and continue. The less forgiving you are, the more likely you will be to revert to old ways. So slowly build up the continuous periods of not drinking over time if that’s more likely to lead to success.
Perhaps allow for designated days off the challenge. You're your own boss in discovering yourself through not drinking, so implement a strategy that works for you. Just take it 1 day at a time. Then 2, 3, 4…a week, a fortnight, then 28 days.
Book yourself some self-care
An extension of kindness, self-care is a powerful way to stay on track. Doing things to reward yourself not only assuages feelings of deprivation, it reframes what it means to experience pleasure. Take some time to think about the things you enjoy doing. Then, prioritise nurturing moments and mark them in your diary so you have something to look forward to each week, or even each day.
It takes more effort to take yourself out (or in) on a date, than it does to grab a coldie from the fridge. But the feel good factor after completing those activities will outshine the instant gratification and subsequent letdown that alcohol provides. You never know, those neural pathways may even start to alter so that you crave the self-care more than the alcohol eventually!
Double up and halve the effort
When it comes to a challenge, they're easier to face with a friend or partner beside you. So hit up a mate to take on Sober October with you.
- Take turns to be each other's cheerleader when you hit a rough patch or to celebrate milestones throughout the month.
- You don't need to be in the same place. Check in over Zoom and WhatsApp at regular time or when you hit a struggle.
- Get out into nature, exercise, and discover alternative ways of enjoying down time that don't revolve around alcohol.
- Share journal musings and things that have come up for you.
- Have a non alcoholic drink date!
Journal the changes
It’s good to keep a journal as you go about your month of sobriety. Note down what works and what doesn’t:
- triggering situations
- alternatives that satisfy
- times of day that elicit cravings
- physical changes
Keeping a daily practice will help you to understand your emotions and notice patterns of behaviour, and what triggers your desire to drink. Often we drink to numb things, big and small, so not drinking may expose them. This is normal. Finding positive ways to manage issues can reduce your reliance on alcohol. You don’t have to become a hermit just because you’re not drinking alcohol.
Don’t avoid social situations
In fact, it’s good to get amongst it. Social situations present a unique opportunity to test your resolve, normalise alcohol free options, and maybe even enjoy yourself! Of course, it might be confronting. So strategise and try the following:
- BYO non alcoholic drinks
- have an exit plan
- let friends know in advance
- don't punish yourself if you slip up
- have a comeback ready for when people ask you why you'e not drinking (I'm already toxic enough; the sex is better without it etc)
Stock up on substitutes and set yourself up for success
Doing a stint off booze is hard work if you’re used to reaching for a bevvie after work, before bed, to mark the weekend, when you catch up with friends or any other time. It’s not just the alcohol itself, it’s the habit of associating reward and relaxation with a drink. And that can be hard to break. So do yourself a favour and go for an alternative instead of aiming for abstinence. Swapping alcohol for alcohol alternatives means you can still drink something satisfying, combat cravings, and stay on the wagon.
Keep your eye on the prize
No doubt about it, you’re going to go through a rough patch when you’re off booze for a month straight. Or patches. Or a rather lengthy bumpy track full of potholes with the occasional stretch of smooth tarmac.
SO, in those dark and difficult moments when your brain and body are feeling not great (because you might be purging toxins, or your system expects to get soaked in alcohol whenever stress arises, or you’re feeling socially ostracised etc), you need to: remind yourself of the benefits you’re going to achieve and how they’re going to feel waaaaayyyyyyy better than alcohol, if you can just push through the discomfort!
Discover new ways to celebrate
You've gotten to the end of the challenge and completed a month off alcohol - what now? Whether you managed to stay off alcohol the entire time or not, pat yourself on the back for having the wherewithal and commitment to try. But you might want more than a pat on the back...
Here's where the hard work really begins.
You're at the point in your alcohol free journey where celebration can be redefined, and you can choose how you want to move forward with whatever you've discovered over the last few weeks about your relationship with alcohol.
Modern culture expects us to celebrate victories with toasts and much quaffing of alcohol (cue the the podium finish champagne spray!), and that can be fun. But if the victory you're claiming is over alcohol, not a F1 race, it might trigger the notion that you were previously deprived of it and therefore you need it in excess now.
But what if you decide that your victory is one of reclaiming power over yourself and drinking more mindfully? That's something you might want to toast with a few good drinks but not so many that you're back to square one tomorrow.
So try celebrating with non alcoholic champagne to begin with, or alternate an alcohol free drink with an alcoholic drink each round so you can soften the blow tomorrow.
But if you do find yourself on a bender (been there) it doesn't mean all is lost. You've got the knowledge now to take control over your relationship with alcohol. And every relationship takes a little work!
Get more intel, support and insights with our Sober Curious Book Guide.
Image courtesy of Sincerely Media