I’ve given up the drink for 90 days. “And well you SHOULD”, you might say, “given you’ve just had something close to the all clear from CANCER”. To which I might splutter, “yes, I know.. but… you see.. well… actually… eek, it’s strangely not that easy” (all the while thinking, “alright judgy-pants”). Having cancer is stressful, babes. And nothing but nothing takes the edge off a day living in mortal terror than a triple G&T with loads of ice and not much tonic. I know! The irony! Isn’t it ridic?! I am but a fallible human with an inner twennyfouryearold that needs to be tamed (among other things). BUT I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. And for those thinking of doing it too (you know who you are, wink) here are a few thoughts, tips n’ tricks to get you through, the first bit at least.
1. Self Luurve baby. You can totally do this but it takes a bit of a brain re-wire to sever the attachment. It’s nothing to do with willpower (or we’d all be doomed). It’s everything to do with re-thinking the role of alcohol and getting perspective. And the only way to do that is to step back from it for a while. When I’m wavering, I like to think of it as the biggest, warmest, huggiest act of self love I can give myself >kisses own arm aaaaall the way to the top and aaaaalll the way back down again. Now the other one<.
2. Get. In. The. Zone. Perspective also comes from stepping outside of your own head (and the bullshit you tell yourself). Read your arse off for booze-free empowerment. So many people have blazed this trail and written great things, and you will get far more from them than I. My faves are The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray and The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley. Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Control Drinking is worth reading for his brilliant take-down of the AA, and the Hip Sobriety space is great for positioning sobriety as ‘a proud choice, not a sad consequence’ – all the stuff you need to hear even if you just want a mini break.
Reading books written by people who have given up drinking forever, doesn’t mean you will catch giving up drinking forever (unless you want to obvs), but by crikey they’ll make you think. And laugh. And maybe even cry. Their stories might also make you feel a bit better about your own habits. Or not. What they will do is give you a cautious ‘respect’ for alcohol and help you re-wire your brain on all things booze. And this is what you need to do to get through it. A re-wire. Permission to be reverse brain-washed to de-glam the palest of pink Provence Rose, take its power away, and ultimately allow you to be kind to yourself. Alcohol is a sneaky bitch disguised as fun drenched in Pinot Noir.
3. Fill The Fridge with Non-Alcs. Substitutes in the fridge, always. I’ve caved before by not having arsenal. The non-alc alternatives out there are ace. You can spend a small fortune on non-alc beers at Dry Drinker and it will STILL be less than what you spend on the alchy versions (which means dosh to treat yourself for all that self luurve – this is one of Catherine Gray’s tips (I bought that red one-shouldered dress with the proceeds of a dry spell in 2018). I also always have bottles of sparkling San Pellegrino in the fridge (I know, sorry Greta but at least they’re recyclable?) to be paired with whatever takes your fancy. Buy up big on lemons and limes and make really tasty, sharp and sweet sparkling zesty muddles to sip at those key moments when you might normally reach for a glass of. It works. Beyond having something else to sip, there’s also something to do with sugars.
4. Partner Up or Get In with the Sober Peeps. Tom, my significant other, and I are both doing it which makes it easier. Also a friend contacted me following my instagram stories and said she was interested in taking a break too. We’ve connected on whatsapp and egg each other on. Sometimes that looks as simple as this; “I fancy a glass of wine tonight”. “Me too”. “Non alc beer?” “Yeh”.
There are umpteen ‘sober curious’ communities to get in with (Catherine has a great list in her book). I know a few people who swear by the One Year No Beer (OYNB) community (these guys say, ‘sure, start with 30 days off, but the magic happens after 60’). Also, SoberDave on instagram. Just because he’s a total sweet heart.
5. Schedule Life-Affirming Sunday Endorphin Blasts. Sunday exercise. I know. But look, here’s the thing. If you do something really ace on a Sunday morning – be it a long hike, swim, run, cycle – something that will be SHIT with even a micro-hangover, you remind yourself that not drinking on a Saturday night is not deprivation, but something you want for that wonderful body and mind of yours. I haven’t quite worked out what I’m in training for yet, but I schedule my long runs for Sunday mornings. After a lie in. And breakfast. And coffee. And watering the plants. And tickling the dog. And an insta-poo.
6. Drink In Real Life. Real life is at its most raw and real when there’s no alcohol to blur the edges. It’s easy to feel alive and connected and grateful when you’re outside running with the dog and sucking the air into your lungs so hard your nostrils clamp shut. But real life also happens when the sun goes down and you’re standing in your kitchen on a Friday night, possibly after a full-on week, music on, about to cook up a storm and thinking, “hhhmm, perhaps a little glass of whatnot…”. For me, at times like this, there’s something in the need to elevate normality. To make the ordinary less ordinary. Wanting to extract more. Removing alcohol from the occasion, for an extended period, helps you see how much even just weekend drinking pixilates real life. When you’re standing there, internally clawing at more, stop and drink this instead. This being life right now. You learn to love the every day ordinary and doing it often is all part of the re-wire.
7. Listen In. Of course, every day Real Life can be fucking hard. It’s full of pain, fear, fires, arguments, traffic jams, plastic, Brexit, unfulfilled dreams and things not done. There will come a time in these 90 days where you WILL, beyond all reason, WANT a glass of wine NOW in spite of all those brilliant early Jan intentions. Create an outer body experience for yourself by stepping out of your own head, and tuning in with curiousity to understand what’s really gone on – it’s here that you really start to understand your relationship with alcohol, and uncovering it is as uncomfortable as it is rewarding.
8. It’s All About Back Up, Baby. When the shit hits the fan, which it probably will, you need something else to turn to other than lime and San Pellegrino because quite frankly it ‘aint gonna CUT THE FUCKING MUSTARD IS IT and what am I trying to prove anyway, forty days is quite enough and alcohol is culturally ingrained FOR A REASON, and if it was good enough for ancient civilisations on the banks of the Euphrates to imbibe then it’s good enough for me, and for god’s sake I AM HUMAN and fallible and I DESERVE this and and AND. Now. I won’t pretend to have all the answers for this moment but it’s about breaking the thought pattern, getting the hella outta there, and doing something different to get you down from the metaphorical ledge. Run a bath. Candles. Podcast. Read. Write. Play cards. Downward Dog-it, meditate, dance, BREATH.
9. Know This; It.Will. Pass. Once you get through that little wobble up there – you’ve unlocked yourself from that little cupboard and stopped rocking and breathing dramatically – It’s fine again. You got through it. Honestly, it’s surprisingly fine after that first bit. Now kiss those arms.
Whatever you do, doing it over and over over, not just for four consecutive weekends but more, and then some more after that, means that you teach yourself how to not drink, AND you will learn a whole bunch of other stuff in the process. Like how to deal with the external world, and critically, the internal one, without dousing it with numbing agents. YES feeling all the feels is GNARLY as fuck but by Christ it’s rewarding.
10. Be gentle on yourself. Compassion all the way.
Good luck Soberistas. Respect Emoji.