Has Dry January made think more seriously about your drinking habits? Perhaps you’re finding it easier than you’d thought or are enjoying having more energy and better sleep?
If so, and you’re considering carrying on – for just another week or longer - these tips and tricks will help.
1. Create new habits
A lot of drinking behaviours revolve around habits – The music to X-Factor? Crack open the wine. Had a hard day? Pass the G&T. Creating new comforting habits isn’t as difficult as you’d think, so the next time you start a new box set grab a cup of tea or an alcohol-free alternative to your usual tipple - you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can build new associations.
2. Change your passwords
Hardly a day goes by without us having to create a new log-in for something or other! During your period of abstinence (whether thats a month, a year or forever) use words that back up your goal e.g. ‘Idon’tdrinkin2018’ or ‘Boozefreefeb’. This helps reinforce the idea in your head and normalises it.
3. Make a list
This was a biggie for me. Before giving up alcohol in 2017, I made a list of 50 reasons to stop drinking. It included all the things I hated about alcohol and positive things I wanted to happen without it. It was surprisingly easy to find 50 reasons, and to be honest, once I had the list there was no excuse to carry on. It’s also handy to look back on when you’re having a wobble.
4. Have your answers ready!
If you’re going to go public think about what and how much you want to tell people.
Ridiculously, there can be feelings of shame or failure associated with giving up – like admitting you have a problem (you may or may not have had) or just can’t hack it like everyone else. In truth, you might just be bored of it, hate the hangovers or want to improve your mental and physical health.
5. Find a new ‘high’
I can’t lie, you’re probably going to feel like you are missing out and it’s easy to replace one bad habit with another – for me it was chocolate. Try to find activities that make you happy and don’t revolve around booze. Meet friends for coffee in the day rather than wine at night. Arrange cinema trips.
6. Focus on the positives
This one might seem hard when all you can think about is your old life but if your old life was so good you wouldn’t be trying to change it would you (see #3)? Start looking for the positives (better sleep, clear head, more money) and focus on those.
7. Kill the urge!
It’s likely that once the initial determination wears off, the old cravings will kick back in. If you always had a glass of wine when cooking, make a mint tea, clean your teeth or eat some Polos – seriously wine after mint is NOT good.
8. Treat yourself
How much were you spending on alcohol a week? Whenever one of those ‘reach for the bottle’ moments strikes, stick some money in a jar and watch it mount up.
9. Fast forward
Whenever you’re tempted to have a drink, do a quick fast forward. How will you feel about yourself tomorrow? How will you feel physically? Then imagine yourself waking up hangover free – how good will that be?
10. Find alternatives
One of the hardest things I found initially was that Friday night and Saturday night (if I was staying in) felt just the same as a Monday night or a Tuesday night. There were no highs (or lows) in the week – just more of the same. Drinking alcohol-free beers (you’ll need to try a few to find the ones you like) and Virgin G&Ts (thank you Tesco) help break the monotony and trick your brain into thinking you’re having a treat. I’ve even had tough days where I found myself thinking ‘Aggghh, I really need a Becks Blue.’
11. Trust the process
At one time, I honestly couldn’t imagine enjoying a life without alcohol. But, slowly, over time you start to see, ‘Yep, this is OK, this is doable.’ Alcohol stops being the answer to everything – good days, bad days, meh days. You just forget to think about it. I’m yet to find a non-drinker who isn’t happy with their decision to quit.
12. Remember... they all wish they were you!
Your friends, those questioning looks from strangers when you tell them you don’t drink… they all wish they were you and that they could do it too.