Apparently, changing habits is only 5% down to the conscious mind, and 95% down to the subconscious. Which means, in effect, that you just got to give it time.
You have to drown out all those past (drunken) associations with lots of shiny new (sober) ones. Baby step by baby step. It's one of the reasons why they say it takes 2 years before you stop getting withdrawal symptoms (see Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms).
It seems to me that it works on a 'last in, first out' basis. My recently acquired alcohol associations (like drinking at lunch time) were the easiest to ditch. I hardly ever get cravings at lunch time now. But the deeply engrained associations (like drinking at parties) are a bugger to shift.
Whatever you tell your conscious mind about sober being better, not needing alcohol blah blah blah, your subconscious still pipes up "Party! Oh Goody! Pour us a drink, why don't you?"
We can try to avoid the most problematic situations, like refusing party invitations - but that's just postponing the problem. By doing that you don't create the new associations to fight with the old ones. Plus it's no fun. There's no point being sober if it's going to ruin your life.
Another cheat is to change the routine slightly. I've realised that I've been doing this with evening meals. I don't find not drinking at home in the evenings tricky now, but that's partly because I've got into the habit of eating 'on the hoof.'
I pick at the children's left overs. I snack. I no longer wait to eat until Mr SM comes home. I don't lay the table for two. Having a formal dinner just makes me miss the wine too much.
Changing the routine has made things way easier, but I'm missing out on my 'adult time' with the husband. Our tiny oasis of romance. I've got to bite the bullet and re-instate dinner.
Yet again I'm reminded of the children's book Going on a Bear Hunt. "We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we've got to go through it."
There are no short cuts.
It's another reason why it makes sense not to slide all the way down the slippery slope to rock bottom. With every year you keep drinking you're creating more and more deeply ingrained associations. Making it harder and harder to quit when you eventually do.
So, I'm starting to pack for our annual trip to Cornwall. Three weeks of surfing and sandcastles. And it struck me that part of the reason I'm so excited is that I have, relatively speaking, very few drunken associations with Cornwall.
My father's family are Cornish, so I've been going every year since I was born. I did a fair bit of drinking there, obviously. I've done a fair bit of drinking everywhere! But the drinking memories are totally overwhelmed by loads of sober ones.
Hot chocolate and donuts on the beach after surfing. Catching crabs in rock pools. Hide and seek in caves. Long, wind blown cliff walks. Building walls of sand to stop the tide coming in. Picking blackberries. Making blackberry and apple pie. Flying kites. Frying sausages on the beach. Finding hidden coves. Spotting seals. Riding bikes. Paddle boarding. Water skiing. Ice creams. Cream teas. Cornish pasties. Swing ball. Frisbee. Building damns. Floating boats down streams. Sandy toesies. Burnt nosies. Brown paper packages tied up with string (oops. Wrong list.)
Last year a lovely American friend of mine came to meet us on our regular beach with her family. She's in fashion. She turned up wearing Jimmy Choo strappy sandals and pastel silks, perfectly made up and coiffed. Dressed for The Hamptons. She was horrified to find us in wellies and waterproofs, sheltering from driving rain in a cave, crazy hair matted with salt water and faces wind burned. We looked feral.
Cornwall reminds me that the best things in life don't need dressing up for. They are both free and priceless. And sober.
2 days to go!
Love SM x