Friday, 1 January 2016

Dry January

Is your New Year's resolution to do Dry January?

If so, you're not alone. 2 million people in the UK took part in the Dry January challenge in 2015.

However, a recent study showed that only 63% of those that try to go dry for a month make it, and those are primarily the 'moderate' drinkers, the ones who didn't drink much in the first place.

Perhaps you're one of those people? You overdid it a tiny bit on the Cava over New Year and want to detox for a while. You're not anticipating any trouble, and you'll pick up again, moderately, in February. If so, good for you. Crack on.

I, however, was never a 'moderate' drinker. In fact, I'm not good at moderation in general. I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. I did lots of 'dry' challanges. Sometimes I managed to white knuckle through a whole month, but often I'd cave within a fortnight.

By the time I finally quit, last March, I was drinking around a bottle of wine a day - more at weekends. I was feeling fat, toxic and ashamed, and my life was going nowhere.

If that sounds familiar, then you're in the right place.

Whether you want to quit just for January, or whether you've realised you've got to give it up forever, here is some advice on how to get through the first 31 days.

(I'm hoping that my regular readers will chip in in the comments section below with their additions).

It's really hard to condense this into just one post, but there's more information on all of this - and very much more - throughout this blog. Or you can e-mail me on sobermummy@gmail.com.

1. Preparation

Getting your head in the right place is crucial. If you start the month with a sense of dread and deprivation you'll never make it.

You are doing an amazing thing. You are about to change your life for the better. Be excited!

If that last sentence is just incredibly irritating, and you can't imagine feeling anything like excitement right now, then read Jason Vale's book: Kick the Drink, Easily.

In fact, read it anyway. It'll completely change the way you think about drinking, and make the whole process of quitting much easier.

Write down, right now, while you can remember, all the reasons why you want to stop. The big ones (like health concerns) and all the little ones (like being embarrassed about your recycling bags).

Over the next few weeks there will be many moments when you will think "why am I doing this?" You'll need that list as a reminder.

2. Know what to expect

The first two or three weeks after quitting drinking can be physically and mentally gruelling, but it's much easier if you know what to expect, and know that it's all perfectly normal. After years of flooding your body with addictive toxins, it's bound to fight back a bit when you quit.

You will probably feel more tired than you can imagine. By mid afternoon you'll want a nap - like a toddler. You'll feel muggy headed, like you're wading through soup, and your concentration levels will be completely shot.

Don't worry - it'll pass. See it as a sign that your body's recuperating.

Ironically, you may find that you also have problems initially in getting to sleep. Again, this is temporary. Soon you'll be sleeping like a baby - better than you have in years. And no more waking up at 3am with the night horrors.

You might get headaches and/or constipation. That's all part of your body detoxing. Drink lots of water, fresh juices and smoothies.

You may be a bit (or a lot) tetchy and snappy. Like a bad case of PMT.  Try to avoid taking on anything too crucial or stressful over the next week or two.

You'll constantly think about drinking. Or not drinking. And, generally, the more you try NOT to think about something, the more you do.

I found that the best thing to do is to indulge the obsession - at least initially. I read endless books, articles and blogs about drinking. My favourite drinking memoir is Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story. For great drinking fiction read Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins, or Summer Secrets by Jane Green.

3. Find Some Friends

It's really difficult to quit drinking on your own. You might be lucky and have someone 'in real life' who's doing it with you. The problem with that, however, is if they cave they're likely to take you down with them. And they might not need to quit as much as you do....

Luckily, there's a huge amount of help online - a whole Soberverse!

You can start at the beginning of this blog - back in March - and read through my first few weeks. And sign up to www.soberistas.com where you'll find huge amounts of help and support.

If you'd like to follow the story of someone starting on Day 1 now, then check out my online blogging friends: redrecovers.wordpress.com, gingergroundhog.blogspot.com and annieuk101.wordpress.com. And another more seasoned blogger, like me, thewinebitch.blogspot.com.

There's also AA. I have to confess that I've still not been myself, but they've helped millions of people and saved endless lives. With AA you get all the help and support you'd get online plus real hugs, not just virtual ones.

4. Be good to yourself

You are doing a phenomenal thing. And it's not easy. So, for the next few weeks at least, don't try to do anything else. Don't worry about dieting, about getting a new job or redecorating the house. Just concentrate, for the moment, on NOT DRINKING!

Give yourself some rewards - you deserve them. And you're saving money! Eat cake. Drink lots of hot chocolate (it has magical properties - you'll see). Have hot baths with bubbles and candles. Book a massage. Whatever makes you feel good.

5. Watch out for cravings

You're bound to get them, especially at your main trigger points, like 'wine o'clock' or when you're hungry, tired, stressed or bored. Or pretty much anytime, actually.

Remember - THEY WILL PASS. You just need to distract yourself for as long as it takes.

Bake cookies. Or, the more healthy option, do some exercise. Go for a long walk, or a run. Getting away from the fridge or any drinking environment is a good idea.

Have a hot bath. Log onto Soberistas (see above) or your favourite blog. Take up knitting, colouring, the guitar - whatever works.

6. Wait for the miracles to happen

Just take it one day at a time and you will, slowly slowly, start to see the benefits.

You'll sleep better than you have since childhood. Your eyes will be brighter, skin fresher and hair bouncier. You'll look five years younger.

You'll lose the puffy face and the wine belly. You'll feel calmer and happier.

But the best things about being sober don't happen in the first month. They keep on coming, over the weeks, months and years.

So don't just do Dry January. Consider making it forever.

Just think about it....

Good luck to you all!

SM x






27 comments:

  1. This is a massive help SM, thankyou. The point you make about mindset is a big one - if you can turn your approach to this on its head from being a difficult trial to being a joyous release from a sort of prison instead, it can transform the early days!
    Red xx

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  2. Thanks for mentioning my blog. I need all the help I can get! And the advice here in your post is brilliant. Annie x

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  3. Excellent post SM, full of great advise to anyone contemplating Dry January or even full time sobriety. I think a month is key because that is when the obsession, repetitive thinking and sheer white knuckling stops. I also appreciate the plug for my blog, I like the additional accountability factor. My little bit of advise is to start commenting on posts, another blogger (May have been you - oh my memory) mentioned that commenting and not just reading posts gets you involved and I agree. Thanks to you SM and your blog I am really going to give it a serious go this year. I have done six months before and now want to make the commitment to sobriety. My word for the year = commitment .

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  4. My tip (for people like me where a lot of the drinking takes place in the kitchen) is to try and stock the freezer with things you can just reheat, or find some recipes where you bung a load of stuff in the oven and it just cooks itself - some good ones in Nigella Kitchen. Then find a good book and relax on the sofa with a nice cup of tea - sometimes a new book, sometimes an old favourite - you need to be sure it's going to grip you and transport you elsewhere. And I do completely get the stuff about being kind to yourself - but sometimes good food and regular exercise can help encourage you not to pour toxins into your healthy body. I'm not a gym bunny - my thing is walking and I'm lucky that I live somewhere where I can walk from the door with beautiful scenery - but it's also a bit like therapy - you can let the knots in your mind loosen.

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    1. I too link preparing dinner with that first chilled glass of wine - so often times I will do a lot of the dinner prep after dropping the children at school. Then dinner time is more of an assembly process rather than me lingering in the kitchen - quaffing as I cook. I try and remind myself that if I can get through the dinner prep without pouring that first (which is NEVER the only) glass of wine - I know I'll be OK for the evening.
      It also really helps that these posts pop into my inbox just before dinner time. A welcoming "monkey on my back"

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  5. Love, love, love your bog!! Such good advice. 2016 IS going to be my year! I am on day 14 today - 2 weeks sober - go me!! I also put hearts on my calendar every day I don't drink and have a "Count your blessings" jar that I daily put money into which would have been spent on booze (It's already adding up). Planning a nice vacation this year - sober! Thank you so much for being here for all of us:] Happy New Year/New You everyone.

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    1. Love the Count Your Blessings jar!

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  6. Fantastic tips SM! I found reading your blog all the way back to Day 1 was useful for me. I also binge watched Netflix in the evenings to keep my brain occupied - Orange Is The New Black and, my personal favourite, White Collar. Great story and soooo easy on the eye! My last tip is an online forum where I got the link to your blog in the first place SM. It's called Bright Eye and you can find it at http://www.brighteyecounselling.co.uk/alcoholic-forum/. It's full of people just like us. They have lots of different threads for people struggling with alcohol including one for Sober January. Good luck everyone! Love SPB. xxx

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  7. Great advice and so true!
    I also started a blog last year
    Walktosobriety.

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  8. Last night we looked at some pictures taken on NYE. I looked liked HELL - talk about motivation!

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  9. Hi All... am on day 9 but have to go to US to see my Aunt who's stage 4 cancer....Wine witch keeps telling me there's no point stopping now....wait until you get back... my family over there are all big drinkers. Any advice would definitely help!!
    WWWKIT x

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    1. So sorry to hear about your Aunt! Have a look at my post 'the Obstacle Course' about why you really do not want to go back to Day 2. Also look at a post from Dec called 'Alcohol and Trauma' and 'When Life Throws You Lemons'. Both are about how drinking really doesn't help in tough situations, as I discovered when dealing with the whole cancer thing last year.... Sending big hugs to you and your family. E-mail me if you want more help... Xxx

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    2. Thanks SM... you're a gem! Have copied and saved those articles and I have my list of reasons for giving up in the first place! Just wish that bloody wine witch would shut up!! xxx

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    4. I came across the following quote the other day...
      "A YEAR from now you will wish you had started TODAY" by Karen Lamb.
      I thought it was pretty poignant...

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  10. Happy New Year SM and excellent post! I had to find a substitute at Wine 0'clock which signalled the end of work/day mode and the start of evening/'my time' mode, as that was what I'd used a glass of wine (or 4) for. Totally agree about hot luxurious bath being a great way to do this, also finding a special non-alc drink to have at that time, be it Becks Blue or an indulgent mocktail in a nice glass, so that you don't feel 'deprived' (which is why lukewarm orange juice in a plastic tumbler doesn't quite cut it!).

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    1. So true, SB! How could I have forgotten my best friend - Becks Blue? I would have not survived without gallons of the stuff! Xx

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  11. Am now almost 8 months down the line and I still remember those first few weeks. It was sooooo tough. My tips would be to read everything to do with alcohol - blogs, books, everything! -plan your new routine - I had to change our whole evening and weekend dinner routine as I used to drink while cooking so ate earlier as a family. I went through a lot of boxsets/Netflix at night to take my mind off not drinking. Lots of walks/baths at wine o'clock too. Handy tips I focused on when it got hard was to concentrate on not drinking just today and just don't pick up that first drink as you'll know where it leads! Also play it through to the end. You may only have one today (unlikely) but within a few days you'll be back to horrible habits - blacking out on the sofa, being grumpy, wine breath in the morning, self loathing etc etc. So buckle up with lots of cups of tea, diet coke, af beer ( I love bavaria malted) and be prepared for lots of headaches, tears and mood swings . But it's all so worth it!!! Good luck xxx Ps finding sober mummy was a life saver for me!

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  12. I'm back on the wagon. Had a month off last summer as I was having an operation. Day one post op I had the best part of a bottle of wine. But I did manage to cut down quite significantly from where I was before. Had an alcoholic Christmas and now I want to clear away all that fuzz and noise caused by drinking. I'm also going to be referred for IVF this year (which is heartbreaking in itself) and alcohol won't help anything there. Although I'm dreadfully worried about how I'll cope if (when) that doesn't work. It's all very difficult and depressing, but none of it will be made easier or better with a hangover.

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    1. Hello S&H, I'm sorry you have to go through IVF - it's a gruelling road. But being sober will give you the very best chance of it working, and drink will only make it more likely you'd go off the rails if it doesn't. Biggest hugs. Please stay in touch xxx

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  13. Awesome post.
    I know you will inspire and enlighten many this month.
    Anne

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  14. SM, nailing it with "soberverse"- so perfect!
    I'd like to add: if you are in a relationship, have a chat with your significant other and find out where they stand on sobriety: will they join you? If not, will they support you? But I'd definitely recommend having the conversation.
    Also, start working on a response to people who ask you why you're not drinking (didn't come up much in my life, but I'm a hermit, you may have an actual life.)

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  15. Saturday night, no wine, reading for support, and I'm okay. 2016 is going to be my year! Thanks to all you wonderful people "out" there, I'm ready to hold strong and do this AF life for good!!

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  16. Invaluable post, my dear! I have nothing to add, I just want to put emphasis on #1 and #6, view this not as a time of deprivation, but one of opportunity and discovery, then wait for the miracles. Their waiting for you!

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