Sunday, 10 April 2016

Doing the Early Days

One of the most common questions I get via e-mail is how do I get through the first few days sober?

So, here's SoberMummy's guide for doing Days 1-5.

It might also help if you've hit a patch of the PAWS (see my post on Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) which can make you feel (temporarily!) like you're back at Day 1.

1. Preparation

If possible, clear the house (and that includes the garage, basement and attic - no cheating!) of alcohol. It's more difficult to give into a craving if you have to leave the house to find some booze.

Get your reading material ready. Jason Vale's Kick the Drink is a must, even if you've read it before. Read it a day or two before your Day 1.

For more reading ideas have a look at this: SoberMummy's Book List.

Write down, somewhere safe, all the reasons why you want to quit. The more honest and gruesome the better.

You'll need that list later down the line when you start thinking you've overreacted and that moderation is a far more sensible plan.... (And that will happen, many times).

Fill the fridge with yummy, healthy food, stuff that doesn't need much cooking or preparation (and some chocolate for emergencies), and your favourite alcohol free drinks.

(I swear by Beck's Blue Alcohol Free beer, but watch out, as some people find it too close to the real thing...)

And the most important thing: start to think of yourself as a Non-Drinker. Say it to yourself, with excitement and enthusiasm (fake it if necessary), over and over again. I am a Non-Drinker! Yay! Go me!

2. Make it Simple

For the first few days, try to simplify your life as much as possible. Apart from anything else, you're going to be exhausted.

Don't plan any evenings out. Warn (older members of) your family that they're going to have to get their own supper for a few days. Try to get any stressful chores/work done in advance.

3. One Day at a Time

Actually, it's not even a day.

Presuming that you weren't drinking throughout the mornings, you'll probably only find the evenings hard. And cravings generally only last about an hour, so in fact it's only two or three individual hours that you have to cope with.

And then it'll be morning! And sober mornings are just the best. They're our reward for having made it through the evening.

4. Make Changes

You'll probably find that pretty much all of your usual evening routine is a trigger. Making supper: must pour a glass of wine. Kids in bed: really deserve a glass of wine. Favourite TV show: better with a glass of wine.

Am I right?

So, in the early days, try to fill your evenings with things that aren't associated with drinking: go to the gym. Go swimming! (I haven't yet met anyone who's managed to combine swimming with drinking). Go for a run. Have a long, hot bath. Take the dog for a walk.

If you can't do any of the above because you have small children at home, try and get some help for a few days.

If that's not possible, then try this: be one of them. Have supper with them at 5pm (or whenever they eat), get in the bath with them, then curl up in bed with them and read lots of stories.

Pretend you're five years old again. The kids will love it, it'll keep your evening routine really simple, and you'll be less able to hang onto that glass if you're in the bath/in bed with the babies.

5. Cop Out Early

Luckily, when you first quit, you're really, really tired. Bone deep exhaustion. Which is a fabulous help, because what you really need is less of the hard evenings, and more of the wonderful mornings.

So, for the first few days, why not go to bed at 8pm?

Put the kids in bed, leave the other half to fend for themselves, and retreat with a hot chocolate, an iPad so you can surf the sober sites and exchange notes with fellow travellers (try soberistas.com), and some good books.

Pat yourself on the back for having made it through the witching hour, and go to sleep. Even the most hardened drinker can't manage to drink while sleeping.

(Some people have problems getting to sleep when they first quit, which is where all the reading material comes in handy. A magnesium supplement may also help).

Having gone to bed so early, you may well wake up at dawn - which is great! All that morning with no hangover and bags of energy.

(Which you can use to get all the chores/work done in advance so that you can make the next evening easier).

6. And Repeat

Once you've done it once, you know it's possible. And all you have to do is repeat. Just one day at a time.

Until, the day comes when you realise that it really isn't hard any more....

I'm not saying that it's easy, but it is possible. And you can do it.

Remember that a diamond is simply a lump of coal that's done really well under pressure. Go make yourself a diamond.

SM x

P.S. Please can my fellow Survivors add their own tips in the comments below? Thank you!

40 comments:

  1. I was so tired and had horrible headaches for the first few weeks. I had to change my whole evening routine and ate early with kids too. I went for walks or had a bath and went to bed early saying I wasn't feeling well and I read loads of alcohol related stuff (found this blog and cried like a baby). Jason vale didn't really do it for me but stories of rock bottom kept me focused that I was doing the right thing. I didn't tell anyone and on the Friday night cracked open a bottle of af beer. My husband was shocked but we had a good laugh about me trying to stop. I grieved for about 2 weeks and cried every single time I thought of my beloved wine. I craved it so much but just kept repeating the mantras I'd picked up (mostly on soberistas website). The ones that worked best for me were 'just don't pick up that first drink', 'take it day by day' (i still don't think in terms of forever) and 'play the tape through to the end' - I knew it would never be one and I knew how a bottle made me feel the next day..... too much self loathing. In hindsight I was also visualising myself a year or 10 down the line.... slim, fit, healthy and happy. That would not happen if I continued to drink the way I was as I knew it would increase. I'm now 11 months in and it has been the best thing I have ever done. I still miss it. I still have rose tinted memories. But I am 2 1/2 stone lighter, I read more, I exercise, I don't snap at the kids so much and I don't fall asleep on the sofa every night xxxxx

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  2. Some great tips there sm... Look forward to reading more. Kick that canceri nto touch. You have come to far to let it get the better of you. Stay strong...have a great AF Sunday. Jules x

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  3. As someone who has done the first few days over and over again, I'm perhaps not the best person to ask...but here I am on Day 9 at least! My top tip is to set up a blog, and when the cravings strike, write write write. The advice I have got at these moments has been a lifeline for me in the past week especially as this time I have really tried to listen. Annie x

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  4. Hi SM. I wouldn't call myself a survivor yet as I am only on day 13 but one of my lifelines in the past 2 weeks has been reading blogs. I have found your own story plus others ('A Dappled Path', thank you Annie for your honesty and insight) not only inspiring but also reassuring. Sometimes it feels as if I am the only person in the world cuddling a cold decaf tea, waiting for 9 o clock to arrive so I can say goodnight to my son and turn in myself. To know I am not alone is a huge comfort. Thank you to all you bloggers who are helping those of us who are not quite brave enough, or who are not ready yet, to share our own stories.
    Ellen x

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  6. Take baby steps. They soon add up. Fight one battle at a time. I treated myself to chocolate as a (daily) reward. And still do. I haven't lost weight but I am almost 14 months sober! Do things in your own time. If you need to sleep - sleep. If you need to cry - cry! If you need to eat chocolate - for the love of god EAT chocolate. And don't feel guilty about it. Any of it. ♥♡♥ LNM x

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    1. A little over a year here! Yah, agreed baby steps! And may I add move a muscle and remember what works. Anything other then drinking is good. Start building a toolbox as to what keeps you away from that first drink.

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  7. All excellent advice. In addition I would say one has to develop a hard, cold whatever-it-takes attitude. Sobriety is number one. If you have to go to the cinema and watch two films each evening, so be it. If you have to eat an entire cake and drink 7 cups of hot cocoa, so be it. If you have to shop online like a maniac, so be it. Whatever it takes. Sobriety above all other considerations. It is that important, and early days soon give way to better days. You just have to get through them.

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  8. Oh, and the classic: Don't let yourself get hungry, thirsty, tired or upset. Those will have you reaching for the drink in no time flat. So eat a lot (it takes a lot to compensate for all the calories you used to drink), drink plenty of water, soda or juice, nap, rest and try not to get into any emotional scrape (difficult during those days, I know).

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  9. Must be having a PAWS spell. Feel really down, can't be bothered with anything and just want to sleep. Plus scoffing all the kid's sweets for that sugar hit. Also feeling a bit wobbly on the cravings.
    Like Ulla says, just going with it. Whatever it takes to get through this spell, the alternative is far far worse xx

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    1. Yes it happens! Been through them myself. Focus on the positive! And a gratitude list. Write and or think of 10 things we are grateful for in our lives.

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    2. I just went thru a PAWS period this week. Oh it is tough! Put keep on Scous Mous! Keep On! Ride it through! And eat a lot of candy!!! It helps!

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    3. It'll pass, Scous Mous! And the next one will be shorter and easier. PAWS can make you feel like it's never going to get any easier, but it's TEMPORARY. Just give yourself some extra love - chocolate, new shoes, whatever helps xx

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    4. Thanks all of you lovelies xx
      Today I feel much better, thank goodness. That was horrible! Looking back on the past couple of days now it feels almost like a psychedelic experience. Maybe it was all the sugar!
      Anyway onwards and upwards. At least this time round I know what it is and am well equipped for it (I know where the cake aisle is!) xxx

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  10. Get angry, don't give up. Its a marathon not a sprint and there are pain barriers. You need to develop a hard place that you can squeeze when it gets tough and remember its not a game. Its your life at stake.

    Justonemore

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  11. SM...You forgot one thing...HOT CHOCOLATE!!!!! And, its magical powers!!! I have one every night because of you! And it helps!!! xo

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    1. Agreed,hot chocolate helps. I've managed to wean myself from the sugary mixes and just use cocoa powder w a small amount of sugar. Will try to work my way to raw cacao. Dark chocolate is a good source of iron and helps w serotonin (happy chemicals). In early sobriety, swimming at the lake was a life saver for me. Just being in the water enjoying nature lifted my spirits. Don't underestimate just how tired you'll be and the need for rest and self-care. I reached one year AF last week and I still have to manage my strength, and will likely need to do so for some time yet. It means saying no to things, but I try to think of it as saying yes only to that which is most necessary and helpful. Ask for help when you need it. I was careful with whom I shared my story, but I was always met with compassion and support, even if there wasn't always full comprehension about the issue of alcoholism. Good nutrition was also very important at the beginning. Yes, you'll likely need some sugar to get through cravings, and of that's what you need to beat back the wine witch, do it, but the rest of the time, eat as well as you can and take supplements. Alcohol wreaks a lot of damage to the body. Finally, remember that no craving or feeling is permanent. It will pass, we just need to ride the wave for a period of time. I wish you all a peaceful and sober day.

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    2. Quite right! There's something so comforting about hot chocolate. I drank it every night for months!

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  12. Be kind to yourself. Let everything else in life slide - to the degree that is possible - and concentrate on YOU! Remind yourself, constantly, how important is the thing you are doing. And, how difficult. Be your own cheering section because this may be the very biggest, and certainly BEST, thing you will ever do for yourself.

    And, has been said before, write it down! Keep a journal, day by day. There will be highs to record. And lows. But, with time...more highs. And you want a record because it will help you remember what you've achieved, and remind you where you were. And why quitting matters.

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  13. On day 13 here, the furthest I've got in 2 years, thanks to this blog. Thank you SM, you have a true gift as a wordsmith. Particularly your advice on the wine witch! I find it helps to keep thinking of my kids and not wanting them to grow up with the memory of smelling booze on my breath. I want my confidence back to be a better Mum and partner. I also just started reading 'girl on the train', which really highlights the difference between the imagined rose tinted drinking memories and the actual reality of drinking and how it brings feelings of terror, doom and hopelessness. I read your blog every day SM and I am so grateful to you and everyone else on here. I feel we are 'in it together'. Thank you x x

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    1. Welcome RLS SS! Huge congrats on 13 days - that's the hardest bit done! Awesome. Stick with it and wait for the miracles to happen ;-)

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  14. Thank you for continuing to inspire me with your posts from the heart. I am attempting day 1 for the 1000th time tomorrow and reading this really helps. I feel like having a very long cry. This is so very hard.

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    1. Ah, Ripleybelle, I wish I could give you a hug. It's only hard for a short time, and really not as hard as doing day 1 over and over! You CAN do it! We're all with you xxx

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    2. Ripleybelle, it is hard,butit's worth the work, the tears, the times you think you're going crazy, etc. More importantly, YOU are worth it. SM is right, you can do it!!!

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    4. Hello Ripleybelle. Don't despair. Everyone here understands. I've put a little message on your blog. Annie x

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    5. Thanks all! Boy does it make a difference so read your replies. I didn't realize how alone I felt. I feel good this morning. Day 1 is here!!

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    1. Don't be shy, reluctant blogger! xxx

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  16. Every morning I promise myself, today I know I don't want to drink so any mind games or thinking it's ok and I can moderate later is only the wine witch talking- that moment first thing in the morning is me knowing what I really want. Also, I did have to let my dogs into my bed as I had quite scary nightmares at first... Four months later they are still in the bed!

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    1. Recent research shows that dogs are AMAZING at lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. They're medicinal ;-)

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  17. Lots of podcasts. I had them on my phone and listened to them through my head phones every non working minute of the day. I also took up running.

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  18. What a lot of fabulous posts! Definitely be prepared! I really needed the 5 o'clock cold fizzy drink, so drank gallons of soda water instead. Then paired the soda water with cordials and found lemon, lime and bitters or Elderflower to be best. Then introduced the Tonic with lime. The biggest hurdle for me was that despite knowing about all the calories I wasn't consuming in the wine/G&T combo that was the norm, I really struggled with drinking fizzy sweetened drinks as substitutes. That is where this blog really helped as it gave me permission to do whatever it took (sweet drinks, cake, hot chocolate) not to drink alcohol. Somehow alcohol cessation was inextricably linked to going on a diet and calorie counting so to jettison that was a great leap forward. Am now losing weight and no longer needing a Willie Wonka's worth of chocolate every day.
    Good luck newbies, you can do it!

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  19. I am on Day 31. I am definitely fatter because I have been mainlining chocolate and cakes lol! This will have to stop now I'm past the first 30 days. I think mindset is key. I looked forward in my life and decided I really didn't want to be an old lush. Being drunk and the life and soul of the party is a young person's game. Ditto smoking which I quit when I was 37 - wrinkles and fags are not a good look. I have been SO tired. And had lots of headaches. I think I have been dehydrated and would advise newbies to drink loads and loads of water. I really only was tempted at tea time on weekends. I'm having sparkling water in a wine glass. And I have very early baths and early bedtimes. I feel so much better. And so pleased with myself! All the best to those deciding they want an alcohol free future. Come join SM's party!

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  20. Great comments here, really helpful. I've just posted about being on ANOTHER day 1. How are you doing Ripleybelle?

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    1. Doing just fine! We did it Sober Odyssey!

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  21. Have one short phrase that reminds you why you're giving up alcohol and repeat it like a mantra. For me, it's "Three fifteen." 3:15 a.m. is when I would pop irretrievably awake sweating and in utter terror...and then spend the rest of the night in a festival of self-loathing and anxiety trying to talk myself back to sleep.

    Oh, and ice cream. Because they have yet to create a flavor that goes with wine EVER.

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  22. I read this before and after my day 1. A lot of this really helped me! Filling the fridge, copping out and keeping it simple helped me tremendously! Getting permission to do these things in a busy household was so freeing. I let my boys play video games on a school night for over 3 hours so that I could lie on the couch. I needed it and make no apologies. I may need it tomorrow too and that's ok because what I am doing is really important for my whole family.

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