Everybody needs a few props when they quit drinking.
We need things to keep our monkey brains occupied, we need new rituals, and we need something to do with our hands.
I spent a lot of time looking at my hands in the early days, thinking what are you for?
My hands had spent the whole of my twenties taking cigarettes out of their packet (turning the first one filter end up for luck. Anyone else?), lighting them, smoking them, waving them around for emphasis, then stubbing them out.
Then I quit smoking and, funnily enough, the drinking ramped up as my itchy hands opened bottles, poured wine out and sipped endlessly from glasses.
It's not surprising that not drinking creates a vacuum.
That's why props are so helpful - just make sure that they're not also addictive! Avoid nicotine and other narcotics, gambling and shopping, for example....
Here are my favourite sober props:
1. Hot chocolate.
It has, as I've said elsewhere on this blog, magical powers, and it got me through many an evening in the early days.
There's a lovely ritual involved in making it (warming, spooning, stirring), something comforting about drinking it and a welcome sugar hit.
Hot chocolate reminds us of our childhoods - of simpler days before the Wine Witch stuck her broom handle into our lives. We can wrap our idle hands around the warm mug and it'll hug us right back. A hug in a mug.
2. Becks Blue (and other AF drinks).
Everyone has their own favourite AF drinks. The trick is to find something as reminiscent of 'proper' adult drinks as possible, without triggering a craving.
Becks Blue works for me because I was never a beer drinker. AF wine, however, just makes me yearn for the real thing (and tastes ghastly).
On really tough days (like when I was going through the cancer thing) Becks Blue got me through. It seemed to trick my sub conscious into relaxing just a little bit - enough to stop me reaching for the Real Thing.
Other personal favourites include virgin mojitos and virgin Mary's.
3. Cake (and other forms of refined sugar)
Everyone seems to crave sugar when they quit, and cake - or chocolate - is a great reward for getting through another 'one day at a time.' So do it. You can worry about the weight later. Baby steps.
One of my favourite props. It keeps your hands busy, your mind busy, plus it helps you work through all the emotional STUFF that comes with getting sober.
Writing a journal does the same thing, if you don't want to go public, but if you blog you'll create your own support group, and help other people along the way.
(See my post: Blogging Saved my Life).
The problem with props is we, being natural addicts and all or nothing types, worry that the props themselves will get out of control.
Well, I'm now EXACTLY fifteen months sober, and I've realised that the props are gradually assuming less of a role in my life. I seem to be naturally phasing them out.
(If only I'd been able to do that with the vino!)
Magical hot chocolate? Around six months ago I replaced it with green tea. Still warming, still a ritual, but also really good for you.
Becks Blue? I still love it, but I drink - on average - one a day, as opposed to the SIX I drank on the day I got the cancer diagnosis.
Cake? Still a vital food group, but once or twice a week, not every day.
I still can't imagine life without it BUT I'm managing to keep it down to four or five posts a week rather than seven, which means that I have more time to focus on doing something that might earn me some much needed cash....
So the other great thing about sober props is they provide a really useful barometer as to how you're doing. The less you need them, the 'better' you are.
Love to you all, with hot chocolate and cake thrown in,