Advice for Newbies
Welcome, and congratulations!
The most difficult thing about quitting drinking is making the commitment to do it in the first place. So well done you - you've done the hard bit already. You're about to transform your life.
Here are just a few tips to help you through the first 30 days:
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're changing 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.
Join my Facebook page, by clicking here and clicking on 'like'. Every week day at wine o'clock I post inspiration, information or just something funny, because laughter gives you a dopamine hit, just like booze but healthier.
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.
(To see SoberMummy's Book List click here)
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 or www.joinclubsoda.com where you'll find huge amounts of help and support.
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.
Find some good alcohol-free drinks. I like something that feels 'adult'. Ribena just doesn't cut it.
My favourite is Beck's Blue beer or Heineken zero. I was never a beer drinker, but alcohol-free beer feels like a 'proper' drink and I'm totally reliant on the stuff to get me through the hard times.
Try Seedlip - an alcohol-free distilled spirit, in three different flavours. Fabulous with a Fever Tree tonic.
Make yourself a simple cocktail, with freshly squeezed lime, chopped mint and soda water. And I love Virgin Mary's. If you live in the UK then check out Big Tom's. It's ready spiced tomato juice - just add ice.
6. One day at a time
One of the things that freaks us out the most when we think about quitting is the concept of forever. Which is, in the words of Prince, a very long time.
Just don't think about it! For the time being, just concentrate on today. Take one day at a time. Not forever, just until that miraculous day (which will come!) when 'forever' feels not only feasible, but a no-brainer.
Many people (including myself) found that it took about 100 days to start being able to think in months, and six months before you can cope with 'forever.'
7. Wait for the miracles to happen
Just put one foot in front of the other, 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.
There's loads more about all of this and much, much more throughout this blog, and you are welcome to mail me direct on firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read my story, and for lots more help and advice and, I hope, a few laughs along the way, click here.
Good luck to you all,