Tomorrow is the end of January.
This means that many of you will be on or around day 30. Perhaps you only intended to quit for one month, and you're already gearing up for a humdinger of a party?
DON'T DO IT!
30 days is awesome work, but you've only just scratched the surface of all the benefits you get from staying sober. This is not it. You have to keep going....
I thought you might like a guide to the next phase: Days 30-100, and I'm hoping that my readers who've been through it already will chip in with their wisdom in the comments section below. So, here goes:
First off, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! You've done the first month, and it's by far the most physically gruelling.
By now, I hope, you're sleeping like a baby, and your energy levels are improving. Maybe, now there are no hangovers, you're learning to love mornings again?
You probably haven't lost much weight yet (sugar cravings, anyone?), but I bet you LOOK different. Bright eyed, dewy skinned, less puffy.
Maybe the cravings are getting a bit better too - probably just as powerful, but less frequent. Once a day, rather than all day.
By now you're detoxed. Your liver is doing high fives and thanking you profusely. You are all sparkly and clean.
But now, I'm afraid, the hard work begins.....
Because days 30-100 are all about introspection. Endless naval gazing. The asking of all those big questions like how did I end up in this mess? Who am I (without alcohol)? Who was I (before alcohol)? Where do I want to be? How the hell do I get there?
If, like me, you're British, then the idea of any form of self analysis is anathema. My response to any big LIFE questions was "Pass the bottle!"
It is horribly uncomfortable for all of us life-avoiders, but it's inevitable when you strip your comfort blankets away, and you'll come out the other side a stronger, better and more aware person.
(For more about how this all feels, from when I was going through it, click here)
The other big theme of days 30-100 is learning to deal with fear and anxiety.
Up to day 30, you're so far down in the trenches, and the cravings come so thick and fast, that it's difficult to see any pattern.
But now you'll start to see that there are some major triggers, and the biggies are fear and anxiety.
We get so used to dealing with these uncomfortable emotions by blotting them out that we forget how to cope with them. And if you spend long enough avoiding coping with fear, you find - eventually - that you've completely lost your courage.
Days 30-100 are about tackling fear and anxiety (and all the other nasty emotions like envy, self doubt, boredom, etc) without any props, but in doing so you will, slowly, slowly find your courage returning, and - with it - your self respect.
(For more on this, from my Day 77, click here)
So, once you've done all the introspection and all the dealing with bad stuff sober, you also have to cope with other people.
It's normal for the first month (especially if it's January) to hunker down and not go out much. And if people ask you about your 'not drinking' you can shrug off the question easily - you're detoxing/having a month off/Dry January etc.
But, eventually, you have to start socialising again.
This one takes a while. I still don't have quite the same level of anticipation about social events, but it's gradually coming back.
My advice, and it's controversial, for the early days is to fake it till you make it. The last thing you need when you're still feeling fragile is to have someone grilling you about why you can't have 'just one.'
So I suggest you lie (I'm driving/on antibiotics/detoxing) or fake (drink virgin cocktails, let them fill your wine glass and don't touch it) for a while.
I realise that this is not ideal, but the truth is society is really screwed up about alcohol, and we non drinkers are made to feel like the ones with the problem, not the addicts still quaffing away.
For more on how to cope with, and actually enjoy, partying sober read: Sober Mummy's Party Survival Guide.
Over the next sixty days, you'll find that you get fewer and fewer cravings, but when they do hit they're almost harder to deal with because they're from left field. You're not expecting them.
This phase really is a rollercoaster. You'll have wonderful, pink cloudy days of real euphoria, and some days of despair. That's perfectly normal.
It's known as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), and you can read more about it here.
It's all a bit like my favourite children's book: Going on a Lion Hunt:
You can't go over it, you can't go under it, you've got to go through it.
But, after all those ups and downs and insides and outsides you'll find yourself gradually shedding off all those ugly duckling feathers, and one day you'll catch your reflection in the pond and you'll think "Why, I'm a swan!"
By Day 100 it won't be so hard anymore. And you'll be braver, slimmer, nicer, a better parent. Your life will be easier, more fulfilled, and going somewhere.
So keep going, bird by bird, until you find your inner swan.
Love SM x