Stopping drinking is really hard and anyone that says otherwise is talking out of their ass. But there are things we can do to help ourselves. Here are a bunch of things we can do that will help us get through those first few days and weeks. You don’t need to do them all but they will all help in one way or another, so the more you can do the better.
- Don’t pick up the first drink. Do anything at all to stop yourself from picking up the first drink because the first drink dissolves all objections to having another. “One is too many, ten is not enough”.
- Don’t have alcohol in the house. The closer you are to alcohol then the stronger is the call to drink.
- Don’t buy alcohol. If you buy alcohol you will drink it, all that is undecided is when. Don’t buy it, and don’t go into places that sell it.
- Delay, distract, deny. Delay having that drink until later. Do something to distract yourself until the craving passes, and deny yourself the possibility of drinking even if your resolve has collapsed.
- Get help. Your doctor will be able to advise on medication for cravings and withdrawal as well as what other help is available locally.
- Have things prepared that will occupy your mind and hands and use them when the cravings are severe. Physically active things work well; tidy something, pack/unpack something, move stuff, weed the garden, make something, clean the inside of the car. It doesn’t matter what it is but DO something.
- Radically change your daily routine to occupy the times when you used to drink. Plan to be doing something else and somewhere else at these times.
- If you are somewhere and you can see drinking and feel it pulling then move away from it. Be accompanied to social events by someone who knows you’re not drinking and make sure you have a way to leave if you need to.
- Have sweet things and snacks handy and have plenty of alcohol-free drinks ready to have a filled glass in your hand if you need it.
- Be kind to yourself. Give yourself “treats”. Treats are rewards that your brain recognises; they will make you feel better. Alcohol is not a reward it is a punishment.
- Take deliberate time to exercise every day. Do somethings that gets your heartbeat up for 15 mins or more. It makes no difference what the exercise is so walk uphill, jog, use an exercise machine, go to a gym, swim, or use the stairs. Do anything that gets you breathing hard for a while. You will feel better afterwards.
- Keep the horizon close. “Forever!” is a self-sabotaging idea. The challenge is to not drink for the rest of the day and that is all.
- Make yourself accountable by telling other people you are doing this. If you are going to be out alone then arrange a check-in time with them for your expected return.
- Find and engage in some sort of recovery community either online or face-to-face. Other people have done this and can help you, but they can’t help if you don’t connect to them.
- Your head is going to tell you lies to try to get you to drink again, so expect to be lied to. Stopping drinking is necessary, that point is beyond debate, so don’t get into a debate. Recognise the lies as they come and denounce them. You are doing this because this is what has to happen, there is nothing to discuss.
- If this is Day One or close to it then write down what it feels like to be you right now. Record your emotions. At the moment you know why you have to stop drinking but in a month’s time this memory will be hidden from you. You need to record this this to remind yourself why stopping is essential.
Look for what works and keep doing that. Drop what doesn’t help and look for the next thing that might. Start where you are with what you have. Do the best you can until you can do better and then do that. Above all, keep going.