If you have picked up this book then you know you need to stop drinking. Instead of waiting until you get to any of the specific actions recommended in this book here are some things you can start on straight away. Why these work and how to do them most effectively is described in the forthcoming chapters, but there is no reason not to start on them right now.
- 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.
- Engage 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 to fully occupy your mind and hands.
- 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”. Alcohol is not a reward it is a punishment. Treats are rewards that your brain recognises; they will make you feel better.
- 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, or use the stairs. Do anything that gets you breathing hard for a while.
- 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 doubt, 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 no argument to be had.
- Write down what it feels like to be you right now. Find the time as early as possible to record this. This will be important to you later because in a month’s time you will not be able to recall this properly; it will be hidden from you. Describe how you are emotionally and describe what your regular day feels like. Also give yourself a score out of ten for each of these questions. How loveable do I think I am? How valued do I think I am? How capable do I think am, and how worthy do I think I am?
Plan a timetable to keep all of this going for 30 days because by then your brain will have significantly readjusted to life without alcohol. Both the problem and your ability to fight it will have changed by then. You are still here and you are still kicking… so make the kicks count. Keep on finding out what works for you and what doesn’t. Keep doing the things that work, abandon the things that don’t, and keep looking for new things that help. Above all, keep going.