You’ve been doing Dry January and now instead of just taking a break from alcohol you’re considering staying alcohol-free. You made it through 30 days. What is ahead? Does it get easier or harder the longer you go? And what are some tips for staying alcohol-free?
What is Ahead?
Well, everything is probably still ahead. 30 days alcohol-free (especially during a pandemic) is only a taste of what an alcohol-free life is like. Ahead of you, there are still so many ups and downs – the first year is this amazing time where you experience everything for the first time without the cloud of alcohol fogging and numbing every experience.
Does it get easier or harder?
The answer is both. Initially things can get harder because you’re used to having alcohol there to numb you and anesthetize every experience. The idea of facing life without that shield can make it harder. Yet every time you get through another experience without alcohol it gets easier.
Tips for Staying Alcohol-Free
Staying alcohol-free can be a challenge. As time goes on it is common to start to forget why drinking wasn’t right for us. You finally find what works for you, you’re feeling great, and everything in your life seems to be going better because you’re not drinking and this continues for a while. Over time this exciting new thing just becomes normal.
1) Keep Track
If you feel like you’re forgetting why you quit drinking, track your progress. Keep a journal of all the benefits you’re experiencing and contrast them with how you felt while drinking. If you’re not into writing take a video or sound clips. Record your experiences, record your emotions, how you feel mentally and physically. This will be an unbelievably valuable record for you down the road.
When this amazing, exciting, new alcohol-free life becomes normal, and you start having some of these thoughts, you can look back and say, “Oh no, that’s what alcohol does to me. That’s how it made me feel.” It’s so useful to have a reminder from your own lips or your own hand, if you’re writing it, of what it was that alcohol was doing to you and why you quit in the first place.
2) Question Your Beliefs
So triggers are going to pop up as we go beyond Dry January. Maybe it’s a stressful situation and you have always responded by having a drink to relax and unwind. Now is when you step back and question those beliefs, “All right, I need alcohol to relax, is this true for me? Is it true for other people? Where did I learn this belief?” And what you can do is take this belief out into the light and really examine whether or not it is actually true. If you can do that with these beliefs the next time you encounter something where that thought might pop up in your head like, “Oh, man, I’d really be relaxed if I could have a drink right now,” you’ll catch yourself and you’ll say, “No, as a matter of fact, it won’t relax me.” You’re absolutely going to be able to handle when these thoughts come up again. They’re going to pop into your head and then you’re going to dismiss them right away.
3) Find Alternatives
What we can’t do when we’re interested in staying alcohol-free is stay stagnant. You absolutely cannot just stop drinking. You need more in your life now. You have all this time, all these emotions. You need coping mechanisms. Find alternatives. Start exercising. Read new books. Find new hobbies. The great thing about this experience is that EVERYTHING really can change and you’re in control.
4) Stay Motivated
Eventually, the pink cloud does dissolve and the newness of being alcohol-free fades. To stay motivated find what inspires you and how staying alcohol-free will help with that. Are you saving money by not drinking? What can you apply those savings towards? What changes is being alcohol-free propelling you towards? Find how to harness that positivity!
5) Create Connections
You need people in your life who get you. If no one else in your life is interested in staying alcohol-free, find people who are. We have Facebook groups for both This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment. If you need coaching and guidance on what to do next there’s The PATH by This Naked Mind. There’s also the This Naked Mind Community along with so many other great groups. Find your people and let them help you stay alcohol-free.