If you are a regular Voice of Calm reader then you will know all about my decision to give up alcohol. But today I want to get into the how instead of the why. No, it’s not easy but it’s totally doable and the best thing I’ve ever done. Here’s how I gave up alcohol, the first month.
Day 1 to 6 – The White Knuckle Ride
The first day and right up to the end of week one was full of a somewhat maddening internal dialogue.
“I want a drink but I can’t have one….. Or can I? ….. No!…..Or can I?…..No! ……Or can I? ….etc.”
Just remember all you have to do is get to the end of day 1 and then day 2 etc. One day at a time is your mantra. Keep saying it!
I Ate A LOT Of Sweets And Chocolate
The trick to getting through these early days is distraction. Whatever it takes for you to not drink, do that! For me, sugar was a good substitute. I just bought loads of my favourite sweets and watched films with my kids.
I Avoided Stuff That Triggered My Drinking
Don’t make week 1 any more difficult than it has to be. There will be plenty of challenging ‘firsts’ but this week needs to be as simple as possible. So I didn’t cook much in the first few days because for me, cooking and drinking went hand in hand. I hardly went near the cooker. We mostly had take out food and the kids loved it!
I didn’t go to any social occasions for obvious reasons and I didn’t eat in a restaurant. As I say, there’s going to be loads of this stuff to come but week 1 is not the time for testing your metal.
I Talked About Giving Up Alcohol, A LOT!
You have many options:
- speak to you partner
- tell all your friends
- let your parents know what you’re doing
- go to Alcoholics Anonymous
- join an online forum
- blog about your journey
- write a diary
I did all of the above and each one of them helped me hugely. My greatest lifeline was my husband, Mike. At first he was happy I was quitting but didn’t see it as a necessity. That was until he saw how badly I needed to drink and how much I was struggling not to. Watching me climbing the walls for the first 2 weeks was hard for him and a wake up call to us both.
I Went To Alcoholics Anonymous
I found it to be a wonderful support. I was welcomed into a community of people without judgment. As someone who was on the low side of dependent drinking AA gave me a stark look into where I would end up if I didn’t quit now.
One lady said to me,
“You’re in an elevator and it’s going down. You can get off now or you can wait until your life has completely fallen apart. Which would you prefer?”
Just for that advice alone AA was a life saver.
I Got Strange Pains In My Legs
At my peak I was drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine a night Monday to Weds and then probably twice as much the rest of the time. So that’s way too much obviously but I never experienced a physical need for booze, like shakes or sickness. So I was surprised to find that I got physical withdrawal symptoms. These started around day 4 and continued for a few days, waking me up in the night and the early hours. Eventually it passed and left no lasting effects.
Day 7 to 14 – The Marathon Effect
Every morning I woke up feeling amazing. I had achieved something I always felt would be impossible but come 5pm all the good feelings had gone and I just wanted a drink. And not just a glass of wine but a whole bottle of whiskey. It was crazy. That desire to drink was stronger than ever but only in the evenings.
Eating chocolate every night was starting to feel worse than the guilt of alcohol and my race to get ahead of the alcohol urges was now becoming a marathon. I needed exercise!
I Ran When I Would Normally Drink
I ran every evening that I wasn’t at a meeting. When I would normally be opening a bottle of Pinot Grigio I was now pounding the pavement and getting my endorphins in a more healthy way.
I Read Everything I Could Lay My Hands On About Giving Up Alcohol
There are so many great books and blogs about sobriety and when I gave up alcohol I surrounded myself with positive messages from others who had been on the same journey: The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley, The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober by Catherine Grey, Club Soda, Hip Sobriety, Sober Bliss, Soberistas. There are so many brilliant people already on this journey and they want to share all their advice with you. I felt part of a gang.
I Had A Major Wobble And Nearly Fell Off The Wagon
On the Saturday of my 2nd week I was hosting a large event, which I had planned months before. All my friends suggested I cancel it but I stupidly soldiered on. This was a terrible idea. At one point I was at the drinks cupboard looking at a bottle of gin, thinking to myself,
“I cannot think of a single reason not to take a shot.”
My husband stepped in and asked me how I would feel straight after drinking that shot. Following some frustrated tears I returned to the party with my sobriety in tact. This is why I would advice you to cancel all social events for the first two weeks at least.
I Drank So Much Water!
I bought a water bottle that has a straw in it. This made me drink litres of water everyday which was really good for my body and my skin but it also became a pacifier or dummy. If I left the house without it I would go back and get it.
The Weight Started To Drop Off
Oh joy! I lost half a stone in the first 2 weeks and that was despite all the chocolate! The water, the running, the yoga and of course the lack of alcohol calories meant that I lost the puffy, bloated weight I had acquired over the previous year of heavy drinking. This was a huge boost to my recovery.
Day 15 to 21 – “Never question the decision.”
In week 3, when I started to feel more human again I began questioning why I was doing all this. Surely I could have the odd drink now? Was it really that bad? Did I need to be so extreme? Addiction is a cunning enemy and often appears as a friend.
A saying that gets thrown around recovery circles is,
“Never question the decision.”
In the 3rd week you need to keep telling yourself this or you’ll go mad. You have done the right thing, just keep going!
When I Wasn’t Craving, I Felt Bloody Awesome!
I continued to lose weight, I was looking better, sleeping amazingly, waking up early and getting shit done. I had plans which didn’t include getting pissed and that felt so good. Weekend mornings became available since I was no longer hungover. Endless ideas for things I might do with my future started flooding my mind and life rolled out in front of me.
Lightness And Freedom
The overwhelming sense I got at this stage in my recovery was ‘liberation’! I was free! From addiction, from longing, from the internal dialogue which had plagued me for so long. This was a revelation and I wanted to share it with people.
I Enjoyed My First Social Event
My friend Andrea had a few of us for dinner and I drank a sweet fizzy drink out of a wine glass and to my surprise I really enjoyed myself. Yes, it was still a big subject for me and for my friends but answering questions about why, how and for how long was actually really good for me. I am lucky to have such lovely mates!
This was also when I realised that I could have a happy social life without alcohol. I have written lots about how best to party sober so have a read here.
Day 22 to 31 – The Home Straight
I was through the worst of it now. Home and dry. The 1st week was hell, the 2nd slightly easier and the 3rd full of surprises. I was looking into my future and I knew that it was going to be good.
I Started Meditating Daily
Every morning I started with yoga and meditation, enhancing my sense of wellbeing and grounding myself for the day ahead. Something I had learnt at AA was to start the day by offering yourself to the will of your higher power. For me that’s the universe and this is something I still do most days.
I Realised Why I Drank So Much Alcohol In The Past
The realisations came thick and fast in this first month. Here’s some of what I came to understand about myself and alcohol.
- I am actually very happy in my own company
- I can socialise without alcohol
- Alcohol has been the cause of so much sadness in my life
- Hangovers are a complete waste of life
- Many, many people are addicted to alcohol
- In the UK we are obsessed with alcohol
- Alcohol is highly addictive
- Moderation is once a month not 3 times a week
I Discovered A World of Alcohol Free Drinking
Alcohol free drinks are the fastest growing sector of the drinks industry. There are now so many great options out there. I especially love all the AF beers and the gin and tonic replacements. Wine still has a way to go but it will get there.
The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Honest
So now I am over a year without alcohol and I am loving my life. I am at the stage now when I don’t miss alcohol at all. Not one bit! But this has only happened in the past few months. Prior to that I was happy almost all of the time with only the occasional wobble at a particularly drunken party. Rest assured, however, these wobbles pass quickly and are very few and far between.
Life without alcohol is a rich and beautiful tapestry that contains all the highs you need. Just yesterday I sat in my garden with my husband, both of us with our eyes closed against the warm September sun and I said, with no doubt in my mind,
“This is better than any high I’ve ever tried.”
And I really mean that because it was. Full of love, lightness and, most importantly, honesty. So often I think it’s the honesty in life that people fear but if you allow yourself to be truly here; really living life with your whole self fully present, then you soon learn to embrace honesty and reality. Anything else is a simulation and who wants to live in a simulation?