“The day I became free of alcohol was the day that I fully understood and embraced the truth that I would not be giving anything up by not drinking.”
– Liz Hemingway
Week 3 of Dryuary is starting (1/15/20) and if you’ve been “dry” or “mostly dry” since the New Year, you’ve probably dealt with issues like
- Feeling two ways about drinking and changing your drinking
- Coming to some decision and commitment to give abstinence a try
- Experiencing some urges and possibly cravings for a drink and
- Realized that while urges can be uncomfortable, they won’t hurt you
Those can be challenges to staying the course. Now in the next 2 weeks comes the upside, the rewards for your efforts. And you may have already begun to experience some of them. They can include:
- Sleeping better through the night and waking up more rested
- Having more energy
- Feeling better emotionally and deal with issues better
- Being able to think more clearly and
- Having more free time
These experiences are positive and make it easier to “stay the course.” What can be a challenge though is deciding what to do with your free time that you used to spend drinking. Here are some suggestions for figuring out that puzzle while at the same time making your life more enjoyable and rewarding.
Finding Rewarding Alternatives
Put some fun in your life
What are you going to do with the time that you spent drinking? You may have a long list of “shoulds” I should clean out the basement. I should weed the garden. I should work out a budget. Tackling these to-dos can help you feel more productive and more in control over your life. But if that’s all you do in your new free time, you may be making it harder to stay sober for this period of time.
In addition to your list of “shoulds,” consider having some fun with your free time. If you’re enjoying your life more in the next couple weeks than when you were drinking, you’ll be more likely to stay away from the heavy drinking.
What do people do to have fun? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- What do you do now that you get a kick out of and that hasn’t involved drinking?
- What did you use to do for fun that may have fallen by the wayside?
- What have you wondered about doing but haven’t tried?
- What do your friends do for fun? Might those things be fun for you?
Come up with a variety of things to do to have fun. That way, you can pick and choose depending on your mood, whim, or energy level at the time. For instance, you may include bike riding, playing scrabble, and gardening in your list of fun things to do. Now if it’s nasty weather outside, bike riding may not be fun at all but playing scrabble with a friend or spouse might be much more fun. Having a variety of options increases your chances of being able to do something when that time comes.
We also recommend that you make more than a mental list of fun activities. Having a written list (which you can always change) can be helpful, especially if your list includes things you’re not doing already.
Get By with a little help
Changing habits, especially long-standing habits takes effort and maintaining your motivation to continue also takes effort. But having support from others when you’re trying to make a change in a habit like over-drinking can really improve your chances of success. People who care about you are likely to want to help you stay sober. So consider asking family and friends for their support. A simple “I’m taking a break from drinking through the end of January and would appreciate your help” will do. If you don’t think this is an option, consider on-line and in-person self-help groups like Moderation Management or SMART Recovery®. You can register for their email and web-based support groups using a name that protects your anonymity if you prefer.
Learning and Planning
Finally, while you’re taking a break from drinking, consider taking some time to plan your return to drinking in a more moderate way if that is a goal of yours. Set some limits on your drinking for when you resume drinking, then keep track. Keeping track honestly (while you’re drinking) will give you ongoing feedback about whether moderate drinking is a realistic goal. It is for many but not all people.
Post Submitted by: Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.
Dr. Hester is the Director of the Research Division of CheckUpandChoices.com, an online tool that effectively helps people make changes in their drinking.