“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you“ – Lao Tzu
As the ‘finish line’ to Dryuary approaches, there is a ‘Yay! I did it!’ euphoria that comes with completing a month of abstinence from alcohol. And by all means, we should feel proud and a sense of accomplishment. It is natural to want to reward ourselves too. And how do many of us reward our commendable abstinence? By going out and drinking too much! It may not be on February 1st, but often we end up letting go of control and over-drinking right after finishing a month of abstinence, only to wake up and wonder ‘What happened?’ This was my experience after my first 30 days abstinent and I ended up right back at square one, with my habitual drinking habit unchanged.
In Moderation Management (MM) we talk a great deal about our plans for moderation. We talk about the details of those plans and about how important they are for staying the course of moderating. One of my favorite writings on moderation is called ’No Plan, No Chance’ by Paul Staley of Moderation Manifesto. In a nutshell, what Paul is saying is that without a plan to navigate back into the world of drinking, you don’t have a chance of being successful.
There are what I’d like to call micro plans and macro plans. Micro plans are plans for a particular drinking day. Do you have a wedding to attend this weekend and you’re worried that you are going to over-drink? How can you plan the day so that won’t happen? Maybe you will drink water or an alternative drink until the champagne toast and then have one glass followed by sparkling water. Maybe you will alternate wine with water and stop at three. You’ll make sure you eat something, park your drink for a while, focus on other things like dancing with the children. Or will you be the designated driver for your spouse or friends and completely abstain that day? Whatever your plan is, it is a good idea to go into a risky situation armed for success.
Macro plans are more long term, for a week or perhaps the month ahead. How many days do you plan to abstain this week? Are you going to stay By The Book (within MM guidelines) and abstain 3-4 days? Or do you have your own plan to aim for starting out with 1-2 days of not drinking? How many total drinks will you have this week? In a single day? Are there too many social events happening for you to stay within your own goals if you drink at all of them? Which ones would be easiest to abstain from?
Some people get discouraged at the idea of planning their drinks for the rest of their lives. “Don’t we ever get to the point where we don’t have to do this?” The consensus on this is, no. Many people have more flexible plans as they get more comfortable with their new drinking behavior, but there is almost always some level of planning involved. And I can’t stress enough the importance of having a plan when first returning to drinking after abstinence.
As far as I can tell there really is no finish line. I will need some level of planning and paying attention to my drinking and abstaining as long as I decide to drink. The plan may change with new things that I learn about what works and what doesn’t, but in some form or other will be there. Planning may seem like a drag for a while, but the benefits of being able to continue to drink while avoiding our old problems make it well worth the effort.
So what are your plans?
This post was contributed by The Forum’s Astrid