During Dryuary, as you take a 31-day break from drinking, you’ll discover (or rediscover) Moderation Management’s fundamental strategies.Taking an extended break from drinking is beneficial for many physical reasons which you will automatically experience by not drinking. To encourage long-term, sustainable change, you can also use this break to change your thinking around alcohol–which only happens if you work at it.
“I’m obsessed with the form of a toolbox. The idea of a portable kit that has everything you might need ignites something inside me. It’s like Batman’s utility belt.”
You’re closing in on the end of a month-long break from drinking that if you choose, can help you reimagine your relationship with alcohol moving forward. When changing my own 30+year drinking habit, I relied on four basic tools that I still carry with me today and help me maintain a peaceful relationship with alcohol. They all support my beautiful human brain which is ultimately responsible for how I include alcohol in my life.
Tool #1: I make a plan ahead of time. This isn’t just about sticking to a number…this is a retraining of my brain that had committed drinking to habit. My decisions were unconscious and I needed to use my conscious, future-focused prefrontal cortex to make sure that my choices aligned with my long-term goals. I also needed to take the decision out of the moment, when my impulsive, toddler brain typically wins. Making a plan ahead of time for me meant meeting myself where I was at first and working my way down from there. Now my plans include multiple AF days per week but at the beginning it was simply meeting myself where I was and proving to myself that I actually did have the discipline and strength to plan ahead.
Tool #2: I plan ahead of time for how I’m going to handle “off-plan” drinking. Instead of believing that my missteps are failures, when I finally succeeded in changing my habits, I promised myself to be curious about what happened. I took the time, not just deciding that I screwed up (again), but really looked for the thoughts and feelings that were there when I chose to drink off-plan. I didn’t add to my suffering by beating myself up with a bunch of negative self-talk. I used the mantra, “I’m learning how to change and this is a lesson I can learn from.” I simply didn’t allow mistakes to mean anything other than I’m human, with a human brain that’s been trained to see alcohol as the answer and now, I’m retraining it. I didn’t understand how my brain worked before but now I do.
Tool #3: Education, education, education. I invest time and energy in learning the science of alcohol, neuroscience, psychology and human behavior. Our brains are like computers, garbage in-garbage out. To shore up my mindset, I read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos and study scientific articles. Do whatever it takes to help your own brain change the stories it believes about alcohol, about habit change, about your personality. You’re never too old, it’s never too late and we are all capable of change. The more you learn about alcohol and about your brain, the easier that change will be.
Tool #4: Find a tribe. Being connected to other people who are working on changing their relationship with alcohol is really helpful because not everyone in your life will be drinking less. And society isn’t going to make alcohol any less readily available to you. Join a group, work with a coach or a therapist, find a mentor. In my own journey I worked with a coach for six months, still follow multiple mentors via podcast and social media and am active in MM’s Facebook group. Even though I have the peaceful relationship with alcohol I only used to dream was possible, I learn something every day from my mentors and fellow tribe members.
As you transition from Dryuary back to everyday life, I hope you carry a tool box with you and continue creating a better relationship with alcohol. Choose peace my friends.
Molly Watts is the host of the Alcohol Minimalist Podcast, author of Breaking the Bottle Legacy, a wife, a mom and an MM member. Find out more at https://www.mollywatts.com/