“If you’re never able to tolerate a little bit of pain and discomfort, you’ll never get better” – Angela Duckworth, Psychologist
So, you’ve made the decision to stop drinking for a month. You will experience numerous benefits including clearer thinking, weight loss, increased energy and productivity, reduced cardiovascular risks, better skin, saved money, improved sleep, and an improved immune system. However, you may find that your initial motivation wears off after the first few days and you face your first stressful situation, want to relax, or make weekend plans.
One of the tools that I recommend is what I call the Glass Jar. It is a tangible reminder—something that you can see, feel, touch, and hold—that helps you remember why you are dealing with the initial discomfort of abstinence. I find that it is important to add something when we are removing alcohol. If all we focus on is what we can’t have, we are bound to lose motivation and lose sight of our goals. We tend to achieve more success when we are working for a reward rather than just taking something away. The Glass Jar is not about replacing alcohol with another unhealthy behavior, but utilizing a tool that reminds you of why you chose to change your drinking pattern.
I suggest using a glass container. It allows you to see the results of your healthy choices adding up. When we have a physical representation of our goal, we are more likely to stick to a healthy habit. It helps to glance at an object that offers a motivational nudge when you have a craving and your willpower is wavering. I encourage you to place the jar in a common area of your home, like the kitchen. This is so that not only can you view the contents, but loved ones as well. Everyone can see your progress, thus offering increased accountability, motivation, and support.
Next, calculate how much you typically spend on alcohol in a given day: perhaps $20 a day on wine or an $80 bar tab. Total what you would have spent in an average month. This can be an exercise in itself. Many are shocked at how much they were spending when they actually add it up. The goal is not to shame you, but to motivate you. This money will be put towards a reward.
Now, I want you to identify something that you would not normally spend money on. If you had extra cash, what could you treat yourself with? Maybe a massage, round of golf, mani/pedi, electronic gadget, designer purse, or better seat at a sporting event? Then, I want you to go to the bank and get $10 bills in the amount of what your splurge would cost. This should be close to the amount that you were spending each month on alcohol. It is important to have the visual to actually place the bills into the jar rather than just using a tally on a piece of paper or your phone. The cash makes it more real.
During the next month, for each day that you do not drink, put the amount of money you would have spent in the container. If you do not make your goal, take double the amount out of the jar. At the end of the designated period of time—like Dryuary— use the cash saved by making better choices to enjoy your special treat that you earned by not drinking. Not only will you experience the above-mentioned benefits, but you will have something tangible that you would not have had if you continued your drinking patterns.
People report that the Glass Jar is a great physical representation of how much they were spending on alcohol and how making small choices every day can add up to something positive. They also think twice when they know that overdrinking will cause them to lose double their savings. You may also surprise yourself. You may feel so much better that you do not want to go back to your old drinking patterns. In fact, about half of my clients say that it took stepping away from alcohol for a period to help them see that they prefer abstinence over drinking. Many want the health-related benefits to continue and have enjoyed finding new hobbies, relationships, activities, and outlets that did not come with a consequence.
Whatever path you take regarding your future relationship with alcohol, know that you are helping your brain and body by taking a break. You should experience sobriety related insights with a clearer head. This enables you to make an informed choice about your next steps. Going without alcohol for a month allows you to break a pattern and gives you the opportunity to see what life can be like when it is not centered around drinking. You will have to develop new coping skills but you may also find new activities, friends, and pursuits that you never imagined possible.
Post Submitted By: Cyndi Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC
Cyndi Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC is the co-founder of Insight Into Action Therapy and Insight Recovery Centers. She is a Moderation Friendly therapist and the author of three harm reduction books: Can I Keep Drinking? How You Can Decide When Enough is Enough, The Clinician’s Guide to Alcohol Moderation: Alternative Methods and Management Strategies; and Practicing Alcohol Moderation: A Comprehensive Workbook. Learn more about how to have a healthier relationship with alcohol at: www.insightactiontherapy.com.
Suggested NA beverage: Cranberry Mocktail