Pasta made me crave red wine

We can’t always be perfect but we can always try to do our best – not just in what we do, but also in how we do it. Striving to reach goals (like becoming alcohol-free) is all well and good, but I’ve noticed that there’s a small fraction of a difference between less than ideal and terrible; between average and fantastic. It’s the details that count.

 

Know your alcohol triggers

A big part of successfully kicking the booze stems from identifying one’s alcohol triggers – understanding what will definitely stir the desire for a drink and then avoiding such situations as if your life depended on it (which it may well do).

Sometimes it’s the big decisions, like where we choose to go on holiday and with whom (holidaying in a boozy resort with a bunch of big drinkers, for example, will make life very hard for the newly sober person to remain that way), but it can also be the little choices we make; what we eat for dinner (pasta always made me crave red wine so I just stopped eating it for several months when I first quit drinking), and what films or TV programmes we watch (Sex and the City had a habit of making me lust after cold white wine as I always used to drink it when watching this programme, as a ‘treat night’ for myself).

As sober life gathers pace, we can more easily understand what makes us want to drink and adjust things accordingly so that we don’t have to endure quite so many battles against the bottle.

 

Recognise patterns of behaviour

The lessons we learn can, and should, be utilised to help us build sober strength. We can, if we examine our histories, recognise patterns of behaviour that have not worked in our favour. Time can be perceived as a series of tutorials, a lifelong system of education, where each month is filled with both the things we wished we’d done differently and can thus make an effort to not repeat, and the things that have worked for us and which we can therefore continue doing.

 

If we begin our alcohol-free journeys as though we are a malleable ball of putty then every knock and let-down; every exciting and happy occasion; each moment of pride and self-satisfaction that we travel through; the cravings we beat and the triggers we learn to recognise and not act upon will strengthen us, and our sobriety, until one day, being a happy non-drinker just becomes who we are and how we live.

 

I’ve had such a bad day! I need a big glass of wine to relax

 

Sound familiar? A few years ago, I would never have believed anyone who’d told me that I’d be consistently calmer and level headed if I stopped drinking alcohol for good. But, four years after my last drink and I never crave booze anymore in order to cope with a bad day. If you’ve recently quit drinking alcohol and are looking for a few pointers on reducing stress levels, read on. These might just help…

Be grateful

Try writing a list every night of all that you are grateful for in your life. We often get caught up with materialistic desires and forget about the true worth of what we already have: friends, family and our health, for example.

Avoid caffeine

caffeine is a stimulant that raises the level of stress hormones in the body. Opt for decaffeinated versions of tea or coffee, or stick to herbal teas and/or water.

Eat small and often

maintaining steady blood sugar levels can REALLY help to achieve a balanced mood. Try snacking on hummus or a handful of almonds.

Practise mindfulness

instead of giving into the chattering monkey mind that plagues so many of us, mindfulness allows us to live in the present. It won’t prevent negative situations from arising but it will allow you to respond in a calmer manner.

Learn to breathe

meditation is a great way to learn how to breathe correctly. Try a couple of beginner’s sessions at your local Buddhist centre to get started.

Talk it over

sharing concerns with a trusted friend or family member works wonders for beating stress. The listener may provide us with a sense of perspective, put forward potential solutions and/or offer help for whatever is causing the stress.

Get active

Exercise is a FANTASTIC way to beat stress. If you’ve never been particularly active before then try something gentle to begin with.

Learn to be kind (to yourself)

women are especially good at neglecting their own needs while rushing round seeing to everyone else’s. When we pile on the stress and refuse to take a break it’s guaranteed to increase stress levels. Make some time for ‘Me Time’.

Ask for help

Don’t be scared to ask for help – if stress continues to be a factor in your life then a professional counsellor could be the solution.

Editors Note

Some people may continue to experience cravings depending on their  drinking history. You might find our crave surfing, managing your alcohol cravings course helpful, if you have this problem.

I once felt drawn to other big drinkers

Quitting drinking may result in you radically reassessing the people you want to share your life with. Of course, there is a big MAY in that sentence, and removing booze from your daily existence might not impact on your choice of partner or friends. But it could do, and it definitely had that effect upon areas of my life.

For me, quitting drinking turned out to be so much more than just living alcohol-free. Becoming sober was ultimately a truth mission. Alongside the eradication of my almost daily habit of getting wasted came an absolute need to cut out all the rubbish from my life. Sober, I could no longer lie to myself about what, or who, was making me happy.

I’ve shed a few friends over the last four years

I’ve shed a few friends over the last four years, but I’ve also gained some. And the friendships that I’ve made whilst sober are real, deep and enduring. They have cast a light on some of my older relationships that now appear fickle and shallow, bonding that emerged entirely out of a shared love of liquor and little else.

Friendships that arise out of alcohol-free association are, essentially, formed in truth. Shared interests and beliefs are crucial as social glue because there is no longer anything present to smooth away deep incompatibilities.

Dull when you are sober

Socialising with people who enjoy getting drunk is

a) dull when you are sober and

b) dangerous in terms of pulling you back into a heavy drinking lifestyle.

I was lucky in that my partner when I became alcohol-free mostly refrained from drinking in the house, and even when out socialising did not drink to excess. But I’m certain that I would’ve found those early weeks and months more of a challenge should I have been confronted with drunkenness routinely and at close proximity.

I once felt drawn to other big drinkers

Notably (and helpfully) just as I once felt drawn to other big drinkers, now I seem to have a finely tuned radar for seeking out people who are either completely booze-free or who don’t drink to excess.

I have come to realise in the last few sober years that as human beings we are such intricately woven creatures, with incredibly accurate instincts and intuitions. Alcohol, when consumed regularly and in large volumes, obliterates our sense of emotional balance and internal order, and consequently renders us incapable of making rational judgments in our lives. We pinball, make bad decisions, act unreasonably, and often lack the ability to behave appropriately in given situations, and all of this impacts on our relationships. Conversely, when sober, relationships can be nurtured with thought and consideration, and are built upon solid foundations of true feelings. We are far more likely to be pulled towards people with whom we are truly compatible and who allow us to act in a manner that is uncontrived and real.

Shedding dead wood

Becoming alcohol-free may require the shedding of some dead wood in terms of our social and personal lives, but this is a reflection of a more honest approach to responding to who we really are and what we, as individuals, fundamentally want out of life.

 

I was one of life’s victims

For many years I perceived myself to be one of life’s victims. In my mid-teens, I rather warmed to the notion that men were drawn like magnets towards women who were a little emotionally fragile. I was physically weak as a teenager too, often allowing days on end to pass by with barely so much as an apple going down my neck in the name of sustenance (together with numerous pints of beer, of course). But, even once I’d resumed normal eating patterns the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, the victim mentality remained a constant in terms of my non-physical self.

I never found the guts to confront my problems head on

I never found the guts to confront my problems head on, but instead relied on the boyfriend I had at any given time to bail me out. Flat tyres, falling-over drunk, running out of money, encounters with violent and destructive men. Whichever disaster I happened to be caught up in, I could not seem to muster the courage to deal with it myself. Heavy drinking was a further manifestation of my deep-seated desire to be protected. Becoming so inebriated that I was no longer able to exercise self-care meant that those around me were routinely forced to pick up the pieces.

I started soul searching

This cycle of negativity continued throughout my adult life until the first year I spent as a non-drinker, a period in which I finally began to conduct some much required soul-searching in an effort to put things right.

Aged thirty-five, I was acutely aware of how little self-reliance I possessed. As the alcohol-free months turned into years, I steadily built up feelings of self-belief that had been so clearly lacking previously. When I re-examined my past romantic encounters and (with brutal honesty) assessed my own patterns of behaviour that had frequently wandered into ‘mentally fragile’ territory, I could see how unsettling and miserable those relationships had been.

I thought I was  a feminist

In my late teens and early twenties I was downing pints and playing pool in the pub on an almost daily basis in the misguided name of feminism. I truly believed that succumbing to such activities propelled me towards equal status with the men. And in some ways, maybe it did – but rather than elevating me to a positive position of parity with the opposite sex, my behaviour merely dragged me down to the low expectations and restricted lives of men who had become defined by their alcohol consumption. It was not feminism as I see it today.

I’m no longer frightened of my own  strength

Now I’m forty. I’ve come a long way from the insecure, unhappy and confused girl I was at sixteen. A striking difference in who I was then and who I’ve become is that I’m no longer frightened of my own strength; the strength it took to conquer a dependency upon alcohol; the strength it took to plough through the mire of divorce; the strength it took to be a single parent for many years; the strength it took to beat tenacious demons that undermined my self-confidence and frequently led to me hating myself; the strength it took to finally regain control of my life; the strength it took to truly like myself.

These days, I don’t overly rely on anyone. Yes, I have wonderfully supportive friends and family who I can count on, but at the end of the day, when the proverbial hits the fan, I am my own rock. It’s who I am now.

10 Reasons Why Life is Better without Booze

Here’s Lucy’s  top ten reasons for not drinking.

1. Cutting alcohol out of your life helps build your self-esteem; never doing or saying things that you will later regret is a brilliant way of feeling back in control of your life, thus boosting your self-confidence.

2. .When you drink every night, you lose vast swathes of time – if you have your first glass at 7pm and continue to sip away all night until 11pm, then over a week you’ll have waved goodbye to almost thirty hours of spare time, which could have been put to good use.

3. Alcohol is no friend to your looks – within days of quitting drinking you’ll have brighter eyes, healthier looking skin and will notice a reduction in facial puffiness.

4. One bottle of wine contains between 600 and 700 calories; that’s equivalent to three Cornetto ice creams, or an extra evening meal on top of the dinner you’ve already scoffed! Maintaining weight is much easier for those who don’t drink alcohol.

5. I stopped drinking four and a half years ago, and in that time I estimate that I’ve saved approximately £20,000 (the sum total of money I would have wasted on wine, fags, and taxis – the price of a decent car). Instead, I have been able to buy lots of lovely stuff that I can actually remember and appreciate for days, months or years after making the purchase!

6. Since I was a child I always wanted to be a writer but never managed to get more than a couple of chapters down in my drinking days. Within the first couple of years of being teetotal I had three books published (The Sober Revolution and Your 6 Week Plan, co-written with Sarah Turner, and Glass Half Full), and my fourth was published a year later. I can now demonstrate dedication and commitment, qualities that perennially escaped me as a boozer.

7. Categorically I am a MUCH better parent as a non-drinker – end of story.

8. Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are all a (horrible) distant memory – since eradicating booze from my life I generally feel optimistic and happy, and the mood swings have disappeared for good.

9. Drinking regularly and heavily prevented me from seeing how big the world is, and how much there is to explore within it – as a non-drinker I get to feel the magic of life untainted by booze, and my horizons have stretched massively.
10. Embarking on an alcohol-free life has opened up the door to self-discovery; I have found out more about the person I am in the four and a half years since I quit drinking than I did in any of the previous thirty five years of my life.