As it’s Halloween tomorrow, now seems like a good time to talk about ‘treats’. .
So often we say things like:
“I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight because it’s a treat.” “Let’s get a bottle… I know it’s unhealthy, but it’s a special treat isn’t it…” “Go on – one won’t hurt. Treat yourself, you’ve been good all week!”
But is alcohol really a special ‘treat’?
Somewhere along the way we realised – correctly – that alcohol was harming us. But instead of deciding we would raise our standards and not invite it into our lives, we opted to make it a ‘treat’ instead.
And what happens then?
By telling ourselves that alcohol is a treat, we are tricking ourselves. We’re glorifying this cheap, toxic poison. We’re putting it up on a pedestal and making it ‘special’.
If you want to stop drinking – and actually feel good about it – you have to break up with the idea that alcohol is special. .
Here’s how to do it.
Be aware of the story you’re telling yourself
What we think, we become – the beliefs and stories we repeat internally tend to play out externally. I know that on the face of it, the idea of ‘being good during the week’ and ‘having a treat on Friday night’ sounds like a balanced and healthy approach…
However, as soon as alcohol becomes a treat you’re saving yourself for, looking forward to, or planning ahead in advance, you are – whether you realise it or not – making it ‘special’. You’re training your mind to look forward to consuming this low quality, mind-altering, cancer-causing, toxic poison.
Reframe, reframe, reframe
You have the power to retrain your mind and rewrite your stories. Stop saying that you’re ‘treating yourself’ to a glass of wine – be clear that you’re treating yourself to a hangover, a night of disturbed sleep and a day of feeling like crap.
Rather than telling yourself that you ‘deserve’ a drink, ask whether you deserve to feel lousy tomorrow. Do you deserve to drink more than you intend to, pass out on the sofa or wake up feeling tired and dehydrated? Is that the special treat you deserve?
Put your energy into seeing alcohol for what it really is. Don’t romanticise or glamorise it. Don’t make it special – make it feel distinctly un-special.
For the women I coach inside my Getting Unstuck course, the biggest triumph is not “I’ve managed to resist wine all weekend!” but rather, “there’s an open bottle of wine at home and I didn’t even WANT a glass.” That’s what happens when you get clear on what is a treat and what isn’t.
Upgrade your treats
You should never feel guilty about treating yourself because it’s an important part of self-care. But now is the time to redefine your treats. Raise your standards and choose treats that genuinely make you feel good.
So what could you do? You could treat yourself to a new book, a long bath, or date night at your favourite restaurant. Maybe a treat for you is 30 mins watching TV, or reading a magazine and just letting yourself do very little.
Perhaps you’d love a day out with your family, a spa treatment, or an afternoon doing your favourite hobby. Maybe you’d like to treat yourself to a proper lunch break (rather than eating at your desk!) or a mid-week trip to the cinema, or that exercise class you’re interested in.
Make a list of what really feels like a treat for you. Focus on things you know will take care of you and make you feel great afterwards. Plan something now, schedule it and then do it!
I’m thrilled to be back after taking a few weeks off to launch another live session of my Getting Unstuck course. (Missed it? You can catch the next class in January)
The Sober School has grown a lot over the past year, as has the entire alcohol-free, online sober movement. The idea of taking some time off from drinking is becoming more and more normal, which is great news for all of us! Anything that makes our alcohol-obsessed world a little less boozy has got to be a good thing.
If you’re working on a sober October right now, today’s blog post will really help you to stay motivated.
I wanted to set the record straight on a few common beliefs about booze that I hear ALL the time. The last thing you need are myths and misguided philosophies getting in the way of your alcohol-free lifestyle!
. Here are 6 common myths about alcohol:
“A bit of booze is good for you.”
The Committee on Carcinogenicity (an independent body that advises the government whether substances are likely to cause cancer) says drinking ANY level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers. You can read their report here.
As for that old idea that red wine is good for the heart? It’s an outdated myth. England’s Chief Medical officer calls it an ‘old wives tale’ for good reason. This 2014 study found that drinking alcohol provides no heart benefit at all, and recent government guidance stated “there is no justification for drinking for health reasons.”
“Alcohol helps me deal with stress.”
A glass of wine won’t stop the kids fighting or make your boss nicer or fix your relationship. Alcohol does not have the power to solve the things that make you stressed. What alcohol can do is increase anxiety whilst hangovers lower your resilience to stress. So it’s a double whammy – you lose out twice.
It’s socially acceptable to say that you drink because you’re stressed, but what most people are really doing is drinking to numb out. And if you’ve ever been hysterically happy or extremely sad whilst drunk, you’ve got to wonder – does alcohol really do that good a job of numbing your emotions? (Surely, if it was an effective numbing agent, you wouldn’t be able to feel any emotion?)
“Booze before bed makes you sleep better.”
Drinking might help you crash out by making you drowsy, but it also stops you from having the deep, restorative sleep you need in order to feel truly rested. That’s why you often wake up at 4am, exhausted but somehow unable to sleep.
Some people struggle with their sleep when they first stop drinking and it sucks, I know. But please be patient – the solution isn’t to go back to drinking! Alcohol really screws up your sleep cycle and your body is just taking a bit longer to adjust. Hang on in there – in the long term, an alcohol-free lifestyle is one of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.
“Alcohol makes you happier.”
Maybe you think you’re the life and soul of the party after your third gin and tonic. Perhaps you’re convinced that the drunk you is a happier, more upbeat version of your regular self. The idea that we transform into different people when we’re under the influence is a popular one. Turns out, though, ‘drunk you’ might not be as much of a thing as you think.
A new study from the University of Missouri has found that other people can’t see that much of a difference in our personalities when we’re drunk, compared to when we’re sober. This is a good reminder that so much of alcohol’s power lies in what we believe it does. And so often, what we believe to be true becomes true.
“My drinking doesn’t affect anyone else.”
New research shows that children are far more aware of their parents alcohol consumption than we might like to think. The Institute of Alcohol Studies says even moderate parental drinking can upset children and cause them anxiety.
This report backs up a lot of the anecdotal feedback I’ve had from the mums on my stop drinking course. Even very young children, who don’t really ‘get’ what wine is, seem quick to pick up on the change in your energy levels (and your willingness to read a bedtime story).
“If you’re careful, you can outsmart a hangover.”
As we head towards the end of the year – and into party season – be prepared to see a lot of articles about hangover cures. You know the ones I mean – they promise that you’ll be able to party till dawn AND look flawless in the office. All you need to do is guzzle green juice, use expensive foundation and meditate in a special way…
It’s total nonsense of course. These articles are selling a lifestyle that doesn’t really exist; you cannot consume glass after glass of toxic poison and not feel it the next day! NHS advice says, “The best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink.”
This is a great time of year to stop drinking or experiment with an alcohol-free lifestyle.
The busy summer months are over, the kids have returned to school, we’re back into a regular routine and Christmas is still ages away … (phew!)
Recently I’ve had lots of people asking for some help getting started with sobriety. So, this week I thought I’d go back to basics and share three key tips to help you kickstart a break from booze.
Ready for an awesome, alcohol-free adventure this autumn?
. 1. Start building your sober toolbox
A sober tool is anything you use as a coping mechanism, to change or relieve the way you feel, and to help you deal with the ups and downs of life.
2. Establish a support network
It makes such a difference when you’ve got a support system, or someone who can relate to what you’re going through, and be there to listen and encourage you.
3. Challenge your beliefs about booze
Don’t fall for the myths, illusions and marketing hype – alcohol is just a drug. When you get clear on what it does and doesn’t do, it’s a lot easier to quit, because you don’t feel as if you’re missing out.
You don’t have to quit forever. (That’s way too intimidating!) But if you want to satisfy your curiosity and test drive sobriety properly, you do need to put some space between you and your last drink. I recommend taking a break from booze and giving it 100%. Don’t question the decision until you hit your goal. Then – and only then – can you decide what you do next.
Don’t forget to download your free printable 🙂
It’ll help you get stuck into the three tips I talk about in the video.
Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to be taking a break from booze this autumn and how long for.
Have you been thinking about taking a break from booze?
Perhaps you planned on quitting this month – yet you can’t seem to get motivated enough to actually do it?
I know what that feels like.
One of the things that helped me to quit was reminding myself of everything I was missing out on by continuing to drink.
Yes, you read that right. People always think that sobriety is about missing out and feeling deprived, when in fact, it’s the other way round.
By staying stuck in the same miserable cycle of hangovers and guilt, you’re missing out on a very happy, healthy, feel-good lifestyle.
So… if you’re sober curious, get ready to make the leap! Here’s what you’ll get in return:
1. You’ll look better naked
A bottle of wine contains around 600 calories… that’s the equivalent of three doughnuts! Add in a bit of junk food (helpful for battling a hangover) and it really adds up. Your waistline will thank you for cutting out all those empty calories.
2. You’ll be happier
Alcohol gives you a very brief, artificial high, followed by a long and painful low. You know how awful it is when you feel hungover, depressed and anxious; you spend all day beating yourself up. When you stop drinking, it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted.
3. It’s easier than trying to cut down
Yes, really – trying to control a mind-altering substance is super hard. (I wrote more about moderation here.)
4. Bye-bye puffy face
The vanity argument for stopping drinking motivates a lot of people and it should do. I get my students to take a picture at the beginning of their 6 week course and another at the end. The results are always impressive.
5. Your confidence will skyrocket
When you go without alcohol for an extended period of time – whether it’s six weeks, or two months, or whatever – you’ll likely end up in some social situations where you’d normally drink. This is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing! Being able to socialise without alcohol is an excellent skill to have.
6. You’ll become a badass
Taking a break from alcohol will force you to shake things up and act a little differently from the masses. This can be scary at first. But once you’ve done one brave thing, who knows what you’ll do next? If you found the courage to stop drinking, you might find the courage to ask for what you want in other areas of life too.
7. Your weekends will get longer
When I was boozing, weekends passed by in a blur of drinking and feeling hungover. Before I knew it, Monday morning had rolled round and I was moaning about not having enough time off. When you’re alcohol-free, you have 24 quality hours in a day.
8. You’ll actually DO stuff
You know that yoga class you keep saying you’ll go to? That family trip you promised to organise? Or that book idea you’ve told everyone about, at least a hundred times? When you take action and cut out alcohol (a willpower-sapping, confidence-destroying, time-sucking drug) you set off a whole chain of events. You become a doer.
9. You’ll sleep better
Alcohol really screws up your sleep cycle. It might help you pass out at night, but it also stops you from getting the deep, restorative sleep you need in order to feel truly rested. (Don’t worry if your sleep takes a little while to settle down in early sobriety – it will work itself out, especially if you take a proper break from booze.)
10. You’ll have lots more energy
If you’re fed up of feeling drained and exhausted all the time, taking some time off from drinking will make you feel so much better. It will give you a huge energy boost.
11. TV shows won’t be so confusing
I find the storylines sooo much easier to follow when I can actually remember what happened in the last episode…
12. Your bank manager will love you
Alcohol ain’t cheap – when you’re drinking, you’re throwing money down the drain all the time. When I polled some of the women I’ve coached, they saved on average £365 in six weeks – that’s about $480 dollars. (Tip: before you stop drinking, start measuring. How much are you really spending on booze each week? Look at those receipts – you might be surprised.)
13. You can get ready for bed properly
How many times have you fallen asleep on the sofa, fully dressed – or gone to bed with makeup still on and your teeth unbrushed? Being sober enough to put your PJs on might not sound like a big deal, but it sure feels good in the morning.
14. You’ll have a better sex life
Alcohol numbs your feelings – and in the bedroom, this is not good…
15. You’ll feel fantastically proud of yourself 🙂
It’s horrible when you know you should be doing something about your drinking, but you aren’t. The feeling you get when you take action – and follow through on your goals – is amazing.
If you’re thinking about quitting drinking – or taking some time off from booze – the chances are you’ve been mulling over a few important questions. .
Things like: do I actually need to quit? Should I just cut down? Is my drinking really so bad? And if I do need to stop, what does that say about me?
Maybe you’ve been doing what I used to do: sitting at my laptop late at night, typing ‘am I an alcoholic?’ into google. (My other hobby was filling out drinking self-assessment quizzes, and doing them again and again until I got the answer I wanted…)
When you’re trying to figure out your relationship with alcohol, there are some questions that are bound to keep crossing your mind…
Here are 5 common queries and my answers to them:
Q – Should I stop completely or just cut down?
If you’re worried about your drinking, then trying to moderate your alcohol intake is a great place to start. But – and this is a big but – if cutting down doesn’t work, then you need to be prepared to take further action.
So, dig deep and be honest now: have you already tried to cut down? (Most people have been trying to do so, on and off, for years and years.) How has moderation worked out for you so far? Are you happy?
Cutting down always sounds like a great idea, but the reality is that you’re trying to exert control over a drug that makes you lose control.
And consider this: a big part of successful sobriety is opening your mind to the possibility that you can live a full and happy life without alcohol. Booze is just a crude, toxic poison. It’s a drug. Yet by trying to keep a little bit of it in your life, subconsciously you’re telling yourself that alcohol is special and you won’t be happy without it.
Q – I think I need to stop, but I haven’t hit rock bottom yet…
You do not need to hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to decide that you’ll stop hurting yourself. (Besides, what exactly is rock bottom anyway? It’s different for different people.)
Think about it: we don’t wait until we’re morbidly obese before we decide we should lose weight. We don’t wait until we’re bankrupt before we deal with our debts. So why is alcohol any different?
You can stop drinking now, before anything hideous happens. If you’re frequently drinking more than you intend to – and it’s making you miserable – then you’re already suffering enough.
Q – Do I have to quit forever?
Sobriety is a mindset game. As soon as we start talking about ‘forever’, things can suddenly feel rather overwhelming. Equally, many people find that taking things ‘one day at a time’ isn’t very helpful either, because you keep questioning your decision on a daily basis.
The solution? Commit to taking a proper break from booze. Make the decision once and then stick to it.
I recommend six to eight weeks, so you can put some decent space between you and your last drink. Treat it like an experiment – give it 100% and don’t be half-hearted about it. Go all in. Then you can see how you feel at the end, knowing that you’ve given alcohol-free living a proper test drive.
(After all, you can always go back to drinking if you hate it…)
Q – Do I have to go to meetings?
Only if you want to! Some people love them, some people don’t. The good news is that nowadays, AA is not your only option. There are lots of other inspiring, online resources available, including my fabulous stop drinking course. So if you want to find support from the privacy of your own home, you can absolutely do so.
Q – Am I an alcoholic?
There’s still a fair bit of stigma attached to the A word. In my opinion, there’s really no need to label yourself, unless you find it useful.
Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as an alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic. I’m just someone who got addicted to a socially acceptable, widely available, well advertised, glamorised, highly addictive, toxic drug that’s marketed as the solution to all our woes.
Nowadays, I choose not to drink because I feel a million times better without alcohol in my life. I choose not to drink in the same way that I choose not to smoke cigarettes or take heroin.
I’m not ‘taking things one day at a time’ or ‘battling the demon drink’. I’m just living a very happy, drug-free life… and I don’t think you need a label for that 🙂
I’m writing this from a little French café on the banks of the River Aisne. .
I’m on holiday, the sun is shining… and I’m drinking my second café au lait.
Life feels GOOD.
It’s at times like this that I think, wow – alcohol free living is pretty flipping amazing. That thought is often followed by: why did no one tell me it was going to be like this?!
Back when I was drinking way too much (and feeling hungover all the time) sobriety sounded like a last resort. Something to be avoided at all costs. It seemed dull, bleak and oh so boring.
I know I’m not the only one who felt like that. Convincing yourself that sobriety is going to be dull is a very common sabotaging behaviour.
Here are some tips to help you get clear on this myth:
Being drunk isn’t the same as having fun
Remember, a boring party is always going to be a boring party. If you drink at a boring party, it just means you’re drunk at a boring party.
Yes, sometimes you will have rubbish nights out when you’re sober. But you also have rubbish nights out when you’re drinking! (We’ve all been to parties where it didn’t matter how much we drank, it wasn’t fun.)
Sobriety means you notice what’s happening around you and that’s a good thing.
Even bad experiences provide valuable information about your life. You shouldn’t need to numb yourself with alcohol in order to tolerate people you like or places you love. It’s much better to know and understand what the real you enjoys.
Focus on the story you’re telling yourself
Your mind is extremely powerful and often, what you believe to be true, will become true.
If you believe alcohol is key to happiness, then you will be miserable without it.
Just look at the way other people behave when they’re unexpectedly forced to be the designated driver; they believe the night is going to be boring before it even gets started. They believe they’re going to feel left out and so guess what? They do.
Think back to a recent good night out. What role did alcohol play in the success of the event, compared to: the people you were with, the conversations you had, the atmosphere, the mood you were in, your outfit, the location, the music, the food, what you’d done earlier in the day, and your general sense of well-being?
There are many, MANY things that determine how joyful a situation is. Yet for some reason, we live in a culture that tends to give alcohol the credit for everything positive! Make sure you don’t do the same.
Look to the comedians
You don’t need to drink in order to be funny or have a laugh. Just look at Jim Carrey, Russell Brand, Peter Kay, Lee Evans, Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle… there are so many comedians out there who don’t drink or hardly drink.
I went to the Edinburgh Fringe (a comedy festival) a few weeks back and saw performers getting on stage as early as 11.30am. They weren’t drunk and neither were the crowd.
(I should add, I was sooo glad not to be hungover in Edinburgh – we packed 11 great shows into 3 days. I would never have seen that many if I was feeling less than 100%.)
Don’t let thoughts about being ‘a boring sober person’ creep in!
Yes, there will always be boozers who think you’re weird for not drinking and who take it upon themselves to give you a hard time about it.
(I don’t know why they think that’s ok – we no longer bully people into smoking, so why drinking?)
If someone is questioning your choice not to drink, you have to ask why they’re doing that. Why are they so bothered about you letting go of a habit that’s been getting you down and keeping you stuck in the same old routine?
Remember that life without alcohol is just… LIFE!
A while back I received an email from a reader suggesting I write a blog post about how to make friends sober. I mulled this over for a while, feeling unusually stuck for what to write.
Eventually I realised what the problem was: I didn’t have anything to say, because making friends when you’re sober is no different to making friends when you’re drinking.
Alcohol isn’t some magic thing that bonds people together or seals friendships. Bonding with people is about listening, sharing, caring and connecting. Those things have nothing to do with booze.
My point is that alcohol is NOT an essential part of life. And sobriety is not some parallel universe where all the rules are different and you have to do everything a completely different way.
Sobriety is just your regular life… minus the doses of liquid poison 🙂
So, if you stop drinking and things start feeling a bit boring, the question to ask is why. WHY are you bored? How can you change that? (Alcohol won’t fix anything – it just masks and hides.)
What can you do to build a life that’s so good, you don’t need to drink your way through it?