You’ve dabbled with alcohol-free living, on and off. You’ve read countless sober memoirs. You lurk on sober blogs. You are officially sober curious.
You spend a lot of time THINKING about quitting. You know you need to do something, and taking a break from booze seems like a good place to start. And yet… you can’t quite bring yourself to actually do it.
Next week, you promise. I’ll do it next week. I’ll be ready then.
You’ve already calculated how much money you’ll save when you quit.
You know you’ll sleep better.
You know you’ll feel better.
And you love the idea of waking up without a hangover.
But still. You’re just not quite ready yet … right?
Well actually, I’d suggest you are.
It’s very likely that right now, at this very second, you’re as ready as you’re ever going to be. Here’s why:
There’s never going to be a perfect time to do this.
You will always have a work event, a birthday, a boozy BBQ or a holiday just around the corner. (And when all else fails, Friday night rolls around every 7 days and well, don’t you deserve a drink on a Friday?!) If you look hard enough, there will always be something.
Life doesn’t stop when you’re sober. (This is actually a really good thing. If alcohol-free living meant never going out, and never having fun, it’d be a pretty awful way of life!) There will always be a reason why now just ‘isn’t the right time’. And in a way, that takes the pressure off. If there’s never going to be a ‘perfect’ time to do this, why wait? Make this the right time by taking action.
Look at the flip side.
Whatever your reason for not quitting this week, the chances are it’s the very reason why you should stop right now.
For example: got a busy week coming up? Know that you’re going to be stressed out at work? That’s fine – all the more reason NOT to drink this week. Alcohol is such a time thief. Sobriety will make you more productive so you stop feeling so overwhelmed. Alcohol is scientifically proven to make you more anxious and less able to cope with stress, so why make a tough week harder than it needs to be?
Or perhaps you’ve got a holiday coming up? No problem. What a great opportunity to stop drinking, look after yourself and come back feeling genuinely refreshed. Why would you need to drink anyway? Holidays are lovely – they’re fun and relaxing, just as they are. Why would you need to throw a toxic poison into the mix? Alcohol-free trips abroad are the best – seriously, I’m excited for you!
You don’t need to be perfect.
A common reason for putting things off is a fear of trying and failing. And to be honest, that fear is well founded. If you’re anything like the rest of the planet, then you probably will screw up at some point. It’s almost inevitable, but it’s also ok. It’s called being human!
What’s better: not taking action for fear of making a mistake, or going for it and falling flat on your face? In what scenario do you think you might learn the most and make the most progress?
Success is built on failure. The only enemy you need to defeat right now is not getting started. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
You become ‘ready’ by taking action.
One of the biggest myths about sobriety is that one day, out of the blue, you’ll just know that it’s time to quit. In my experience, it’s rarely as clear cut as that.
When I stopped drinking, it was because I felt fed up. I was tired. I’d been wondering what a proper break from booze would be like. So I challenged myself to stop for 100 days, so I could test drive alcohol-free living properly. I told myself that if I hated it, I could always go back to drinking, but I had to do 100 days first.
That was four years ago 🙂
I became ‘ready’ to stop after I quit. After I started taking action. I see exactly the same thing happen with the women I coach. It’s rare for anyone to start off feeling 100% sure they want to stop. But most people are curious about alcohol-free living, and it’s that curiosity you need to pay attention to.
If you’re regularly drinking more than you intend to, and it’s making you miserable, don’t you owe it to yourself to see what a proper break feels like? You don’t need to label yourself, go to meetings or take any online tests. You don’t need to have it all figured out, you just need to begin.
That’s the secret to success – starting before you’re ready.
When it comes to stopping drinking and staying motivated, one of the best action steps you can take is to figure out your WHY.
Because let’s be real here – sobriety ain’t no walk in the park. There will always be ups and downs, challenges and times when you think ‘I can’t be bothered with this.’
In those moments when you’re close to giving up, knowing your ‘why’ can give you the extra push you need to keep going.
Most people think they’re stopping drinking because they’re fed up of feeling hungover. Or they want to be healthier or save money.
And those are all great reasons for quitting, but they’re probably not the real reason you’re doing this. Your real ‘why’ goes much deeper than that – and this is exactly what you need to tap in to.
Here are 3 steps to help you do just that:
Get a pen and paper.
Write down why you want to stop drinking, so you can see your reasons in black and white. Just thinking about them isn’t the same – your thoughts will come and go, sometimes they get jumbled up and sometimes we just forget. You can write your reasons on your phone or laptop if you like, but experts have found that we’re more engaged when we write things out by hand.
Set a timer for 20 minutes and keep writing.
You want to write down as much as you can, as soon as it comes into your head. Once you’ve written down everything you can think of, go back to each reason and ask ‘but why?’. Keep doing this over and over again, until you get to the heart behind what’s really motivating you.
I want to stop drinking because I hate not being able to recall what happened the night before.
Because I keep having conversations I can’t remember.
Because I hate the way my children sigh when I start telling them something I’ve already said.
Because I want to set a good example for my kids. I want to look after them and protect them.
I want to stop drinking because I hate how hungover I am the next day.
Because when I feel hungover I’m so lethargic, I never seem to get anything done.
Because I’m falling behind at work and I’m scared my boss will notice.
Because I know I’m not living up to my potential – I’m drifting through life.
I want to stop drinking because I keep saying things I regret.
I’m fed up of being that woman – the one who always makes a fool of herself.
Because I want to be in control of myself. I want to be happy and calm.
I want to stop drinking because I’m scared of people finding out how much I really drink.
Because I’m tired of hiding my drinking. All the covering up is exhausting me.
Because I don’t want to have any secrets from my family.
Because I want my loved ones to be proud of me.
Do you see how when you dig deeper, you uncover reasons you hadn’t thought of, or perhaps hadn’t acknowledged?
These reasons are far more powerful than just ‘I want to stop drinking for the sake of my health.’ Of course, health is important, but it’s also quite vague. You should always get specific; what is it about your health that concerns you exactly? Have you put on weight? Is it something your doctor said at your last check up? Drill down to the nitty gritty.
Put this list somewhere you can see it daily.
Tuck it into your purse or diary. You could photograph it and keep a copy on your phone. Just make sure you can come back to it easily. This is going to be your motivation. This is what’s going to power you through those doubts and wobbles. Don’t be scared of looking at this list and don’t forget about it. This is why you’re doing this. This is why you want to change.
So, what’s your why?
I’d love to hear what’s motivating you to stop drinking. Be very, very specific!
You know that drinking is bad for you.
You hear the warnings. You understand the health risks. You also know that alcohol has some other, unpleasant side effects: it drains your wallet, it makes you do things you regret, and it leaves you feeling awful the next day.
But there’s something else that booze does. It’s something you might not know about, or you might try to not think about.
Alcohol really affects your appearance.
Booze seriously undermines your attempts at health and beauty, leaving its mark on your face and body.
The good news is that sobriety has the opposite effect. It will make you look GREAT! It’s better than any expensive face cream or beauty treatment, and it works its magic pretty quickly.
If you need some motivation to stay on the wagon this week, let’s talk about the vanity argument for quitting drinking…
The weight loss
A large glass of wine contains approximately 200 calories. That’s the same as eating a doughnut. A bottle of wine is the equivalent of three doughnuts. THREE!
When I was drinking, I could quite easily knock back an entire bottle of wine, plus a beer or two afterwards – that’s almost 1,000 calories. And then there was all the other junk food that I’d eat the next day… This article tells you how long you’d need to spend on the treadmill in order to burn off those wine calories.
If you’re watching your weight during the day – and doing your best to stick to a healthy diet – don’t ruin it by pouring calories down your neck at night. An alcohol-free lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for your health and waistline.
Whilst you can try and counteract the alcohol calories by dragging yourself to the gym the next day, the one thing you can’t do much about is your skin. Alcohol dehydrates the skin and reduces its elasticity. It also increases redness and can make you look puffy and bloated.
Dr Jairo Rodriguez, a New York-based nutritionist, puts it like this, “Alcohol is one of the worst, most aggressive compounds in destroying your skin. I always joke with patients, ‘If you want to get older, go ahead and drink!’” Some dermatologists claim it can take a month for your skin to get over a hangover.
It’s no wonder that celebrities like Jennifer Lopez don’t drink for this exact reason. Even Robson Green has given up booze for the sake of his appearance! This Drinking Mirror app shows you what your face will look like if you continue drinking at current levels. (It’s not the most sophisticated app I’ve ever seen, but you get the idea.) The Daily Mail put Beyonce and Jennifer Aniston through the same test here.
How much would you pay for a moisturiser that could make you look younger, reduce puffiness, clear dark circles and give you great skin? I think most people would hand over quite a bit of cash for that. Well, sobriety is free. If you’re in any doubt about the benefits of giving up a toxic poison packed with chemicals, take a photo of yourself just before you quit.
When I coach women to stop drinking, one of the first things I ask them to do is to take a selfie. Six weeks later, they take another. (If you’re thinking of stopping drinking, make sure you do this too.) Here’s what some of my April 2017 students discovered:
“People have commented about how slim my face is but also how my skin is really good.”
“My eyes look clearer than when I was drinking. And I look less tired.”
“The rosacea on my cheeks is almost non-existent and my skin looks soooo much better and less dry.”
“People are saying my skin looks smoother and my eyes sparklier! I’ve also lost 10lbs.”
Don’t underestimate how much you might change – take a look at this article for some impressive before and after pictures.
Just take a moment to think about all the things you do in order to look good.
Maybe you’re paying for a pricey gym membership. Maybe you have a personal trainer. Perhaps your dressing table is cluttered with anti-ageing creams or your wardrobe is bulging with too many clothes. Maybe you spend a small fortune getting your nails done or your hair blow dried.
We’re always trying to be the best versions of ourselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s worth pointing out that if you really do care about how you look – if you’re prepared to invest time and money in your appearance – then logically, you should care about your alcohol intake too.
And if alcohol is affecting the way you look and feel, consider taking a proper break from booze. Who knows … it might just be one of the best things you ever do.
These days, my Monday mornings feel pretty good.
But not so long ago, they used to be about coping. Coping with a hangover. Coping with the guilt of another wasted weekend. Coping with work, when I didn’t feel at all rested or ok. Coping with the pressure of promising myself that this week would be different, that this week I would be good.
If you can relate, you’re not alone. Today I’m answering a question from Lisa, who writes:
“Most weeks I manage not to drink from Monday to Thursday, and I feel pretty good about that. But I can’t get through the weekend without drinking. I start on Friday night and then it’s all downhill from there. By Sunday I’m always so annoyed at myself for wasting the weekend.”
So how do you weekend-proof your sobriety? Here are my tips.
Keep your eye on the prize
Take a moment to visualise, in detail, what you’d like next weekend to be like. How would you love to feel and what would you love to be doing?
My alcohol-free weekends are approximately 100 times more interesting than my old, boozy ones. I love waking up on a Saturday morning and going for a run, rather than moping around the house, feeling anxious about how much I drank the night before. I like knowing that I will have time to do the things that need to get done (rather than leaving it up to fate to see what I’ll be able to manage with a hangover).
I enjoy the feeling of real-life relaxation. It is sooo much better than falling for the illusion of the alcohol-induced version (that fake high that lifts you up and then brings you crashing down at 3am). Best of all, I love that I am no longer wishing my life away, by obsessing over drinking or not drinking all the time.
Life gives us so many opportunities, but it’s hard to spot them when you’ve got your wine goggles on. If you work hard from Monday to Friday, then you deserve two proper days off at the weekend. You deserve to feel good and to enjoy your time off. Don’t let alcohol rob you of that. Decide now: what will this coming weekend look like for you?
Plan an alternative Friday night
How are you feeling by 5pm on a Friday? Most of us are pretty knackered and worn out! You will find sobriety hard if you just try and white knuckle through the evening, ignoring how you’re feeling. A much better plan of action is to decide – in advance – what you’re going to do to take care of yourself.
Cravings are nearly always a clue that you need something. More often than not, they’re a sign that you’re tired, hungry, thirsty or stressed out. So make a plan for that. You know alcohol doesn’t genuinely relax you – just think about how stressed you are after a few days of drinking. There are plenty of other lovely, relaxing things you can do instead.
Maybe you go to a Friday night yoga class. Maybe you go swimming or sit in the jacuzzi. Maybe you watch a movie and order a takeaway. Maybe you have a bath, watch some TV, curl up with a book or go to bed early. Maybe you invite a friend round for dinner (you could always prep the food in advance, so it’s all done). Maybe you tick a few chores off your to do list, keep yourself busy and get on top of things. Think about what might work for you next Friday night, and start planning it now.
Get clear on what a good ‘treat’ is
You often hear people say things like, “I’ll have this glass of wine – it’s a Friday night treat.” Or, “Go on – treat yourself! It’s the weekend after all.” You get the gist. Somewhere along the way we picked up this idea that wine isn’t good for us (correct) but instead of deciding not to invite it into our lives, we decided to make it a ‘treat’ instead. We’ve glorified and romanticised alcohol to a point where we’ve almost forgotten that we’re talking about a cancer causing drug. We forget that ethanol is the same thing we fuel our cars with, or strip paint with.
This weekend, make a list of things that could genuinely feel like a treat for you. Maybe it’s curling up with a book, catching up with friends, a spa treatment or going out for brunch. Think about how you can treat yourself with high quality experiences, not drugs.
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 wine at home and I didn’t even WANT a glass.” They feel like that because they got clear on what is a treat and what’s not.
Remember, there’s nothing magical about Mondays!
If you do slip up, start over immediately. Don’t write the weekend off as a failure or give yourself a free pass to drink through the rest of it.
I understand the idea that a new week = a new start. Monday is nearly always the day when we begin new diets and fitness regimes etc! But I also know that there’s nothing magical about Mondays. In fact, for many of us, Monday is one of the busiest, toughest days of the week! It’s just as easy to start over on a Saturday or a Sunday (or a Wednesday or whenever).
If your drinking is making you miserable, then the best time to stop is always right now. Right this second.
And now a question for you…
One of the best things about alcohol-free weekends is all the time you get back. Suddenly, you can find yourself doing stuff you would never have done before (hello, Sunday morning yoga class…). What do you do with all your spare time during your sober weekends? What do you love most about them? Let me know, because your experiences are bound to inspire others.
Picture the scene: it’s your best friend’s birthday and you’ve been dragged out for drinks. You’re hovering near the bar, trying to discreetly order something alcohol-free without anyone noticing.
Just as you start to think you’ve got away with it, someone leans over and says, “Is that … sparkling water? Why are you drinking THAT?”
Heads turn in your direction. People frown with confusion.
Are you ill, they ask? Has something happened? Why aren’t you drinking? Why, why, WHY? What possible reason could there be for actually choosing to socialise sober *shudder*?
The chances are you will have to deal with some version of this scenario, at some point.
But the good news is that with a little preparation, you can stop those ‘hope-the-ground-swallows-me-up’ moments from being such a big deal. You can close down the conversation and move on (without having to tell the whole bar about your drinking history).
First – a big picture overview
It’s completely up to you what you do and don’t say.
Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to remember that it is no one else’s business whether you’re drinking or not! Other people might think they have some right to know, but they really don’t. You are in complete control here. You don’t owe anyone an explanation – not even your oldest drinking buddy. If you decided to cut out caffeine or gluten or meat, you wouldn’t seek their approval. This is exactly the same. You’re a grown up and you get to make your own decisions.
Some people genuinely won’t care.
I think you’ll be surprised how often this happens. If you’ve been obsessing about your drinking for a while, it’s easy to assume that everyone else is also obsessed. But there are lots of people out there who really don’t care whether you drink or not – even some heavy drinkers have an ‘each to their own’ attitude. And some people will just be too wrapped up in themselves to even notice what you have in your glass.
Other people’s reactions have very little to do with you.
The way people respond says an awful lot about them, and their drinking, their prejudices and their fears. But it says so little about you. It’s not something you can control, so don’t waste your energy worrying about it.
People will say stupid things.
When it comes to alcohol, most people are poorly educated. Their beliefs are based on stereotypes, myths and Facebook memes. People will say silly, clumsy things not because they’re trying to hurt you, but because they don’t know any better.
You won’t lose your real friends.
Yes, some people will be surprised by your decision and they may need a bit of time to adjust. But you’ll soon discover who your real friends are. Long term, they’re the ones who stick around and don’t care what’s in your glass, because they like you for who you really are.
How you feel about this WILL change.
Eventually, you won’t feel so bothered about this stuff. There will come a point where it feels natural and right to offer up a truthful explanation about why you’re no longer drinking. But the chances are that in early sobriety, you aren’t ready for that yet. So for now, just say whatever feels the most comfortable. Here are a few ideas.
~ Possible responses ~
For people who know you, and expect you to be drinking:
- “No thanks, I don’t feel like drinking today.”
- “No thank you – I’m taking a month off drinking and I’m loving it. I feel great!”
- “I’m doing a six week, no-alcohol challenge with some friends at work.”
- “I’ve had one too many heavy nights recently. I’m an all or nothing person and it’s time for a break.”
- “I’m driving.”
- “I’m trying to lose weight.”
- “I’m too tired.”
- “I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
- “I’ve been feeling run down, so I’m cutting out alcohol for a while.”
- “I’m on antibiotics.”
- “I’m training for a race.”
- “I’ve booked an early morning fitness class.”
- “I’m not feeling very well today.”
For nosy strangers:
- “I don’t drink.” (Those three little words are a complete answer.)
- “None for me thanks – but I’d really love a lime soda if you’ve got one?”
- “I just don’t like the taste.”
- “Alcohol gives me a headache.”
- “I couldn’t deal with the hangovers.”
For rude and annoying people:
- “I’m having way too much fun sober to waste my time drinking again. I feel amazing!”
- “I think I’m fabulous just the way I am, don’t you?”
- “I caught myself pestering other people to drink, and I realised I had some issues with my own alcohol intake.”
- “This is something I’m doing for myself and I don’t let other people pressure me into drinking.”
- “I care about my health way too much to drink that toxic stuff. Have you heard about the cancer risk?”
- “Sorry, didn’t you hear me? No I don’t want a drink. I’d love a sparkling water though, I find it really helps me mind my own business. Would you like one?”
Whatever you decide to say…
Do it with confidence. Really own it. Don’t apologise for not drinking. Never, ever be apologetic. And remember, less is more. There’s no need to say too much.
Now I’d love to hear how you deal with this.
How do you handle people pressuring you to drink? Have you got any great responses or excuses that I’ve missed off the list? Perhaps there’s a smart one-liner that you use time and time again… Please let me know in the comments!
What do you do when the idea of stopping drinking fills you with fear – but the thought of staying as you are feels just as scary?
I know what it’s like to be in that frustrating, limbo state, wondering how to move forwards.
On the one hand, you hate the hangovers – you’re tired of waking up at 4am and promising yourself that tonight, ‘it’ll be different’. But on the other hand… you can’t imagine not drinking. You just can’t picture a life without alcohol in it.
And then there’s the fear…
Fear of going for it and making a change. Fear of failure, fear of looking like a fool, fear of the unknown. And yet, there’s also the fear of not making the move. The fear of looking back on your life with regret. The fear of letting life pass you by, and knowing you were too afraid to do anything about it.
This messy middle – where you feel stuck between two equally scary options – is confusing, exhausting, and totally normal. The good news is that it’s also a sign you’ve reached a bit of a tipping point. In the words of Brené Brown: “The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”
This week’s blog is all about the 4 things you can do to make navigating the messy middle a little easier…
“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it…”
~ Steven Pressfield
The rational, logical part of us knows that deciding not to consume ethanol is a wise decision; when you think about all the frightening health consequences of drinking, sobriety is considerably less scary than continuing to drink. And yet, the thought of going alcohol-free generates a sense of fear in the pit of your stomach.
The most important thing to know is that fear of sobriety isn’t a sign that you should stay as you are! Fear is a natural instinct, designed to protect us and help us survive. But there’s a big difference between the kind of fear that keeps you safe when you’re crossing the road, and the kind of fear that just keeps you stuck in your comfort zone.
Rather than letting yourself be paralysed by fear, use it as a sign that something precious is at stake; it means you’re working on something that really matters and you’re doing the right thing.
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
~ Marian Wright Edelman
Your world is made up of the experiences you’ve had, the things you see every day, and the people you’re surrounded by. And it’s incredibly difficult to see beyond the edges of that world.
If you’ve been drinking for years and years – and you’re surrounded by people who love alcohol and romanticise it – then you’re bound to think that sobriety is dull, miserable or a last resort. But the truth is, you’ve only experienced half the story! If you think alcohol-free living is boring, the chances are you’re coming at it from the wrong place. You owe it to yourself to explore sobriety properly and learn about what alcohol can and cannot do.
You can start by reading sober memoirs and blogs – see what kind of lives these people have. What kind of mindset shifts have they made? Follow sober celebrities; are they having a terrible time, missing out on life? I don’t think so! Fill up your social media feed with people who aren’t obsessed with booze and who love alcohol-free living. (You can find me on Instagram here). Be open to the idea that life could be a hell of a lot better without alcohol in it.
“When your why is big enough you will find your how.”
~ Les Brown
Get clear on your why.
If you really want to make this change happen, you’ve got to get emotionally connected to why this is important to you. Keep those reasons front and centre every day.
Don’t just think about this stuff – write it down. I’m a big believer in getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. When it’s all in your head it tends to be a jumbled-up mess and it’s easy to forget.
Go into as much detail as possible. Don’t just put “I hate feeling hungover”. You’ve got to tease out the important, personal details. Maybe you hate being unable to remember what you said to your partner; perhaps your children have commented on your drinking and it stung.
Keep this list somewhere you can access easily. You’ll want to keep referring back to this.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt
Start before you’re ready.
If you wait until you feel ‘ready’ to stop drinking, you’re going to be waiting for a very long time. Sometimes you have to force change to happen by taking action.
I’ve coached hundreds of women through early sobriety, and I’ve noticed that very few of them have experienced some kind of lightening-bolt moment. Rarely is someone 100% ‘ready’. More often than not, it’s about paying attention to a nagging feeling and listening to that little part of you that suspects life without alcohol might be better than life right now.
If you’re regularly drinking too much, and it’s making you feel miserable, then that’s all you really need to know. That’s the only sign you need. All you need to do is set a short-term goal and be prepared to take action. It’s all about baby steps – there’s no need to think about the big picture just yet.
Are you stuck in the messy middle right now?
Or perhaps you’ve just come out the other side. Either way, I’d love to hear how you’re pushing through it and what action you’ve been taking to shift out of feeling stuck.
What are you afraid of when you think about alcohol-free living? How could you use that fear to guide your next steps? Let me know in the comments below!
Have a great week,