Fighting Cravings: How To Stop Them In Their Tracks

Fighting Cravings: How To Stop Them In Their Tracks

Cravings are common in early sobriety.

Suddenly, drinking is all you can think about and that little voice in your head whispers, “just one won’t hurt!”

It’s normal to experience cravings. They’re not a sign that you’re weak, flawed or destined for failure. They’re just a sign that you’re changing a habit and you’re feeling it.

I know how tough cravings are to deal with, particularly during the boozy festive season, when there’s so much alcohol around.

So this blog is all about going back to basics. Here are 5 simple strategies for stopping cravings in their tracks:

 

Listen to the craving

Cravings nearly always have something to tell us – they’re often a sign that something is wrong. We need to address the problem, rather than trying to smother it with booze.

Often, the message cravings have for us is that we’re hungry and thirsty. Seriously – it can be that simple. Having a glass of water and a snack can be a simple fix.

 

Play the movie to the end

Close your eyes and picture what will really happen if you have ‘just one drink’. How will you feel later tonight or tomorrow morning? Spend two minutes doing this. Be brutally honest.

The fantasy is always that you’ll be able to control your alcohol use this time – but if you could do that, you would’ve figured out how to do so by now. (I explained why moderation rarely works here).

 

Ask: how will alcohol fix this situation?

Remember, booze doesn’t change things. Whatever you’re drinking to escape will still be there when you sober up (only it’ll be even harder to cope with because you’re hungover).

People always talk about alcohol being ‘relaxing’ and ‘a great stress buster’. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who feels calm and stress free the morning after drinking too much.

 

Change your surroundings

Get outside and go for a walk. You could run off your cravings, or swim away from them, or sweat them out in hot yoga. Even something simple like a hot bath or shower helps.

Cravings are often a sign that we need a break and some headspace. Forcing yourself to change your surroundings can help satisfy this need.

 

If all else fails, strike a deal

Agree that you’ll reconsider the situation – tomorrow morning. Deciding to drink again is a big deal, so you’ll want to sleep on it first. You’re simply postponing the decision.

It’s unlikely you’ll wake up in the morning and think “I should’ve drunk last night!” But if you do, well – you know what to do! At least you’ll be making that decision in the cold light of day.

 

Bonus tip: don’t forget to do the deep work

Consider the tips above as emergency first aid. They’ll help you get out of a craving when you’re in one – but for long term, happy sobriety you really do need more of a strategy.

Focus on building a solid sober foundation for yourself. This means educating yourself about alcohol and addiction, learning new coping mechanisms and tackling the root causes behind your drinking.

(This is the kind of work we do in my stop drinking course, Getting Unstuck)

 

Let me know…

How do you deal with cravings? If there’s something that helps you stay on track during difficult times, I’m sure other people would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!

 

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How To Survive The Boozy Festive Season

How To Survive The Boozy Festive Season

As the song goes, it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year’… but it’s also the booziest.

There are parties to navigate, family gatherings and endless occasions where we’re encouraged to ‘celebrate’ with everyone’s favourite drug – alcohol.

This will be my 6th sober Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it.

I consider sobriety to be a lifestyle upgrade – I don’t want hangovers spoiling my fun (or making this hectic time of year any harder than it already is!)

But I haven’t always felt this confident.

I know December can be a challenging month if you’ve recently quit drinking or you’re trying to drink less, so I wanted to share some tips on how to navigate the silly season, sober 🙂

 

1) Decide you’re not going to drink

I know this sounds so obvious, but seriously – don’t just ‘wait and see’ how you feel. A ‘maybe’ nearly always ends up being a yes (you just do a lot of dithering first!)

Before each event, decide in advance whether you’re going to drink or not. Once the decision is made, move on. You’ve done the thinking bit – now it’s time to take action.

 

2) Be positive

Stamp out any thoughts about being a sober loser or missing out. If you keep telling yourself that you’re going to be bored because you’re AF, then guess what? That probably will happen.

Focus on everything you have to gain from showing up as your awesome, alcohol-free self. And think about how great you’ll feel afterwards – you’ll be so proud.

 

3) Act like a non smoker

What I mean by this is own your sobriety. There’s no need to go around apologising for not drinking. (Would you apologise for not smoking? Or not eating meat? I don’t think so.)

You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you might want to prepare a response incase the ‘why aren’t you drinking’ question comes up. Click here for a few ideas.

 

4) Get clear on what each event is about

In this boozy world of ours, it’s easy to forget that parties are about more than drinking. What they’re really about are humans coming together to connect, socialise and have fun.

Your Christmas meal is about spending time with family. And that work party is about celebrating with colleagues (people who, FYI, you spend most of your time with sober!)

 

5) Plan your drinks

This isn’t the time to be making do with any old drink or leaving things to chance. You deserve to celebrate with something special too! Take control of your drinks and plan ahead.

If you’re going to a party, offer to supply the alcohol free drinks. You’ll be amazed how quickly they disappear – other people will appreciate having some non-boozy options.

 

6) Keep doing the basics

What’s helped you get this far? Maybe there’s a special mocktail you rely on at wine o’clock, a blog you love or a podcast you listen to on your way to work. Keep these habits going.

Whilst your regular routine is likely to be disrupted over Christmas, staying in contact with your sober world will help keep you focused and in the right mindset.

 

7) Give yourself permission to say no

When you’re truly prioritising your sobriety, there’s nothing that you really ‘have’ to do. You CAN leave early, you can stay at home and you can just say no.

A few hurt feelings are an acceptable price to pay if it keeps you alcohol free. Whenever you feel you ‘have’ to do something, ask yourself – will this matter a month from now, or a year from now?

 

8) Don’t give alcohol all the power

It’s not what’s in your glass that dictates the success of an evening – it’s the mood you’re in before you go, the people you’re with, the atmosphere, the music and 101 other things!

Drinking at a bad party just means you’re drunk at a bad party. Booze isn’t what makes the festive season special. All it can do is help you numb out from your one and only life.

 

9) Keep things in perspective

In a few short weeks, this will all be over. In many ways, the festive season is just like any other time of year. There are good bits, bad bits and bits that are just ok. 

If this is your first sober Christmas, take some time out to think about how you want to feel by the time we hit the New Year. You haven’t come this far to only come this far – right?

 

10) Treat yourself

I say this to my students all the time – just because you’re sober, it doesn’t mean you need to be ‘on’ 24/7. Don’t skip the downtime you’d get if you were drinking. You’re not superwoman!

You deserve lots of sober treats and rewards, because having the courage to go against the grain is something that should be celebrated. Take extra good care of yourself – you’re awesome 🙂

 

Let me know…

What are the tips and tricks that get you through this crazy, boozy time of year? What will you be focusing on over the coming weeks? Leave me a note in the comments – I know so many people head there for encouragement and support.

 

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33 Easy Steps To Stop Drinking Alcohol

33 Easy Steps To Stop Drinking Alcohol

When you’re worried about your drinking, it can often feel as if you’re the only person on the planet who struggles with alcohol.

But you’re really not alone.

In today’s blog, I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned from working with hundreds of women who want to stop drinking.

When it comes to quitting, I’ve noticed many of us follow a spookily similar path… and make the exact same mistakes! 🤦‍♀️

There’s no gloss, no judgement, no inspirational buzzwords in this blog – just 33 ‘steps’ I think you might be VERY familiar with…

How many of these have you done?

 

33 Easy Steps To Stop Drinking Alcohol…

1. Wake up with a hangover and decide you’re thoroughly fed up of feeling like this.

2. Pour any remaining alcohol down the sink and promise yourself you will be good tonight. In fact, you’re going to turn over a completely new leaf.

3. Start planning your Healthy New Life. As well as quitting drinking, you vow to run every day, cut out sugar and carbs, do yoga, meditate and cook your meals from scratch.

4. Log on to Amazon to buy a book about stopping drinking. Notice the ‘frequently purchased together with’ section. Buy 12 more.

5. Wake up the next day feeling more human. Feel immensely proud and confident about operation Healthy New Life for about five minutes.

6. Have a nightmare day at work. Decide to scrap the diet at 11am. Spend the afternoon wondering whether to buy red or white wine on the way home.

7. Groundhog day. Wake up at 4am with a pounding headache. Feel exhausted yet unable to sleep.

8. Decide that trying to cut out alcohol completely is too extreme. Google ‘how to drink less’.

9. Read 25 articles containing the same few pieces of guidance. Collect bonus points if they include helpful suggestions like ‘alternate every alcoholic drink with water’ and ‘drink from smaller glasses’.

10. Go to the supermarket to purchase one of those tiny, single-serve bottles of wine. Notice the tiny bottles are on a 3 for 2 offer. Decide that it makes financial sense to purchase all three.

11. Get home, tip one of the small bottles into a glass and chug it back whilst standing at the kitchen counter.

12. Decide that the first glass doesn’t really count. Pour a second, try to drink it slower.

13. Discover (to your amazement) that once you start drinking, it is still really hard to stop. Who can be arsed drinking a glass of water in between each wine?

14. Rush through the kids bath time and bedtime stories so you can get back to drinking.

15. Search the house for more booze. Find some long forgotten about brandy that tastes horrible. Drink it anyway.

16. Fall asleep in front of the TV. Wake up and commence a panicked check of your phone for evidence of calls, texts and Facebook posts you can’t remember.

17. Finally drift back to sleep just before your alarm goes off.

18. Get ready for work. Layer on makeup and use some ‘bright eye’ drops in an attempt to look less dead.

19. Concerned colleagues ask if you’re ok – you’re a bit quiet today and you look tired. Brightly tell them you’re absolutely fine. Isn’t it a lovely day? Would anyone like a coffee? Your acting skills could win you an Oscar.

20. Spend the day sneakily consulting Dr Google about your hangover symptoms. Are you imagining it, or is your liver actually aching? Scare yourself by reading about all the health risks of drinking.

21. Start googling the health benefits of drinking in order to make yourself feel better. Sure, alcohol is linked to at least 7 types of cancer, but look at the antioxidants in red wine! Decide that you really, really care about antioxidants.

22. Check your bank balance. Wonder where on earth your money goes. Try to work out how much cash you’d save if you quit drinking.

23. The Amazon books arrive. Read a few pages of one memoir and decide you have nothing in common with the author. Hide the rest under your bed.

24. Fill out a ‘Am I drinking too much’ questionnaire online. Feel surprised by the result but decide that you must have exaggerated some of your answers. Take the test again.

25. Crowdsource opinions on your drinking. Friends are confused and horrified at the idea of you drinking less. You can’t have a problem, they reason. You drink exactly the same as us!

26. Ask your partner for advice, knowing that they’ve seen you at your worst. They know about the late night secret drinking on the sofa. “Why don’t you just… drink less?” they suggest, helpfully.

27. Feel annoyed that no one understands you. You’re certain that you’re not a ‘normal drinker’ but you’re not an alcoholic either.

28. Head out for drinks with the girls. They’re relieved you’ve forgotten all about that sobriety nonsense. Hurrah for cocktails! Drinking is so FUN.

29. Decide to give up on giving up. Life is too short for this. Resign yourself to a lifetime of hangovers.

30. Wake up face down on your bed, makeup on, half dressed. Look around for your personal belongings. How you got home last night is a mystery.

31. Decide to take the day off work because you feel too sick. You never take days off work. You’ve always made it in before.

32. Watch the movie 28 Days and When A Man Loves A Woman. Sob wildly. Make yourself a solemn promise that you won’t give up again. Realise you still have no idea how to do this stop drinking thing.

33. Return to Step 1. Rinse and repeat.

 

If you’re interested in an alternative approach to stopping drinking…

(One that actually works) get your name on the waiting list for my next course here. The next class starts in January. 

Now what steps have I missed off this list? Please let me know in comments below! 👇

 

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10 Side Effects Alcohol Ads Should Warn You About

10 Side Effects Alcohol Ads Should Warn You About

When I was in Florida last week I watched a bit of TV in the mornings as I got ready for the day.

I’d completely forgotten that in the US, pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise on telly.

I’m fascinated by these ads because a) they’re a bit strange and b) they’re not something I’m used to seeing. In the UK, prescription medication isn’t advertised on TV.

If you’re not familiar with these pharmaceutical ads, here’s how they tend to work:

First, the voiceover asks if a certain ailment has been holding you back. (Cue footage of sad people.)

Next, there’s an invitation to talk to your doctor about whatever the pill is. (Roll footage of happy people, playing tennis, running through fields etc.)

Finally – and this is the bit that always gets me – the voiceover calmly lists a string of potential side effects, which could be as mild as a dry mouth or as serious as sudden death.

Often, the side effects take up most of the advert! By the end of each ad, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would risk taking the medicine.

And this got me thinking…

What if alcohol companies had to list the side effects of drinking in their ads?

After all, alcohol is a drug too.

If we had to listen to a string of side effects at the end of every fancy booze ad, perhaps it’d make us stop and think.

So what kind of side effects would they need to mention? Well, that’s what this blog is all about. 

.
10 side effects alcohol ads should warn you about:

1 – Drinking alcohol may cause extreme sickness and dizziness. You may find it hard to control your body, see clearly, think properly, walk or sit up straight.

2 – Whilst using alcohol your mood may suddenly change. You may feel tearful, paranoid or have the urge to pick a fight for no reason. You may make choices you later regret.

3 – Drinking alcohol can lead to the loss of personal possessions, such as your phone, keys, purse, coat or favourite handbag.

4 – Alcohol use is not recommended for people wishing to lose weight, nor is it suitable for those who want to avoid premature ageing.

5 – If this drug has been recommended to you for stress relief purposes, please note that use of this drug may make the cause of your stress worse in the long run.

6 – Drinking increases your risk of at least 7 types of cancer. Long term alcohol use is also linked to infertility, diabetes, heart and liver disease.

7 – This drug may affect your ability to sleep peacefully. Some users have reported waking up in the early hours of the morning unable to return to deep sleep.

8 – Alcohol may interfere with the way your brain makes memories. During drinking episodes, you may struggle to recall what you said, where you went or what you posted on Facebook…

9 – As you withdraw from this drug, you may experience headaches, depression, anxiety, stomach pain, sickness and strong urges for greasy food and sugary products.

10 – After heavy drinking episodes, you may find it difficult to achieve basic daily tasks such as eating, working or interacting with other humans…

 

Can you imagine…

If alcohol was a pill prescribed to you by your doctor? What would be your reaction to these side effects?

I’m sure most of us would be back at the doctor’s office in no time! We’d be complaining that the side effects were too much.

When it comes to other drugs, we aren’t willing to tolerate much discomfort, so why do we treat alcohol so differently?

 

Let me know…

I bet there are tons more side effects you can think of that I’ve forgotten. What warnings would you add to this list?

 

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Lessons From A Week Of Networking & Socialising Sober

Lessons From A Week Of Networking & Socialising Sober

I’m writing this from Orlando airport as I wait to catch my flight back to the UK.

It’s been a busy few days for me – I’ve attended two different conferences, one in London and one here in Florida. My head is spinning after a week of learning new things and meeting new people.

And to be honest, networking REALLY pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Small talk, chatting to strangers and meeting lots of new people is basically my idea of hell 😬

(The old me would definitely have drunk my way through things like this.)

If you’re struggling to get your head around the idea of socialising sober, this blog is for you. Here are a few things I’ve realised this week:

 

Socialising sober is something we all do – ALL the time!

We tend to associate networking and being social with bars and booze, so it’s no wonder it seems intimidating to do this stuff sober.

However, most of us do an incredible amount of sober socialising every single day, without even realising.

We chat with strangers in business meetings, catch up with friends over coffee, banter with our workmates or talk to people in our yoga class.

So why is it that when the clock strikes 5pm, we fall into the trap of thinking the only way to socialise is with the aid of a drug like alcohol?! It doesn’t make sense.   

 

People can seem more obsessed with drinking than they really are

I paid close attention to what people were saying during my trip. My conferences weren’t sobriety related, so I heard a lot of “We must go for drinks!” and ‘“Let’s catch up in the bar later” etc etc. In early sobriety, I would’ve felt alienated by all the alcohol references.

Nowadays, I realise booze is just part of the way we communicate with one another. Most of the time, people aren’t really saying ‘let’s get wasted’ or ‘you must drink alcohol with me later.’

What they actually mean is, ‘I’d like to spend some time with you.’ But it feels a bit awkward to say that, so instead we opt for something safe like “Let’s go for drinks!”

 

No one noticed what was in my glass

When I first quit, I often felt as if there was a neon sign above my head that said ‘Oi, over here, this person isn’t drinking!’ I worried that I wouldn’t fit in or people wouldn’t trust me if I didn’t drink.

Nowadays, I don’t feel so anxious – mainly because I’ve realised most people don’t notice, or don’t care, what’s in your glass.

During this trip, not a single person commented on what I was drinking. Not one. No one made me feel weird or different, it simply wasn’t an issue.

 

Most people don’t drink that much

I’ve written before about the way our culture’s changing, with teetotalism becoming more mainstream. At both events there was a big focus on going for drinks in the evening, but (in my opinion) no one seemed to be drinking all that much. 

Perhaps people just didn’t want to be hungover the next day. Whatever the reason, I think the old, boozy version me would’ve been very frustrated by how restrained the other drinkers were!

 

Networking is really tiring

It’s great to be heading home knowing that I genuinely had a good time – my emotions weren’t fake or chemically altered in any way. My head is clear and my memory is sharp, but I am SO tired!

In my drinking days, I’d totally ignore feelings like this – I’d just keep going, pushing on to the next thing and the next thing, relying on booze to help me switch off when it all became too much.

As a natural introvert I’ve realised it’s important for my self care to decompress after trips like this. I’m really looking forward to hermiting at home for a bit – and I won’t feel guilty about doing so 🙂

 

Let me know…

What are your experiences of networking and sober socialising? Do you have a great tip that would help me or anyone else in future? I’d love to hear how you manage events that push you out of your comfort zone!

 

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