I watched a movie over the weekend that I hadn’t seen for ages: Groundhog Day. Do you remember it?
The basic premise is, the hero (played by Bill Murray) keeps making mistakes that result in some sort of disaster… and so he keeps living the same day over and over again.
It’s a feel-good Hollywood film, so in the end he figures out what he’s doing wrong, gets the girl and breaks the cycle.
Now you may be wondering… what has Groundhog Day got to do with alcohol-free living?!
Well, it got me thinking about habits. When it comes to sobriety, there’s a pretty valuable takeaway from Bill Murray’s struggle that we could all learn from…
We are creatures of habit!
Most of us live the same day over and over. We go through similar routines, day in, day out, often on autopilot. When it comes to sobriety, your habits and routines throughout the day can set you up for failure or set you up for success.
Now’s the time to get clear on whether your day-to-day habits are helping or hindering your chances of staying alcohol-free.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
What habits could you programme into your day to make sobriety easier?
Think about the reasons why you drink. What triggers you? What could you do to either a) reduce that trigger in the first place or b) help yourself to deal with it better?
Here are some examples of healthy habits that will help you stay sober:
Don’t check your email first thing. If you’re reading work emails whilst lying in bed, you’re going to get stressed out quickly. When you’re feeling overwhelmed before your feet even touch the floor, you’re more likely to ditch your alcohol free goals later on.
Take a lunch break. Get some fresh air and go for a walk. Do not eat lunch over your desk.
Set a reminder on your phone so you remember to drink plenty of water late afternoon and have a small snack. Don’t let yourself get hungry or thirsty as this makes cravings worse.
Rethink your commute. Rather than viewing it as a necessary evil, turn it into something useful. Enjoy the time to yourself and make the most of the headspace. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Keep a gratitude diary. Could you walk part of it? Do something that makes you feel good, so you start to decompress before you get home.
Let me know…
Is there a part of your daily routine that you’ve changed to make sobriety easier or your life better? What are you working on right now? Let us know in the comments 🙂
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What happens when you stop drinking? I’d always imagined my life would remain pretty much the same as it always had been.
I figured I’d still be the same person, doing the same things, living the same life… just minus the booze.
How wrong I was.
Removing a mind-altering, time-sucking, hangover-inducing, anxiety-creating, mood-destroying drug from your life turns your world upside down… in a good way!
Sobriety brings with it some surprising side effects 🙂
1. You become easily pleased
There will come a time when you return home after a bad day and find yourself massively cheered up by a bubble bath and an early night. You – the person who used to need an entire bottle of wine to switch off – are happy with a cup of tea and a good book.
Even though you sometimes worry that it sounds a bit sad and nerdy, you don’t really care because a) you’ve finally mastered the art of self care and b) you feel so awesome in the morning.
2. Your productivity levels go through the roof
When you’re trying to function through the fog of a hangover, just getting to work on time feels like an achievement. When you stop drinking, you acquire a new superpower: the ability to get stuff done.
The problems that used to have you diving face first into a glass of wine just get dealt with, and you begin to wonder how on earth you ever managed before.
3. Your tastebuds change
Herbal tea? Infused water? All that flowery, namby pamby stuff that you used to hate? Well, you will probably start drinking that.
A lot of people find their sense of smell and taste improves in sobriety, so you can pick up subtler flavours. When meal times are about eating rather than drinking, you have a new appreciation for good food.
4. You can basically eat what you fancy
A bottle of wine contains around 600 calories – that’s the equivalent of eating three doughnuts. When alcohol stops sabotaging your weight loss efforts, it’s a lot easier to lose a few pounds without having to be super strict with your diet.
Plus, the fact that you’re not hungover all the time means you’re far more likely to do some exercise and actually stick to your workout goals.
5. Some friendships may change
There’s no avoiding this one: you will have friends who feel unsettled by your decision to change. Maybe they think you’re overreacting or they miss having you as a drinking buddy. Don’t worry about this.
Some people will drift away, but your real friends will stick around, or move in closer. Sobriety is a great filter for your life – it helps you get clear on who and what should be in your world.
6. You realise you’re not quite who you thought you were…
Alcohol-free living forces you to go against the grain and stop following the crowd. If you’ve spent a lifetime trying to ‘fit in’ and stay under the radar, you might find that suddenly, you’re not so bothered about that anymore.
One of the top regrets of the dying is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself”. Now’s your chance to make sure that happens.
7. You discover you’re capable of far more than you knew
When you stop drinking – and you achieve something you thought you couldn’t do – something shifts within you. I’ve seen this time and time again with the women I coach.
Once you’ve overcome one big challenge, it forces you to reassess a lot of other stuff you’d previously dismissed as ‘impossible’. Who knows what you’ll tackle next – the possibilities are endless 🙂
Let me know:
What’s surprised you in sobriety? No matter where you are in your alcohol-free journey, I’d love to hear what unexpected side effects you’ve noticed!
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I used to make promises like this ALL the time. Sometimes I’d stick to my plan for a few days – and sometimes I’d change my mind within a few hours.
It was all too easy to give up on my sober goals and delay them until next week or next month. 😕
Perhaps you can relate?
It was ages before I realised that I’d been forgetting to include something very, very important in the goal setting process: ACCOUNTABILITY.
Why accountability works
When you have someone – or something – keeping you accountable to your goals, it can be incredibly powerful. You dramatically increase the odds of you staying committed and following through on your promises.
Studies have shown that when you share your goals with others, you’re twice as likely to achieve them than if you keep the goals to yourself.
It makes sense, right? When you’re being kept accountable, you can’t just quit when things get tough. You can’t dismiss your goals or pretend they never really existed. You have to figure things out and stay committed to them.
Before you start
Make sure you pick a clear and achievable sober goal. Big, vague goals rarely work and a ‘forever’ commitment can be terrifying. Deciding that you’re quitting for good is almost impossible to picture, so your brain starts wavering on the commitment and you feel overwhelmed.
Instead, I recommend making a firm commitment for a shorter period of time – somewhere between 40 and 100 days is ideal. Let your brain teach your brain that you ARE good at staying committed and sticking to your word.
How to add accountability
Feel free to try out some or all of the following:
Sign a commitment contract
This is a binding agreement that you sign with yourself to ensure you follow through on your goals. Stickk.com is a website that allows you to set up a commitment contract and put some teeth behind it by adding a monetary value!
This means you have to hand over cash if you don’t follow through. You decide in advance where the money goes to – just imagine how motivating it would be to pick a person or organisation that you really don’t want to give any money to!
Ask someone to keep you accountable
This can be really powerful if you pick the right person – it needs to be someone you trust and respect. One of the women on my stop drinking course asked her best friend to check in with her on a daily basis, so she had an extra layer of accountability in early sobriety.
Every morning, her friend would text to ask, “did you stick to your alcohol-free plan yesterday?” My client knew she’d never lie to her friend and she couldn’t stand the idea of having to reply with a ‘no’. It turned out to be a really strong deterrent!
Stay accountable to a group
I’d strongly recommend seeking out some kind of support group. This doesn’t have to be face to face – online communities are also incredibly motivating. My stop drinking course is a group coaching programme for this very reason.
When you’re working on a goal at exactly the same time as everyone else, you feel accountable to the group. And if you’re struggling, being able to reach out to other people who get it – but are ploughing on regardless – is very inspiring.
Use a habit tracker
Apps like Sober Time or Productive will help you keep a day-by-day record of specific goals. There’s something strangely powerful about tracking your progress and seeing the days add up – you will not want to break a winning streak!
Plan exciting rewards
Staying accountable isn’t just about avoiding negative consequences – positive reinforcement is a great method for staying accountable as well.
I’m a big believer in splurging on sober treats, because when you stop drinking, you free up some serious time and cash. So, go on – treat yourself. Don’t just celebrate the big goal – honour the smaller milestones along the way as well.
How do you stay committed?
Leave a comment below and let us know how you’ve kept yourself accountable to your alcohol-free goals, or if you have any tips to share! 🙂
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Whether you’re jetting off on holiday or enjoying the heatwave at home, this is a great time of year to get lost in a book.
You don’t have to be ready to quit drinking in order to gain a lot from reading books about sobriety. In fact, that’s kind of the point – simply hearing other people’s stories can help move you from “I can’t ever imagine quitting” to “if they’re happy sober, maybe I will be too…”
When I was thinking about quitting drinking, no one in my ‘real life’ seemed to get how I was feeling about alcohol. Struggling with your drinking can be a very isolating experience, but seeing your story reflected in someone else’s can be so powerful.
These brilliant books about sobriety have all been read and loved by my students, so I’m confident they will inspire and motivate you too.
Kick The Drink ~ Jason Vale “One of the biggest advantages to being free is the ability to remember everything, every part, every second of this precious life and always be in full control with the knowledge you are seeing everything with a clear head”.
Mrs D Is Going Without ~ Lotta Dann “Since I took the alcohol away, slowly but surely every aspect of my life has gotten better. This really is super cool, given that things didn’t appear particularly bad from the outside when I was boozing. Only after I put down the wineglass did I start to realise what a big impact my habitual drinking was having on all corners of my life.”
The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober ~ Catherine Gray “Drunk bonding is like a glue stick. It’s cheap and it sticks quickly. But it’s also easily torn asunder. Whereas sober bonding is more like cement. It takes a heck of a lot longer to set. More effort. But once it’s there, it’s solid as a rock. Ain’t no shifting that bad boy.”
The Sober Diaries ~ Clare Pooley “I used wine to wind down, to rev up, to celebrate, to commiserate, to socialise and for my ‘me time’. But then the day came when I realised I couldn’t do any of those things – relax, party, de-stress – without the wine.”
This Naked Mind ~ Annie Grace “I love the fact I don’t need to stop at the liquor store to enjoy my evening. And while everyone has bad days, mine have become fewer and easier to deal with. I no longer make one bad day into two by getting drunk and spending the day after with a hangover. It’s time for you to find that same freedom.”
The Sober Revolution ~ Lucy Rocca “The short-term fix of sinking a bottle of plonk will NOT grant you happiness – guaranteed. The only way you can achieve that is to determine to navigate your way through the initial challenges that life throws at you alcohol-free, thus building up your inner emotional strength.”
Sober Is The New Black ~ Rachel Black “Alcohol is the boss and will continue its takeover of your life to the detriment of everything else. It becomes the dominating force. Life as you know it becomes increasingly compromised… this is the time to recognise that alcohol can no longer stay in your life.”
Alcohol Explained ~ William Porter “As things became increasingly desperate I turned to Alcoholics Anonymous thinking it would further the understanding I was looking for. Unfortunately it didn’t. Alcoholics Anonymous is essentially a spiritual programme. It is based on the premise that God will provide a solution. This is fine if you’re looking for a spiritual answer, but I wasn’t.”
Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety ~ Sacha Z. Scoblic “What I was really thinking was: Don’t even for a minute think I’m vanilla because the truth is I am so hard-core I had to quit. I drank so much it was a matter of life and death. I’m like a rock star compared with you … you should look at me with a touch of fear and awe because I am such a badass you would quiver just to think about the amount of rot gut I’ve ingested over the years. So step off with your preconceived notions, okay?”
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget ~ Sarah Hepola “I thought nothing of spending most evenings in a bar, because that’s what my friends were doing. I thought nothing of mandating wine bottles for any difficult conversation – for any conversation at all – because that’s what I saw in movies and television. Glasses of white wine had become shorthand for honest communication.”
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine ~ Gail Honeyman Ok, so this isn’t a memoir or self help book. It’s a fiction book. But if you’ve ever drank your way through feelings of loneliness, you’ll resonate with this funny and beautifully written novel.
If you feel self conscious reading books about sobriety in public, you could download a digital version onto your kindle or buy an audiobook instead.
If a book doesn’t resonate with you, try another one. You’re bound to connect with some authors more than others. Keep exploring. There are lots of books out there and finding a memoir you love can be life changing.
Remember, there’s no ‘right’ way of getting sober. Read a range of books so you can hear different experiences and perspectives.
Keep every sober book, even the ones you don’t love. I can guarantee there’ll be at least one that leaves you thinking “I don’t get why everyone else likes this.” And then in a few months, or years, you’ll go back to it and bam – you see it in a completely different light.
I’d love to hear your favourite books about sobriety…
Is there something you’ve read and loved that I’ve missed off the list? Let me know in the comments!
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I used to love BBQs when I was drinking; they were the perfect excuse to day drink without feeling like an alcoholic.
The warm weather used to make me crave beer and the idea of watching the sun go down, stone cold sober, seemed unimaginable.
When I stopped drinking, I was surprised to discover that summer parties and BBQs were still fun.
I began to realise that what really mattered was the mood I was in, the people at the party, the food, the atmosphere, the music. Basically, 101 tiny things that I’d never stopped to consider before.
Nowadays, knocking back a beer at a BBQ is as appealing as sipping rat poison; I’d much rather have ice cold fizzy water, a mocktail or a glass of fresh juice. But I can still remember how challenging these events can be in early sobriety.
If you’re about to tackle your first ever sober party, boozy BBQ or wedding this summer, this blog is for you. Here are 10 tips for staying alcohol free (and having a great time!)
1. Decide you’re not going to drink
I know this seems like an obvious one but seriously – do NOT wait until you get there to decide what you’re going to do. A ‘maybe’ or a ‘wait and see’ is nearly always a yes. There’s a lot of freedom in making a firm decision and knowing that you’re going to stick to it, no matter what.
Remember, you can’t figure sobriety out without overcoming a few challenges. Rather than seeing these events as things that are ‘impossible’ to do without drinking, reframe them as a challenge that you will rise up to and overcome.
2. Be positive
A lot of this is about perception – thinking something is true often makes it so. If you decide that it’s going to be an awkward event and you’ll hate it, then guess what? You probably will feel like that!
Stay positive and remember that alcohol is not the secret to having a good time. (If that were true then you should have an amazing time at every single boozy party. But haven’t we all been to events that were boring, no matter how much we drank?)
3. Have something to eat and drink before you go
Feeling hungry or thirsty will exacerbate any cravings you have, and you’ll be more likely to feel tired, grumpy and lethargic. Make life easy on yourself and have something to eat and drink beforehand.
4. Take a drink you love with you
The great thing about BBQs is that you can bring whatever you like with you. Now is not the time to pretend you’re happy drinking lukewarm water or flat diet coke – find something you genuinely love to drink! Being sober does not mean ‘making do’ with boring drinks.
5. Decide what you’re going to bring the host
Are you comfortable taking them a bottle of wine that you’re not going to drink? Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. You could always volunteer to bring some food or non-alcoholic drinks. (A pitcher of something alcohol-free is often very welcome and disappears surprisingly quickly.)
6. Get a drink as soon as you arrive
Keeping a drink in your hand makes it harder for other people to offer you alcoholic drinks, plus it gives you something to do with your hands. Fizzy water and a slice of lemon in a wine glass could easily pass for an alcoholic drink if you don’t want to attract attention.
7. Prepare a response
You’ll be amazed how many people won’t notice that you’re not drinking. Some people just don’t care about this stuff and others are far too wrapped up in themselves. But it’s worth thinking about what you’ll say if someone is being nosy. I made a few suggestions here.
8. Watch the kids
If you catch yourself slipping into a negative state, look at what the kids are doing. The chances are they’re playing games, having a good time and mixing with other children they’ve never met before. They don’t need alcohol in order to have a good time. You were that kid once!
9. Make sure you can leave when you want
Respect your own time and head home when you’re ready. Don’t stay until the bitter end because you feel you have to (or because that’s what you would’ve done when drinking). If you’re tired or you’ve had enough, just go – people won’t care as much as you think. If they’re drunk, they might not even notice! So plan your escape route in advance.
10. Celebrate afterwards
Woo hoo – you did it! You made it through a challenging situation. Take some time out to really acknowledge that, reflect on how things went and congratulate yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. Plan some lovely sober treats for you to enjoy when you get home or the next day.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
What are your tips for staying sober at boozy BBQs, weddings and summer parties? What have been your experiences so far? Let me know below 🙂
This week I’m on holiday enjoying some sun and a chance to relax.
It’s at times like this that I feel particularly grateful not to be battling a hangover, or letting alcohol dull any memories.
I know that if you’re newly sober – or thinking about cutting out booze – the idea of an alcohol free holiday can feel intimidating.
Perhaps you know you need to take a break from drinking, but you’re thinking about putting it off until you get back from your next trip.
I get it.
But speaking as someone who’s been on plenty of booze fuelled breaks – and lots of lovely sober ones – I’d strongly recommend you treat yourself to a holiday without drink!
Honestly, you won’t regret it. Alcohol-free holidays are the BEST. Here’s why:
You’ll come home feeling properly rested
One of the main reasons for going on holiday is to relax and recharge. When you’re drinking, you’re unlikely to come home genuinely refreshed. Instead, you might feel as if you need another break to get over the last one!
We live in a world where alcohol is often mistakenly linked to relaxation. The truth is that a) alcohol doesn’t genuinely relax you – I wrote about that here – and b) holidays are relaxing in their own right. Reading on a sun lounger is relaxing.
You’ll make the most of your holiday
Hangovers are horrible at the best of times. When you’ve travelled abroad, paid to stay somewhere nice and used up your precious annual leave to do so, it’s a shame to waste that time feeling rubbish. You did not travel thousands of miles across the world in order to spend your trip nursing a headache.
You’ll learn a lot about yourself
After I stopped drinking, I realised that I needed to do more on holiday than sunbathe and eat. Don’t get me wrong – I still love doing those things, but 24/7 sunbathing makes me feel a bit restless.
So, since I quit drinking I’ve done a lot more sightseeing on holiday than I used to. I’ve also been on a cycling tour of Croatia, done yoga in Kenya, and right now I’m staying at a resort with some weird and wonderful fitness classes. (I’ve posted pics of this on Instagram)
You’ll be making a key mindset shift
Please don’t fall for the myth that sobriety means missing out or living a life of less. Sobriety is not like being on a diet; it’s not something you can only stick to when you’re at home, living like a hermit. If you’re doing it right, alcohol-free living shouldn’t feel like that.
When you get your head around the idea of a booze-free holiday, you’ll be making a really important mental leap that will set you up for lots of good things in future.
An alcohol-free holiday will be the cheapest upgrade ever!
Ditching booze is a huge upgrade because you’ll come away from your trip with crystal clear, hangover-free memories. You’ll be fully present and living in the moment – and you’ll open yourself up to new, high quality experiences.
One of my students went on holiday recently and used the money she would’ve spent on booze to pay for spa treatments instead. How cool is that? I know someone else who used her first sober holiday to try scuba diving – something she’d always wondered about. She came home with her PADI open water qualification done and dusted.
It’s got to make you wonder… what could happen to you on your first sober holiday?