How has your Dry January gone?
Maybe you’re patting yourself on the back for an angelic, alcohol-free month… but you’re not sure what your next steps should be. Or maybe you’re frustrated because you didn’t quite make it… and now you’re struggling to get back on track.
Whether Dry January has been a good or bad experience for you, the most important thing is what you do next.
And that’s exactly what today’s blog post is all about…
Scenario 1: I’ve had an amazing alcohol-free January! I want to continue with sobriety, but I’m not ready to quit forever yet. What should I do next?
If this is you, then many congratulations on your alcohol-free month! This is something to be really proud of. Here’s what I’d suggest:
Write down how you’re feeling
This is a brilliant time to take stock of the past few weeks. How has alcohol-free living affected your health, happiness, finances, free time, sleep and general self-esteem? Get this stuff out of your head and onto paper. Writing it all down will help you to see things more clearly, plus it will be great to look back on! The improvements will keep on coming 🙂
Pick another short term goal
There is something VERY intimidating about the idea of quitting ’forever’. It’s totally fine not to be ready for that – most people aren’t! You can avoid the overwhelm by simply committing to another short term, achievable goal. If you’ve already got a month under your belt, I’d suggest working towards two months or 100 days.
Now’s a good time to think about what you’ll say if people ask why you’re still not drinking. (It’s actually none of their business, but if you tend to get a bit tongue-tied, you might want to think up some responses in advance – I suggested a few here.) This is also a good opportunity to stock up on books and podcasts about sobriety. Having plenty of inspiring resources close at hand will help keep your momentum going.
Use the money you’re saving on alcohol to buy a lovely sober treat. Splurge on yourself – you deserve it!
Scenario 2: I’ve made it through Dry January, but it’s been a tough month. I’ve been longing for February 1st to roll around – but now I’m wondering if I’ll undo all my hard work by going back to drinking so soon?
Congratulations on making it through the month! You will have learnt so much from these past few weeks. It’s completely up to you what you do next, but I’d suggest following these steps first:
It’s important to reflect on your alcohol-free experiences. Follow the process I outlined in the section above and get your thoughts down on paper. What have been the benefits of stopping drinking? What did you like and not like? Get clear on this.
Double check: did you actually do the work?
In order to stop drinking and feel good about it, you do need to work on your mindset and challenge some of your core beliefs. Otherwise, sobriety is always going to be a willpower battle, where you feel as if you’re missing out all the time, and that’s not fun.
When I coach women to stop drinking, we spend a LOT of time getting clear on the myths, illusions and romanticisation that surrounds this boozy world we live in. It’s so important to do this. Give yourself the chance to do this work before you decide that sobriety isn’t for you.
Know what you’re getting back into bed with
If you decide to go back to drinking, that’s ok – but you do need to know what you’re going back to. After a break, your tolerance to alcohol will be low, so you’ll notice the effects quickly. That can make you feel as if you’ve ‘reset’ your relationship with alcohol, or you’re somehow ‘controlling’ it better. You’re not.
If alcohol is something you’ve pined for over the past month, it won’t take long before you’re back to old habits. If that’s something you’re cool with, then go for it.
Remember that stop-starting can be part of the journey
Right now, I’m in the middle of teaching the January session of my stop drinking course, Getting Unstuck. Some of the women in my class took part in Sober October last year. They quit drinking for a whole month… but decided to go back to booze, thinking it’d be different this time. (It wasn’t.)
Experiences like that can be tough to deal with, but when you take a step back – and look at the bigger picture – you can see that it was all part of their sober journey.
Whilst I’m not encouraging you to drink(!) what I am saying is that often, the journey to alcohol-free living includes some twists and turns. You have some figuring out to do. And all your experiences, good and bad, will help inform what you decide to do in the long term.
Scenario 3: I tried to do Dry January but I crashed and burned. I’m struggling to motivate myself to give this another try.
Keep things in perspective
I am sending you a big virtual hug right now, because I know how tough it is when you “fail” during Dry January. I went through this exact same thing in January 2013. I lasted about a week before falling off the wagon and drinking through the rest of the month. (And February. And March.)
The important thing to note here is that in April 2013, I tried again – properly this time – and I ended up stopping for good. I’ll be five years sober on the 6th April this year! My point is, you can be a Dry January ‘drop out’ and still turn things around.
Learn from your mistakes
I wrote a blog post here all about getting back on track after you’ve been drinking. As painful as it is, you do need to spend some time analysing what happened – that’s how you stop it happening again.
Remember – the firmer your decision, the easier this will be
If you go into a break from booze thinking “Ok, I’m going to try and be good” then you will probably end up drinking. You have to go all in – no ifs, no buts, no “I’ll wait and see how I feel”. The decision fatigue from constantly bargaining with yourself is exhausting and nearly always ends in disaster. Instead, make one, firm promise: no matter what, you are NOT going to drink.
If you’re struggling to figure this all out on your own – and you need some motivation – then look for a community to hold you accountable and help you out. My students always rave about the benefits of being surrounded by people who really ‘get’ them. (You can find out more about my coaching programme here.) Knowing that you’re not alone makes a big, big difference.
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(It’ll help keep you on track tonight)