Claire writes: I was wondering how did you deal with the first six weeks or so? I have changed dinner dates into lunch dates etc to eliminate the risk and I understand how you should keep your blood sugar levels at an even keel to stop the dips but what were your thoughts and how did you bypass the triggers?

Can you help Claire? Are you in the same boat right now? Please share your support and advice in the comments below. Here are my thoughts:

Dear Claire,

I think planning ahead is a key part of dealing with triggers and it sounds as if you’re already doing that. It might seem boring, but being really organised and looking ahead means you can take control of a situation and decide what you’re going to do about it. For example, if you always go out for drinks on a Friday night, now is the time to decide how you’re going to handle that. Will you be happy drinking a soft drink whilst others are on the hard stuff? What will you tell people if they ask why you’re not drinking? (Some people won’t even notice but you might want to think through a few lines in advance). If you don’t think you’ll be up to it then just don’t go. It won’t always feel like this – but right now you need to put yourself first.

Make sure you think about HALT – don’t get hungry, angry, lonely or tired. And I would add ‘don’t get thirsty’ to that list as well, as that can be a real trigger. Try and eat proper meals and go to bed early. If you do get caught up with a craving, drink some water and immediately start another activity that will keep you busy for at least 30 minutes.

Identify your triggers. Ask yourself honestly why you drink. Is it to help you cope with stress? Is it to cheer yourself up? Is it to mark the end of work time and the start of me time? Sit down – when you’re in a good, strong mood – and write down 3 alternative ways you can tackle that feeling. So if you drink because you’re stressed you might write: go for a run, have a bath, phone a friend.

Celebrate often. Every time you get through a difficult situation without picking up a drink, that is worthy of a celebration. Let yourself do whatever you like. If you want to binge watch Netflix or eat pints of ice cream then that’s fine. Give yourself permission to take it easy. You’re not going to turn into a perfect person overnight. Don’t catastrophise and worry that you’re going to replace one addiction with another. (If you’re still mainlining ice cream in 4 months time then fine – you might need to do some work around that – but worry about it then, and not now).

Finally, if you really can’t shake off a craving, make a deal with yourself: you’ll have a drink tomorrow. A good night’s sleep will make all the difference. I can only speak for myself, but I have never, ever, woken up the next day and thought “gosh I wish I’d got really shitfaced last night. I’d be enjoying a painful hangover and lots of guilt right now”.

Good luck!

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