Not long after I’d stopped drinking, a sober friend of mine suggested that I start taking self-care ‘a bit more seriously’.
I winced. The idea of ‘practising self-care’ seemed pretty self-indulgent and cringey.
(Back then, I thought self-care was just about getting manicures and facials – and I couldn’t see what that had to do with not drinking.)
The truth, of course, is that self-care really IS important – especially in early sobriety.
Self-care is about looking after yourself, at a deep level, in a number of areas.
Here are some of the fundamental self-care mistakes I see women drinkers making in early sobriety:
Forgetting to build in relaxation time
For many people, drinking is the start of ‘me time’ and a signal to relax and switch off. Some women quit alcohol and accidentally cut out that ‘me time’ as well – they stop giving themselves permission to relax and chill out like they used to. The problem is, no one can survive like that for long – it makes sobriety really hard work! We all need rest and relaxation. If you found the time to drink, you can definitely find time to do something nice for yourself, like reading a book, having a bath or watching trash TV.
Skipping meals and sleep
It’s no coincidence that we feel the strongest pull to drink at the end of the day, when we’re tired and hungry. Treat yourself to an early night (you’ll be so grateful the next day) and try not to exist solely on sugar and caffeine! Try to eat proper meals and nourishing food. If you’re hungry by late afternoon, have a healthy snack – it will really help with cravings.
Neglecting your sober toolbox
One of the things I talk to my students about a lot is finding new sober tools. A tool is basically anything you use as a coping mechanism, to change or relieve the way you feel. Tools can be unhealthy (like alcohol) or they can be healthy (like running, talking to a friend). Spend some time thinking about why you drank, what you used alcohol for, and what tools might be a good replacement.
Taking on too much
Our culture seems to glamorise stress and the idea of working to the max – it’s almost become a badge of honour. But if you’re consuming a mind-altering, dangerous drug just to cope with a very average day at work, that’s a sign that something in your day isn’t quite right. We aren’t meant to feel exhausted, unhappy and stressed out all the time – it’s unhealthy and unsustainable.
Missing out on fun!
I’ve noticed that quite a few women drinkers don’t have any hobbies or non-work interests. Over time, drinking has become their main social activity and the only ‘fun’ thing they do on a regular basis. If this sounds like you, start thinking about how you can change that. Successful sobriety isn’t about suffering, or feeling miserable without booze – it’s about building a life that’s so good, you don’t need to drink through it. Building a great life means finding the fun again – and rediscovering the hobbies and activities that light you up and make you feel good.
Final point: drinking alcohol is NOT self-care
Don’t listen to adverts or social media – anything that makes you feel ill, out of control and full of remorse is not looking after you. If you take just one thing from this blog, it should be this: next time you want a drink, ask yourself what you REALLY need. Are you just tired? Overwhelmed? Bored, lonely, hungry or thirsty? Get to the bottom of how you’re really feeling, and then take steps to address those issues head on, rather than masking them with alcohol. That’s where true self-care really starts.