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.
Well, thanks for permission for trash tv! That is exactly what I do after getting kids to bed: 30 or 60 mins (if the day was bad) with a sitcom and tea with honey (or maybe ice cream if the day was really bad 🙂
Love a bit of trashy, mindless TV every now and then!
Kate, thanks for this post…especially #5. I tend to double-up my “fun” by having a drink in my hand. Time to look at this in a different way. It’s true: if I can make time to drink I can certainly make time to relax and take care of myself without the booze.
Absolutely. You can do it Lisa – keep going 🙂
Thank you Kate, I find your blogs really interesting and really helpful, not preachy just common sense! I stopped drinking for 7 weeks, bought myself a designer (pre loved vintage) bag as a reward 🙂 and whilst I am having the odd glass of wine, I have found my stop button again and use a lot of the self preservation/distraction tips you have shared. My aim was always to be able to enjoy one or two glasses a week (if I want to but find I am drinking fresh juice more often) rather than nearly one bottle a day – appreciate that does not work for everyone if you are all or nothing but so far so good.. if I feel I am wobbling I think of your tips and the next bag I can buy with all the money I am saving! Looking forward to the next blog.
This is all very encouraging, thank you. As a single mother of two boys, I’ve struggled to get through an acrimonious divorce without drinking, most days quite heavily. However your blog has made me think I can get through without drinking and here I am on a Saturday night completely sober. Early days, but feeling positive.
Thanks Kate, I was falling away from some of those main supports. And I do need a hobby! Something just for me, that I will enjoy.
I have slipped up 4 times over the past 5 days and also havn’t gone to the gym because of this Feeling very angry with myself
Chin up Holly, you can do it. Keep going 🙂
Fortunately, I’ve always maintained my hobbies: dancing, golf, working out and fun times with friends. But, trying to keep up with huge load of work obligations that keep piling on has made drinking a “relief.” At work, I am now unloading some of my duties where they belong vs. me doing too much. This will take some perseverance on my part but I’ve already started it. And, I’m building in some workout time during office hours when I can. And, even skipping out of work to play 9 holes of golf. This is totally new behavior for me but I am so much happier. These actions are my “drink substitutes” and work much better in long run.
Love the sound of the golf Mary!
I love this Kate. It makes perfect sense to me. I have hypnotherapy and listen to my audio for my “me time” I also treat myself to a regular hone pedicure.
I too am on holiday. I’m new to sobriety. This is my first ever sober holiday and wondered if I’d cope, maybe relapse or really crave a drink. I am coping very well. I have absolutely no desire for alcohol. I haven’t felt hard done by and I’m not missing it one bit.
Long may it continue
Brilliant, keep going Jackie – alcohol free holidays are the best!
Why do I continuously keep having a drink. I know I want to quit I don’t even enjoy it anymore and yet I’ll still be tempted and give in
Hi Allie, if you’d like some help and support to stop drinking, do take a look at my course. We can definitely help you with this! https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Thank you Kate I will as I’ve been trying 5 years now
Thanks,really good to read this. I need to stop as it affects my kids and I don’t want them to be unhappy plus I’ve noticed my skin is coming out in dry patches and I’m thinking it could be the wine. Il book your course as it should help me x
Thanks for this advice, Kate, its so easy to get caught up with work/parenting/housework, and the default relaxation is to head for the wine, multi-task, and feel like youre relaxing and getting things done. I found out (the hard way) that you become unproductive, and dont actually relax!
I think us women feel guilty about relaxing, and we are fed the idea that the only way to do this is properly is to drink. When I started taking up hobbies instead of drinking, I fely really uncool!
But I am emabrking on my sober journey, and as I progress, my hobbies become more interesting, and alcohol is holding me back from what I really love, so the attraction is less and less the more I build a world away from the drink.
This hasn’t been easy (its been really really tough!) but each day, finding something better to do with my time becomes more and more fullfilling and rewarding. Everyday I dont drink I put a smiley face on my calendar, and it reminds me that I am taking care of myself. This month I have 20 smiley faces so far! your brilliant posts keep me motivated! especially this ne that rings so true….thank you so much!!
Thanks kate…am doing your course at the moment and you refered me to this blog.I am really enjoying it..and feel much better already…self care is really the way to go…I too am going to save the money I would normally spend on wine..and treat myself to something I would not normally buy myself as a reward. Also I was surprised to see I had already read this blog back in August and commented on it…can’t even remember that…must be when the idea of your course was planted. Very grateful x
Thanks Allie, I’m glad this helped!