It might not have been too difficult to stay on the wagon for the first few days of the new year. Especially since may of us are still in Winter Break Limbo where we’re not totally sure what day it is but that we’ve worn these same sweats at least three days in a row.
Or maybe it’s four.
Either way the first few days of abstinence can be “easy”. It can feel empowering and you might be telling yourself that it’s going to be so easy.
But then the work emails will start piling up again. Or the boss will return from vacation. Or your kids will turn their energy levels up to eleven a few minutes before bed time. Or it’ll just be Friday again.
And you’ll want to reach for your alcohol of choice.
I have been a non drinker since September 27, 2021. Why do I remember the date? Because it was a Monday and the day before I had drank way too much while hosting a football watching party at our house and did not like the person I was by the end of the day.
It lined up with “Sober October” so I jumped on the label train and didn’t drink that month. Then I kept it going.
Always one to support my decisions with a non-fiction book I read Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice Not to Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whittaker and it bolstered my decision to stop drinking.
I made this decision to help improve my life and I can’t credit it enough for lowered anxiety, generally better mood and healthier overall lifestyle. If you’re wondering, I had one glass of champagne when we stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelors Gulch and split a mug of mulled wine with Dan at the Christkindlemarket a few weeks ago.
I’ve had plenty of NA Beers, a few of the wines and some canned mocktails but the best way for me to kick the habit when I started was to, as Holly Whittaker put it, Replace The Ritual.
It had become knee jerk to pour a glass of wine at 5:01. Or crack open a beer or cider when heading to the back yard. I didn’t even think about it. It just happened. And then the next drink happened and then the next. And while I was not going out until the wee morning hours I was drinking something almost everyday.
And felt like I couldn’t get through certain events without having a drink.
I mean, bedtime can be a total battle but, was a glass of red wine that I was worried the kids would spill while they were running through the hallway really helping the situation at all?
In the early months of my non-drinker life I replaced the ritual with tea. Herbal tea in the evening. Sometimes with adaptogenic powders to give the calming effect alcohol is supposed to give. I also started taking baths at night instead of sitting and watching TV with a drink in hand.
It isn’t that watching TV at the end of the day is a bad thing. It’s that I had associated it with a drink.
I slowly changed the associations and now I can watch all the TV in the world and be happy drinking water.
If you’re doing Dry January or your Dry-Curious I recommend starting with replacing the ritual for drinking at home. Here are some ideas.
If you pour a drink as soon as you get home:
- Wash your face
- Spend 5 minutes on a brain game app while drinking a glass of water
- Pour a sparkling water over ice
- Read a book
If you pour a drink as soon as the kids are in bed:
- Make herbal/caffeine free tea instead
- Have dessert (sugar cravings are real when you cut alcohol)
- Do an evening yoga routine
- Wash your face
- Read a book
January can be a slow social scene month but when you find yourself at a bar with friends/family/coworkers, order a water and:
- Suggest an activity instead (mini golf, bowling, bike ride, walk, ping pong)
- Bring a board or card game to play
- Politely excuse yourself and don’t go this time
There are an increasing number of Non Alcoholic beverage options available. Even in the last year I’ve seen more and more hit the market. If your longterm goal is to eliminate or greatly reduce your alcohol intake I recommend replacing the ritual with things that don’t resemble alcohol first.
Because alcohol removed wine isn’t really that good and you’ll know it if you go for a glass today. Same with the mocktails and the beers. It’s best to give yourself a clean slate and add those in later when you want to feel like you’re a part of things.
Starting without NA replacements helped me to feel like I was in control of my alcohol choices. I choose not to drink. And, SURPRISE! It is a totally valid option! You just don’t feel like it is because drink menus are presented first and it feels like everyone orders a booze and that every social interaction of your formative years revolved around drinking. But believe it or not, water, ginger ale, sparkling water, cola, juice are all drinks too.
I’m not saying you won’t feel like a sore thumb. You probably will. And you’ll get curious looks and eyebrow arches. And sometimes the waiters won’t understand. Like you will have to repeat yourself several times when you ask for grapefruit and soda but no vodka or gin. Yes, just the juice with some soda water. And ice. Yep, I’m sure. Okay, thanks.
But when you wake up without a hangover you’ll feel good.
When you notice your skin clearing up you’ll feel good.
When suddenly you don’t feel anxious like you used to you’ll feel good.
When you feel empowered to make healthful decisions for yourself you’ll feel good.
Later I’ll share some of my preferred NA drinks. For now, my advice is to embrace zero alcohol and work on disassociating alcohol from your daily life activities.
You can choose not to drink without calling yourself an alcoholic. Without doing the 12 steps. You can do it without any shame whatsoever about the person you were when you drank. Hell she was really fun at times. But non drinker you can be just as fun, if not more.