In October 2013, I attempted to do the Macmillan Cancer Support ‘Go Sober’ challenge. Day 1 was ok, day two was a little trickier, but day 3? On Day 3 I had to attend a family court session to sort out contact and arrangements with my ex in what had been a savage year of break up. He messed with my head so much I was in a terrible state by the time I got back. I went to see my best friend, who, as was the norm, opened a bottle of wine and handed me a glass. I tried to resist, but she assured me that one glass would be fine, that I needed it, and I only needed the one.
Well, of course, by the time I left her house we had finished the bottle, and, walking home (leaving my car at her house) I inevitably bought a second bottle which I finished alone at home.
The following morning I woke up with a hangover, coupled with anxiety and shame that I had failed with Go Sober. I told myself I was going to stick to it for the rest of the month, but somewhere inside me I had actually given up, realising that there was no way I was going to get through a whole month of no drinking. I later abandoned all pretense at doing it, and drank pretty much every day, sinking deeper into shame that I was so unable to control my drinking.
The following October, I didn’t attempt to do Go Sober, but 12 days into the month I stopped drinking after 7 months of intense Inner work through Yoga teacher training, and I haven’t looked back.
Thanks to Yoga, I now have a vast toolbox of resources that have helped me deal with stressful situations similar to the one above without falling back into the bottle, resources that would have made Go Sober much easier in 2013!
If you have a slip back into drinking, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure it doesn’t result in a downward spiral that will take your health, happiness, and sanity.
The ‘Three Rules’ of Yoga
Swami Gitananda’s ‘Three Rules of Yoga’, which I was taught on the first day of my Yoga teacher training, are ‘don’t judge, don’t compare, don’t beat yourself up‘.
Remember these, they can be your greatest tool to get through this.
Do not judge yourself, compare yourself to others who didn’t drink last night, and above all else, don’t beat yourself up.
Beating yourself up mentally is a fruitless activity.
It only ever fuels shame, it doesn’t give us anything positive.
There are much more helpful things we can do to ensure that this slip can become a stepping stone rather than a millstone.
Acknowledge that you are fighting against a very strong enemy. Alcohol is a powerful drug, a very easily accessible and socially acceptable drug that exerts a powerful grip on you. Every day of sobriety is a real victory, and a slip up is just that.
You have made a mistake. We all make mistakes. We all fall off the wagon and feel that we have let ourselves and others down, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Accept that it happened, and begin to look to the future.
Make amends and apologies where you need to, not only to others but to yourself, and look to the new start
A slip like this can be a great opportunity to get to know ourselves so much better. Spend some time, without judgement, reflecting on the reason for the slip.
What was the trigger, was there a particular event that prompted the slip?
What do you need to help you resist that trigger in future?
Do you need to learn to relax better, to develop better coping strategies, to reduce the time you spend with a particular person, to resolve a certain issue that is causing you stress, to get help for a particular problem?
Maybe you will realise that you need more help to control your drinking, this is a great realisation to come to.
Act on this insight and don’t let fear and shame get in your way, the help is there for you. Speak to your GP and see what support you can get.
A slip up can teach us so much about ourselves, and can be a great opportunity for further growth.
I personally believe that every negative experience is a learning opportunity if we look for the lesson, so rather than seeing it as a disaster, see it as a lesson and you will take the positive from it.
Self forgiveness is hard, particularly when we feel that we have messed up. But it is crucial to do it for our mental well being, and our chances of success in the future.
When I had that day of drinking so early into Go Sober, if I had been able to forgive myself for it, I would have maybe been able to enjoy far more sober success through the rest of the month. Instead I blamed and cursed myself for drinking, and the shame and self loathing I already felt in bucketloads was added to considerably, making a return to regular, heavy drinking an absolute inevitability.
The Hawaiian Ho’oponopono practice is a great way to enjoy self forgiveness. Repeating “I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You” over and over, whether out loud, in your head, or writing it down, is a powerful message to send to yourself, and can really transform how you feel about yourself.
Try it now, repeating it several times with meaning, and see how you feel afterwards.
We humans are so cruel to ourselves. When we do something ‘wrong’, we zoom in on that with laser focus and don’t take our gaze from it, repeating the ‘mistake’ over and over again in our minds, filling our thoughts with whatever emotions that makes us feel so completely that nothing else has a chance to get in.
If you have been able to carry out the steps listed above, hopefully this negativity should have lessened a little as you are able to take the lessons learned and start to move on. Now, are you able to let go of the slip up, and the negativity you might still be hanging onto?
It really isn’t serving you, it isn’t going to help you move on, so why hang on to it?
The ‘throwing out’ practice in the video below will help you to release all your negative thoughts and emotions from your mind, and let go of the physical tension it will likely be causing you.
This is a great practice you can try at any time, and one that, if practices regularly, will help you improve your general wellbeing and reduce your overall level of stress.
It is also a great thing to try at that moment when you are about to dive into the bottle, try it before you head to the local shop for a bottle.
Don’t identify with the slip up
I could have put this anywhere in this article, but I wanted to end with it, because it is the most important point really.
You are NOT your mistakes
You are NOT your desire to drink
You are NOT your slip up
You are NOT a bad person because you drank
You ARE a human being
You ARE a person who needs help and support
You ARE on a very difficult journey
You ARE trying your best
Don’t see a slip up as a failure of your character, or evidence that you are a terrible person, or that you will never be able to do it. I tried for years to control my drinking, while in complete denial that I needed any sort of help.
As long as you keep trying, keep reaching out for support and sharing when you struggle, keep looking for the solution that works best for you, you will do it.
If you would like some support on your journey, I am here for you. I offer a range of services, but you can have half an hour with me free, I will listen to you, share some practices that may help you, and offer you further support if appropriate.
If you would like to chat, please use this link to schedule an appointment at a time that is best for you, and I look forward to working with you.