In 2013, I tried to Go Sober for Macmillan Cancer Support. A month off the booze, I would be able to do that, surely?

It was a disaster for many reasons.  

I was in the midst of a fairly significant emotional breakdown with my life seemingly collapsing around my ears.  I was involved in a painful and nerve wracking separation and custody battle with the father of my son.  I was desperately worried and fearful for my mother who was going through treatment for cancer at the time.  And I was an alcoholic, but I would have denied it till I was blue in the face.

And, of course, I was an alcoholic, but I would have denied THAT till I was blue in the face.

I decided to ‘Go Sober’ on a bit of a whim.  I think there was a bit of a desire to prove to myself I could do it, but I made no preparation, had no strategies in place and hadn’t thought it through at all.

Therefore, when life got really difficult, at just 3 days in, I fell back to my old usual coping strategy…wine and cigarettes.  After a family court hearing on the 3rd of October, I ended up drowning my sorrows with my best friend, and then some more at home.  On the 4th I bought wine without really thinking about it, and by the 6th, I had abandoned all pretence at Going Sober, and was drinking every night.

The following October I quit for good, and have joyfully embraced sobriety ever since.

With January coming up, you may be considering taking a month off the booze to start your year.  You may be doing it for charity of for personal benefits, it doesn’t matter, the challenges and benefits for you will be the same

I know that not everyone will struggle the way I did.  I was not in a good mental state to try to suddenly, without preparation or support, stop drinking at such a stressful time of my life.

However, even if you aren’t addicted to alcohol like I was, if you are used to relying on alcohol for your social life, for relaxation and for stress release, it is worth making some preparations for your sober month.

Know your WHY

With any challenge, it is helpful to be able to remember why you are doing it.  Write down your personal why, and your fundraising goal if you have one, somewhere you can see it every day to help you stay focused on why this is important to you.

Plan your reward

If you aren’t doing this as a fundraiser, you could consider saving the money you would have spent on booze and rewarding yourself with something you really will enjoy at the end of it.  If I had done this at the height of my drinking, I could have probably saved enough for a small holiday!  Don’t make drinking your reward.  If you spend the whole month counting down till when you are ‘allowed to drink’ again you will most likely be thoroughly miserable, and quite likely to cause yourself harm when you do drink again (your tolerance will have dropped significantly after a month free)

Plan your social activities

If you enjoy going out with friends and colleagues, plan some fun, non drinking activities that you can enjoy together.  Check the local area to see what things you can do besides go to the pub, look out for good films that are showing, concerts, exhibitions, etc.  Also, be sure to plan how you will handle socialising where alcohol is present

Plan your self care

Make sure that you take time out to relax and take care of yourself.  Use this alcohol free month as an excuse to treat yourself to massages, long soaks in the bath, long walks in nature, time to read or whatever fills you up and soothes your soul.

Plan your stress relief

If you use alcohol to unwind after a difficult day, you will want to have some plans in place to know how to deal with this stress without alcohol.  My best advice to you would be to practice using your breath to control your emotions.  You can try this quiet sitting practice every morning to start your day calm, and this throwing out practice is great for letting go of stress.  They can be used as a daily practice and as a tool to turn to (in a private place) in a moment of stress.

Plan your support

Make sure that your family, friends and colleagues know that you are doing this, and that you want them to support you.  You may need them to help you stick to your resolve, so help them understand why it is important to you.

Use the opportunity to reset

A month off from booze is a great opportunity to reset your body, get some proper sleep, and rethink your relationship with alcohol.  Do some reflection and journalling around how you feel in your mind and body during this time, and notice what comes up for you.  You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself!

dry january planner 2018

Free ebook

I have created this free ebook to help you manage and enjoy your month off from alcohol during Dry January.  In it you will find space to plan your social activities, fundraising, support, stress release and reflect on your progress. Get your free ebook here with my love and encouragement!

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Esther Nagle
Teacher, writer, speaker at Balance and Breathe
Esther is a former alcoholic, smoker and all round stressed out mess. She found the path to health, happiness, freedom and joy through Yoga. She is a passionate advocate for the power of Yoga, and time in Nature, in bringing balance to life, and giving you control over your health, happiness and wellbeing.

Esther is a powerful public speaker, writer and author. Her first book, Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, has gained many 5 star reviews and has helped many people along their recovery journey.