Quitting alcohol — Day One Again?
Gayle Macdonald Dec 21, 2018
Going back to Day one again and again is very frustrating, upsetting and soul destroying when you are quitting alcohol. I see it all the time, it happens to the best of us and I too had my fair share of day one’s until I finally quit for good.
I went from a feeling of wanting and hoping to actually knowing and that is the best feeling in the world.How do we avoid going back to day one again and again? How was it that I managed to quit for good this time with no relapeses and no more terrible day one’s? About eight months into my new alcohol fre lifestyle I looked at my own experiences and circumstances and talked to a lot of people who have also been through this to try and figure out what was different. Becasue this time is was different. I went from a feeling of wanting and hoping to actually knowing and that is the best feeling in the world. However, it doesn’t happen by accident and by sharing what I have learned, I want to help you get past the ‘Giving Up Alcohol Groundhog Day’ and take your journey to sobriety and the life you want in the direction you want, which is forward!
Why do I keep going back to Day One?
First of all, not many of us successfully quit on the first attempt, it is perfectly normal to have the odd slip up, indeed I feel they are a necessary part of the journey and do make us stronger. However when you find yourself having too many day one’s it is so painful because you know you can get past it, you know you have the ability and the desire to stop, yet you can’t quite understand why you keep going back to day one.
Before I stopped I had lots of spells without alcohol, not great big stretches of time maybe a day here or a day there. Once I stopped for four whole days and Friday came around and I thought, what the heck. The truth is I wasn’t really trying. However if you are really trying yet you still wind up back at day one after a good stretch, maybe a couple of weeks or months even, then you have to work out why it’s happening.
What is going on with you?
Are you bored with the whole thing? Are you in a difficult situation? Are you perhaps even trying too hard? Are you uncomfortable with yourself without the veil of alcohol? Are you scared of your thoughts and feelings now that they are acutely present? Are you emotionally drained or frazzled and feel the need to take the edge off? Do you think you’ve nailed it and can actually moderate?The
se questions are important ones to ask yourself. Remember this is a very personal journey and it means that at times, you will have to face stuff that you’ve never had to face before, so understanding what is going on with in that moment is key to getting past that in the future.
Why Are You Counting The Days?
When you have a slip up, why do do feel the need to say that you’re back to Day one again, and again and, perhaps more importantly, why are you counting the days in the first place? I get it that in the beginning racking up sober days is a big motivation and it’s something to look forward to, I did it myself for about the first month. Then I got sick of it and it was as if that’s all I was doing: counting, counting, counting so instead I found it much better to focus on the positive aspects of daily life that being sober brought me. I didn’t want to be counting forever. In fact, I got to 100 days without realizing it and I was as surprised as anyone!
If you are counting the days though, are you doing it for yourself to keep you accountable or are you doing it to post in a Facebook group or on Instagram and if you are posting are you doing it to get lots of praise and encouragement? Are you looking for sympathy when you do have a blip? Do you want to hear that it’s okay and not to be too hard on yourself? Are you looking for permission to go back to old ways and just forget? Or, are you doing it for you, to remain accountable? There’s a difference.
The reason / your why
The reason you want to stop drinking, your own personal why, is hugely important in making this change stick. It has to be true to you and you alone. Your reason might be the same as many of us, to have a better life, or save money or stop the terrible hangovers, but your own personal why is yours and it has to mean something to you. Is your why good enough to keep you on track? It can be hard, really hard, to look at yourself and get down to the bare bones of what your true reason is, but once you understand it and truly feel it, then your reason for quitting becomes stronger and more important than your excuses and once you get that clarity, then there really is no contest. If your reason for quitting is wishy washy, then in short, you need a better why, one that is so powerful you will never look back or question your decision.
What is happening really
What happened in that moment when you had that drink and went back to day one? Were you bored, stressed, lonely, did you feel pressurized, felt you deserved it or was it for any number of other reasons? Really think hard about it, go deep.
Why you drank at that moment is probably the same reason why you drank at all, what were your reasons for drinking? Was it to self medicate, to escape, to become more likeable and more social or to break the cycle of boredom, self hate, depression or anxiety. Again, these are difficult questions to ask yourself and it can be hard and scary to look at ourselves under the microscope this way, it is painful but it is also important. Going sober is not a magical cure for everything you want to change in your life. It is however, the first step to gaining clarity, the skills and tools necessary for creating a life you no longer need to escape from. Getting to the crux of what is really going on is essential if you want to move forward.
What to do if you have ‘a moment’
A moment can be a craving, a thought, a feeling or a need to reach for a drink. These moments are important, they are your triggers and how you get throught that moment can determine whether or not you will find yourself back at day one again. So, what do you do? There are lots of things that can help get you through, the first thing I would say is to be mindful and recognise that it is happening and also recognise that you want to do something about it. Leave wherever you are, sit in the car or the loos and breathe deeply and reach out to someone. Pick up the phone, talk to your partner, friend, mum, sponsor, mentor, or post something in a group or even message someone on Instagram, but do not keep that feeling or thought to yourself, share it, get it out immediately before you get into any internal discussion. I always feel sad and upset when I see people posting that they had a bad day or felt that after x amount of days sober they wanted a reward so had a drink and now they feel so down and full of regret.
Having a wobble, a bad day, a fleeting thought, a craving or just a f@ck it moment can really catch you off guard and throw you, especially if you have had a number of weeks or months without alcohol and are really enjoying the new you. It just doesn’t make any sense when you usually understand and deal with your triggers, or have a handle on those cravings, or don’t even get them anymore — what is going on?
The first thing to do is not to panic but take a step back and remove yourself from the situation if possible. Go back to what has worked for you in the past to get through cravings or delve deep into your sobriety tool box. If it is more than just a craving or fleeting thought and feels dangerous then you Reach out before, not after.
If you are serious about stopping drinking for the sake of your life, your health, your family and your future than it helps to visualize what that future looks like. I don’t just mean doing a visualization exercise although that is really helpful, but really think about your future. What will happen if you do not stop drinking? How will your health be affected, your kids, your family life? Will you end up face down in a cell crying again or will you lose your home or your kids? Will your loved ones discover you in a hospital bed or passed out somewhere? Sometimes the health reasons are just too scary for us to comprehend and we tend to bury our heads in the sand and think it won’t happen to us — after all why is alcohol so revered if it’s bad for us, right?What will you not achieve if you don’t break the cycle?
Focus on your own future — what have you always wanted to do but your drinking has stopped you, either from lack of funds, or the lack of motivation or energy to actually do something, to have the clarity and focus to write your book or do the course you’ve always wanted or take up rock climbing, knitting — whatever. Focus on how you will feel when you get your diploma, or have the family holiday you’ve been planning for years or finally pay off your debt. The uncomfortable feelings you might be going through now are nothing compared to the elation you will experience when you achieve that one thing you’ve only dreamed of for so long. And when you experience that, there will be no stopping you and Day One will be a thing of the past.
Be true to yourself
Always remember that you are doing this for you. You get to choose, to be the best version of you, to live the life you want through freedom from alcohol and if you let the wine witch win when things get tough, you are only breaking promises to yourself. Yeah, maybe your best friend won’t know but you will and when you’ve done it once, it becomes easier to do it again and again — that’s when you end up having too many day ones. My best advice is to always be mindful, be truthful and honest and never let yourself go backwards. One slip up doesn’t have to mean another 14 months off the wagon. But you have to get back on straight away.
Being true to yourself and kind to yourself are key to getting back on track and staying there. But, it also means you might have to be tough with yourself too. Show up, do the work. Self care is important but it’s not all about chocolate and massages although they do help! Self care is also about doing the stuff that you don’t necessarily want to do but need to do. It’s like getting out of debt, you might not want to, or enjoy, budgeting your food or giving a big chunk of your wages to the bank instead of buying the luxury handbag or going away for the weekend but in order to get out of the situation you have to do it. And, once it’s done — the sense of relief is HUGE. It’s the same with the process of stopping drinking. Do you need to avoid certain people or situations, do you need to buy alcohol, do you need to run every morning or do an evening yoga class, even though you might not want to but know it works? Do you need to finally commit to a program or a plan that offers personal support. Do you need to set aside some time each day and write in your journal, do you need to talk to someone every week or every day?
If you have had another day one recently, don’t let that stop you from trying again — never give up giving up. Get straight back to it, treat it as a learning curve, a little blip, and work out it happened in the first place and what you need to do to stop it happening again. Ask yourself do you really want to carry on like this?
Originally published at https://sober-bliss.com on December 21, 2018.