In March 2018 I quit drinking for good, but that’s not to say I didn’t have many Ground Hog days, before I finally broke free from booze. I hate that film by the way, it has me squirming in my seat every time Bill Murray wakes up and begins the same day, over and over and over. My own journey to quitting drinking was very similar, I woke up to the same morning of shame, guilt and regret every single day for years, promising myself this time it would be different and this time I would crack it.
Yet every time 2.30pm rolled round (yes, I was an early starter) familiar patterns and old behaviours would kick in and the same day would repeat.
It was a terrible place to be, wishing and wanting for things to be different but finding myself stuck in the same loop over and over. Sometimes I would manage a few days I once even managed a whole six months before I finally gave in. At first it wasn’t too bad I promised myself that I wouldn’t go back to my daily drinking and that I could moderate and was a ‘normal drinker’ but the reality is that I slipped back into the same routine pretty quickly and I hated myself for it.
So, what changed? What was different this time? How did I get off the merry go round and how do you avoid groundhog day when you quit drinking? If you are sick of going back to day one again and again, then I hope this post will help.
Get clear on why you are doing this
Having a clear reason or ‘why’ for doing this is so important and it must be strong, personal and really mean something. If you don’t have a solid foundation on which to build your new path, then you will find it tricky.
This was my problem with past attempts, I was just hoping that I would magically stop drinking but didn’t really have anything to focus on. Sure, there were many reasons such as hating hangovers, hating the shame and anxiety, wishing I was in control of my life and not being controlled by alcohol but until I sat down and really thought about what I wanted for myself and my family, that it all made sense and became clear to me.
Once I had a clear vision and my mind was in the right place, then all the cravings, fear of missing out, struggling with emotions and self doubt, became easier to manage and I understood it was all part of the journey. Your reason must be stronger than your excuses.
Make a decision and stick to it – no matter what
Once you have a good, solid reason that is more powerful to you than any struggle you might face along the way, then make your decision that you are going to do this – no matter what. Just because it’s Friday night or you have a party to attend or you’ve had a shit week, is no reason to go back on your decision.
Making this firm, strong and powerful decision also takes away the internal struggle that always comes with moderation or not having a clear reason. If you know in your heart and your mind that you are not going to drink, then it really does take away much of the pain that is associated with quitting drinking.
I found it extremely liberating to be free from all the thinking about drinking and the tug of war that used to go on in my head. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be triggered or get cravings or find things tough but you can focus all your energy on getting though those moments and becoming stronger, rather than be stuck in the cycle of ‘will I, won’t I?’ hell.
“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” Michael Jordan
Make changes – don’t leave it to chance
In my experience, the best way to avoid Groundhog Day when you quit drinking, is to follow through with your intentions by making changes in your daily routine, your activities, the people you hang about with and your overall outlook. It is no good going to the pub with your mates (or is it drinking buddies?) and feeling miserable because you are not drinking. Similarly, you can’t be expected not to feel tempted if you have a full wine rack or a fridge full of beer.
Remove all temptation from your home if you need to. Tell your family and ask them not to drink around you, this post will help if your family still drinks. Suggest meeting friends for coffee or catch up on a walk instead of the usual pub or restaurant. Do something different on a Saturday night if you worry about how you will get through Saturday night telly without a glass of wine.
Above all change your thinking, focus on the positive, the beautiful, the wonderful benefits and just how good you will feel and that you are doing a loving thing for yourself.
I love this quote by Rocky Balboa
“If you want to change things in a big way, then you gotta make some big changes.”
Thankfully there are so many other people on the same journey as you and it is much easier now to connect with like minded people that doesn’t involve traditional style meetings in church basements if that is not your thing.
Reach out, see what is available in your area, go online, join Facebook groups like ours or check out the sober community on Instagram or Twitter. There will always be someone there to offer advice or give support if you need it and you can share your struggles and your successes free from judgement with people who know exactly what you are going through.
If you are really struggling and need some personal support and guidance then you can work with me one on one. Find out how here.
Put yourself first
I always say this and that’s because it is true. You must, must, start to look after yourself and make yourself a priority. When we drink, we numb out from everything including our own feelings and emotions. We might think we drink to feel better but really we are just masking, hiding and running away. If we want to really feel good about ourselves then we must start to pay attention. Think about your own situation do you often drink to dull pain or to lift yourself up or because you are tired, hungry, bored, lonely, stressed? I know I did for all of that and more.
Commit to looking after yourself properly whether that means scheduling in regular alone time, getting some fresh air every day, going to bed early or indeed just making sure you eat regularly and drink water. I like to think the early days of sobriety is like treating yourself how you would a poorly child with lots of love, rest, compassion and kindness.
After so long battering ourselves both mentally and physically it’s no wonder we need to show ourselves some TLC. As time goes on you will start to feel better and understand what triggers you. You can start to build a set of tools and strategies that will help you cope and thrive in your new life but above all you must make yourself a priority and put yourself first – always whether you are two weeks, two or ten years into this journey. It is only by loving yourself that you can avoid Groundhog day when you quit drinking.
Make your evenings special
Most of us struggle with cravings in the evenings. After all we’ve been so used to having that ‘treat,’ that ‘well deserved’ glass of wine or two after a hard day or week, it’s no wonder we find the habit hard to break. But, by changing your evening routine into something special, something lovely, something that is far more nourishing and indulgent, something to truly look forward to will help you change ‘wine o’clock’ into joy o’clock’
It doesn’t matter what you do and you can have fun trying out new rituals and routines until you find something you love. It is a good idea to try and carve out some time just for you, especially if you have kids and need your alone time at the end of the day.
Enjoy a soak in the bath or make your bedroom a special place where you can unwind and relax without alcohol. If you associate the sofa and TV with drinking, then make a new space for yourself to help break the association. Have a look at this guide on how to get through wine o’clock for some more ideas.
Start your day the right way
It is just as important to start your day in a way that is relaxed and calm as it is to end it. If you can, get up a few minutes earlier and make some time for yourself when you can set a positive intention or enjoy a cup of tea in peace. Sober mornings were what kept me going in the early days, I loved waking up fresh and rested but found that I needed to do something with my extra time and energy.
You might like an early morning walk or some yoga or meditation. Do what feels right and perhaps have a mantra that will help you reaffirm your decision throughout the day. Having a bad start can throw the whole day off balance and while it is impossible to have a good day, every day ,you can set aside a few precious minutes for yourself to help ease you into the day.
Have a willingness to try
This is perhaps the most important thing to do to avoid Groundhog day when you quit drinking. As we’ve seen you can’t expect things to change if you keep repeating the same patterns and behaviours again and again. You must be proactive and have a willingness to try new things.
Go to a meeting, try an exercise class, reach out to new people, experiment with different routines and rituals. Go to new places, spend your Saturday nights in a different way. It might seem like a lot of work at first but really you don’t have to change everything at once, take your time and if you don’t like something then try something different. I had no idea that I would love early morning yoga or get excited at the prospect of climbing a mountain before breakfast but I tried it and found that I liked it. Similarly, board games before bed with my family are my idea of hell, as is being in a pilates class but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t bothered to try.
Be open, experiment and try new things. After all like my friend said, ‘I didn’t get sober to sit on the sofa!’
Finally, don’t feel overwhelmed. This list of help and advice is here to guide and support you but don’t feel you have to do all the things at once. Gradually, things will fall into place and you will discover what works for you and what doesn’t.
Keep an open mind and an open heart and above all keep going, even if you have to get through the first ten minutes, then the next. Slowly, you will begin to get more hours, days, weeks and hopefully months under your belt.
The more you get through the tough times, the stronger you will become. Celebrate every moment, be positive and be proud.
The day you quit drinking might be the hardest day of your life, but it will also be the greatest. It will be the day you decide to take back control of your life. It will be the day when you can finally start to believe in yourself again, stop dreaming and start living. It will be the day you choose freedom. But, you can only really be free if you keep going and never give up.
So please, keep going, you absolutely can do this and just think of where your life will be when you can avoid Groundhog Day for ever. As Mary Karr said, ‘There are women succeeding beyond their wildest dreams because of their sobriety’