This week I was featured in the Telegraph which is massive for me and while I wasn’t thrilled about the headline, my story was the most read piece across the entire site that day and clearly resonated with and inspired many people. However, it missed out, what I feel, is the most important part of the story, the transformative part and how I am loving my alcohol-free life.

alcohol free life gayle macdonald

I wanted to do a follow up for you here because many people have since asked, how I stopped drinking so I wanted to share the process and the mindset shift that helped me.

First of all, I must admit that reading the article back was very difficult for me and stirred up emotions that I hadn’t felt for a while. I told one my one to one clients that it was like I was Jekyll and Hyde.

The drinking me, was not at all the real me which is actually very common and because of such a stark contrast in my behavior and personality, there were strong feelings of shame. And, letting go of this shame has been and still is, a very important part of the process to living my alcohol free life in a way that feels good..

But what was my process? Let me explain how I stopped drinking

When my husband said to me, “I’m not drinking anymore,” part of me thought, ‘I’m not ready for this’ and the other part thought, ‘I’m so ready for this.’

Having two conflicting thoughts at the same time is something I hear about a lot. On the one hand, you want to stop drinking, but on the other hand, you are terrified by the prospect. I had been there many times, sometimes on a daily basis.

alcohol free life

The thing that helped me this time was that I took a step back and listened.  I listened to the feeling part of me, me heart, my soul, that deep part within us that truly understands what we want. By leaning into the emotion and the feelings I was able to make a very clear conscious decision. “I am not drinking – no matter what” and just like Michael Jordan, (yes, I’m going to share this quote again!)

“Once I made the decision, I never thought about it again”

The key to embracing my alcohol free life was letting go of the thinking about quitting drinking, and leaning into the positive feelings that not drinking would mean for me.  How did I do this and how can you do it too?

Ask yourself, “What do I want?” and instead of just thinking about the answer, feel it!

Emotion drives behaviour and while we can know on a conscious level why we should stop drinking and how our lives will be different, being able to feel it, experience it and connect to those emotions, is the most powerful thing you can do.

Having a strong why, a vision for what you want your life to look, sound, taste, smell and feel like will help you to feel positive and inspired about your decision and will carry you through whatever situation comes up. And this has to be my number one piece of advice.

 


 

Create a vision for your sobriety. Do this for yourself, right now in my mini course, How to Stop Drinking and Feel good about it.

Once you have your vision, find a way to connect to it on a regular basis, many times a day if you need to.  Bottle the feelings you want to experience and find a way to connect to them. You can do this by creating a vision board or having some affirmations to look at or just spend some time imagining yourself living your life the way you want to. My alcohol free life now is full of so many experiences that I saw in the early days of visualizing what I wanted!

alcohol free life

Gratitude is the most uplifting emotion there is and can change how you feel in an instant.  Feel the gratitude for the what is right now. If you have trouble start with the smallest of things and feel into why you are grateful and allow the feelings to flow. When you go to bed at night, listen to this evening meditation and allow yourself to feel grateful to yourself for doing what you are doing because you are amazing, you really are.

Be open to exploring and experimenting. Everyone’s journey is different and what works for me, might not work for you and that’s okay. Write a list of things that you can do to help you feel good or manage cravings and try them out. Keep what you need and leave the rest. This is the beginnings of your sober tool kit and as one of our members said, “having the tools you taught me is what has helped me to love my alcohol free life.”

Self Care.  As I explain below, for me self care looked like cake in the beginning. But it was also things like having a shower and putting on my pyjamas at 4pm, going to bed early, drinking tea, walking, meditation and just listening to what I needed in the moment. Often we turn to alcohol because we want to feel a certain way. Go deeper, how do you actually want to feel and what loving thing can you do for yourself to help you achieve that? Self care can also look like asking for help, connection with others, or alone time to process thoughts and feelings.

alcohol free life

Eat what you want It is no secret that I spent the first two months of my sobriety sitting on the sofa, eating cake. That is what I needed to do and was in a way, my self-care practice to begin with. I allowed myself all the treats. This was not about deprivation or restrictions and certainly wasn’t the time for me to think about diets. It also helped me to get past my fear of missing out. I could still relax, still indulge in a treat and reward myself at the end of the day.

Exercise, especially outdoors in nature is something I did and still do on a daily basis. I have found that walking or running is fabulous at beating cravings, clearing my head and lifting my spirits. You can’t help but feel better after being surrounded by the beauty of nature. Water and trees are particularly soothing. Also, if like me, you still enjoy cake from time to time, having a regular exercise practice helps to keep you fit and in shape! Choose something that you enjoy as this will make it easier to keep it up.

Find support. My husband was my biggest supporter along with my kids. It obviously helped that we were doing this together so it was a given that there would be no alcohol in the house and if we went out anywhere, our drinks were alcohol-free. If I was struggling, I would tell him and he would support me. His mantra to me (which became my own) was, ‘Just think of the morning, how will you feel in the morning if you do / don’t drink?’

Not being alone helped me so much in my alcohol free life. That is why I created the Transform Support Membership space and out of all the wonderful things my girls say, the fact that they are not alone anymore and doing this with like minded wonderful women is key in helping them do this and feel good about it.

 

transform group sober bliss

 

Change your focus. When you are drinking, alcohol is the main focus. How much, when, what will you drink is all you can think about. You look forward to wine o’clock and the evenings. The thing that helped me an awful lot was that I switched my focus to the morning.

I have always been a morning person but honestly, there is nothing like waking up sober early in the morning and this inspired and motivated me through any craving or difficult situation.  It was and still is the thing that kept me going in the early days. My morning routine became my ‘me time’.

Instead of disappearing into beer or wine in the evenings to ‘be alone’ I spend my mornings doing the things that I love to set the tone of the day. If you are struggling, then plan lovely ways to spend your mornings so that you have something to look forward to. Make is so lovely, nourishing and restorative so that you won’t want to spoil it by drinking in the evening.

Find your thing. I began blogging and walking to help me process things and manage boredom and emotions, and there are so many more healthy and fun ways to fill your time which are way better than drinking!  I have recently started knitting and I know people who enjoy yoga, weights, cycling, reading, podcasts and more.  Find your thing and find gratitude in being able to do those things with clarity and energy and joy. What would you like to do? What have you always wanted to do? Write a list and start with one thing. Do your thing and find your joy!

“Do your thing. Do it every day. Do it ‘unapologetically’….Pay no mind to the fear of failure. Take ownership, take chances and have fun. And no matter what, don’t ever stop doing your thing.” ― Asher Roth

Let go of the shame. When I talk about my alcohol free life, letting go of shame and forgiving myself is a very important part of the process and one that I revisit often. When you stop drinking, you get back your emotions. The good feelings are awesome and the bad feelings can be painful. This can be difficult to deal with, especially feelings of shame that come with past drinking.

Being sober brings clarity and gives you the space to step back. I know that things are different now. I am not that person anymore. I forgive myself and let go, knowing that I am moving forward.

sober mumAllow yourself to feel, but don’t dwell – that is not helpful and can send you into a spiral. Drop into your body and find a way to release the feelings through movement, shouting or crying. Journal out your feelings and then burn the words in a wonderful, releasing ritual. Talk out your feelings in a safe and trusted space such as our support sessions.

I spent a lot of time crying in the beginning and the deep feelings of shame, guilt, dread and fear felt like physical hurt in my heart and stomach. When I read or hear negative comments I try to turn this around. I have compassion for the person I was, even when I feel that I don’t like her very much.

Yes, I did some terrible things but I also managed to change and grow. If I hadn’t gone through what I did then I wouldn’t understand what you might be going through. While difficult, my story is inspiring and that is what I hope to achieve by sharing my story and helping others. It is truly inspirational to know that change is possible no matter how bad things might seem.

I’d love to know what your dream is for your own alcohol free life. How do you want to feel, what do you want to do? Let me know in the comments.