Before I quit drinking, I knew that I wanted to, but just didn’t know how to. I spent a long time, months? Years? Planning and dreaming about what my life would look like when I was finally free from alcohol.
I knew what I wanted, what I would do with my days, there were visions of my kids and I running through the woods in autumn, happy and smiling with our new found time together and a brand new way of life. I would be fit, healthy, organized, calm, a great mum and finally living the alcohol free life I wanted.
I read blogs and books, watched movies, listened to stories all the time drawing as much inspiration as I could. I wrote lists, journaled, dreamed, I even tried moderation for a while and thought a lot about the day I would finally quit drinking and live my life how I wanted to.
I was happy for the women in the stories, envious even. Here I was spending a huge amount of time and effort planning how and when I would quit drinking, I was reading the stories, wishing I was feeling what those women were feeling, I would live through their cravings with them, celebrate every win, every first without a drink, I could share in their joy and their pain and hopefully wake up one day and just not want to drink anymore.
But, when it came down to it, the big lesson I learned was that if you are thinking of quitting drinking, start before you’re ready. It’s the only way to go. Sound crazy? Let me explain.
I was motivated, I had the why, but I just didn’t do anything about it. I wanted to wait until I was really truly ready, until I had the perfect plan, the right food, the nicest alcohol free drinks, the best activities planned, the most helpful meditations, all the necessary apps, the perfect morning routine and the best way to get a good night’s sleep. I thought that if I had everything in place first, then I would feel confident, feel secure and be able to do it and everything would be okay.
The truth is that there is never a perfect time to quit drinking and all the planning and preparation in the world is not really going to help you. Yes, it will help get your head and your heart aligned, yes planning is a great thing to do to help bring awareness to your situation and in fact in my coaching program, we spend two weeks planning and preparing for a two month period of alcohol free living. But that’s all, two weeks and then we’re off.
Why? Well, there is a danger that you can spend too much time planning your perfect sobriety and that you never actually get round to doing it, or it takes you far longer to get where you want to be.
Or worse, something happens and the decision is taken away from you, it is no longer your choice and you feel resentful, angry and scared. That is not what alcohol free living is about. I live in my head a lot, I love dreaming, visualizing, manifesting but I used to struggle with taking action. And actually, taking action is where the magic happens.
When you are starting something new, it is vital to just do it and practice it. I am sure this makes sense to you. The more you do something, the easier it becomes. How long it takes to make this new habit (in our case, alcohol free living) the new normal has many different answers.
You may have heard it takes 66 days for a habit to form, or 21 days or 40 days or 8.3 months. But really, the best question to ask is not how long, but how many? In his book, ‘Atomic Habits’, James Clear asks this very question and gives a brilliant answer.
How many does it take to form a new habit? It is not the amount of days, weeks or months you spend practicing a habit, it is how often you repeat that new habit. It is no good committing to six weeks of exercise if you only manage to get to the gym five times in those six weeks.
It is much better to just start your habit and practice it as many times, and as often as you can. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
- The only way you can know if your perfect craving busting technique will work is to do it.
- The only way you can settle on a perfect alcohol free drink that hits the spot is to try about 20 different alcohol free drinks.
- If you want another way to relax without turning to the wine, then you have to try new things.
- If you want to know whether you can have a good time on a night out or at a restaurant without drinking, then you have to go do it.
- Wondering if EFT works? Just try it.
- Will mediation help calm your mind and quieten the inner voice? Have you tried it?
- What works best for sugar cravings, fruit or ice cream? Try them both.
- Will a brisk walk clear your head and lift your mood? Give it a go.
The only way you can truly know what it feels like to be free from your negative self talk, find inner peace, wake up fresh and hangover free, have clarity and focus without the fog of alcohol or escape the exhaustion of always thinking about drinking is to start. If you want to quit drinking, start before you’re ready. If you want to quit drinking, make the decision that you won’t drink – even if it’s just for today. After all, nothing changes if nothing changes.
If you want to quit drinking, start before you’re ready. If you want to quit drinking, make the decision that you won’t drink
I spent so much time wishing, wanting, dreaming but never actually doing. And it is only when you start to do, can you get better at it and know what works and what doesn’t.
Why start before you’re ready? Well, when you are actually taking action, doing the thing you want to do, it is the only way you will truly make progress. Spending too long thinking, planning and preparing will only hold you back. Maybe you are scared, maybe you want to delay failure or perhaps you want to be really, really sure you can get through a craving before you try it for real.
But, the only way to know if you can do it, is to at least try, take the step, take the plunge and just start.
The best bit? When you get through a day, a situation, an event without drinking, or you go to bed that very first night sober even when you didn’t think you could, even if you thought you weren’t ready, it is the most amazing, liberating, awesome feeling in the world. And I promise you, once you have experienced that, you will want to do it again and again. But the only way to experience it is to do it.
Regular practice of anything, will make you better and stronger. The more you do something, the more you strengthen the neuroconnections in your brain. The struggle gets less and the easier and more natural it will be for you.
Cravings for example might seem hard at first but that’s only because you haven’t practiced working through them.
The more you practice, the more you do, the easier it becomes. The more you do, the more automatic this new behaviour becomes.
Practice is better than just thinking. Doing, stumbling, learning and trying is better than waiting until you have a perfect plan. Besides, who is to say that your plan is perfect anyway?
You need to try, to explore, to experiment, to fall, to pick yourself up, to get stronger. And the only, only way to do this is to start. Even if you’re not ready, especially if you’re not ready.
When I quit, I didn’t follow the perfect plan I had in my head. I didn’t go for a run, or bake cookies, I didn’t meditate, I didn’t journal, I didn’t eat or drink any of the things I said I would, I just started. I made the commitment that I would just try. I got through the day slowly, unsure of myself, learning as I went and actually doing none of the things I said I would.
But, I did it, it worked and I felt bloomin’ amazing! The more I just kept going and kept doing, the easier it became. I figured things out, I learned what worked and what didn’t. I realized that after a couple of AF beers and some sparkling water that I was happier with good old fashioned English tea thank you very much!
Most of the things I had in my plan, I have never done! I think I have been running three times in the past two years, I have made biscuits once, I never colour in, I’ve not tried knitting and I can’t remember the last time I had a ‘crafting session’ with my boys.
But, I have discovered new things that I never even thought about when I was planning my perfect sobriety. Yoga, for a start who knew? Not me that’s for sure, but with more time, more learning, more exploring I realized something was missing, my mornings were far from perfect so I got started with yoga about 8 months into my sobriety and I love it, but I never planned for it.
That is the beauty of just going for it, you learn as you go, make things up, let go of certain things and find new ways to support and guide you. I like the line from the Pirates of the Caribbean about the Pirate Code:
“The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules”
Of course, it’s wonderful to have a few ideas, a rough outline, some guidelines, but unless you go all in, give it your best shot, just try, just start, then all the planning in the world ain’t gonna make up for rolling your sleeves up, getting down and dirty and putting your dreams into practice. Living, learning and experiencing is the only way you will actually get what you want.
Doing is better than thinking.
Do you want to do? Are you tired of wishing, dreaming and hoping? Are you thinking of quitting drinking? Start before you’re ready with my new set of ‘guidelines!’ Follow the Ten Steps to Sober Bliss, right now, today, and before you know it you too will be living your dream alcohol free life instead of wasting more time, wishing, wanting, planning and preparing.
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