Ways to treat yourself without alcohol – I remember talking to my friend last year, she had been doing Dry January (I hadn’t) and she told me that come February 1st she was going to drink a bottle wine to reward herself for abstaining for a whole month – she deserved it, it was her treat for being good. At the time I thought, ‘fair enough’ I rewarded myself every day with a beer or three just for getting through my working day or looking after the kids – everybody does it.
However since stopping drinking in March 2018, I now know and clearly understand that alcohol is a terrible treat! There are far healthier ways of treating ourselves and I’d like to share with you my ideas and advice about how to treat yourself without alcohol.
If you have been doing Dry January this year, then I am sure you have given yourself rewards or discovered ways to treat yourself without alcohol throughout the month and so you should, because treats are extremely important. Often though when we stop drinking, we also stop tour treats because, we believe that the better sleep, more energy and improved health should be reward enough. There’s also the fact that having used alcohol as a reward system for so long, means we have forgotten how to really treat ourselves, so when February 1st rolls around, we turn to the only reward we know. This is a bad, bad idea for many reasons but the key reason which I wrote about in this post is that:
“When we see alcohol as a treat – we are rewarding ourselves with the very thing that we are trying not to have in the first place.”
When I was drinking, alcohol was the only thing I used to treat myself and I used to look forward to any reason really to indulge a little and any stressful event, big project completed or even just completing a day being Mum to my children deserved a reward. I am sure you are familiar with these thoughts which for me went something like:
“I deserve a drink. I’ve worked hard all week and it’s Friday night.”
“I can’t wait until the kids have gone to bed, then I’m going to treat myself to a big glass of wine”
“It’s been such a stressful day, let’s have a treat and open the gin”
The problem here is that when we use alcohol as our reward system it can be extremely difficult to imagine how anything else will ‘hit the spot’ in the same way. And for me, personally when I was drinking I wouldn’t allow myself any other treats because I felt guilty enough indulging in wine or beer so I had actually forgotten what I enjoyed or liked doing. When I first toyed with the idea of stopping drinking, the thought of losing my reward was a big deal for me – I assumed that I would be miserable, miss out and I had no idea of what to do instead.
But in retrospect, I can see that using alcohol as a treat is the worst thing we can possible do, Let’s look at alcohol in terms of a treat and consider why it is such a terrible treat. Sitting down at the end of a hard day with a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed does seem appealing and it’s true that when we sink into the sofa, glass in hand we do feel a sense of peace and calmness come over us (often before we’ve even had a sip) However, that first buzz we experience as the alcohol enters our bloodstream doesn’t last and as the effect wears off we have another glass and another, all the while trying to capture that initial feeling. We end up drinking more than we set out to and then go to bed feeling flat, dehydrated and drunk. It is usually during the night and certainly the next morning when our ‘treat’ really kicks in.
Really bad sleep because of the wine results in waking up the next morning feeling terrible if not hungover drinking more coffee than is good for us and eating all the carbs in the house, just to try and feel normal!
When my kids were little and while we still had English telly Cbeebies was on, all the time, and By God didn’t I deserve a treat after having been subjected to Postman Pat, The Octonauts, Tree Fu Tom (which I quite liked actually but not 8 times a day) and In The bloody Night Garden.
It is no fun whatsoever though to have to deal with night time toilet disasters or early morning tantrums because the toast is cut into squares and not triangles when all you really want to do is lie down and die. What a treat, huh?
If you still consider alcohol to be your reward, your ‘little treat’ then I think it is important to ask yourself some serious questions:
1. “Do I deserve to wake up tomorrow with a hangover and spend the rest of the day recovering?”
2. “Is it really a treat for me to snap at my kids all evening and then feel full of shame and guilt about it?”
3. “Is sitting on the sofa in a numbed out state, achieving absolutely nothing all weekend such a rewarding experience?”
If you’re reading this thinking, ‘I know what you’re saying but having a cup of tea is just not the same’ I agree, it’s not – it is so much better! When we think about sitting down to relax with our treat, our glass of wine, at the end of the day, it is often just the act of throwing off our shoes, sinking down into the sofa, enjoying the peace and breathing a huge sigh of relief as our shoulders relax which takes us to that special place. And then, we might have a sip of the wine.
Allowing yourself those few precious moments to just stop for a minute is the biggest reward we can enjoy. Coupled with a cup of your favourite tea or coffee, makes the whole experience magickal. The more we practice doing this either without or without the tea, then it becomes our idea of a treat, and it is!
A few things to remember about ways to treat yourself without alcohol. Your treats should be personal to you, they need not be expensive, they don’t have to be material things and they should be easy for you to do. If your idea of a treat in an all inclusive week in the The Seychelles but it is out of your budget, then that ain’t gonna work!
How I treat myself
Tea (goes without saying!) is my daily treat and my favourite cup of tea is the first one early in the morning when the house is still and quiet. I am still a big fan of proper British tea but I enjoy different infusions too. As a special treat on a Friday evening I love making a giant cup of Yogi Bedtime tea and as a family we do love a hot chocolate on any night of the week!
This is totally new for me as I have only just started practicing yoga but I have come to value it as my special time. And my reward for showing up on the mat every day is to enjoy the peace and stillness I feel whilst listening to my body and observing my breath. I do my yoga with the dog by myself at home in front of my laptop after my early morning cup of tea and it is the perfect way for me to start the day now.
This might not sound much like a treat but I enjoy this time in the fresh air, even now when it’s freezing! I walk with my youngest son to school and on the way back I listen to a podcast, or blast the music. I walk my dogs in the morning (when it is my turn) and I love watching the moon just being in the fresh air feels good and that’s what it’s all about.
Curling up in bed with a good book.
There is nothing more luxurious for me than to sneak off to bed early and lose myself in a book for an hour or so, or if my youngest is in the mood we might read together. After a difficult or busy day, I want to properly de-stress and relax and this is the way to do it. Quit lit really helped me in the beginning – check out my list of the best quit lit books available (including reviews)
Spending time with my family
I mean proper time without alcohol dulling the experience. We don’t often get the chance to eat together and have the whole evening as a family. My sons are 8 years apart so their school and social schedules are totally different. As a treat though, I do like to plan a family dinner once in a while and it’s great for us to catch up properly. These times used to be overlooked when I was drinking, or done half heartedly but now we concentrate on each other and lots of great food!
Reframe your treats
The key thing when thinking about ways to treat yourself without alcohol is to do something you like. I know it sound obvious but I struggled with this at first and apart from tea, I didn’t know what to drink, what to eat or what to do. Gradually though I have built up a range of activities I like to do and have discovered new drinks, new interests and taken up old pastimes that I let go.
The ways to treat yourself without alcohol depend on what type of person you are, if the above sounds a it boring to you, then that’s fine, choose something you enjoy. If you have forgotten what you liked to do, then it’s fun to try out new things and see what floats your boat!
Rewards for milestones
Daily or weekly treats and rewards are essential to keep you feeling good and motivated but it is also important to have something to show for all the time you’ve clocked up sober. My big tip though is to save the money you would have otherwise spent on booze and use it treat yourself after two weeks,a month, a year, save it for christmas or your birthday, whenever you fancy. In the beginning I used it most days and spent the money on chocolate or tea. My birthday coincided with 7 months of sobriety for me and my husband so we began saving up for a tattoo. All the money we had wasted in the past was going to be used for something we both wanted. It is also a lovely reminder of just how far we’ve come.
Decide what you want, discover what you like and don’t feel guilty about treating yourself.
What are your favourite ways to treat yourself without alcohol? Let me know in the comments below!