Strategies to ensure you don’t break your AF Streak

I went live in our Secret Lose ‘da Booze Group yesterday to share strategies to keep you on track with your commitment to Losing ‘da Booze in your life. Whether you are committing to 30 days, a few days a week, or like me – now in this for LIFE as I’ve retired my drinking career. These tips may help you stay the course.

Strategy 1 – Utilizing others

Surrounding yourself with a good support system is KEY to success! That’s why after my first 100 Days AF I created the group and now coming up on almost 2 years strong. There are also other ways to gather support through your own community and of course your family. Finding sober friends will help you stay the course. Spending time with them will reinforce your commitment. Finding allies and confidantes who support your AF lifestyle will help you stay strong and that’s what posting to our group has done for me. I’ve also joined other groups (This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment) – the more you can arm yourself with a community of people who ‘get’ what you’re trying to do the greater your chances of success will be. Use them if you feel like you’re going to cave in to cravings and reach out by personally messaging or posting on the boards where you’ll be welcomed and supported through moments of weakness. Go to in person meetings if there are some available in your community. Don’t be afraid to share your goals to be AF with others. Be proud of it. Informing others will strengthen your commitment. If you’re going on holidays – re-clarify your goals and consider meeting up with sober communities or linking to sober activities during your travels. Help and educate others as it will reinforce what you already know from your own experiences. And most importantly – don’t isolate yourself. If you are down and alone – those are the times that are riskiest to breaking your AF streak – so REACH OUT!

Strategy 2 – Knowing and avoiding triggers

Reduce the amount of time spent with past boozing friends. Recognize the people who are unhealthy or triggering. This doesn’t mean they are bad people – it just means you are taking care of yourself. Identify high risk situations and people. These are the situations or people who may will make staying sober a struggle. Try to develop strategies to handle such influences without resolving to alcohol to cope. Be able to successfully anticipate high-risk situations and be ready with a plan to cope with them. Know and learn your triggers and avoid them or find ways to manage them. Give up hobbies that are associated with booze. This could include going to pubs, watching certain TV programs, etc. Visualize and mentally rehears what you can do to get out of tempting situations. It’s like muscle memory – it’s easier if you’ve developed the muscle first. Plan ahead of what you will do. Replace negative behaviours with positive ones. Rehearse answering awkward questions from relatives or friends – especially at parties or other social situations when alcohol is freely available. Have a standard response ready. Have an escape plan if you’re attending a party or event. Be sure to have your own vehicle or plan for public transportation to leave. Don’t feel obligated to stay if you are in a situation you don’t want to be in that could trigger a slip. Attend events with sober friends and family. Be the designated driver. If you are experiencing a strong urge to drink – distract yourself for at least 15 minutes and know that the craving will subside. Know you are more powerful than your craving – this is something you CAN beat! Know that a slip starts with thoughts that maybe you don’t have an issue or you miss drinking … be mindful of these thoughts and go back to WHY you decided to Lose ‘da Booze (make a list that you can refer to of all the negatives you experience when you drink). Stay away from old ‘haunts’ where you associate drinking with. Cravings are part of your overall journey – know what to do when you get them: places to go, what can calm you down, sources of distractions (like the files we have in our group), people to call, etc. Learn about Terence Gorski’s concepts: 1 – euhporic recall (where a person thinks positively about their alcohol use), 2 – negative abstinence (where a person associates negative feelings with sobriety) – by the way this is so NOT how I’m feeling now as I only see all the GOOD about being sober, 3 – exaggerated thinking (where a person believes all the bad things happening to them would go away if alcohol was reintroduced).

Strategy 3 – Develop coping mechanisms & psychological strength

Have a safety plan with at least five easy things you can do whenever your feelings are likely to overwhelm you and carry the safety plan with you because under stress, we don’t think very well. Plan for harm reduction if a slip does occur. Do not feel ashamed if you break your streak. Seek out support immediately through our group or whatever supports you have setup for yourself. Don’t allow a slip to turn into a full blown spiral backwards to boozing it up. Give yourself grace for setbacks. They don’t mean everything you’ve worked for is nothing. Above all if you slip don’t give up giving up!! Understand your prior progress wasn’t for nothing. Progress not perfection – it took me FIVE years of trying to moderate before I was able to accept that I just was done for good and now retired from a 40 year drinking career. Kill complacency. After a while you may assume you’re ok but being sober is a full time job. Don’t let your guard down. Keep a daily journal that’s only for you or do like me and create a blog if you’re ready for that. Allow yourself to ponder all that you’ve lost over the years – but don’t stay stuck in the past either. Build on the positives that sobriety brings to your life and create new and meaningful experiences. Don’t have the ‘first’ drink – one drink can undo so much!! Keep stress levels low – look at what may be causing you stress and make adjustments as needed. Regulate your physical and emotional needs – this is all about balance and minding your health – mind, body and spirit. You can always join my Healthy 4Life group for support in this area. Don’t feel guilty about having ME time!! Self-care is KEY to success … this could include reading a book or just resting in bed all day! Sometimes empty time is just what the doctor ordered. Work your assertiveness skills and learn to say NO (and no is a complete sentence). Don’t expect all your problems to magically go away – know that your efforts are a work in progress. Avoid being overconfident – always be mindful that your sobriety is something you must work at. Avoid self-pity – this is not a punishment but a reward … your life will be blessed with so many gifts in sobriety if you give it a real chance. Sobriety will not always equal happiness – it’s sometimes a roller coaster of emotions but enjoy the ride! Use DEADS: Each letter stands for an approach to avoid a slip. D-elay – this is based on the notion that cravings and urges disappear when you shift your attention elsewhere (do this for 10 to 15 minutes). E-scape – remove yourself from the urge provoking situation – this could be a pub or supermarket where alcohol is readily available. It’s KEY to focus your attention elsewhere. A-ccept – cravings and urges are a natural part of living sober. Accept these emotions for what they are without judging them negatively. Don’t punish yourself for having these urges/cravigns. D-ispute – Identify past addictive situations and develop tactics for disputing them when they occur again… in my case – there is no longer that mental battle going on as I’ve taken the option of drinking completely off the table and it feels so freeing! S-ubstitute – requires you to substitute urges with fun or productive activities. This could mean going for a run or a walk, or reading a book or listening to music. Make a list of activities you could go to when urges/cravings arise. Again check our distractions file in the Lose ‘da Booze group.

Strategy 4 – Goal setting

Make realistic goals. Success happens in baby steps – not leaps and bounds. Keep a list for what your grateful for – GRATITUDE should be part of your daily menu. Reward yourself for your progress – map out milestones and reward yourself for each of them with the money you save by NOT drinking! This is so important!! This is hard work and the first while (1 to 2 years for those who are choosing to quit for good) is how long it takes… but the end result is well worth it. You will feel more alive and better than you have in a long time!

Strategy 5 – Lifestyle

Know that a busy schedule full of work, activities, fitness, addiction work (education, researching and helping others) and relationships will mean you are less occupied and less likely to return to booze. Find healthy outlets for stress (meditation and journaling). Eat well – give your body exactly what it needs. Exercise -THIS is really the BEST medicine you can give yourself as it not only builds a stronger body but can help boost your mood and relieve stress, anxiety, etc. Get plenty of sleep (whatever amount of time is good for you) – this will help you have a clear mind for decision making. Engage in new adventures or activities – fun activities like hiking, sky diving, skiing, etc). Now that you are clean you’ll find lots of time to invest in a healthier hobby. Occupy your time wisely so you don’t get bored. Consider taking up a sport or perhaps sign up for a local night class. Allow yourself to practice or lean some form of expressive activity – drawing, writing, painting, singing, playing music, acting, etc. – that you can do regularly but especially when you are upset, scared or angry. Regularly practice some meditation activity – learn formal meditation, yoga, prayer or whatever works for you. Spend time in nature. Keep yourself busy by cleaning up your home, garden or garage. An uncluttered living and working space make for a healthy and clear mind where you can make rational and sound decisions. There’s nothing more satisfying than a job well done!

I posted a live video in our group about this – but want to blog it to reach more people. If you feel this is something that can help someone else, please share and if you wish to join our ‘secret’ group, follow the link above to find out how! #LoseDaBooze and Gain YOUR life back!! You can do this!!

 

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