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!!

 

T-Minus 7 Days to ONE Year of Losing ‘Da Booze!

I’m going to use this week to really journal the hell out of what is going on in my head. I’m still enjoying drinks in moderation (well my version of moderation) and observing all the effects and how I’m feeling. I’m kind of wanting to say goodbye and letting go slowly as I gear up for my ONE year no booze!

It’s daunting for some to say forever – or even to say for 100 days – but it all begins with ONE step. And making the decision day by day to keep it going. I know that the support group I have created on Facebook and the other tools I’m gathering will help me through this. I’m letting my family and friends know of my intentions and preparing a schedule so I am armed to succeed!

I am going to use my positive affirmations and continue my personal development to build upon my strength to do this. I’ve created a template for others to follow and journal on a day to day basis as they go through the challenge or FREEDOM of Losing ‘da Booze – so as to focus on the positives it will bring into their lives.

So here’s to NEW beginnings! And letting the magic flow!

“And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the MAGIC of beginnings”

 

I Will Stay Strong

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I have a very difficult couple of days ahead of me. On Dec 3rd my best friend’s mom (someone who I looked upon as a mother figure) passed away, and on Dec 4th my godmother passed away. And so I find myself having to travel back to my home town today to attend both visitations/funerals that will span from today to Saturday. 

Yesterday I feared what this would do to my AF status but as the day went on and as I thought it through, I now feel stronger in my resolve to keep my AF streak going. I will need to stay strong through this and I’m sure there will be many tears shed, but I will remain sober through it all. 

My hometown is often a trigger because it’s where I left to escape from the daily drinking and worse, at one point, the daily use of oxycotin pills as another numbing agent. When I moved here 5 years ago – it was to break away from it all and I succeeded in breaking the pill/pain killer addiction because it wasn’t all around me. The drinking also slowed down and today – right here, right now it has stopped. 

Like my gala was different as I attended and stayed sober, so will this visit back home be. I know the ‘firsts’ of many are always hard and sometimes awkward, but I also know it’s something I must do. 

The one thing about this trip is that it will also give me a bit of space and a break from all I’ve been dealing with at home here with my 12 year old. I think it will give me some perspective and I hope that my time away from her will do the same for her. It’s been very draining to constantly have to fight and argue with her. We continue with counseling and in a couple of weeks we hope to have a consultation with a psychiatrist to see perhaps again about adding medication to try to help regulate her moods. 

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And so I pray – to arrive safely back home (the freezing rain should stop before I head out) and I pray for brighter days ahead. Today is day 38 AF.

Wolfie

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This picture helps me accept it because as with most things there are always two sides. I have this poster  hat has wolves on it that has been the source of my inspiration on my journey… (below)

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So there’s a BAD wolfie and there’s a strong wolfie!! Today I’m letting that peaceful, strong wolfie squash the asshole wolfie that tried to tell me it would be a good idea to have a drink tonight… that I deserve it and that honestly I’m making too big of a deal out of this.

FUCK YOU BIG BAD WOLFIE… because my inner GOOD wolfie is going to win! I’m going to beat my record of 33 days and wake up feeling amazing tomorrow. I have not had 34 sober days in a row in decades – tomorrow marks that day and my continued journey forward in the sober car!!

Turning Point

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I’m sitting here with this revelation that I’m beyond just being sober, but truly feeling some other changes happening or coming into my life. One of the biggest things that I did when I drank was get sucked into chats with guys that was really leading to ‘nowhere’… and because I was drinking, I thought it was ok.

Being sober now, those chats have lost their appeal and I see them for what they are. Guys reaching out to me when they have nothing better to do and I’m now able to say NO and move on.

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I used to view this in a whole different light before. I was craving attention and when a guy would reach out, even though I knew it wasn’t in my best interest, after a few drinks well it sounded like fun. But then the next day came and I was back to being alone. NO MORE! I deserve better.

I do have a couple of male friends that I see – and with both of them I would like more (well I believe in one man one woman lol – but I like both of these guys as they have their own unique positives) – but what we have is at a level that we both agree too. It works when we can make it work but no pressure. It’s still not ideal but at least sober, I know I am making much sounder decisions around this and if I say yes it’s because I feel it’s a good thing (we all have needs lol).

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The other point I’ve been reflecting on is what else I want to do with my life. I love my job but I want to find other means of creating income for myself so I can be even more independent in life. I’m contemplating many avenues and reading a lot. Even participating in free seminars to kind of get a feel for where I want to go with this. I have time to do this now that I’m sober but even now, there’s SO much information out there, it’s overwhelming. So I will practice some patience and make sound sober decisions so that I move towards more opportunities and leave those dead end and dead beat men in my past. The future is bright!! MY future is bright… you know this was the title of the story I contributed to Louise Hay’s Modern Day Miracles… guess in what section it was in?! Addictions… this happened in 2010 and here I am now. A work in progress. I am learning a lot along the way and perhaps that in of itself is part of my destiny – to gather these lessons so that I can share them and help others going through similar journeys. My wish is that – to be of help to others while fulfilling my passions in life.

I couldn’t do this if I wasn’t sober. Very grateful to put day 28AF in the books!

I Think My Switch has Finally Flipped!

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It’s been a long journey to get to where I am today and how I feel now. I’ve been battling the ‘devil’ that is alcohol in my life for about 28 years – but more intensely after my separation in 2002 and the death of my mother and a slew of other really tough life events (job loss, bankruptcy, losing friends to accidents and cancer – some of which I believe were related to booze). Five years ago this month, my own sister at the age of 50 lost her life as she succumbed to the alcohol and drank herself to death. 

Yesterday I talked to a friend who shared with me that she was assaulted by her bf – who was drunk and who choked her and bit her chin and left her with countless bruises. She finally called the police. 

Why does it take so much to finally have us see or flip this switch that BOOZE is Bad NEWS!! I used to dabble with the idea if I could get a handle on moderation and be a social drinker, I’d go that route but now, I realize (with the help of reading The Sober Revolution and the website Soberistas) that I have to simply commit to 100% sobriety for life!

So consciously I’m ok with that and accepting of it. But sub-consciously – these past few days, my dreams are filled with thoughts, events, past experiences – all surrounding booze. I suppose that’s the part of my brain that’s still hard wired to the addiction. I wake up feeling guilty – like I had had a drink. 

I also noticed how much more aware I am about how booze is everywhere – in scenes of my many favorite shows, on friends’ status updates and how they can’t wait to have one, or pics of them having some. 

When I asked the hotel catering manager about AF options for the Gala I have coming up on the 30th he told me he had never been asked that question. Even the event coordinator that I’m replacing said the same thing. Is it because I asked the question versus non-drinkers just asking for soda as a norm and not worrying about it so much ahead of time? For me, it was necessary, to be armed and plan ahead for this night. 

So while I’m still having some ‘ansy’ moments like last night where there was a period of time that might have led me to drinking before – I simply observed my feelings and noticed the triggers and blogged on Soberistas about it. I know for me, it’s important to keep writing it out and the wonderful thing about this blogsphere is that I get feedback and support. 

So while it’s still very early in the game (Day 6 today)… I truly feel that my switch has finally flipped. I know there will be hard days or moments – but with continued work and meditation and readings, I will stay strong. I am committed and I am determined to live my BEST life by ‘losing ‘da booze’…

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