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!!

 

Day 314 out of 365 – 227 Days AF and Day 14 #DryJuly

Checking in mid-point into #DryJuly… and nearing the end of my ‘one year experiment’ leading up to my 52nd birthday on September 3rd.

This week has been great as I’ve been off work (only worked Monday) after somewhat of a break down last week as I was feeling burnt out and broken with all the stressors relative to my daughter’s mental health issues and the challenges they bring. But being AF has kept me strong and allowed me to focus on strategies and solutions including making my morning workouts non-negotiable again and doing daily personal development.

The guilt that comes with drinking for me just isn’t worth it anymore. The feeling of ‘I deserve it’ thinking of “I deserve a drink after this or that…” is gone and what I want MORE is to feel as I do today… Stronger, more energetic, having more clarity and purpose again. I’ve come across a few great resources this week including Rachel Hart’s podcast on this topic and the other one was a blog post that reminded me how I seriously DON’T want to go back to day 1 again (The Obstacle Course). I’m also listening to Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits which has a ton of great ideas and tools to help me get back on track in many ways.

The group that I created (Lose ‘da Booze 100 Day Success) is also doing well and we share resources from various places. I don’t put limitations on what #sobertools we can get our hands on. I hope to someday be the resource that someone refers others too as I continue with my mission to #LoseDaBooze in my life (and let go of the hold that alcohol had on me).

In our group I try to collect resources and share in files so we have a go to reference – things like distractions, sober tools links, quotes, photos of our face to face before and after…

Staying AF for me means staying busy and finding a purpose… and I feel like I’m back and today will be the day I create a NEW (updated) vision board which I’ll share a bit later once it’s completed.

The alone time at home doesn’t come often anymore so I’m going to savor it and get my day started… it’s amazing how much gets done when you don’t drink (and also a raw realization of how much time is wasted when we DO drink). We choose and today is a beautiful day to continue this awesome sober streak I’m on! Are you with me?

Reaching for Support Through Al-Anon

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Yesterday I attended my very first Al-Anon meeting. Over the years, I struggled with the idea of attending an AA meeting feeling it wasn’t the right fit – but after spending 5 days with a roommate at a conference – we got to talking and she’s a long time Al-Anon member, it felt like this group would be something that I could benefit from. And so, I planned to go alone, but she joined the meeting. It was a discussion group meeting and I have to say – after my first one, I feel like this is going to open up a whole new world for me and perhaps be the catalyst that will truly give me the “Courage to Change” (I bought the book yesterday and love the dated daily readings). I enjoyed the meeting so much that I’m going to another one on Monday and I am also considering going to an Open Speaker AA meeting as well.

I guess my own issues or worries around drinking stem from being afraid I’ll end up like my sister or be that ‘heavy’ drinking parent my girls will remember and this is NOT what I want for them. I did grow up surrounded by a drinking family and recall many experiences that truly affected me and made me who I am today. It also led me to attracting some negative people into my life – but I am happy to say that I’m single and very aware of the quality of people that I draw into my life now.

I won’t lie – the past couple of months I have not been so AF and I felt myself spiraling down a road I didn’t want to travel again. And so, after some very motivational conference speakers/sessions, I came back home and setup a 90 day challenge for myself. It started August 1st and day 90 will be October 29, 2014.

I also have a LOT of changes going on at home with my oldest moving out August 1st and my own realization that I need to change my own living space as a 3 bedroom, 3 level condo is just too much for me and my 13 year old daughter. I think the past couple of months’ stressors have been this indecision or the unknown of what was coming … but now that things are materializing, I feel a sense of peace. I’m the type of person who is an organizer and planner to the unknown is hard (I’m a Virgo can you tell lol). It’s going to be HUGE to move from a house to a 2 bedroom apartment (I have not lived in an apartment for over 20 years). But I am looking at the bright side of things – it’s an opportunity to get rid of a LOT of old ghosts including furniture I’ve had since before my marriage (and subsequent separation/divorce in 2002). I have listed things to sell and will donate even more. While I dislike moving (it’s only been a year since my since my last move), this is a good decision as it will cost less per month and it will bring me closer to work and my daughter closer to the day treatment program she’ll be attending.

And so – this time, it seems easier to be AF than all the other times I’ve tried because there’s a different purpose behind it. I also believe that with this newly added ‘in person’ support, I will reach my goal! I’m not saying I’ll be AF forever, but I will be AF a lot more than I ever was, and perhaps one day, I may quit altogether, but just for today – I will not drink.

The Sober Revolution – No More Mr. Unsuitable!

I’m partway into chapter 4 of The Sober Revolution which I started this morning and I’m already loving it!

I think what really clicked with me is how my relationship to alcohol is very similar to those negative relationships I’ve had in my life with men. The analogy provided by Lucy is bang on for me… I was that girl who always wanted the thing or man I couldn’t have or shouldn’t want. The bad boy syndrome. Me being the rebel and going after something I really shouldn’t allow in my life. I believe this is why I have had such a hard time letting go because if you tell me I can’t have something – then I seem to want it even more.

But things have changed now. I’ve matured and I’m learning. With the readings, the blogs and learning from others’ experiences, I feel confident that I can and will walk away from this BAD relationship. I want Mr. Wonderful in my life!! Sobriety… the one who will make me feel good, treat me well and encourage me to live my life to the fullest. Mr. Unsuitable keeps trying to call me back… he knows me since we’ve had this relationship now for a few decades. 28 years to be exact. That’s even longer than my marriage/relationship with my ex-husband of 13 years so I know this isn’t going to be smooth sailing all the way.

It’s true that at times when I’m feeling vulnerable Mr. Unsuitable will try to lull me back by bringing up some of the more ‘fun’ times we had together – but I need to stay focused on the overall negative effect he has had on my life, and so many of my experiences.

Sobriety is what I’m after now. And for now I’m ok to be ‘single’ for a while longer until I work through all of this and build a solid foundation for a healthy future with Mr. Wonderful. Again – the analogy provided in the book is BRILLIANT… I used to do a lot of work searching for a soul mate – tired of being single (now almost 11 years) – but I now realize that I have to FIX myself first and love myself most before I can have anyone else love me. Self-love is what will heal me and guide me to doing good things for myself including this journey to sobriety.

I know my words are strong today because the voices (or Wolfie or Mr. Unsuitable) are far away for now… but I also know that so long as I keep building up my tool box of resources and arm myself, I’ll be ready when they come knocking at my door and I’ll happily tell them NO – I’m not going back to that relationship – We Are Done!!

No more of this – maybe I can give it another try and see if it can be different. Shit – it never worked in my relationships with men either. I swear this lesson learned right here, right now – it will be key in my truly finding a fulfilling and healthy relationship… once I’ve achieved my goal of sobriety.

I feel encouraged by this new view point. By looking at ‘da booze as that shitty asshole partner/boyfriend that I’m DONE with. I am better than that and I need to focus on getting on with my life and living it to my fullest potential … SOBER.

Worth the Fight

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This journey for me is not easy. I finished reading Lisa Newmann’s book Sober Identity and while I had some difficulty following parts of it the end really rang true for me in so many ways. The trial and errors about my getting to the ‘sober’ status and how perhaps because my mind is still not fully committed – that’s why I’m falling more than not.

I have a lot to work out in my head about the WHY I need to do this – even though it may seem pretty obvious too. I guess I need to get more sober days under my belt until my sub-conscious mind or the devil or wolfie or whatever VOICE name you want to call it quiets down. Today was easy and I had no cravings or wants for it. I felt much better too and finishing off the day on a good note.

The power of our sub-conscious mind is so incredible and reprogramming it is going to take time and I have to allow this to come. I know it’s not going to be easy – but it’s definitely going to be worth it in the end. I want a different life for myself, for my kids. They are also struggling with the ‘young’ experimentation of drugs (marijuana) and their taste or curiosity for booze too… and it kills me to see it because I know it’s a slippery slope. Thankfully with counseling I hope that we can address it and teach them better coping mechanisms and provide them with the right tools. The other part is my being a better role model – but I know it won’t happen overnight. It’s like they will need to see proof that THIS time is different.

I thought the answer was to tell more people about my intentions, but now I think I spoke too soon and now I’m just going to fly under the radar on the issue as long as I can and avoid discussing it outside of this sober blogging world where I know people truly understand what I’m going through. I’m not even going to say much to Belle either until I have more sober days ‘done’ since I’ve fallen off the 100 day challenge so often (so much so I feel embarrassed).

I was reading some blogs over on the soberistas website tonight and one lady talked about how one day turned into many … story of my life but worse, how I would actually go to bed early, then wake up once the kids were in bed and drink more so I could do it when they were not awake and I could ‘hide’ it a bit more. There was also a comment there I could relate to in that when I get into these binge modes it’s like I take in all I can because when this is done this time – I’m done… and yet it doesn’t always work that way. I was also reminded by the post/comments about how much I give up when I drink and basically withdraw and ‘hide’ from the world. I don’t want anyone to see me this way and so I put up a facade, make excuses and lie – to them and to myself.

I still hesitate calling myself an alcoholic and I’m not sure if I have to truly admit this to get beyond this addiction. I guess when I think alcoholic I think of a different picture than what I’m going through – the person who can’t go without or they get extreme shakes and tremors – that’s not me. I can stop – and sometimes I do for a month or less – it’s when I start back that I seem to go into ‘days of drinking’. And so, the decision has to be made that total abstinence is probably my best bet and yet thinking that scares me too. I know AA is not for me either – because I refuse to believe that we are powerless in this journey – I know I am stronger than this and I will eventually beat it.

In Lisa’s book she speaks to change and growth and how it’s not comfortable or easy and she’s right – this SHIT is HARD! I’m reaching out for support as best I can with my means and definitely tuning in to my writing because that’s something that has always helped me.

And so now I take a few new lessons learned on this path and get ready to turn in and begin again tomorrow. Moving on to the Sober Revolution book for my next read. Tools tools tools … must soak my mind with thoughts about changing my addictive patterns … and practice more meditation too. Today was a GOOD day!

Can I Really Do This?

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I’m sitting here after 17 days of daily drinking again – some of which was beyond moderate to the point of binge drinking to ‘finish it off’ so I could hopefully tackle the next day without booze. It’s this cycle I seem to keep reverting to and it makes me wonder if I can really do this AF thing. I know deep down that I must and as I read some wonderful posts – including Lisa’s recent equation one – well I am given hope. This SHIT is real hard. Today is our Thanksgiving holiday and I’m grateful that everything is closed down and that I have resolved to making it my first AF day again. 

I told my daughter yesterday – ‘after today I’m going to quit again’ and she replied ‘ya right’… OUCH. I did tell her I made it 24 days last time and I truly and honestly want to make it longer. I can’t think forever because that notion scares the hell out of me – who will I be if I no longer drink? Even as I did allow myself drinks again when I went to meet friends before my meeting, they said ‘oh you have to be drinking when it’s our gala girlfriend’… and that’s on November 30th. So you see – even with  my resolve today about NOT drinking – I’m already thinking ahead to that night as I did with my move and how I started drinking then after 24 days of abstinence. 

I go through so many highs and lows and sitting here this morning, in my new bedroom looking out the window to the greyish day, the fall leaves on the tree outside the window, gently swaying and leaves slowly falling – I feel as though it’s a time of change for me too. But can I really do this? I know deep down in my heart and soul I want to prove I can. I know posting publicly here is risky – because it opens things up for feedback… and while most of the comments are helpful, there are at times notes from some who just truly should NOT be lurking if they can not relate to what I’m going through. 

I’m only human and I have made mistakes and I’m sure I will make more. The key thing I guess is that so long as I keep trying, that I stay true to myself, I will eventually get there. Nothing really worthwhile having is easy. This is HARD work, and I’m going to use the next 24 hours to get back to my sober world. 

Having my step-daughter over later for Thanksgiving dinner – and I am going to take time out today to truly be appreciative of the good things in my life – including finally being in this new home and using my AF time to get more unpacking done. 

Tough Times

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I encountered some tough moments today. It seems at times when I finally think things are turning around I get hit with another rough patch. This morning was an example of that – but I’m getting tougher and my skin is getting thicker. This stuff with my 12 year old – it’s HARD. This stuff with sobriety – even HARDER at times. 

It’s a Friday night and I contemplated drinks today just because I feel like my kids are sucking the life out of me. Then I thought – why would I want to let the booze suck even more life out of me?!

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And so I’m taking time to reflect on my day as I get ready for an early bed time. The cravings passed and I’m wrapping up another sober day. I know there will be other tough times ahead, but there will also be some good times ahead so long as I stick to my guns and remain AF. I know everything else will fall into place. 24 hours at a time.