Binge Drinking

The Moderation Contemplation

mona-davis-winds-of-freedom

Winds of Freedom – Mona Davis

Are you trying to decide whether or not moderating your alcohol intake is the preferable option to giving it up entirely? Hugs and love to you. I know this is hard.

If I may, I’d like to ask you two questions:

1. Do you believe that being able to drink moderately makes you better or more whole as a person?
2. Do you know the reasons why you want the escape that drinking “promises”?

If you’re struggling to answer these two questions honestly, perhaps abstinence is the way to go. Of course the decision is yours but I’ll share my story:

I was a binge drinker which means that I could go days or weeks without drinking but when I did drink, anything could happen. Back then, if I was upset or angry the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that the high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped. Deep down I knew I had a problem with limits and believing it was a question of willpower, I had tried quitting or at least moderating my drinking many times. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.”

But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. Years later, when I finally got fed up enough with myself and all the blackouts, and with hurting people I loved, knew I had no choice. I knew that this time, I didn’t want to be the girl who couldn’t give it up. In my heart I believe that perspective made all the difference.

Early on in my sobriety I was afraid that I’d always feel broken, and inadequate, defective or abnormal because I couldn’t drink the way other people did. As time went on, I came to realize that choosing to figure out why I wanted to drink in the first place, and understanding that it was not about will power but instead about goodwill toward myself, made me proud not be a drinker. It became a source of strength and confidence.

Today, I know for a fact that alcohol never made anything better.  In terms of moderation, if you are already at the point where you are telling yourself that you should be moderating your alcohol intake, it usually means that alcohol simply isn’t for you. You are either safely unaffected by it or a stronger, better you without it.

All Change Begins With A Plan

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“All change begins with a plan, the success of which depends upon several things: depth of commitment, passion for one’s cause, willingness to embrace a new path, determination to overcome any obstacle, and in some cases, even making unnatural alliances.” ~ Klaus Mikaelson

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is only a month away and the next month of posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

All change begins with a plan

January is the month that many people make New Year resolutions to quit drinking, or at least, to not drink so much. When I made the decision to quit it was not the first time I’d said “That’s it! I’m NEVER drinking again. By that time in my life, I’d made that statement more times that I could remember, usually on the morning (or afternoon) after a night of heavy drinking. I’d be nursing the hangover from hell, trying with a very foggy brain to remember details of the night before, hoping and praying that I hadn’t said or done anything I’d really regret. Sounds familiar? So what made this declaration different than the ones before? For one thing, I’d just found out that I was in danger of losing the person I’d hurt this time. It was my sister and she had had enough. It was a wake-up call. I was full of remorse for what I’d done, disappointed in and more than angry and fed-up with myself. I was scared too. How many times was I going to do this to myself and to the people I care about? Why was it so hard to simply behave!? But you see, there wasn’t anything simple about my drinking at all. It was time to face facts: I had a problem, needed to get help and had to do whatever it took to deal.

Commitment, passion, openness, and determination

Deciding to give up drinking is an emotional, mental and physical struggle I remember very well. For years I suspected I had a problem and was terrified to admit it. I was afraid that it would mean that I was broken and a mess, which (in my way of thinking back then) would mean that I was unworthy and unlovable. I was afraid that I would have to give up my keys to The Little World of Block-It-All-Out and be left with no way to escape all those issues I was running from. I wasn’t ready to spend time with real me because I believed myself to be ugly and shameful.

I had tried quitting or at least curbing my drinking before. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.” But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. When I finally got fed up enough with myself and knew I had no choice, I knew that this time, I was quitting for ME. In my heart I believe that this made all the difference in the world.

I made some phone calls and asked for advice on where to go. I went to a meeting and started this blog to hold myself accountable. I knew it was not going to be easy but I also knew that nothing was going to make me give up. When I quit drinking I quickly found out that I had let alcohol become a habitual way to deal with so many emotions: anger, hurt, loneliness, frustration, fear. Of course, I wasn’t really dealing with any emotion. I was in the “efficient” habit of numbing what I felt. In actuality, the numbing and “escaping” only served to push the difficult emotions deep down into my psyche, where they prevented any real growth on my part. Once I figured that out the real work began.

Making unnatural alliances

I had to become a friend, to myself. Before you think I’m referring to the “I have to learn to love myself” philosophy that’s all the rage, let me stop you right there. I mean, I had to get to KNOW myself. I know I did not quit drinking for my sister but her actions that day forced me to look at the kind of person I was. Who I knew myself to be deep down inside was not the person on the outside. The Me on the outside was drowning in alcohol related side effects and becoming someone who had no understanding of herself and honestly did not like herself very much. I needed to understand myself, simple as that. I had to dig deep to find the source of my triggers and negative core beliefs, and rewire my thinking process with compassion and acceptance. It’s a work in progress but it is doable. I’m proof of that.

Quitting Drinking for 2016

If you’ve come across my blog because you’re wondering if you have a problem with alcohol maybe this can help clear it up:

I was a binge drinker. Which means that I didn’t drink every day, or got drunk every time I drank, but I had problems with limits. By the time I reached my low point I was drinking at least three times for the week and getting drunk about four times for the month. Once or twice a year I’d get drunk enough to have to rely on loved ones to drive me home. Oh and most importantly, I used alcohol as a means of escape instead of dealing with life. Long story short, all binge drinkers can and, if their habits are not checked, will become alcoholics at some point. What happens next, is up to you.

Love, light and courage,

Phoenix

 

Yabbering

Zuko_and_Toph

Toph: And then when I was nine, I ran away again. I know I shouldn’t complain, my parents gave me everything that I ever asked for. But they never gave me the one thing that I really wanted. Their love. You know what I mean?

I have a tendency to overshare. It was the most pronounced when I drank. Through the haze of alcohol drinking buddies and even acquaintances became “soul mates”. We were “destined to meet” and obviously had “a real connection” because after a few drinks we were pouring our hearts (and our personal business) out.

I am an empathetic listener and love psychoanalyzing people, so I have a way of getting people to open up to me. Of course, I always opened up about myself too. To an alarming degree at times. Then, the next time Sober Me (with a less than perfect memory of what we talked about) met the recipient of my confessions, I would be embarrassed and worried about how much I’d revealed. My new “friend” would be baffled by what appeared to be an about face on my part. I, on the other hand, would pretty much be ready to bolt.

I know why I did it. I told my personal stories to anyone who would listen, just because I needed approval and love so badly. I needed self-acceptance so much that I wanted someone who heard my stories to tell me that I was still a good person, not broken, or if I was indeed broken, say that I was made the more beautiful for it.

I keep the telling of my personal stories in check now, revealing them to only trusted friends. The reason why I share anything now has also changed. It’s no longer because I desperately seek approval or proof of worth, and is instead to offer understanding and compassion.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” ~ Brene Brown

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Negotiating

Sokka meat and sarcasm guy

Sokka: Okay Karma person or thing – whoever’s in charge of this stuff, if I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat and sarcasm. Okay? That’s all I got. It’s pretty much my whole identity, Sokka the meat and sarcasm guy, but I’m willing to be Sokka the veggies and straight talk fellow. Deal?

How many times, in the grip of a terrible hangover, have you declared, “God, if you can just get me through this day, I’ll never drink again!” Or while driving home inebriated said, “If I can just make it home safely, I’ll never get drunk again.” Negotiating and bargaining are familiar tools I remember wielding, with no effective use really other than attempting to convince myself that I was in control of the situation.

Around 1am one morning three years ago I was sobbing to a man in a white coat in a hospital ER. He left to attend to my best friend in the cubicle next to me. The curtains were drawn and she was crying out in pain as I prayed to God, making all sorts of deals with him if he’d just make sure that my best friend was okay. We should not have been out so late. We had promised each other that we’d be safe at home by 11:30pm. But 11:30 came and went with “one more round for the road” as is a common saying in my country. I was “sober enough to drive” and the accident was deemed not my fault as the driver of the other car had also been drinking and was drunk enough to break his red light, slam into my car and send it into a tailspin. He was not wearing his seatbelt and had bodyslammed his dashboard and windscreen. Two ambulances and one firetruck later we were in that ER calling out to each other through a flimsy blue curtain.

At 4am, after we were released from the hospital, I made all sorts of deals with God, The Universe, Queen Karma and anyone else I thought might be in charge as my best friend’s boyfriend drove us home, and cried for an hour sitting on the shower floor when I got home. I went to bed at dawn a very penitent girl with prayers and promises on my lips as I fell asleep.

But, of course, six weeks later my injuries had healed and I’d forgotten all about those promises. It would take another two years and two near misses for me to honour the deals I negotiated in that cold hospital emergency room.

~*~

This is Post N, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

The End Depends on The Beginning

“We think when we stop drinking that we are giving up a mind-expanding substance [when] in fact sobriety is the true freedom, and opens up new horizons beyond anything we could have dreamt.” Primrose

Deciding to give up drinking is an emotional, mental and physical struggle I remember very well. For years I suspected I had a problem and was terrified to admit it. I was afraid that it would mean that I was broken and a mess, which (in my ways of thinking back then) would mean that I was unworthy and unlovable. I was afraid that I would have to give up my keys to The Little World of Block-It-All-Out and be left with no way to escape all those issues I was running from. I wasn’t ready to spend time with real me because I felt that I was ugly and shameful.

I had tried quitting or at least curbing my drinking before. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.” But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. When I finally got fed up enough with myself and knew I had no choice, I knew that this time, I was quitting for ME. In my heart I believe that this made all the difference in the world.

“Problem is, people go into rehab and they’re not ready. You want to get sober for your parents, you want to get sober for your job, you want to get sober for the cops, you want to get sober to protect your image. A lot of good reasons, by the way, but unfortunately, the only thing that works is that you have to want to get sober for you. So, I was ready.” ~ Rob Lowe (quote courtesy How To Vomit Politely)

Finis origine pendet: The end depends on the beginning.

I was talking to a friend today about how self-assured and confident I feel. A lot of doubt has gone. I am ready for possibility, for all that life has to offer.

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Little Phoenix

I smile at baby photos of myself now. I never used to, and didn’t like to display my childhood photos around the apartment. When I looked at them I used to feel ashamed. Like I’d let that smiling toddler down. My heart would break to see her cheeky smile and innocence and I felt so far removed from the little girl I saw in those photos. I used to feel that I’d lost ME somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m smiling back with the same smile, full of wonder and joy and mischief. We whisper secrets back and forth. She tells me to look for the hummingbird hovering outside my window, to listen out for the wind chimes hanging in my porch, and about the real magic of rainbows. I tell her that the world is just as big and beautiful as she thought it would be, and even if life gets rough sometimes (as it will) she will be okay. And I tell her that I can remember her voice and her stories. I tell her that we are still up to mischief. I tell her that yes, she did grow up to be brave, strong and amazing.

If you choose to value yourself and make the change for YOU, because you deserve it, you too can do it.

Love and light, Phoenix

Self-Destruction or Self-Preservation?

beauty-22

“You don’t have a drinking problem you know. You just have to stop letting the bad stuff get to you. It’s only when you drink that you bring up all that old stuff and then you end up drinking more and crying.”

Worst advice I’ve ever been given. But in his defense, the person who said that had been a drinking buddy for a long time. In his defense I was still determinedly running from my darkside, hand in hand with Johnnie, Jack, and Jager.

But in my buddy’s “advice” lay two main truths. I was letting the ‘bad stuff’ (old demons, any perceived slights, rejections and unfair treatment) get to me. When new bad stuff happened and I dealt with it by drinking, all I would talk about would be the old bad stuff. And then the inevitable alcohol soaked outpouring would drench my world and any ready ear, friend or stranger.

It is astonishing (and a bit disturbing), the number of people I told about the bad stuff: about the stuff that bothered me to my core.  Okay, yes, they still bother me but I am learning how to deal with them in a healthier way, with self preservation in mind instead of self destruction. Self destruction only ever told me that my fears of being unworthy, unlovable or undeserving were warranted. I thought myself ‘bad’ and treated myself as such.

Anyway, to get back on topic. Alcohol never made anything better. Sure, the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that this high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped.

Now that the alcohol induced fog has lifted and I’m allowing myself time to see, recognize and sit with the ‘bad stuff’, slowly but surely I am creating new ways of dealing with them. Bit by bit I am forming new habits. Instead of paying attention to the “I am feeling (insert difficult emotion here), so I want / need / deserve a drink” thoughts, I’m shifting my focus because I know drinking never really made anything better.

Yes, sometimes I don’t want to sit with my feelings or understand my triggers. Yes, sometimes I get tired of the over-thinking, and the mantras, and the pep talks to myself. But you know what? I’ll take being ‘frustrated with myself for brooding too much’ over ‘frustrated with myself for drinking’ any day. I know the brooding won’t last. I know that it’s all part of the process. I know it’s part of developing new habits, which instead of harming me, are actually helping me this time.

Love and light!

Phoenix

Photo Credit: Beyond The Mirror

Dr. Maté Talks About Addiction

I came across this video on Films for Action and found it particularly helpful in understanding the root causes of addiction and how to deal with them. Dr. Maté is a renowned author known for his knowledge about attention deficit disorder, stress, addiction, chronic illness and parental relations.

Of course after this short video I had to view more. This second video is brilliant. It is a clip from Dr. Maté’s talks at TEDxRio. His theme was addiction: from drugs to power.

“From the lack of love to the desire to escape oneself, from susceptibility of the being to interior power — nothing escapes.”

The Beast

“The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars.” Johnny Cash

I gripped the steering wheel tightly as the tires screeched around the corner. My heart was racing and I giggled at the thrill.

“Do you fear death?” I asked my girl friend in the passenger seat. She was silent, her mouth set in a straight line. She’d seen me that way before. She knew talking to me would be useless.

When I think back to the times I fed that side of me and what I allowed myself to do I still shake my head in disbelief:

Yelling at my sister or my mom, scaring them and pushing them to the point of tears; Lashing out and saying terrible things to friends; Hurting and harming myself in more ways than one. I’d always end up crying uncontrollably at the end of the worst episodes. When I’d pushed people as far away as possible just to see who loved me enough to stay and hug me tight despite my claws and bared teeth. But who would (or could) stay when that beast was out? So inevitably I’d be in that place alone – scared and ultimately ashamed and full of remorse. That’s when the crying would come. Tears of frustration, anger, shame, fear, loneliness and guilt. If it was a really bad night I’d howl for all the ways that I’d hurt myself.

I used to ask myself over and over why I behaved so dreadfully. Why was I so awful? Where did that horrible side of me come from? I had my suspicions of course but did not know how to deal with that knowledge. It was easier to turn away, hell it was easier to pretend I did not know where that beast came from.

But I know now that she came from a place of fear. Any experience which triggered subconscious memories of times when I’d felt insecure, unloved, taken advantage of, unworthy, broken, hurt, ashamed, unseen, or unheard were enough to stimulate strong emotional reactions. Most of the time my rebellious nature and a sense of daring would take over, determined to let fun override any negativity. It worked most of the time. Every now and then it didn’t. My fear of facing those emotions brought out the beast in me.

I hated myself when I was like that. I was ashamed and I’d lash out at everyone else for not understanding. But how could they? They never knew. I’d never given anyone a chance to really understand. I’d built myself a little cage around me to keep others at a safe distance. To keep anyone from really connecting with me.

But that carefully constructed cage had frail and fragile bars. They were never really solid though, fashioned as they were out of the unexplained remains of a broken heart, so of course with the right (de)vices they were easy to break apart. Unfortunately, instead of letting others in, that broken cage  let the beast out. You see, I never really believed that I was worthy of love. I had trouble believing that love, kindness and understanding offered to me could be sustainable, so instead of gently accepting what was offered, I’d snarl and bite and demand proof that was offered was of substance.

I think differently now of course, at least I hope I do.

Phoenix

 

Once A Pickle, Always a Pickle

Pleasant-Pickle-Face

Written by: Lushwell

“Can I get you a drink?”

“No thanks, I don’t drink.”

“Really? Why? I mean, why don’t you drink?”

“Same reason I don’t smoke. I see little good coming from it.”

The issue of drinking or abstaining is hosted in OUR minds. We make it an issue. “I have to drink to fit in”. Bullsh_t. Most who have encountered one of our bizarre episodes will be delighted when the night is through and we haven’t made an ass of ourselves and the cops weren’t needed. This time.

Discretion in drinking, or discretion in abstaining? You will find several schools of thought on this board regarding the realistic ability to control drinking. I subscribe to the thought that once predicable control of alcohol / chemicals usage has been lost, it is gone for good. Responsible efforts then need to be focused on abstinence.

I recall an old saying that you can take a cucumber and make it into a pickle, but once it becomes a pickle, it will never be a cucumber again. That sums it up for me pretty well. I passed from being a cucumber into the land of pickles. There isn’t any magic chant or potion or meeting to attend that will make me a cucumber again. I will be a pickle from here on out. This fact was pretty evident to me, in spite of my denial and excuses and rationalization. I didn’t drink every day. I didn’t drink antifreeze. The cops didn’t need to be called every time I opened a beer. I learned that those things, while important, weren’t what determined that I had crossed over into pickle territory. That test was much simpler. Here is the test:

It isn’t about how much we drink

Or how often

Or where

Or with who

Or when.

Its about what happens when we do drink. The inability to predict what will happen, how we will act, what we will do, and when it will end.

If any of the above fits, you may be in pickle territory. Don’t worry, though. We can get you out of the pickle brine. There is a way out. You’ll still be a pickle though.

I’m not sure where discretion fits in here for you. You can always call ahead and warn the party hosts that someone else will have to be the reason for the next exciting episode of “Cops” to be filmed at their party, as you will not be performing. See how many tell you they are sorry to hear that.

Originally published by Lushwell

Elementary, my dear Watson.

One Way To Get Off “Part of recovery is about addressing painful things. If you ignore them, they become triggers.” ~ Joan Watson, Elementary (CBS TV Series)

I heard this last night while watching season one of Elementary again. I haven’t watched this season in a while so it’s interesting to me now from another angle: watching Sherlock Holmes handle sobriety. Joan Watson’s statement made me think, and take notes of course. When I think back on the times I really lost it and behaved badly while drinking there is an underlying common theme or emotional trigger.

There are topics that strike an emotional cord with me and more often than not, the nights when I ended up out of control were nights when those topics came up in conversation or were nagging thoughts at the back of my mind. Of course, there are several contributing factors to any volatile situation but I can see a common thread running through these incidents. I think I already knew this a year ago but while I was aware of how much of an effect these emotional triggers had on me, I ignored the self-destructive way I dealt with them.

Anyone who drinks the way alcoholics or abusers do has issues with self confidence, self care, and self respect and we tend to bury or deny painful or difficult memories. Instead we turn to alcohol for the rush, the adrenaline, or the numbness it offers. I understand how alcohol affects my body. I understand and accept that I will probably never drink again. But if I’m going to commit to this I have to come to terms with those painful and difficult memories that have become emotional triggers in my life. The memories which make me feel insecure, unloved, taken advantage of, unworthy, broken, hurt, ashamed, unseen, unheard and unsure are the ones I have to learn how to deal with.

In one of my yoga classes we examined the way our brains are wired to react to situations and experiences. When we are very young, infancy to age five, we observe, absorb and learn more than we will ever learn at any other point in our lives. We also learn how to react and respond to stimuli, including emotional situations. As we grow, most of the time, we react and respond to similar stimuli in the same way we did when we first encountered it.

Strong emotions like fear, sadness etc., beliefs and habits etc., create neural pathways in the brain (or wire the brain in a particular way) forming habits and fixed responses. From childhood the brain learns to connect certain responses to certain stimuli. This does not mean that your brain is hardwired and nothing can be done about it. You could learn to block these neural paths, obstruct the programmed behaviour and teach your brain to respond in ways that are different from its learned patterns of behaviour. ~ Sofs

So that’s my plan. I’m going back to the basics. I am going to come to terms with those difficult memories. I understand the chain reaction:

  • A current situation reminds me of a negative situation from my past.
  •  I have a strong emotional reaction to that memory which usually brings up feelings of unworthiness, unacknowledgment, alienation, fear.

After that two things happen next:

  • One: I stop taking care of myself and decide to have a couple of drinks. Years ago I realized I had a problem with alcohol but I did not care about myself enough to do something about it. Now it seems like common sense to me. Why I’ve taken so long to explore this is beyond my understanding, other than to suggest ‘everything happens in its own time’.
  • Two: This is where it gets scary. Some time after a few drinks, after the initial high has worn off, I realize that I’m not really feeling any better on an emotional level. So I drink more to get back to that first high. At this point I’m usually fighting a battle within myself to drink or not to drink. And the rebel in me always wins. She damns it all to hell. Good intentions and myself included.

Carl Jung says: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Awareness gives me a choice in how I react to situations. When I am aware of how I feel or the feelings I am experiencing, rather than allowing them to overcome me, I can now choose the way I react to them. It is time for me to find a healthier way to deal with the painful or difficult memories. While I know that this will take  a lot of soul searching and will not happen overnight, I have acknowledged that the urge to drink is a reaction I have allowed to become a habit. When I see that reaction for what it truly is: Just a habit, (albeit a dangerous one), I can choose not to give in to that urge. It has NEVER served me in the past so why should it serve me in my future. I have to rewire my brain and form a new habit. I’ve been googling and visiting forums talking about this. There are some good tips here. While it’s not possible to block internal triggers, it is good to develop a range of strategies to handle the urge to drink. Here are some options:

  • Remind yourself of your reasons for making a change. Carry your top reasons on a wallet card or in an electronic message that you can access easily, such as a mobile phone notepad entry or a saved email.
  • Talk it through with someone you trust. Have a trusted friend on standby for a phone call, or bring one along to high-risk situations.
  • Distract yourself with a healthy, alternative activity. For different situations, come up with engaging short, mid-range, and longer options, like texting or calling someone, watching short online videos, lifting weights to music, showering, meditating, taking a walk or doing a hobby.
  • Challenge the thought that drives the urge. Stop it, analyze the error in it, and replace it. Example: “It couldn’t hurt to have one little drink. WAIT a minute—what am I thinking? One could hurt, as I’ve seen ‘just one’ lead to lots more. I am sticking with my choice not to drink.”
  • Ride it out without giving in. Instead of fighting an urge, accept it as normal and temporary. As you ride it out, keep in mind that it will soon crest like an ocean wave and pass.
  • Leave high-risk situations quickly and gracefully. It helps to plan your escape in advance.

I would add one more important note: Be gentle with yourself and leave the Judge behind. Those of us in recovery tend to be overly critical and judgmental of ourselves. We berate ourselves to a degree that is unheard of. This does not serve us in any way. It is OK to feel hurt, unsure, afraid, worried or stressed. It is OK to get that urge to drink. We are probably always going to feel that from time to time. How we handle the urge is what matters. We have to remind ourselves that we are stronger than we think and that we CAN do this. By the way, I know Doyle’s Sherlock never really said: “Elementary, dear Watson.” but it suited my post anyway. 🙂

Phoenix