This week’s webinar was run by Club Soda expert member Helen O’Connor and was a stream of consciousness romp through various post-MOB (Month Off Booze) issues: what to do after stopping drinking for a bit? Here are a handful of the issues she covered. (“AF” is short for “alcohol-free” by the way!)
Don’t keep re-setting the counter on your AF time
Any time off booze that is ‘different’ and therefore ‘uncomfortable’ (from one AF week night when you would usually drink, to a full month, 50 days or more) is a great achievement.
So if you intend and plan to have a month off but have a slip after a few days or weeks, just keep the counter going on the AF days.
50 AF days in 100 (for someone who usually drinks every day) is a pretty good statistic and huge progress from which much can be learnt – even if the eventual goal is to quit completely.
Indulging in all-or-nothing thinking usually results in us (a) feeling really bad about ourselves – ‘I’m a failure’, and (b) giving ourselves permission to return to our usual drinking habits – ‘the month is ruined – what a write-off’!
Stop giving your future self all the projects!
All-or-nothing thinking (along with other thinking errors) also helps us to ‘rationalise’ why now is not a good time to change, and allows us to postpone change for another day/week/month. If this month is ‘ruined’ then we can just delay change until next month (but that’s sort of already Christmas, right, so heck, I’ll wait until January).
Bless our future self’s heart – we overload it with all of our important goals and self-improvement projects – from writing an essay, rehearsing a speech, changing job, dieting, quitting smoking, exercising, dieting…Our future self is our best possible self! But one day there will be no time or opportunities left for our future self to get everything done.
We can’t make all the big changes today or even this week, but we can start with the small ones. Some people wonder whether focusing on ‘one day at a time’ can create a sort of mental situation where we give ourselves permission to avoid planning or committing to larger longer-term goals: I absolutely think that plans are important – we need them otherwise we will always be unprepared slaves to the present moment. But once a plan is in place, leave it and trust in it, and stick to focusing on doing what you can do now, today, to move you closer to your goals.
Not drinking at all can be easier than drinking ‘just a bit’
Intoxicated brains are not good decision makers, and are less likely to remember or stick to plans, weigh up, or care about the consequences of your actions. When you are drinking or drunk you are more likely to be a short-term hedonist, seeking comfort or pleasure in the present moment. So, a plan to have a night off alcohol can be easier, because – as long as you don’t drink – you will be making all your decisions, and handling cravings and urges, whilst you are sober. It’s a binary – on or off – which is simpler to remember and act upon.
On the other hand, a post-MOB decision to drink ‘a bit’ but ‘not too much’ might start out OK, but there’s lots of room for ‘grey areas’ and multiple micro-decisions in there – how much, when to start, when to stop, how to pace myself etc. Plus, once you’ve had that ‘bit’, all future decisions that evening – including decisions about when to stop – are made whilst you are ‘a bit’ intoxicated, and can lead to drinking more than planned*. This is one reason why some people decide that moderation is almost more work and effort than abstinence, and eventually opt for the latter.
*Unless you ‘Paycheck yourself’ – setting up various strategies that help your drunk-self enact the plans your sober-self intended you to do!