Category Archives: Preparing to stop

Managing triggers to drinking

It is important to know and understand when and why you drink.  For me the danger time was always anytime between getting home from work and the kids going to bed, so 5 till 8 pm.  If I could get through that window of time without drinking I would be okay.

For the first couple of weeks of stopping I shook up my routine so that I was doing something different between those hours, particularly on a Friday and Saturday.  I would go out and do the weekly shop, go for a run, go to the cinema, have a bath, go to bed – anything to get through the witching hour unscathed.

You could keep a diary before you stop writing down what time you drank, what you were doing at that time and rate between 1 and 10 how much you wanted to drink at that time.  Also keep an eye on what emotions trigger your desire to drink.  Is it happiness, sadness, boredom, loneliness?  For me stress and anxiety was and remains a big trigger, whether it is social anxiety at going out and meeting new people or stress prompted by an incident within my job.  I now find myself shovelling chocolate biscuits into my mouth when I get home after a difficult day so I know that this remains an issue!

What do you drink instead of booze?

When I gave up smoking there was a plethora of widely available and nationally promoted advice and support guidelines and a raft of nicotine replacement therapies that I could choose from to help me stop. Patches, gum, microtabs, lozenges, inhalator, nasal spray and drugs.

As for replacements for alcohol you find your own through trial and error.  These are the things that have helped me:

Tea, coffee, herbal teas – particularly Twinings, Pukka and Clipper brands.

Soft drinks  and cordials – particularly San Pellegrino, Belvoir and Bottlegreen.  Elderflower cordial is really popular and delicious.

Mixers – if you liked a G&T like I did, then just have the tonic water, ice and a slice.

Alcohol-free beers and wines – now this is a contentious subject and I can only speak for myself but I like the option of these.  Others are understandably cautious about drinking these and I completely respect that.  You should do what is right for you and err on the side of caution if unsure.   I have tried Becks Blue, and some supermarket own brand de-alcoholised wines, either in red, rose, white or sparkling.  The drinks industry are waking up to the fact that there is a growing alcohol free market and are beginning to cater for it.  Good websites for a wide selection of beers, ciders, wines, spirit and cocktail substitutes can be found here and here.

I have also tried kava, which is a drink made from the roots of a plant of the Western Pacific and is consumed by the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia.  It has a sedating effect and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity.  This can be bought online via stores like this one.

These are not recommendations just alternatives that I have tried and this list is by no means exhaustive!  I’m interested to hear any other suggestions that I might try 🙂

Edited to add: 14th March 2016

Kava and the Rise of Healthy New York

In an increasingly health-conscious New York, some would-be boozehounds are turning to kava, made from a South Pacific-originated plant, as a substitute for alcohol | New Yorker, USA

Additional support

As discussed in the post ‘seeking medical advice‘ a conversation with your GP may result in a referral to one of the specialist alcohol services here in the UK, such as Addaction who can provide additional specialist support.

Support can also be found in person via Alcoholics Anonymous or Smart Recovery.

Alternatively, as I and many others have found, support can be found on the internet, formally with specialists such as Dr Jenner who is a psychologist who offers and provides online therapy or Lisa Neumann who is a life skills and recovery coach.  Both are listed in my list of blogs I follow.  Informal support is also available here in the online sober blogging community.  This includes Soberistas, which is a supportive blogging community here in the UK or Hello Sunday Morning an Australia based blogging community.  Belle is a sober penpal or there are many of us who blog who are happy to be contacted, myself included 🙂

Edited to add: I should have also included the excellent Bubble Hour, which again is listed in my blogs I follow.  They do podcasts that you can listen to for free and are really helpful if you want not just to read supportive material but to listen to other people’s experience.

Seeking medical advice

When you give up drinking advice should be sought from your GP.  You may require medical support to manage your withdrawal and it is potentially life-threatening to try to stop without this.  If you are initially reluctant to see your Dr then there is a psychiatrist and addiction specialist you can ask on Soberistas who can be found here.  There are drugs that are used in acute alcohol withdrawal such as diazepam or chlordiazepoxide.  There are also drugs used to manage alcohol dependence namely acamprosate or disulfiram, better known as Antabuse.  The best person to consult is your GP as they know any other health concerns, history and medication issues pertaining to you personally.  A conversation with your GP may result in a referral to one of the specialist alcohol services here in the UK, such as Addaction who can provide additional specialist support.

I can not stress strongly enough the need to consult and take advice from your GP first.

Sober treats

Sober treats are a corner-stone of Belle‘s approach to getting the better of wolfie.  Initially when I joined Team 100 and she asked me to do some homework to identify treats I did it but didn’t really understand why.  They didn’t have to have a high monetary value, just a couple of quid, and were my reward to myself for not drinking.  She had explained why but I didn’t get it.  I very quickly experienced why and this was some of the best advice I was given to help keep me on the sober path.

Even now whenever I have to do something that I think is going to be hard for me or a sober ‘first’ I make sure I have a sober treat lined up afterwards.  If I don’t, and I experienced this at Christmas because I had forgotten and Belle had to remind me, I get this emotional hangover and feel all sh*tty and deprived and that makes me think about picking up a drink.  When in your drinking life your reward was wine you need to reward yourself in your non-drinking life for not rewarding  yourself with wine (if that make’s sense?!)

So sober treats can be anything, and should be personal to you.  For me my homework list said:

Chocolate
A magazine
Bubble bath
Flowers

As the days of not drinking have added up I have become a bit more extravagant in my treats.  So after Xmas I hit the sales and bought some clothes from a favourite shop and I have had things like massages too.  When I used to spend £400 a month on booze that leave’s a lot of readies to treat yourself with!  I have also tried to link my treats to my journey and have been using the time and my re-awakened creative skills to make things too, such as this.

What treats do you use that I could adopt? 😉

Psychological preparation

I learned when training to run a marathon that the psychological preparation was as important, if not more so, than all of the training runs, drink and snack choices, warm up and down stuff put together.  If you didn’t believe you could do it – it became so much more difficult on the final miles of the course or when you ‘hit the wall’.

These are some of the things that I did to psychologically prepare for stopping drinking:

Reading everything I could about it in books or on blogs.  Knowing about PAWS was particularly valuable.

Starting a daily gratitude practice.  Fear stopped me from even considering a life without alcohol for too many years and was the fastest at driving me back to it in the past.  Gratitude is the antidote to fear for me.

Developing other ways of relaxing that didn’t require picking up a drink, such as a long soak in the bath, a run or meditation

Finding other sources of positivity such as Notes from the Universe or The Daily Love

Now I don’t want to come across as some hippy-dippy Pollyanna type but believe me stopping drinking stirred up a sh*t ton of deeply buried negative and painful thoughts and emotions in me that I needed to learn to manage if I was every going to climb out of a bottle.  Drinking  had become my emotional anaesthetic and the only way to counter-balance the negativity that was triggered by stopping was to up the amount of positive stuff that I was exposing myself too, both in terms of what I read and how I thought.  All of these things together made the journey from drinker to non-drinker easier for me.

If you’re on the journey already what would you recommend to someone to fortify their psychological defences?

Physical preparation

Having nursed alcoholics I knew what a toll alcohol takes on the body physically so before I stopped I wanted to start addressing that.

B vitamins, especially B1, B2, B3 and B6, are destroyed by alcohol, which primarily affects the liver and nervous system.  When we were detoxing patients on the ward they would all receive daily multivitamins, thiamine and folic acid, intravenously if they could not take it orally.

I started taking a daily multivitamin & multimineral and a 1000mg Vitamin C.  Milk thistle is also good for liver detoxification.

If you read Patrick Holford Optimum Nutrition Bible he recommends for alcoholism:

Multivitamins and multiminerals

Antioxidant complex

Vitamin C 1000mg

Adaptogenic herbs, plus tyosine – which helps to prevent emotional and physical lows after stopping.

Bone mineral complex (including calcium and magnesium)

Glutamine powder twice a day in water on an empty stomach – which  helps the gut and reduces cravings.

He also says that a very alkaline diet reduces the cravings for alcohol and recommends a diet high in whole grains, beans and lentils and frequent meals containing protein such as nuts, seeds, fish,, chicken, eggs or milk produce.  Soberistas are currently running a Love Your Liver 14 day Detox, Cleanse & Rejuvenate Programme put together by their Nutritional Therapist, Clare Shepherd which you can find here.

Oh and lots and lots of water.

He also warns that sugar addiction is often substituted for dependency on alcohol, as booze is just liquid sugar, so avoiding sugar and stimulants is recommended.  I can attest for the sweet tooth but have personally decided to let it slide as I am less than 6 months without a drink and I would rather put not drinking before anything else at this point in time.  The sugar issue will be addressed once being sober is a stable part of my life.

Edited to add 14th May 2016:

Chronic drinking interferes with absorption of critical vitamins by pancreas

Chronic exposure to alcohol interferes with the pancreas’ ability to absorb vitamin C, potentially predisposing the body to pancreatitis and other pancreatic diseases, a new study in the American Journal of Physiology — Cell Physiology reports.

So that 1 gram of Vitamin C is a really good idea 🙂

More reading

The preparation and research involved not just reading books about drinking and stopping but also lurking on sober blogs following other people’s journey’s.

If you go back to the beginning of my blog I thank the two sources of support that got me started on my sober blogging journey and they are Soberistas and Belle (tired of thinking about drinking).

Soberistas, if you don’t know it, is a UK based resource, community and blogging forum set up by Lucy Rocca back in November 2012.  If you want to blog about your experience but as part of an organised community, then this is a great place to get support.

Belle, is my sober penpal who during the first 100 days of being part of Belle’s Team 100 I would email every day to say I was sober.  I’m now part of Team 180 and have dropped to emailing her every other day.  Belle’s was the first independent sober blog that I found and she led me to UnPickled and Mrs D is Going Without.  From there I found many other brilliant sober blogs many of whom are listed in my blog roll but there are others that I have bookmarked and try to read every day too.

I gained strength from the fact that there were others out there doing it and who seemed to be really happy with their booze free lives even if I still had a glass in my  hand at the time.  It allowed me to consider the possibility.  The thought that that could be me too began to take root and be turned over in my mind.  If they could do it so could I and my resolve began to strengthen.

Preparation

So on the cycle of change I had now moved from pre-contemplative to contemplative to preparation.  This stage is crucial.

For 10 years of my working life, l left the NHS and used my nursing skills and knowledge in the corporate world of medical sales and marketing and one of the best things I learned is the 7Ps rule; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

OK it could be argued that extensive preparation was just a way of procastinating and putting off the eventual day of stopping.  But I felt that this was really important and as I am now on day 127 I would be justified in saying it worked 😉  Just be mindful of wolfie using preparation as a ruse to keep you drinking!

I always start with information and am a bit of a luddite in that the first thing I reach for is a book.  I read a mixture of resource books, autobiographical and fiction.  So these are the books that I have read:

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

The Sober Revolution by Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca

Ice and a Slice by Della Galton

Last Orders – A Drinkers Guide to Sobriety by Andy McIntyre

Why You Drink and How to Stop by Veronica Valli

Restore Your Life: A Living Plan for Sober People by Anne Geller

Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Journey Through Thinking about Drinking Towards a Safer Relationship with Alcohol by Stuart Linke

The final book I read before stopping as it required me to continue drinking until I finished reading it was:

Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr

Most of these books I read after stopping, not before, as it helped me in the early days to read about other people’s experiences.

The book I’m about to start reading is Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers by David Downie.

This list is by no means exhaustive as there are many more books!  What books have you read that I haven’t that you would recommend to someone reading this? 🙂

Edited to add: 31/05/2015

These are other books I’ve read since I originally wrote this post almost 16 months ago:

Beyond Addiction by Foote, Wilkens and Kosanke

Almost Alcoholic by Doyle and Nowinski (I’ve written several blog posts about this book which you can read here and here)

Drink – The Deadly Relationship between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnson THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONAL BOOK!

Mrs D  is Going Without by Lotta Dann

Sober is the New Black by Rachel Black

Staying Sober – How to Control The Demon Drink by Binki Laidler

The Good House by Ann Leary (I found this one really triggery even though I read it when I was well over a year after stopping so proceed with caution)

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

As I read more I’ll continue to add them 🙂

Edited to add: More books read as of  25/08/17

Janet Woititz – Adult Children of Alcoholics

Meadow Devor – Money Love

Sally Brampton – Shoot the Damn Dog

Dr Shefali Tsabary – The Conscious Parent

Pete Walker – The Tao of Fully Feeling & Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

Susan Anderson – Taming Your Outer Child

Cheryl Strayed – Tiny Beautiful Things

Lotta Dann – Mrs D is Going Within

Michael Singer – The Untethered Soul & The Surrender Experiment

John Bradshaw – Healing The Shame That Binds You

Claudia Black – Changing Course

Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Svend Brinkmann – Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze

Melody Beattie – Making Miracles in 40 Days & Codependent No More

Mary Karr – Lit

 

Turning thoughts into action

So I have shared the reasons that it was important for me to stop but I found it all too easy to sit at this point and procrastinate.

I needed to think beyond these questions and consider more such as:

Imagining that I had decided to stop and what would that feel like?

What would I need to have in place to be able to stop?

What help and support would I require?

What information would I need?

What would be the benefits of continuing to drink?

What would be most difficult for me if I decided to stop?

What would be the benefit if I decided to stop?

Again I would weigh up the pro’s and con’s of staying with the drinking behaviour or changing the drinking behaviour.

Now I needed to act.