One month, baby. One month.
When I typed the words which stand as the sub-heading of this blog – “giving up alcohol, first for one year…” I can honestly say I hesitated. One year? Yeah, right, Andie. Like YOU can give up booze for a year or even more. One month’s going to be pushing it. And then you’ll feel stupid, won’t you, with that overly confident “one year” malarkey sitting at the top of your now-abandoned blog, like a taunting kid in the playground who’s repeatedly singing “Andie couldn’t do it, Andie couldn’t dooooooooo it.”
But I’ve damn well done this month. It’s more than I’ve managed for years. And no, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I feel really, truly, madly, deeply proud of this weird, hard month. I’ve done better, worked harder AND smarter, and got further than I really believed, deep down, was possible.
And coming from someone who, as discussed in my last post below, pretty regularly cheated on Dry Januaries and Sober Octobers, it seems like an extremely cheering landmark to have hit. So hmmm…I wonder…what’s working this time? What’s been the same, what’s been different, and what will hopefully keep me humming along towards my two months and three months and beyond?
What I’ve done differently this time:
- In the weeks and months leading up to my stop date, I immersed myself in sobriety reading: I wanted to really let the idea of joining a community of successful quitters sink in this time (rather than my usual trick of half-heartedly declaring, on a random Sunday, “I’m never drinking again, like TOTALLY never, who needs it anyway…oooh look, they have Gamma Ray on tap here, it’d be rude not to.”) I let the words of people who had successfully climbed this mountain surround me. I mean, I read an awful lot of sobriety stuff: maybe some people would say this became a bit obsessive, and I know that B. became just a little eye-roll-y whenever he asked me what I was reading and I said “just this amazingly awesome sobriety blog…YES, darling, ANOTHER one.” But as I was reading, these people were becoming my new normal. I started to genuinely believe that there was a whole world of people starting, struggling with, and then succeeding at doing the hard thing that scared me so much.
- As I was doing this reading, I didn’t quit drinking straight away. And god, how many times had I looked at any number of kindle books about getting sober before and immediately dismissed the forwards which cautioned “read this and keep on drinking as you normally do.” And that always seemed like…dumb advice. Why the heck would you be buying a book entitled “Kick the Drink, Easily” (shoutout to my buddy, Jason Vale) and keep drinking, huh? Well, smartass, because you don’t have any tools yet, that’s why. You have zero information. You have, in effect, decided to check out “how to run a marathon” books and websites when you’ve already started running a marathon, and maybe all of that carb-loading, threshold running and icing information might have been useful before you put your trainers on.
- For once, for one freakin’ time in my life, I didn’t try to do too much at once. Oh, I’m an absolute bugger for trying to do too much at once. I remember working with a personal trainer once, who tried suggesting that I make one change only and make it stick, and I fought him every step of the way. “Nonsense,” I said. “That’s never going to work. I need to simultaneously get a 100Kg deadlift, run more, cut out
carbs, lose weight, track everything on my FitBit and get a promotion at work, because it all has to work simultaneously or none of it works at all. I’m either on my A-game or I’m a disaster. I won’t get anywhere just nibbling around the edges.” (Spoiler alert…none of it worked at all. Apart from the 100kg deadlift – I nailed that bad boy. Everything else went to shit. Turns out, if you live in a perpetually binary headspace where you’re either perfect or a disaster, you don’t make very much progress at all.) I had a good go at trying to do too much at the beginning of this month, though – if you’ve been with me for a while on this blog, you might remember Day 11 and Day 15 when I couldn’t stop crying: this was when I’d scheduled way too many gym sessions, was trying to blog reams of words daily, and was putting idiotic amounts of pressure on my very, very wobbly-legged baby sobriety. So I stopped. I refocused on staying sober. I let myself do one thing, and the one thing was not drink.
- I actually used some of the sober tools I was building up. One tool is the reward system: to build in small rewards regularly for keeping up the good work. I’d rejected that idea before because “it’s Wednesday and I’ve not had a drink” just didn’t seem like a big deal. I’ll treat myself to a city break if I get to three months, I would think. And then I’d never get to three months, treat myself to a city break anyway and then drown that city break in sweet, sweet beer. This time, I’ve been giving myself small but consistent rewards – these tiny Green&Blacks selection bars have been a lifesaver! – and really concentrating on my thinking as I have one. Consciously saying, really clearly, “this is because you’ve done really well, Andie. This is your reward for not drinking again, and you’ve earned it.”
- I started taking more walks. In the past, I’ve been guilty of thinking that if I wasn’t killing myself in the gym, I might as well be doing nothing (god, the all-or-nothing force is strong with this one, isn’t it?) Over the past 30 days, I’ve been out in the air a bit more, slowly ambling and letting myself just exist. Maybe it’s the vitamin D, maybe it’s the natural light, or maybe it’s just giving myself permission to relax and move slowly for a change, but it’s making my headspace brighter and more positive. This from a woman who genuinely once declared “what’s the point of walking if you’re not walking to the pub?” Turns out, there’s a point to the park and the path along the riverside, too. Who’da thunk it?
Small changes, big results. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not prematurely declaring everything fixed and I’m not going to start getting casual about any of this. It’s a work-in-progress.
30 days of progress, kids. And tomorrow makes 31. I’m slowly but surely counting upwards. Let’s see what the next month of sobriety brings.