One thing that I have thought heavily about since I went alcohol-free 3 years ago is the role that both nature and nurture have played in my drinking life. For me, drinking is in my blood. Growing up, drinking was accepted and even encouraged. We had a running family joke that we didn’t trust people who don’t drink. There isn’t anything I can do about this, but what I can do is reflect and acknowledge the role my genetics and upbringing had on my decisions to use alcohol and my eventual dependence on it. Once I decided to take a new path – genetics and past be damned! My greatest early sobriety survival skill was to see what I could control. I could control my current environment.
We cannot go back in time and wish we experienced something different or had done something differently. For me, acceptance has been a huge part of my path to sobriety. Blame and shame have not been productive paths for me. “It was what it was” and “what happened is now history” have been mantras I have had to repeat in order to stop my brain from cycling through anger, resentment, embarrassment, and guilt. There is a lot we cannot control. We must breathe through it, and maybe get therapy and take long walks. In the mean time, these are the ways that I created an alcohol-free enviornment that nurtured my early sobriety. My top 4 early sobriety survival skills.
Early Sobriety Survival Skill #1 – Take Control of Your Enviornment
For me, it started with not being around alcohol. I had to not have any in the house; I had to not go anywhere it was (I chose grocery stores where the liquor section was physically separated from the food – grocery delivery would have been another option); and I had to change the way I lived in the world.
I was lucky – I lived alone and had complete control over what I did and with whom. But it meant cutting some social ties (most of which turned permanent) and stepping away from family for awhile (this was temporary). I also had to be totally honest with myself and my partner. I had to be clear that while our relationship was important, my life was going to change. I told him that I didn’t expect his to, but it would be far easier for us to grow together if I at least had his support. I will forever be grateful that he chose to come along on this beautiful journey with me.
If you have roadblocks that prevent you from taking control of your environment, there are still things you can do.
If you live with someone who drinks, you can ask for support. Whether it is for them to quit completely or for a specific time period, or for them to drink outside the home, or even for them to move the alcohol to less visible space, the first step is acknowledging your own boundaries.
If your job requires you to be around alcohol, you could start looking for another career, explain to the HR personnel, or make adjustments. (I had to go on a work trip six weeks into my sobriety. Prior to this, I was the life of the party, and many co-workers commented that they were looking forward to having drinks with me. I told everyone that I was training for a race, and was abstaining so I could be in top physical condition. I white-knuckled it through the required social events, and then retired early to my hotel room to binge on Boom and relax.) Here in our Boom Community we are quite good at coming up with excuses for not drinking in your early days, so if you need one – just ask!
more reading How Do You Tell People You Are Not Drinking?
Early Sobriety Survival Skill #2 – Know Your Triggers
You can also change your environment by knowing your triggers. For me, it was “happy hour” (right after work) and weekends. I started making hard plans to do things during these times that did not involve drinking (and that I did not associate with drinking). I went to yoga class, I signed up for a sound bath, I read copious amounts of books, and I treated myself with whatever AF drinks and snacks sounded good – to keep my hands and mouth busy when I was at home. I only went to restaurants that did not serve alcohol. If I wanted to see a friend, I suggested breakfast or coffee or a walk.
Caring for two young kids on my own was also a trigger. And this was one part of my environment that I could not (and did not want to) change. I had to get creative here and drill down into what my true triggers were. One was whining and complaining. For that, I decided that my ears would not hear whines or complaints. I just ignored them. “I can’t hear whining,” became a phrase they got so tired of hearing that they eventually learned that to get my attention, they would need to change their tone. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but it was a strategy that I could use and be consistent with. The other was at the end of the night. I was tired, they were tired, there were two of them, and only one of me. They needed baths (separately), and wanted bedtime stories (separately), bedtime songs (separately), and bedtime cuddles (separately); and I just wanted to be alone. It was through a Boom post that I learned a strategy. I started taking my own bath (complete with bubbles and a book and an AF drink) before I started their routine. I used Epsom salts to further my relaxation. I was better able to handle their bedtime routines after I completed one of my own.
And hey you know what? If we make an effort to create an enviornment that nurtures our own choice to stop drinking we can help those future generations beat the odds too!
Early Sobriety Survival Skill #3 – Be Mindful of Meaningful Self Care Solutions
Stress has always been the worst trigger, and it is now the only time I notice the fluttering “I could drink” thought in my subconscious. For this, I learned a simple, but for me, effective trick. When I am feeling overwhelmed, and “on the verge,” I stop and ask myself, “What is one thing I could do RIGHT NOW to make myself feel a tiny bit better?” When I am sick and tired of work spreadsheets, but have to make a deadline: could I play some relaxing music while I work? When I am fed up with my teenage daughter’s attitude: could I go for a quick walk around the block to get a break? When I see the piles of laundry and dirty dishes stacking up: could I go downstairs to do 10 minutes of yoga before starting? When the juggling of three kids and co-parents and family expectations makes me want to scream: could I ask my partner for a hug? These quick-relief actions give me a sense of control over my environment and give me an alternative to: could I open a beer? I encourage you to brainstorm 5-10 things that you could do at any time in any place that might help you clear your head and bring you some relief.
Early Sobriety Survival Skill #4 – Remember that Living in Survival Mode is a Temporary Situation
Eventually, some of these environmental restrictions loosened or changed, but some of them remain. I can now comfortably be somewhere where people are drinking. I no longer need excuses (I proudly announce that “I don’t drink”). I rarely take a bath myself before getting the kids ready for bed. However, I am still uncomfortable with alcohol lingering around my home. I am fine if people drink over here, but I prefer them to take their left-overs with them. I do not like looking at a beer can or bottle of liquor when going about my daily, AF life. (And we put a mini-fridge in the basement so my partner can have a couple beers around when he wants, and I don’t have to look at them.) I don’t socialize with about 80% of the people I used to. I miss some of them, but I know that our friendships revolved around a similar interest which I no longer share. (I also realized that in most of these, I was always the one making the plans, so when I stopped suggesting we “get together for drinks,” the relationships faded away.)
April is Alcohol-Awareness Month!
If you are considering quitting, or you have quit drinking but are struggling to fully commit, I challenge you this month to gain awareness from your past to control your present which could change your future. Make a list of what around you is getting in your way and think about how you can modify it. There is a spectrum of extreme to minimal – I chose the extreme, and it worked for me. However, we here at Boom know that there is no “one way”, no one sober solution. There are members in our community who refuse to empty their house of alcohol because they need to prove to themselves they can overpower those triggers. There are members who work in the food and beverage industry who make a living off alcohol sales. There are members who found non-alcoholic beers were a way to keep them part of their social circle without compromising their sobriety.
Here are some thoughts from our Boom Rethink the Drink community members on the early sobriety survival skills that they used to stay alcohol-free.
Take Control of YOUR Enviornment
How do I get to a point where I don’t bring alcohol into the house? I live alone too (sans kids and a partner) so the only person bringing alcohol into my house would be me. But the triggers are altogether another story.
The house can’t be quiet all the time. So blasting music and dancing the odd time brings about lingering good vibes in here 😊
I renovated a space for myself (that’s not my bedroom or main area) that I can sit in, put music on softly in the background, and read.
Also part of controlling my environment so it stays warm safe and cozy, is to get out of it. At least once a day no matter what. For at least 2 hours.
by the author of Tips and Tools for Dry January and Beyond
When that “I could crack a beer” thought comes in, I usually have a snack and a LaCroix or AF beer… especially after work. That usually does the trick…🥰
by the author of The Journey to 3 Months Alcohol Free – A Sober Momentum Road Trip
About 2-3 weeks after I had my last drink ever, I got tired of the very large bottle of poison (vodka) in my freezer. I walked over and opened the freezer, pulled out the 1750 ml bottle, unscrewed the cap, picked it up, turned it upside,
…. and dumped the whole bottle down the sink!
It was empowering!!
I fought the booze voice, and I won, my award being my freedom!!
I mean, maybe it could have fueled a Nascar, 🤷♂️ but they can get more.🏁🏎
by the author of How to Avoid Relapse in Sobriety – You Don’t Have to Slip
I did a lot of baths, made a lot of mocktails, had AF beer and ate ice cream. Sadly, I can already see that some of my friendships are not the same, and I really try not to judge or preach, but get tired of every single get-together involving alcohol, and me the only one listening to the same stories from last time.
I think maybe not drinking does make our friends question their own. The good thing is, some friends are super supportive and want to NOT drink when we go out for dinner … in sweet solidarity. ❤️
We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using