Tips to Help Quit Drinking
Trying to quit drinking? Think it is too daunting and have no idea where to begin?
Many people who want to quit drinking find it difficult to know how to start and maintain their sobriety. It can be easy to say but to put into practice a drinking-free lifestyle is often much more challenging. Psychologist Sarah Gibson provided a few tips to those participating in Dry July to help quit drinking for the month of July.
1 - Tough goals become easier to commit to when they are closely linked to our values.
Remind yourself each and every day of how Dry July relates to the kind of person you want to be: someone who helps people who are dealing with serious illness, someone who invests in their own health, someone who embraces challenge
2 - Be aware that there will be times that the Dry July challenge is likely to be very uncomfortable – and have a strategy in place for these moments.
Urges inevitably arise when we first change a habitual behaviour, especially when a drink after a bad day can feel so damn good. Interestingly, it’s not as much about having huge reserves of willpower to eliminate these urges, as it is about managing the reality that we humans are simply not wired to avoid pleasurable stimuli.
Rather than trying to block out an urge to drink, try these mindfulness strategies, based on the approach of expert coach and therapist, Dr Russ Harris, to stay on track:
3 - Recognise that the urge to have a drink is simply a combination of thoughts, bodily sensations and feelings, NOT an order that must be followed on autopilot.
The urge itself may feel uncomfortable, but it cannot harm you in any way. In fact, the real harm tends to arise from how we respond to the urge. Trying to make the discomfort of an urge disappear, either by willing it away or by giving into it, moves us further away from the goal of abstaining.
4 - Accept the urge to drink when it turns up.
Rather than judging the urge as “bad”, simply notice it as it arises and acknowledge it. Make room for it and let it be. While the goal here is not to control or minimise the discomfort, you will probably find that this “expansion” technique reduces it as a welcome side-effect!
5 - Notice that cravings will intensify and subside.
Watch this unfold in your mind’s eye with detached fascination, as if you were a curious scientist. Now notice that you have experienced a strong urge mindfully, without it pushing you around! Notice that your valued goals can guide your behaviour during Dry July, rather than your urges!
6 - Consciously re-commit to your values-oriented actions of abstaining during Dry July.
Committed actions might include avoiding the “faces and places” that you associate with drinking. You might talk to your after-work wingman to explain why you’ll be laying low, without being judgemental. Set yourself up for success by avoiding bars and clubs until you’re feeling more confident. Find a really delicious non-alcoholic substitute drink for the times you are mingling with people who are drinking.
Note: if you think you might have a problem with alcohol, it's important to recognise that Dry July does not represent a "cure". More serious alcohol issues require skilled professional help to be resolved - talk to your GP or check out the Australian Psychological Society's Find A Psychologist resource at www.psychology.org.au.