Sober-October? What next?

If you are nearing the end of your Sober-October and have decided that you want to go back to drinking at the start of November, then here are two exercises to help give you a bit more control over alcohol. You can decide for yourself which exercise best suits you. Or you can do both – in whatever order you prefer.

The first is really just mindful drinking:

When “picking up” again, try to understand exactly what feelings and experiences you are seeking when you drink alcohol.

Approach it in these three stages: the before, the during and the after.

In the before stage, think about what you want alcohol to do for you. So, if you are planning a drinking session, either on your own, or with friends, think carefully about the alcohol you are going to be consuming – sip by sip, gulp by gulp. In what way do you want it to alter your mind? Don’t reach for the bottle without thinking about the affects you want from it.

In the during stage, try to analyse how the reality of drinking alcohol matches up with your expectations. Think about the way alcohol is making you feel relaxed; how it switches the day off and turns you towards relaxation-mode; be aware of the alcohol-induced changes to your perception. Try not to let it all happen without you noticing it (like in the old days pre Sober-October).

At the end stage, try and establish the point where you think alcohol has done for you all you think it is going to before things go downhill. This is a critical point, because it’s at this stage that many people who have a problem with alcohol feel unable to stop drinking. You, on the other hand, are going to know when alcohol has delivered its therapy, and so need no more of it.

Exercise two is about the importance of taste, post Sober-October

The idea is to channel your desire for alcohol towards the taste of it.

It’s useful to select a drink you particularly like the taste of and preferably stick to that drink from now on. No chopping and changing drinks.

Set a limit to the amount of, say wine, you are going to allow yourself on any one day. Two glasses to start with, for instance. This will be your set amount for any occasion. It’s therefore important to pace yourself so that you don’t finish the wine too soon. You will be sticking to your limit from now on, whatever the occasion. No deviations or relaxations for any reason. Deviation is not an option, because this exercise is about switching your focus away from intoxication. The moment you go over the set amount, then you are moving towards intoxication, and once you have done that, it’s a slippery slope back to where you started, pre Sober-October.

The taste of alcohol is something that should be savoured. That’s because different parts of the mouth are designed to appreciate acidity, sweetness, sourness and bitterness. You use your tongue and the surface of your mouth to appreciate it. Also, the smell. Now is the time to focus on these elements of alcohol appreciation – maybe buy a book on the subject or go to a wine or whisky tasting to learn how to get the most out of it.

This is a great time to re-programme your appreciation of alcohol – after the cleansing of Sober-October, as well as the break in behavioral patterns that a period of abstinence allows. You are now re-introducing it into your life with new ways of appreciating it. A big part of that pleasure is the control you have over it going-forward – knowing when you want to stop and feeling comfortable with that.

Food is important in this process as it will act as an anchor on your desire for booze. Food should now be a pleasurable treat in its own rite – something to look forward to, not an interference on drinking. Additionally, at more formal social occasions, the process of eating food communally demands the attention of all concerned. This takes the attention away from alcohol in a distracting, time-consuming way. Great things for the moderate drinker in boozy company.

Social occasions without food are often quite boring occasions. And boredom is often cited as a reason people drink excessively. But here’s the thing, much of life is boring. So, fill your life with pleasures of as wide a variety as possible, food being central, and plan to get away from social occasions earlier than when you were drinking heavily – if they seem too long. It’s very probable that you have been attending social functions because of the availability of alcohol. But now that your motivation is for the taste, not the intoxication, you will find your interest in these occasions rather different. Pace your drinking and concentrate on the flavour of your drink, how it accompanies food and enjoy the feeling of control that you have over your life. It’s a truly amazing feeling to reach your level of satisfaction from alcohol at two glasses (or whatever level you have set yourself) . That’s because you know that anything more than your set amount will stop delivering what you wanted from it. In fact, it will start to spoil your time.

Alcohol is a great accompaniment to food; it’s not a bad way to toast someone at a celebration; it offers a little buzz; it has delicious flavour. This is what you will be tapping into. The moment you allow yourself to go over the limit – you’ve lost it. It’s taken you over. Simple.

To re-cap:

  1. Set your limits
  2. Get the most out of every sip by savouring the taste
  3. Be aware of the effect of the alcohol on your brain and enjoy it
  4. Slow down if you are getting to the end of your set amount of alcohol
  5. Be strict with yourself and do not go over the limit – ever.

Some people will have decided to quit at the end of Sober-October. If so, you’ll find my book “Not Alcoholic, But…” a great way to get inspired for a life of sobriety. It takes you through my 36 year drinking journey to sobriety in a short and hopefully quite amusing way. (Available at amazon in paperback and e-book format). For those seeking a wide range of advice and therapy, my useful links page covers a lot of ground

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