Getting firmly into the land of alcohol-free living (and ensuring that you stay there without the Wine Witch luring you back into destructive old habits) requires a degree of forward planning; knowing what emotions to expect once the old crutch has been kicked away, preparing for the potential pitfalls and learning how to work through cravings will all stand you in good stead when it comes to maintaining your alcohol-free lifestyle.
Becoming sober and learning how to be happy with regards to your decision to live without booze amounts to so much more than merely pouring all the remaining wine in the house down the sink – living as a non-drinker takes some getting used to, especially if the drinking has been protracted and heavy. Maintaining an alcohol-free approach means finding out who you really are beneath the falsity of booze and learning how to interact socially without your old alcoholic prop. It means experiencing raw emotion and discovering how to cope with negative situations without drinking the problem away.
Quitting alcohol can lead to uncomfortable truths coming to the fore; a relationship may not be all it appeared to be when under the influence of booze, underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders, traumas buried, could suddenly become exposed having previously been disguised by the mood-altering effects of alcohol, and the emotions of guilt and shame arising as a result of erstwhile drunken behaviour may now demand attention, no longer so easily hidden with a constant stream of wine.
It is these wrinkles and creases which will need ironing out in the first few weeks and/or months of alcohol-free life, and which if left unattended could prove to be the root cause of the sober apple-cart being upturned.
A whimsical notion of stopping drinking can quite easily never come to fruition, prevented from developing into something more concrete by an omission of thought pertaining to how to explain such a bold and (for many) radical lifestyle choice to friends and family, or to the practical solution of what to drink as an acceptable alternative to alcohol, or of how to fill the sudden vast increase in spare time each evening. Without forward-planning, an initial rush of enthusiasm for a commitment to alcohol-free living can be quashed in no time at all, purely as a result of the individual in question not putting into place a viable plan of action and instead attempting to coast along exactly as before only minus the glass of vino to hand.
Becoming a non-drinker is a completely different process for everyone and despite there being common themes (for instance what might constitute a trigger point or act as a craving eliminator), we all became heavy drinkers for different reasons, and it is these we must address if we’re to have a good chance at committing to booze-free living. A lack of self-esteem and confidence in social situations is a frequently-cited reason for drinking excessively, as is struggling to cope with a bereavement or single parenthood or the breakdown of a long-term relationship; whatever the root cause is behind drinking to excess, it is this which a) must be identified and b) needs to be dealt with through an alternative coping strategy than alcohol.
In addition to the plethora of reasons why we as individuals come to develop our own unique dependencies upon booze, it is also worth acknowledging that the culture we are all submerged in holds alcohol in high esteem and is one in which it is promoted ubiquitously. Should you be one of the many who finds themselves unwittingly dependent on this addictive substance, then to extricate yourself from its tenacious grip can be incredibly challenging when all around us are messages of how alcohol injects our lives with glamour, sophistication and fun.
As further reinforcement to the alcohol industry’s campaign of promulgating alcohol as an essential social lubricator and utterly acceptable feature of most people’s lives, there exists in society a very negative perception of those who choose to be non-drinkers. Because those who have freed themselves from the alcohol trap are in the minority, this way of life which should be considered normal is in actuality regarded as being odd by many, and that by not partaking in regular binge drinking a person is weird and anti-social. This social pressure is another reason why remaining AF can sometimes prove to be an uphill struggle. So how exactly should one go about the task of cutting alcohol out of their life for good? Because the reasons for abusing alcohol and the level of dependency differ from drinker to drinker, a useful approach to becoming AF is to create a personalised plan of action.
In essence, the glaringly obvious reason why so many relapse is that these root causes haven’t been addressed from the get go. No one would need to hit rock bottom, if they have access to the right approach. Constantly being told that all you have to do is stop drinking, stay stopped, and not mending these background issues with good therapy instead of incessantly having to define yourself as an alcoholic until infinity and beyond is not a label that would ever heal the wounds that brought you to the point of almost self destruct in the first place.
That is the difference between the Sanctuary Six Week Programme and many other methods, calling time on wine o’clock is a very small part of a much more complex picture of our fake desire for it. We have to recognise our flaws in detail, then and only then, can you be truly free. Rather than count the days, count the number of mental health battles you win.