Whether you’ve started the year hoping to reduce your alcohol intake, or you’re considering quitting drinking altogether, changes to habits and lifestyle can be tough. It’s not unusual to struggle in maintaining focus, or question if you’re capable of making a change, and sticking with it.
We know that thinking about sobriety and altering your relationship with alcohol can be daunting – because it calls for change. And change, with all its adjustments and hiccups can be difficult to deal with, even when it’s for the better.
Whether you’re excited, or worried about how to stay the course when transitioning to new habits, your reaction and attitude can make all the difference. This is also known as psychological wellbeing.
American psychiatrist Dr Mark Goulston is the author of Get Out Of Your Own Way.
He defines psychological wellbeing as being able to handle any upset, disappointment, or adversity that the world throws at you, without doing something destructive to yourself or others. Dr Goulston writes that when we are more psychologically healthy, we can tolerate exceptional levels of frustration and disappointment. While there are ample online resources and books to learn more about psychological wellbeing, we’ve collated some helpful suggestions to help strengthen your mindset and maintain your focus as you move through changing your relationship with alcohol.
Move towards what motivates you
You might be cutting back on your drinking because you’d like more energy to keep up with your family. Or, perhaps there’s a hobby or passion you’d love to invest more time in. Whatever the goal, write it down and place it in a prominent position to remind yourself what you stand to gain. It could be as specific as improving finances by changing what you choose to spend your money on. For example, Kate had her eye on improving her bank balance. Having a financial focus helped her stay on track.
And sometimes we discover that maintaining focus on what matters most to us, can bring unexpected gains. When Australian singer, actor and presenter Rob Mills decided to redefine his relationship with alcohol, he made a conscious move back towards old friends for meaningful conversations.
‘We shared stories of life and its challenges. We spoke of our growth with our psychologists, podcasts and of course which shows to stream. And though time has passed, the bond is still strong. It doesn’t take much to connect or reconnect.' – Rob Mills
Distract your stress levels
It’s stressful adapting to change in our lives. Psychologist and Australia’s first female talk-back radio announcer Muriel Cooper reminds us that our brain is actually designed to worry,The good news is that we can manage uncomfortable thoughts and distract ourselves from stress by introducing the 4 P’s: Patience, persistence, positivity, and perspective.
Go easy on yourself
Focussed strategies aren’t perfect – they call for a healthy dose of self-forgiveness when you falter.
Dr. Kristen Neff is widely recognised as an expert in self-compassion. She reminds us that ‘self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Forgiving ourselves when we stumble recognises that we can move through challenging moments and regroup.’
Chantal did just that when, after seven months of sobriety, she found herself returning to old habits.
‘Slowly my drinking crept back to where it had been before, and I knew deep in my heart if I didn’t stop, I would lose everything that I loved dearly, and worst of all I would lose myself. So, seven months later, I was ready to start a sober journey again. Let me make this very clear. Relapse, a slip, whatever you want to call it, is not a failure. For many people, including me, it is all part of the journey. I learnt a hell of a lot through that experience. Most importantly I learnt that I wanted to be sober, and I wanted it much, much more than I wanted to drink. This time, I had a better idea of what was ahead, and what I needed to do. Once I’d had a taste of that sober life, the beauty of it never left me, and so I did everything I could to get it back.’
Sarah similarly adjusted her strategies when she made changes, ‘From my recent slip, I was reminded that moderation does not work for me and sticking to non-alcoholic alternatives is the best option.’
Don’t just rely on willpower, call on support
Like many things in life, quitting or reducing alcohol is much easier with support. Tell your friends and family about what you’re doing so they can help you. It’s even better if you connect with others trying to do the same thing so you can all support each other.
The Daybreak app community might be a perfect place to start.
Rob Mills also found that really worked for him. ‘I used the free Daybreak app by Hello Sunday Morning which has an amazing community of people who were all going through what I was – trying to change our relationship with alcohol.’
Like others, Rob discovered it’s a safe space to share concerns, experiences, struggles, and triumphs as you bring about sobriety changes.
Making changes and staying focussed doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Accessing the support of like-minded people makes a big difference in maintaining your focus. If you’re looking for company while you are considering a change in your relationship with alcohol, or abstaining or moderating, check out the Daybreak app for yourself.