These two tips should help.
“My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life doesn’t have to come last.” — Anonymous
The mind can be a wonderful thing.
It can give us strength to do some amazing things but can also keep us shackled to imaginary chains that hold us back all the time.
When it comes to stopping drinking, our minds can easily be our worst enemies, particularly when we are in our nascent stages of becoming alcohol conscious.
The thought of drinking can pop up all the time, just because your body is so used to it if nothing else.
For me, when these thoughts would occur, I had two particular techniques that helped me tremendously in maintaining my alcohol-consciousness.
Focus on the progress you’ve made and your future
For me, I would think about all the various gains I had made in a number of different areas of my life.
I would think about the tremendous momentum that I was building with each day of alcohol-consciousness and knew that if I went back to drinking, I would be back at square one.
Because of the concept of faded-effect bias, the further you get away from something, the more you forget about the negative and focus mostly on the positive.
This is one of the reasons that many people end up back in bad relationships to which they said they would never return.
You’ll find yourself remembering all the great nights on the town and the various things you did while forgetting the raging headache of the morning or the time your night ended with you in the back of a cop car.
When this happens, you should take some time and record your thoughts to remind yourself of why you quit drinking in the first place and what you have gained since you’ve made this decision.
One exercise that can help is a bit of a twist on the classic pro/con method to help your mind clearly see the choice you have in front of you.
Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side, you should write all the reasons that you decided to quit drinking and the ways that it was negatively impacting your life.
On the right side, you should write all the various ways that your life has improved since you’ve stopped drinking, the various skills or motivations you have gained, and your plans for the future as it relates to continuing down this path.
Now, you just have to ask yourself if going back to all of the negative on the left side of the page is worth giving up all the positive that you are gaining on the right side of the page.
As you can see, we don’t focus on any “positives” from your previous drinking because the psychological pull of your brain wanting that dopamine hit can greatly manipulate your ability to accurately weigh the value and outcome of how beneficial those “positives” were.
By reminding yourself of only the negative and focusing completely on the positives that you have experienced so far and plan to experience in the future, you put your mind in a forward-looking state that refuses to acknowledge that going back to your old self could be better than the new version you’re creating.
Recognize and eliminate triggers
Usually, when someone is considering drinking again, they have been “triggered” in some way that has increased their craving to the point that the individual finds it more difficult than usual to say no.
When this happens, the person should identify what that trigger could be and do everything possible to eliminate it as a cause for concern.
Triggers are different for different people, but basically, they are anything that might cause you to want to drink again.
For some, it could be something physical like a bar that was a frequent spot to visit or hanging with a particular person at a certain time of day.
For others, it could be more internal like stress from the workday or finding it difficult to sleep. It may not be always easy to ignore these triggers, but the important part is to recognize they are there and then work to lessen their effect on your desire to drink again.
Some actions should be easy, as you can just decide to not go to certain places that cause this feeling or not hang around certain individuals as well. However, with more nuanced potential triggers like stress or lack of sleep, this requires a bit more internal work and research on holistic remedies to solve these problems.
Stress has always been one of the main reasons that many people decide to drink, so identifying various strategies and tips to alleviate stress will help tremendously with preventing potential alcohol cravings.
This may not be easy at first, but doing the hard work of internal reflection and finding new coping mechanisms to deal with various emotional triggers like stress, depression, and anxiety will not only prevent you from relapsing but help in general with anything that life might throw your way.
And while for some it may appear that relapse was a necessary part of their journey, it doesn’t HAVE to be for you.
Hopefully, these two tips will help you stay diligent and not allow one weak moment to throw away all the progress you’ve made and rob you of the amazing future you’re creating for yourself.
I’m pretty sure your future alcohol-conscious self with thank you.