I collected these twenty tested tips for staying sober at the Monday night Berkeley meeting this week:
1) Identify what physical needs alcohol met for your body. Alcohol is metabolized into water, an aldehyde, and sugar. Only sugar could satisfy a physical need/craving for your body. So maybe you could just eat sugary foods and eliminate the alcohol middleman. I personally found that a handful of ginger cookies did most of the things for me that vodka did, without as many bad side effects. It made quitting easier. 2) Keep busy. Sign up for a class, take on a big project at work, start a new hobby, build a boat in the basement. It helps a lot if your new activities keep you out of the house during any times of the day you used to regularly drink heavily. 3) Exercise. Walk or bike to work, or walk over lunch. 4) Always have safe beverages nearby. If you become hooked on diet Pepsi or Dr Pepper, you aren’t going to suffer nearly the same consequences as from being addicted to alcohol. The group split pretty much evenly on the issue of Non-Alcoholic Beer, some finding it valuable and safe while others view it as so dangerous that “drinking even one NA beer would be a relapse”. Know yourself and your limits. 5) Get alcoholic hepatitis or pancreatitis – there’s nothing like physical pain and the knowledge that you’ll die if you start drinking again to keep you sober during those challenging first months of sobriety (obviously I’m just kidding on this point, but finding out you are really seriously sick can be a strong motivator).6) Stay away from parties for a while. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but make it easier for yourself at first. If you do go to parties, go with your family or stick close to home so you can easily leave if you get uncomfortable. 7) Be kind to yourself. Use “discomfort with alcohol” as an excuse to skip those boring family events you dread for completely unrelated reasons. Get a massage, sleep in on the weekend, treat yourself to something you want but wouldn’t normally get. 8) Think of sobriety as a possibly temporary thing during the first few months, when things are hard. This may sound dangerous, but it’s not that different than the “one day at a time” approach that some people use. 9) Remember your hangovers, dry heaves, arrests, and other negative consequences. Keep these memories fresh. 10) Do everything in tiny little steps. Don’t jump back to your “normal” patterns too quickly. 11) Examine your alcohol-substitute behaviors, to make sure they aren’t potentially a problem.12) Remind yourself that you “aren’t going to be happy with just one drink, so why have it?” when the thought that “just one wouldn’t hurt” pops into your head. 13) No alcohol in the house. Absolutely. If guests bring it to a dinner or party, make them leave it in the car. 14) Remember that everyone is an individual, and what works for others might not work for you. There is no one true way. 15) Identify situations where you drank in the past, and try to see what it was about them that led you to drink to excess. If you have relapsed, examine everything about it to try to learn what the problem was. Ask others for their feedback, since you might be blind to something about yourself which is obvious to everyone else. 16) You don’t need alcohol to sleep. Alcohol CAUSES sleep pattern problems. It might be hard for a week or two, but after a while you will sleep better than ever before (my own decades-long insomnia has completely vanished). Remember, it may take six months to completely return to your normal sleep patterns, so be patient. 17) Watch out for danger times – be especially vigilant when you are angry, having a hard time being productive, etc. 18) Try meditation. 19) Immerse yourself in recovery – read a lot of books, go to tons of meetings. Take on a leadership role in your recovery meetings (that has the benefit of making it somewhat mandatory to go to the meetings). 20) Be open to introspection. The key to success is the ability to take an honest look at themselves. You have to change some pretty deeply ingrained patterns, and you can’t do it on autopilot.
Craig M., from the Lifering email list, 4/26/97