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How I went from 15+ drinks a week to 0-2

Five steps I took to change my relationship with alcohol and become a mindful drinker

 

If the thought of giving up your nightly wine or vodka soda is terrifying, I hear you. Never in a million years did I think I could change my drinking habits, unless they hauled me off kicking and screaming to live in a monastery with the nuns and monks. For as long as I can remember I looked forward to a couple glasses (or more) of "well-earned" wine in the evenings and always loved my weekend cocktails. One day I realized that, aside from my pregnancies, alcohol had been constantly around me for decades. From my college sorority days to cocktail waitressing, to working in the hospitality industry - heavy drinking had been normalized my entire life. And I was ready for a change. I'm guessing if you're reading this, you're ready for a change too, and I'm so glad you're here.


Five Steps I Took to Change My Relationship with Alcohol

This is a list of what worked well for me, and while it will not be the perfect formula for everyone out there, I hope it inspires you to give your habits with alcohol a hard look and try something new. Within less than a month I felt drastically different: my sleep, my anxiety and patience with my kids improved. My skin, my energy and overall health improved. Everything in my life got a little better, just from changing this one thing.


These tips changed my entire life, and I hope there are some helpful nuggets in here for anyone out there feeling like they're in a rut.


1. 10-Day Detox

After countless mornings waking up feeling tired, anxious and just generally crappy, I decided I had to try something different. I would look at myself in the mirror and wonder, "Is that really what my skin looks like?!" Even if I was only having two glasses of wine in an evening (something I considered pretty "normal" and moderate), I could feel the difference compared to nights when I had skipped alcohol.


I believe having a dry period of at least 10 days (or longer) is so important at the start, because it gives you a sense of what it can feel like to not have alcohol in your system. Depending on your age and overall health, it can take a week or two for your hormones to begin recovering from the impact of alcohol, your system to reset from the dehydration and exahustion drinking is causing and that brain fog to clear. If you can make it longer, even better. For me, I didn't have the tools yet to be able to snap my fingers and go a full 30-days dry. So I started with baby steps and began my detox on a Thursday so that it spanned two weekends.


The main components of my "reset" are below. I didn't follow an exact program, I created it based on the goals I had for myself, so yours might look a little different. For instance, I am a terrible sleeper, up constantly all night and always slugging coffee, so I focused on optimizing my sleep and mood by changing my caffeine intake and sleep routine. Think about the goals you have and make a plan you can stick to.


-No alcohol

-Bedtime 9:30pm and wake time 5:00am the exact same every day (within 30min)

-100 oz of water daily

-Less than 100mg caffeine per day; no caffeine after 12pm

-No processed foods aside from protein bars/powder

-30-90min exercise daily

-No screentime 2hrs before bed


I highly recommend you start on a Thursday, so that your detox spans two weekends. I will admit that I was so bored in the beginning, and you may be too. I couldn't believe how much I had become dependent on alcohol for my "fun." Breaking that habit has had a huge, long-term impact on my behavior.


2. Start Tracking Your Drinks

If you're not planning on going completely sober you will need to find a way to track your drinks and set a reduction goal that you are comfortable with. In the beginning, I decided to cut my drinking in half. I used a calendar and tracked my drinks by hand every day. I would put a big ol' zero on my dry days and instead of my typical 3-4 drinks in an evening, I tried to stick to only 1-2 when I did drink, though that definitely took some time and practice. Another good way to cut back is to commit to more dry days than drinking days in a week. There are a lot of great ways to track and set goals on your own terms.


Pretty quickly I wanted more data than I was getting just tracking by hand and found an app called Sunnyside that helps me stay on top of my new lifestyle. The data is phenomenal, and it will tell you how many empty calories you save in a week, how many drinks you choose not to have every month, and more. There are also community chat rooms where you can connect with like-minded people, join challenges and learn tips and tricks to becoming a more mindful drinker. Here is a reel with a little more info on how I personally use the app, and a screenshot of some of the data you'll receive using it:

Every month I started to see my average alcohol consumption decrease, until I hit two drinks or less per week. That is a level of alcohol I am comfortable with in my life, and you'll have to determine what (if any) role alcohol can continue to play in yours. Sunnyside was a crucial tool in helping me discover that.


3. Education - Learn the Truth About How Alcohol Impacts Your Health

Once I educated myself on the truth behind how alcohol impacts your health, it was like a veil lifted and I could never go back to the way I used to drink.


I've read a lot of "quit lit" books and listened to dozens of podcasts, and these are the two resources that I found the most impactful and helpful on my road to changing my relationship with alcohol:

  1. No Willpower Required: Have you ever said to yourself, "That's it, I'm not drinking the rest of the month..." or "I'm never drinking again," just to find yourself reaching for that same glass of wine at the same time the next day? This book is a fascinating read on how to use neuroscience to change your habits with alcohol, and why you may be struggling to break your routine with alcohol. It was the first book I read where I felt seen and had actionable things I could do to start moderating.

2. One morning on a long walk I listened to this Podcast by Huberman Labs and was SHOCKED at everything I learned. I can never have a sip of alcohol again without hearing this guy's voice in my head... so be warned!


Did you know that every type of alcohol (beer, wine or liquor), is a known carcinogen linked to seven different types of cancer? Why aren't more people talking about this? I'll tell you why - because the alcohol industry is running one of the most successful and pervasive marketing campaigns of all time. Alcohol is everywhere - at celebrations, restaurants, in TV and movies, on t-shirts... the list is endless. Even some of the newer, low-alcohol, bottled drinks market themselves as beverages that, "You can drink all day long!" The minute you cut back drinking is the minute you realize how hard it is to avoid it.


The most disturbing fact I learned (and found to be true) was this: the affects of alcohol change your brain chemistry long after drinking. Even just one drink per day (deemed safe by the CDC) leads to long-term changes in our brain chemistry, resulting in increased stress and anxiety, decreased mood, and a change in your brain telling you to drink MORE, especially following years of common patterns of drinking.


This was 100% true for me. I would have a couple glasses of wine to temporarily take the edge off in the evenings when trying to get through my toddlers' bedtime routine. I wasn't getting drunk, I just enjoyed a little buzz and I thought it made me more patient and relaxed with my kids. Sound familiar? But that feeling was only temporary. Since drinking less I am happier, more patient with my kids and less anxious. I mean... I did yell at my daughter this morning for pouring her milk on the carpet so it's not perfect. Just better.


The statistics and scientific evidence in this podcast and book became a big part of my "why." (People in the sober-curious community will often talk about their "why," meaning why they decided to cut back or give up drinking.) I wanted to improve my overall health, both physically and emotionally, and knew alcohol was holding me back. Here is another great podcast by Mel Robbins about alcohol that I really enjoyed.


4. Find a Nightly Replacement

Pretty quickly I realized a drink wasn't just about the buzz for me. I enjoyed something celebratory on the weekends or at 5pm to mark the end of the work day. Especially when I was a stay-at-home mom, there wasn't much separation between my "working" hours and family time, so alcohol felt like a little treat to earmark making it through my day and then on to the evening. Discovering some delicious non-alcoholic products and mocktails that I could look forward to really kept me on track.


If you have a go-to drink every night like a gin & tonic, try replacing the gin with a non-alcoholic option, or a beer with a non-alcoholic one. While some people don't recommend this if you're in a sober program (something very different from what I focus on), it has worked wonders for me in cutting back my drinking.


5. Set a New Personal Goal

I decided to not just survive the day, but to do something to IMPROVE my life every single day. Something only for ME and my mental health. Of course, cutting back drinking was a goal for me already, but I needed an outsider motivator to keep me on track, especially in the first few months. You will be shocked at how much time alcohol has been stealing from you, and how much free time you will now have to fill with new activities. So get busy!


This goal doesn't have to be complicated. My goal was simple: I wanted to be able to do 10 pull-ups. That meant I had to get up by 5am each morning to fit in my workouts, and there was no way I was doing that after a few glasses of wine and a crappy night of sleep. When I was tempted to drink in the evenings, knowing I didn't want to skip my workout the next morning was a huge motivator for me. (Spoiler alert: I still cannot do 10 pull-ups, but I'm a hellavua lot closer than I was.)


Whether it's trying a new hobby or taking on a new project at work, commit to something you can focus your extra time and energy on. Because I guarantee, you are about to have a lot more of both on your hands, in the best way possible.


Respect Yourself and Your Process

"Change requires courage, but the failure to change does not signify the lack of it."

I hope you will approach your own attempts at change with patience and kindness to yourself. You deserve it. You will have setbacks along the way, but every day is a new opportunity to start again, with more experience than you had the day before. And also keep in mind that no one else, especially not me, can tell you what changes you should make in your life, at what speed, and at what cost.


I truly believe that there is nothing you can't accomplish if you clearly decide what it is you are absolutely committed to achieving. If you are willing to take serious action on changing your life, and continue to tweak your approach and evaluate what is and isn't working along the way, anything is possible.


Soberish Mom is for anyone willing to try it differently. Because that's all I am: a mom trying to live her life differently than I was. You should be tremendously proud of yourself if you are too.

Disclaimer: This is not a sobriety plan or website. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction and are not able to moderate your drinking, please consider a program such as AA, learn more here.

Affiliate Disclaimer: There may be links in this post connected to affiliate programs, which means that if you make a purchase I may receive a commission on your purchase. Affiliate programs do not impact my recommendations or reviews.

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