October is here which means it’s time for Go Sober For October (GSFO). Over 57,000 people have pledged to quit alcohol and have raised over £1 million for Macmillan Cancer Support. With such an incredible amount raised for such a brilliant cause, Macmillan are right to call these volunteers Superheroes.
Giving up alcohol is difficult. There are many aspects of people’s lifestyles that are interwoven with alcohol. Whether it’s a glass of wine at lunch or a beer after football with friends, alcohol is often within temptations reach. This can make giving up very hard unless you have will power made of granite.
To help you, I’ve pulled together my top tips for giving up alcohol.
1. Set Goals
Just giving up alcohol can often seem disappointing because the focus is on what you’re denying yourself. All thoughts revolve around something you’re now doing without and this can often start to build a resentment towards the new habit you’re trying to build.
Instead, flip this on its head and start working towards something you want and give yourself a goal to work towards. The focus then becomes a positive thought with a potential win in mind. Whether you’re motivated by the feeling of achievement or fear failure, having a goal sparks both of these emotions into life.
I’ve employed this strategy successfully in the past, giving up alcohol in the run up to a number of triathlons or marathons over the years. Going sober just became part of my training and made it much easier with my focus always on the upcoming event, not the pint I’m going without.
If you’re doing Go Sober For October then you’ve got your goals covered. If not, why not find yourself an event to take part in or go for the big one and raise money for a charity at the The London Marathon.
2. Change Your Habits
Most people drink alcohol because of a habit they’ve developed over time. In Charles Duhigg’s great book, The Power of Habit he talks about the different stages of a habit. The final stage is the reward i.e. what each habit works towards.
With drinking alcohol there’s a lot of different reasons people drink and often these may not be directly linked to the alcohol. A couple of examples include:
- Going to the pub – Do you go to the pub for the alcohol or to spend time laughing and joking with friends?
- Glass of wine after work – Do you pour the glass of wine for the alcohol or for the feeling of holding a glass as it represents being home and away from work stresses?
Stop and think about when you drink and whether the alcohol is really the reward or it’s a small part of a bigger habit. Often it’s the latter, in which case you can work to remove the alcohol from the reward. Charles Duhigg suggests that “by experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving, which is essential in redesigning the habit”.
Revisiting the examples above, you can experiment with:
- Go to the pub with friends and have a non-alcoholic drink. Afterwards reflect on the experience and how much you enjoyed it sober.
- Get home and pull on your running kit, sit on the sofa with your favourite TV program or try meditation to relax. If you really miss holding a glass, pour a glass of non-alcoholic wine
To begin with, these changes will feel strange and unnatural, but over time your habits will change. Persevere with going sober and play around with your habits and rewards to find what works best for you.
3. Tell Your Friends
Doing something new can hard and doing it on your own is even harder. So don’t do it on your own. Talk to those around you and tell them you’re giving up alcohol. Ask for their support and you’ll be surprised how many different ways they may help. For example:
- You may recruit them into going sober with you as new habits can be contagious
- Friends and family may be impressed at your achievement and encourage you in your moments of weakness
- You won’t have to explain why you’re not drinking on nights out
Once you’ve told friends and family, don’t be afraid to use their support. When you’re having a moment of weakness, give them a call and ask for help. Those that care about you will guide you away from temptation and keep you on the wagon.
When you’re telling those closest to you, be mindful of their reaction to the news. Most will be supportive, but watch out for those that try to convince you it’s a bad idea. Unfortunately, some people react badly purely for selfish reasons. Either they feel they’re about to lose a drinking buddy or they’re jealous because they would like to give up, but don’t think they have the willpower. Try to calm their fears, but maybe think twice before contacting them if you’re close to falling off the wagon.
4. Final Words Before Part 2
If you’re one of these superheroes, I really do applaud you. You’re taking on a challenge for an amazing cause and I wish you all the best in achieving your goal.
If you do slip up, please don’t be hard on yourself or think about quitting. Macmillan have their Golden Tickets for these moments or for special occasions during October.
Or if you know someone taking part, please give them all the support they need. Don’t try and tempt them into having a drink for a joke, but instead offer them something non-alcoholic. That little moment of support may mean more to them than you realise.
I wish you the best of luck as you Go Sober For October.