When I was told by my counselor that I had to stop drinking and enter rehab immediately, I clapped and sang “No, no, no” doing my best Amy Winehouse impression. No, Actually I said “I can’t go to rehab right now….my friends are planning a birthday party for me in a month” She told me that I would not be able to last 2 more weeks. I said “but I haven’t had a birthday party in forever” sniffle sniffle… boohoohoohoo… WAHHHH! Then I got to rehab and it was awful…”ugh, this is horrible” I thought. I didn’t want to go on if I couldn’t drink. How could I live without a drink? I would never have any fun ever ever again EVER! Things couldn’t be darker for me…..poor me… I was however lucky enough to get the only room with it’s own bathroom and walk-in closet (the most important things in rehab right?), AND I was lucky to have great roommates. Actually it turned out I met a lot of great people there.
My attitude started to change. When I realized the schedule of the day included 2 hours of free time to work-out, I thought “wow that’s pretty good”. It was sunny everyday. Exercising outside with some Army lads and Marines everyday made me really get into shape(try running laps carrying a big rock along with a ton of crunches and pull-ups-Hoorah). My counselor there turned out to be extremely helpful, and I started to feel different about things. I started feeling hope. I started to feel grateful to be in this rehab so I could get better. We went bowling a couple days, painted pottery one day, and even went to the beach one day. By golly I learned that it was actually possible to have fun with out drinking alcohol. I was grateful for what I learned in rehab. After relapsing, I was extremely grateful for a second chance to get it right.
Sometimes gratitude can well up in you to where you almost burst with peace and happiness. I am so grateful for the people that helped me, and above all my husband who has been so caring and patient with me. Being sober doesn’t fix everything in your life, but you will be less likely to make stupid decisions, and become a more strong, capable person then you would have ever thought. Today when something gets me down, I know I can walk away from the piece of “self pity” and go with the slice of “gratitude” each day. You can too.
I try to clean the house on the weekends, you know dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, and kitchen. My husband does laundry and dishes so that’s helpful. So believe it or not when I quit drinking, the biggest trigger for my craving to drink again was….cleaning house!, wait what?? I know I know, it was a big surprise for me as well. It didn’t cross my mind until I started to clean house the first time after I gave up alcohol. Then I immediately knew why. For years and years I had always cleaned house with a duster in one hand and a glass of wine in the other…very sophisticated and classy, right? It just made cleaning house much more inviting and not so tiresome.
Well I knew there had to be some way to solve this problem. It didn’t take me researching long to figure out the perfect solution to solve my “cleaning house=alcohol craving”. If the house needed cleaning, than my husband would simply have to do it all. Perfect, right? So I informed my husband of my “cleaning house=alcohol craving”, and if he wanted the house clean then he would simply have to do it all himself. I think his response was something like “uhhhh ok…riight…”
When you stop drinking, you may discover things that could trigger you to crave alcohol. It may be as simple as hearing a song on the radio that you associate with drinking alcohol. Turn the knob to a different station. I used to like coming home from work and rock out to ACDC real loud with a beer. Don’t worry, it won’t last. I can listen to my “beer drinking music” with out wanting a beer, and I was able to clean the house again after 6 months. It doesn’t cause a craving for alcohol anymore. Now days the thought of a glass of wine doesn’t even enter my head when I clean house.
Wait! I can’t go bowling or golfing with out having a beer. That’s half the fun, and I play better, right?! Well as for bowling I seemed to play just as good either way. Oh and I realized that I can have just as much fun bowling with out being totally sloshed. Now I am a lot more serious about playing golf. After music, I love playing golf. My husband taught me to play golf about 10 years ago and he is pretty good…and now I am beating him sometimes. I did usually like to have a couple beers or three or four…depending if we played nine or eighteen. Luckily it was winter when I quit drinking. It was a very mild winter in Germany. We were able to get out on the course January 2, 2014. I looked over at the fridge in the club house, but I prefer to drink a nice cold beer in the heat so I was not too tempted. I could bring my coffee out on the course instead.
We played a lot of golf because the weather was so good and that helped a lot being busy playing this game and not thinking about alcohol. I think its very therapeutic, fun and relaxing. If you are quitting alcohol it would be helpful to find a sport like this to focus your energy and time on. Also you will be saving money so you can start to save or spend it on helping you.
As the golf season continued my game improved more that year than it ever had. And I attribute it to not drinking while playing. My putting game had improved drastically. My game still kept on improving more last year as well. I know my golf game will continue to improve this year when it gets warm enough to play because I am not drinking anymore. All the other years, I got to a certain point in my golf game and then didn’t continue much improvement at all. For me this just goes to show that you do play at a higher better level with out alcoholic beverages in your system. It proved to me that you can still have fun at everything with out imbibing in alcohol.
After you have your last alcoholic beverage for good, you may wonder how long these awful intense cravings for alcohol last? I was afraid they would not go away. Its different for every person. Some people said it only lasted 2 weeks for them. For me it was almost 3 months before the cravings started to subside. That was the hardest part. I knew they would eventually go away, I just had to be patient. It seemed like it was taking forever. It was hard to sit still because you are so anxious for want of a drink. Sometimes I just had to get out from my desk at work and walk around the building, and walking at lunch helped too. At home I did a lot of jogging, walking and playing music with my clarinet that is my work. I didn’t want to go out to eat at all.
At three months sober the cravings all went away for the most part. I began to go a week with out thinking about drinking. I would still get real intense craving sometimes but they would not last for long. I was able to go eat out and attend town festivals with out being tempted too much. I was living as a musician in Germany playing music all around Europe so there was always a plethora of great wine, beer and schnapps to drink. I had already drank a life-time of it, so I was not tempted by it anymore.
At 6 months sober I had a really bad craving, and then after that they pretty much disappeared for good. I started to go a couple weeks with out thinking of a drink at all. If I was around a lot of people drinking it was fine. I would just drink sparkling water, tea or coffee. At first it may seem like you will never get over the cravings but you do. If I can do it, you can do it.
At one time I had one year of sobriety under my belt from November 2007 to November 2008. When I stopped drinking at that time, I had no cravings or desire to drink alcohol again. Life was great. I was having lots of fun and did not miss it at all. I did not even think about it. It was like I had never had alcohol before. Everything was great. So why did I start drinking again you ask? I was on a business trip with some co-workers and they had all ordered an alcoholic drink with dinner which wasn’t unusual. I was used to haging out with people who drank a lot. All the sudden the thought occured to me that I hadn’t had the taste of a good beer in a while. Heck I had not drunk alcohol in a year, and now I knew what not to do. I knew to never drink like I had before, so this time would be different. Before, I was drinking a six pack to 8 beers every night or 2 bottles of wine a night. It had taken a lot of prayer and a miracle from God to stop, and I knew to never drink like that again.
I decided that I could drink in moderation. The official definition of moderation is no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. At the time, my personal idea of drinking in moderation was “drink as much as you want one weekend a month”. So for me that meant like 3 beers Friday night, a six pack on Saturday and another six pack on Sunday. I thought, yes, I can do this once a month no problem. It sounded like a great idea to me…and for a while this worked.
The first four months were great as I was able to stick with drinking just one weekend a month. Then the next four months I decided it was ok to drink two weekends a month…no big deal right? Then it became ok to drink three weekends a month…and you can see where this is going right? Its classic. By the fall of 2009 the Renaissance festival near our town was the place to go on the weekends, and of course you got to drink the tasty beer there in your medieval costume and leather or glass-blown mug. So I started drinking ever weekend, and then added Thursday to my weekends. Well by the time 2010 came around I was full blown back to my old drinking habbit that I had sworn off. I was drinking every night again. I was so very displeased with myself. How could I have let this happen again? After a while beer or wine weren’t enough for me and I switched to Vodka. I couldn’t imagine going back to drinking only one weekend a month. My alcohol consumption just got worse and worse and my need of it more and more. I was unable to get sober again until November 25, 2013.
Now that I have over 2 years of sobriety, I know exactly what will happen if I decide to drink alcohol again. I much prefer my sober life then the hell of drinking again. I want and need to stay sober for my physical and mental well-being. I hope you decide to stay sober too.
During my first year of sobriety, I dedicated most evenings to researching and developing my own personal recovery plan. Having completley surrendered myself to the AA program before and it not working, I knew I would need to tailor a recovery plan just for me. In this day and age there are thousands of resources from books to web sites and youtube videos all dedicated to addiction recovery and staying sober. I poured over these readily available resources to find the right recovery plan for me. Between that, work, and my work-out routine I didn’t have time to think about drinking. Now that you are not drinking, spend an hour every night working on your recovery plan. If you do go to AA and it’s working for you then by all means keep to that program. It doesn’t hurt to add on to your AA 12 steps with other tools that you find helpful in your recovery.
I didn’t just focus on researching sobriety, I also researched “success”, “grit”, and “gratitude”. You could research “achievment” or “reaching goals” or whatever else comes to your brain. You are smart and don’t need to be spoon-fed, so think for yourself. Your worst thinking may have brought you do this low point in your life, but your best thinking can start now and help you recover from addiction. As you research, write down what strikes you as relevant to your sobriety. Soon you will come up with your own formula. Then start implementing your new-found formula as your recovery plan.
Be open to new ideas as you research. At first I didn’t think I would use “gratitude” at all in my recovery and then it ended up being a key element in my plan. So don’t hesitate to try new things and if it works great, if not then throw it to the side for now and maybe come back to it later. You will learn and grow a lot by researching all the resources about achieving sobriety.
The Four Keys to Sobriety; Putting MAGG into practice as my recovery program.
In my previous posts I wrote how I formulated Motivation, Acceptance, Grit and Gratitude(MAGG) as my keys to long-term sobriety. I will now tell you how to put MAGG into practice.
First, write down in a list everything that motivates you to stay sober. They can be simple as-
1. I want to be there for my family.
2. I want to stay physically and mentally healthy.
3. I want to take classes for my degree.
You can also write down in a list everything you will lose if you drink again.
1. I don’t want to lose my job.
2. I don’t want to lose custody of my kids.
Also imagine yourself drinking again and where it will lead. It doesn’t get better. It will always lead back to where you were when you quit and worse. It will lead to your deathbed.
Put these lists on your refridgerator or anywhere else that will help remind you of your motivations for not drinking.
Your second step will be to write down a gratitude list. Write down everything you are grateful for right now. Keep it handy and jot more grateful things down when you think of them.
Think about the term acceptance and what it means to you in staying sober. Do you accept that you will never drink again? I didn’t want to at first. I grieved a lot that I was having to stop drinking alcohol. But I let myself feel that grief and let myself cry and whine that it wasn’t fair. You can also accept that you are a strong person. You don’t need alcohol to cover your feelings. You are strong enough to feel your feelings with out alcohol or any other drug. You also don’t need alcohol to have fun. Accept that you are a wonderful one of kind great human being.
This takes us to Grit. If you don’t have grit, just decide to have grit. You are very strong and powerful and smart. And if you don’t believe that then you need to start beliving you have all those qualities. You can maintain your goal of long-term sobriety through having the perseverence and strength even amid setbacks and failures. Although it will be very frustrating at times, everyone goes through setbacks in their persuit of sobriety. Be patient with yourself. When you have a craving, look back at your motivation list. I also used a journal to jot down things each day to keep busy and on track and balanced.
That is how I put MAGG into practice in my life. I hope it can help you too.
Motivation, Acceptance, Grit, and Gratitude
The 4 keys to Long-term Sobriety
One can list many motivations to not drink alcohol. After a period of sobriety, one of the biggest motivations I use is “thinking it through”. What will happen if I ever do drink an alcoholic beverage? I play the whole movie in my head and it never ends well. After 2 years of sobriety the thought of having an alcoholic drink doesn’t come into my head much at all, but this motivation is what I come back to every time and it works for me. It helps to right down a whole list of motivations and look at them every now and then.
After 2 years of sobriety I still accept that I won’t drink alcohol again. Being sober is my new way of life now and I accept what comes with that. I accept that I am strong enough to feel real feelings and not need alcohol to numb them. I allow myself to feel grief of not being able to drink, or jealousy that others can drink and I can’t. I feel those feelings and move on. I allow my feelings to happen and not feel guilty about them or that they are wrong.
Having the character of Grit helps me maintain my never-ending goal of sobriety. I have the perseverance and tenacity to pursue my goal of sobriety through failures, disappointments and hardships. Grit is a key to success in any goal you are pursuing. It is so easy to give up or ask yourself if sobriety is worth it. It is worth it if you don’t want to be on your deathbed. You are stronger than you think. Sobriety can be a seemingly long, tiresome, emotional process with new things popping up that you don’t expect and have to deal with. Its ok to feel frustrated about it. You will also learn new things and new insights that will add tools to help you progress through this process and down the road you will turn around one day and see how far you have come. Be proud of your successes weather its 30 days or 6 months of sobriety. Reward yourself.
Gratitude. Maybe you can’t drink alcohol any more, but there is so much you have and so much you can do with your life. Write them down. Look at all the things you have to be grateful for. And what new things would you be interested in trying now that you are not spending so much time and money on booze? When I first got sober, I did not have much gratitude. I was more angry that I could not drink anymore and getting myself in that position in the first place. After 2 years of being sober, I have so much to be grateful for. Having gratitude is comforting and brings a sense of peace and happiness in my life.
Guide to long-term sobriety
The equation for Long-Term Sobriety is Willingness to Change which is a given, then (Motivation x Acceptance) + (Grit x Gratitude) = Long-Term Sobriety
Willingness to change is a given in getting sober. You have to have that.
I believe you need one big motivation or several of them to want to stay sober. My motivation was keeping my job. I didn’t want the embarrassment of losing my job to this stupid drug. Maybe your motivation is your health and peace of mind or your family.
I define Grit as having tenacity and persistence to keep going amid challenges and great adversity on a path that is a long-term goal in one’s life. Grit is key to success in anything you peruse.
I believe grit and motivation are 1 huge key to success and long-term sobriety.
The Second big key is the 2nd part of the equation mentioned above.
One needs acceptance in their belief of not ever drinking alcohol again. This can be one of the hardest parts to quitting alcohol. This could involve going through the grief process. After all its like your best friend and lover just died.
Gratitude is necessary too. It is key to happiness which you need in sobriety. If you are miserable in sobriety then what’s the point? Of course life will always have adversity and challenges. Sobriety doesn’t make life automatically wonderful. One may be going through divorce and dealing with huge debt and a lot of relationship and job problems when getting sober. One needs to be grateful in what you do have in life.
I am sure having a great support network can be helpful. I am not a people person so I get support from the internet recovery sites and videos. Some of the sites are SMART Recovery- which includes practical help to stop drinking along with worksheets for you to fill out. Livingsobersucks.com offers the humorous side to quitting alcohol. There are a lot of videos on youtube that have free advice for quitting alcohol too.
Also one needs to find new sober activities to do. You can go bowling without drinking beer. Find a sport you are interested to do. Try painting or another craft that would be fun for you. Find replacement drinks like tea, coffee, and some other non-alcoholic drinks. I personally like drinking sparkling water with a bit of cranberry juice in it in a wine glass. It tastes refreshing.
The final important thing is to believe in yourself. You have the power to quit alcohol. God believes in you and loves you.
The alcohol stop chart – immediate, 6 moths and one year effects of not drinking
What happened when I stopped drinking?
Immediate effects of me not drinking:
I stopped crying every single night
My blood pressure went back down to normal.
I was clear headed at night.
I started working-out more and spent more time on hobbies.
The extremely intense morning anxiety went away.
The being in an “alcoholic fog” in the mornings went away.
Grief of not drinking started running its course
Feeling sorry for myself that I could not drink anymore happened.
Intense craving and urges to drink occurred a lot.
Found great motivation to not drink.
Thoughts of suicide started to disappear.
My hopelessness and despair dissipated.
Research and thirst for knowledge to stay sober.
Effects of not drinking for 6 months:
All anxiety disappeared.
All of my depression almost disappeared.
Intense craving and urges to drink disappeared.
Great feeling of emotional and mental balance.
I lost 15 pounds.
This “heaviness” in my spirit disappeared.
A feeling of “brightness and lightness” in my spirit emerged.
Feeling physically excellent.
A desire to stay sober for the long-term got very strong.
My husband is not worried and stressed out about me anymore.
Feelings of new hope and positivity for the future emerged.
A new found confidence in me emerged.
Developed new goals for the future.
Going for a week or more without thinking about alcohol.
Only small cravings to drink alcohol twice a month or so happen and don’t last long.
Learning that all the activities’ I did while drinking are just as fun with-out drinking…like bowling, golfing, going out to eat, visiting Christmas markets and other festivals.
Replacing alcohol with new hobbies and other types of non alcoholic drinks.
Leaving my alcohol problems and sins in the past and moving forward to the future.
Gained feelings of acceptance in not drinking again and finding gratitude in each day.
Effect of not drinking for one year+
I don’t think of alcohol anymore even going out to a restaurant for dinner.
I am so much more mentally and emotionally stable.
No thoughts of suicide or hopelessness.
Positive out-look on the future.
Other people drinking alcohol around me does not bother me anymore.
My eyes don’t look so tired and sunken-in.
I feel much younger and look like 5 yrs younger than I did before.
Small feeling to drink alcohol again only happens maybe once a month and doesn’t last for more than a minute.
Developed the equation to long-term sobriety and have desire to help others struggling with alcohol.
My friends and family are so proud of me and respect me.
My husband is so happy and proud of me.
I am so happy and grateful to not be a slave of alcohol anymore, and I don’t think about it… I am enjoying moving on with my alcohol-free lifestyle.
I always want to remember how great I feel now compared to before so I don’t get tempted to drink again.
I tell myself that I don’t need to poison my brain with alcohol to have a good time. I have a great time without drinking alcohol and I can sit with other people who are drinking and not be envious.