In the early stages of stopping drinking, you will find that you have much more time on your hands than you had before, and a common feeling is that people are not sure what to do with all these extra minutes and hours that they didn’t previously have.
I once read that time is the most precious resource we have because once it’s lost, you can never get it back. That stands for the time we have for ourselves and as well as the time we gift to other people with our presence or by doing something for them.
Drinking can literally be more of a waste of time than we give it credit for. The time we give out to alcohol is not only the actual time spent on drinking. It’s the time we spend:
· thinking about it
· pondering whether to drink or not
· going to the shop to buy it if we don’t have it at home, and going to different shops, so the shopkeeper won’t know how much we are getting through
· feeling tired, hangover, unmotivated, stressed, irritated, anxious and lacking energy
· not being fully present with our loved ones as we could have been if we had been clear-headed and really there for them, either because our focus is the alcohol or because we feel the crushing effects of imbibing too much the day before
· or the time we take away from our friends, for example when we cancel our plans with them because the night before we had not planned to get drunk but, alas, we did.
Over time, I have come to see alcohol as a time stealer and a wrecker of the precious time I have left on this earth. Once alcohol is no longer stealing our time, we have this resource in our hands but maybe our mindset has not changed yet and rather than a gift, we see it as an empty bucket and it can be unsettling or uncomfortable to have it. We have spent so many years filling it with the substance, as if it were our best friend or life companion, that the way we feel it’s completely natural and understandable. (I will speak about the grieving process that some of us have to go through in another newsletter.)
What to do now, then?
I have put together three suggestions for you which I hope you will find helpful.
1. SIT and TAP
My first one is to sit with it and tap on it because as a practitioner I want to empower all of you to develop your emotional awareness and learn to understand how your mind and emotions work. Imagine yourself having come home, knowing that you are not going to drink because you have made that decision, so the internal battle contemplating a drink is not there at all. And by the way, that is an amazing and incredibly hard step to conquer, and it might take a few attempts to get there. But imagine you are there now.
You are bored and don’t know what to do with yourself. There is a void where once was the bottle. Take pen and paper and write down:
– How does that make you feel? Sad, frustrated, anxious, bleh … Write it down.
– Where do you feel it in your body and what does it look like? … Write it down
– What’s the intensity between 0 and 10? …Write it down.
Start tapping and do as many rounds as you need to decrease that emotion. If it changes or it moves, keep track of it, write it down, that’s useful information. If you land on a memory that is too uncomfortable and traumatic, please stop and contact an accredited and certified practitioner because they will help you to process it in the safest and most effective way possible.
In your early stages planning can be crucial. You know you are not going to be drinking this afternoon or this week. Have something planned at the time you would be reaching for that bottle. A brisk walk, a phone call with your friend, making a new recipe that requires you to concentrate your full attention on it, start something new that is not connected to alcohol, sign up for a gym class, focus on a long forgotten interest, offer to help someone else. Yes, it is a distraction, but a distraction this early can be a life saver. You won’t have to do it forever but it will help you take your mind off until your chemical balance in your brain goes back to normal levels and being alcohol-free becomes your new normal. You may even discover or rekindle passion. In either case, it’s a win-win scenario.
3. LET YOUR BOREDOM LEAD YOU TO A NEW PLACE
Use boredom to your advantage. Brené Brown wrote in her book “Atlas of the Heart” that “While most of us think of boredom as a negative feeling, it turns out that not all experiences of boredom are bad. … A recent study shows that simple, boring tasks or mundane activities can allow our minds to wander, daydream and create. The lack of stimulation that defines “being bored” gives our imagination room to play and grow.” And she adds, at the end that “As researcher and writer Sherry Turkle said “Boredom is your imagination calling to you”.
This is your chance to take back control of your life. Remember, we are the lucky ones. If I had not accepted that I had drinking problem, I could have gone on with life not really experiencing all that life has to offer, like many people unfortunately do. I now see my experience, with all its ups and downs, as a gift. Stopping drinking can be hard for many of us, but believe me, it can really open up your world in ways that you could and would not have imagined if you had or continued going on the path you are on.