Day 2 – Planning for External Pitfalls

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When we are trying to act in ways that are different to our usual routines and responses (like not drinking when we usually do), there are many ways we might be distracted from our new plan and be tempted to revert to old tried-and-tested habits.

Although it’s not easy, the first step in getting stronger at resisting urges and sticking to our plans is to understand what kinds of things might trip us up. Only then can we start to develop strategies for coping with them when they inevitably arise.

Using the daily ritual helps you to consciously scan the day ahead for things that might undermine your choice and desire to have an alcohol free day (possible pitfalls) and plan and rehearse how you will respond or cope with them.

There are so many possible pitfalls – and possible coping strategies – that we are breaking up our emails about them across four days.

Today is about external pitfalls – these come from things around you, including people, places, things and situations that might cause you to feel an urge for a drink.


Understanding about what kind of drinker you are, and about the role of other people in your MOB.

When you are doing your daily ritual – scan the day ahead for the people you will be meeting, and any social plans that are in your diary. Be honest with yourself:

  • Are any of these people likely to be expecting and looking forward to drinking with you?
  • Will it be irritating, stressful, or even make you angry trying to explain to any of these people that you are doing a MOB, and why?
  • Are any of these people likely to encourage you to drink, even knowing you are planning not to?
  • Have you ever experienced a social event when you have not had a drink with this person? That is, is it highly habitual for you to have a drink when you meet this person?
  • Will you find it difficult having soft drinks whilst the other person or people are drinking alcohol?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you will need to plan and rehearse a coping strategy for dealing with this possible pitfall.


Creatures of learning and habit that we are, certain cues in our environment can create small (or large) cravings for alcohol because they remind us about alcohol and drinking. We probably can’t avoid them all, but it helps to be aware of them so that we aren’t surprised by cravings.

When you are scanning the day ahead in your daily ritual, ask yourself:

  • Am I going anywhere today where alcohol is served or sold?
  • Do I usually buy or drink alcohol in that place?
  • What places in my daily routine are most associated with a desire or decision to buy or drink alcohol?

Again, if you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you will need to plan and rehearse a coping strategy that will help you avoid alcohol and manage your urges.

When I (Helen) was working on controlling my drinking, the place that was most associated with alcohol for me was the supermarket on the way home from work because it was where I used to buy my daily bottle of wine, that I drank alone at home. Pubs, clubs, even my well-stocked drinks cabinet of liqueurs and spirits (that I only associated with guests and Christmas) were not high-risk places for me.


Similarly, events and situations can be associated with alcohol – whether because we usually drink in those situations, or because everyone else does and will expect us to as well.

Pay attention during your daily ritual for situations during a regular day where you usually have a drink:

  • Once the kids are in bed
  • When you get in from work
  • With your evening meal
  • After work
  • At X o’clock
  • Watching TV
  • Friday/Saturday
  • ….?

Avoiding drinking when it is part of your regular routine may well cause some niggly urges, because of the strong association that has built up often over many years that in situation X we will have a drink.

Also think about whether there are any less frequent or one-off situations happening today that you would usually drink in:

  • A party/wedding/celebration
  • Evening out with friends
  • Work event
  • Holiday
  • Seeing someone you rarely see
  • Payday
  • It’s a really nice hot day
  • …?

Avoiding drinking in one-off situations such as parties or events might not lead to strong cravings, but might require us to have some plans in place to deal with the expectations of others, and for declining when drinks are offered.


Don’t underestimate the power of small sensory cues that can lead to thoughts and then cravings for alcohol. Some of my clients have spoken about craving alcohol when they see people on TV drinking – like Come Dine With Me, or the soaps. Even the sound of a ring-pull opening or the smell of alcohol can set off a niggly urge.

  • For some pitfalls it will be possible to AVOID them.
  • For others you might need or choose to stay in the situation but find ways to CONTROL it.
  • If you can’t avoid or control, you may need to ESCAPE!

Your actions for today

  • Complete the External Pitfalls Quiz to help you identify what people, places and situations you will need coping strategies for during your MOB.
  • Visit the Club Soda online community and tell us what you think your biggest external pitfall is and how are going to try to deal with it during your MOB.  

9 Responses to “Day 2 – Planning for External Pitfalls

  • Ann Crighton
    7 years ago

    Good morning

    I was hoping to join in the chat tonight (on day 3 of the MoB) but an old friend is visiting, however, I should make the meeting tomorrow evening

    Meanwhile, I have ordered 3 cases of non-alcoholic drinks recommended by you e.g. the chilli ginger beer.

    A bientot

  • Hi: the ‘what kind of drinker are you?’ Page says: 404 not found; also I cannot tick the boxes on the questionnaire – do we have to download/print this (I only have an iPad).

    • Anonymous
      5 years ago

      Same for me on my iPad. Haven’t tried on a computer

      • Anonymous
        5 years ago

        Hi, I have pinged this over to Jussi and Laura to see if they can resolve this.
        Sorry for the inconvenience,
        Best Wishes,

  • same for me, cant seem to do the quiz online, do you have to print and complete at home ? thanks

    • Jussi Tolvi
      5 years ago

      Hi Lisa, do you mean you can’t download the External Pitfalls Quiz pdf file?

    • Same issue – can’t do the quiz online but can print it off so not a big issue.

  • Anonymous
    3 years ago

    I also have this problem and as I can’t print it off means I can’t complete the quiz which I think would otherwise be very usual in helping me identify and remember my pitfalls. Thanks for your help

  • If you can’t print the quiz document, maybe display it on your screen, read through, and write down in a notebook or somewhere else the items from the list that apply to you? I’m afraid we just don’t have the technology at the moment to make this quiz into an online form…

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