Day 30 – Looking back – reflecting on your Sober Sprint / MOB

This article was originally Helen’s final post on the very first, October 2015, Month Off Booze programme, which included weekly live webinars and other interactions we can’t do now when people join the programme at different times. But we hope the content in this post is valuable for anyone, at any time! We’ve not edited it since, so it talks about MOB – just insert “Sober Sprint” when appropriate!


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So, today we bid you farewell, or at least, au revoir. It has been a wonderful experience for me, personally and as a practitioner, to take part in this MOB.

I always advocate the power of groups to my clients, even the ones who insist they can not cope in groups and want 1-2-1 counselling. More often than not, after trying one or two and getting over the fear of the unknown, people are pleased they are in the group. They might sit silent for a while, listening, but eventually benefit from sharing their story, learning they are not alone, abnormal or mad, finding out how other people are coping with life, change, and everything else, and both receiving and giving support.

Being part of something bigger than myself motivates and inspires me. The Club Soda community, comments to the posts, emails I have received, and webinars, have all made the MOB for me and I hope others, a positive experience. We are greater than the sum of our parts!

Professionally, the folks at Club Soda have given me the opportunity to share, via the MOB, some of the things I have learnt over the years, running groups and counselling in the community as well as from my own experiences. I get the most intrinsic pleasure from my work when I can help other people to find their own strength and confidence to make positive changes. The beauty of an online course such as the MOB is that I we have been able to reach people far afield – with MOBsters signing up from USA, Brazil, Belgium and elsewhere!

The MOB has also enriched my practice as I have learnt from your comments, emails and on the webinars what you struggle with most, and which posts have been most helpful. I can take this knowledge into the other work I do and help other people.

So, Thank You! For joining me, sharing with me, and helping me learn and grow as a person and a professional.

I would love to stay in touch with you, and you can follow me on twitter.
As @psycurious I mostly tweet about psychology, research, writing, behaviour change, and mental health.
As @controldrinking I tweet more specifically about drinking in moderation, reduction, sobriety, and addictions.

All the posts from the MOB are here, permanently. You can revisit them if you want a reminder, some inspiration or motivation. You can also work through it all again if you want to take another MOB. The community is always here, so you can just start (or continue) another one whenever you feel like it.

Do your last N=ME tracker and look back at your results 

n=mebuttonOur post about the quantified self, or why it’s good to measure stuff, spoke about the importance of tracking change, not just on the main or obvious areas (e.g., weight loss) but other areas such as energy, productivity, mood, sleep, etc.

Tracking and acknowledging change, even subtle shifts, helps us understand more about the impact alcohol might have been having. This keeps us honest about what we positive changes and improvements we want to keep going forward, and what we are prepared to sacrifice by returning to our pre-MOB drinking levels.

So, if you filled in your n=me scores you will get a specific email with details of your changes. You completed one at the start of the MOB, and it would be great for you to see what’s changed along the various dimensions of:

Sleep quality
Energy
Productivity
Positive moods/emotions
Negative moods/emotions
Coping
Food and eating
Money and spending
Relationships
Confidence

Any improvements you have recorded during the MOB are the things you could be saying ‘no’ to if you say ‘yes’ to your pre-MOB drinking habits.

Even if you haven’t been doing the life tracker, some scientists have been doing it for us! In October 2015, the press was full of reports about the findings of research carried out by the Royal Free Hospital, on 102 men and women taking part in Dry January.

The researcher’s quote “if you had a drug that did this it would be a multi-billion pound market”. There were dramatic health improvements in just a single month off the sauce: A 12.5% reduction in “liver stiffness” (an indicator of liver disease), a 28% reduction in insulin resistance (a measurement of diabetes risk), weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep and concentration.

See the video here

Other topics during the MOB have included:

The role of other people

The support of other people can really help us achieve our goals. If you have those in your life, that’s great. Telling others what you are hoping to achieve, why it is important to you and how they can help can be really useful, especially if you are still planning on hanging out with them even when you change your drinking. There are also online communities like Club Soda, and groups and meetings such as AA or other socials and MeetUps. On the other hand, difficult people challenge us, take the opposing view simply for the sport rather than to understand, or try to undermine or sabotage us. You can practice assertively telling them that you are not asking for their permission or looking for help making your decision. Your mind is made up, but you would still really appreciate their support. People who can’t accept this, or who repeatedly make you angry or stressed in conversations about your drinking, might not deserve a place at the table, at least for a while.

See the video here, and here.

Find a daily or weekly ritual that works for you

Almost every successful person ever interviewed about their productivity, goal setting and achievements, and general routines, has shared some kind of daily ritual, usually morning. Rituals can be used to focus on what needs to be done, get into the right frame of mind, clear the mind of thoughts that do not need to be there, and plan the day. They do not need to be long, but they are consistently practiced. When people are trying to change their behaviour, resist urges and temptations, and avoid procrastinating, there are lots of possible ways they might be tripped up or interrupted from their goal. A daily routine can help you plan the day ahead, look for possible pitfalls and make plans to cope with them if they arise. Without a plan, you are more likely to be a ‘slave to the moment’ reacting instinctively rather than responding in a mindful planned way when events happen that distract you from your plan. Your ritual can be one way of making sure you plan every day or week.

See the video here

Stay with today

Yesterday is past, with all the mistakes we made and things we didn’t do in it. Tomorrow has not yet happened, with all the things that might go wrong and ways we might mess up in it. We have no control over yesterday or tomorrow and so there is no point wasting our energy dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. The only day we have control over is the one that we are in and that is happening right now. You can take control over your drinking today. You can make plans for today. You can execute those plans today.

Learn to identify and handle external possible pitfalls

People, places, things. Triggers are all around us that might spark an urge for alcohol or create a situation where we are on the spot and have to decide what to do. We will need to be aware of these triggers and situations, and make plans to cope with them. Plans could involve avoiding a situation completely, staying and trying to control the situation with a variety of techniques, or using a backup escape plan.

See the video here

Learn to identify and handle internal possible pitfalls

Moods, emotions, feelings, and self-talk can all create urges to drink, especially if we are used to handling them with alcohol. Accept that you are likely to experience some negative moods as you carry on post-MOB (whether you plan to stay stopped, or drink moderately). If you can accept this, you can plan alternative coping strategies. Sometimes a potential mood or emotion could be avoided (by avoiding a certain person who makes you angry for example, or by rearranging your workload so that you feel less stressed). But sometimes you will just feel low, have a bad day, be anxious or upset. This is the time you will need to have some other coping strategies up your sleeve. Yoga, swimming, warm baths, chats to a supportive friend, exercise, sleep, reading, audiobooks, an engrossing film, socialising in a non-alcohol environment, colouring in, meditation…are all things things that people do to distract themselves, switch off, calm down, relax. It might feel strange, might take longer, and might not be as easy as reaching for the bottle, but these things can and do help others.

You might have some enduring psychological or emotional difficulties – such as depression, grief, anxiety – that were still present during your MOB. Now that alcohol is less of an issue (or not one at all if you are stopping for good) you can get a better read of your symptoms, and speak to your GP or another professional about possible medication or therapy options.

See the video here

Understand procrastination. Make decisions your future self will thank you for

We know we should, and really want, to drink less or stop drinking, lose weight, get fit, or start a blog. But today is just not quite the right time. Tomorrow will be a better day. Procrastination can cause us to feel stressed, anxious, regretful, and unhappy about all the things we haven’t yet done, and embarrassed, guilty and ashamed about the excuses we make to ourselves and others about why we haven’t. Know it for what it is. By putting off change today you are merely satisfying your present self’s desire to avoid discomfort and have immediate rewards now. You are making the change and longer-term goal your future self’s problem. But people can do that for an entire lifetime – until there IS no future self left to carry out all your plans and goals. Keep your goals and tasks small and manageable so that you are less likely to procrastinate over them. Stay in the day and do just what is required, today, to achieve your alcohol goals.

See the video here

Don’t be a discomfort dodger!

If we expect and need life to be 100% comfortable we will always take the path of least resistance, always give in and satisfy our urges to make ourselves feel comfortable. This makes it hard to work towards any goal that requires us to postpone immediate pleasures or preferences (having a drink now) in order to achieve a larger goal that happens in the future (being a moderate drinker, or staying sober). Change takes us outside of our comfort zone. It requires us to resist old habits and urges, to change our routines, say no, miss out sometimes, respond to situations and people in different ways, and experience and cope with our emotions differently. But this is JUST discomfort, and if you want to change you might need to put up with a bit of it. It won’t kill you, and things will get easier with practice and repetition.

See the video here

Be a healthy striver

It’s good to have big goals, ambition, high expectations, and set challenges for ourselves. That’s healthy striving. But we can’t control or predict every possible pitfall. We have bad days, unexpected things happen. We might sometimes slip up – at work, in our relationships, with our kids, on our diet, and with our drinking. Try to avoid labelling yourself as a failure, or simply giving up, if you aren’t 100% perfect all the time. If you can adopt the attitude of a healthy striver, rather than that of a perfectionist, you are more likely to enjoy the process of change, and be more resilient (and importantly, pick yourself up and carry on) when things don’t go quite how you planned.

See the video here

Get your mood and emotions on an even keel by reducing or stopping alcohol

Alcohol interferes with loads of the brain’s neurotransmitter systems – affecting mood in a variety of ways. Alcohol can make depression and anxiety symptoms worse, and interfere with medication or therapies that might otherwise help. Even if you feel that alcohol ‘really does’ help you relax, improve your mood or reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress (and you are sure that this isn’t just magical thinking) there are numerous other things you could try that might help instead. And most of the other solutions don’t come with all the negative side effects and risks of alcohol.

See the video here

Embrace the Joy of Missing Out

There may be things you will miss out on if you are drinking less or not at all. Find the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) and link it to your values (see below). You are living life on your terms, according to the things that are more important to you than the thing you are missing out on. You are not a sheep. A list of all the parties someone attended is usually not part of their obituary!

See the video here

See euphoric recall, awfulising abstinence, and magical thinking for the thinking errors that they are

Everything was probably not great about drinking pre-MOB or you wouldn’t have wanted to do something about it. It is unlikely that during the MOB and all other times you have been sober, everything has been absolutely hideously unbearable. Alcohol is not the only (or even a) solution to life’s problems. Drinking again will not make you feel better about yourself.

See the video here

Become a better decision-maker with less or no alcohol

Your present self will take better care of your future self if it is sober. Alcohol shortsightedness makes us slaves to the present moment. You will both care more about consequences, as well as be better able to actually think through the future consequences of your choices and decisions, if you have little or no alcohol in your system.

See the video here

Deal with cravings by taming your inner critic and saboteur

Rather than being slaves to the present moment, if we practice our drills we can become a gifted and talented craving-resistors. Recognise the craving, assess its strength, listen to your inner self-talk that is trying to convince you to give in to the urge, and challenge it. Is your inner critic or saboteur making a truly convincing argument? Is that craving as strong now?

See the video here, and here 

Increase your productivity as you decrease your alcohol

Whether because it affects how much sleep we get and the quality of that sleep, because hangovers ruin the best-laid plans, or because we are worse decision-makers when we are drinking, our productivity is likely to diminish the more often we drink and the we consume when we do. Give your other life goals a chance by cutting back on the booze!

See the video here

Finding and maintaining your motivation to make more lasting permanent change to your drinking

When our original concerns or goals become less important, feel more distant, and less related to where we are at now, the danger of a gradual slide back to our old patterns and habits is high. Whether you are motivated by the stick or the carrot, review your personal reasons for change on a regular basis so that you always have a good reasons for carrying on.

See the video here

Using your personal strengths to build confidence and commit to change

We all bring something to the party. Review your personal strengths and consider how you can use your superpowers to help you carry on positive change post-MOB, whether you want to stay stopped or drink moderately. Reflect on the changes you have made and techniques you have used to have a successful MOB. This will help you to have more confidence in your ability to continue to use these skills beyond it.

See the video here

Come off the fence! Using the decision balance sheet to resolve your ambivalence about change

You’ll probably never be absolutely 100% certain that change is great and necessary. There are usually pros AND cons of changing your drinking, and cons AND pros of carrying on drinking at your pre-MOB levels. Consider them all to help you work out what side you support most strongly. The side for change, or the side for staying as you are.

See the video here

Living a life that is aligned to your personal values

Learning what your personal values are, and reminding yourself of them, can help you make behavioural changes – such as quitting or cutting down on booze – because in doing so you are able to connect situations and feelings that are difficult, stressful, uncomfortable, or challenging with something larger and more meaningful.

See the video here

Practice unconditional self-acceptance

Avoid labelling and condemning your entire self, just because you don’t like something you have said, done, or failed to do. You are not ‘a failure’. You are, like everyone, a fallible human being.

See the video here

I hope that you have enjoyed your MOB, and found my posts helpful. I am always delighted to hear from you, and would welcome your feedback.
Whatever you do in the future, my best wishes go with you.

Warm Regards

Helen

Your actions for today

Do fill in the survey and tell us what you think of the MOB and how we can make it better.

Visit the private Club Soda Facebook group and share what the biggest improvement for you has been as a result of taking a month off alcohol.

Coming up

Tomorrow’s post is about…oh…there isn’t one 🙁

But please do carry on joining in the private Club Soda Facebook group and look out for our new courses in 2016. You will continue to get a weekly check-in email (on Mondays) and our Friday motivator email.

Cassie’s final drink suggestion is kefir.

We hope you have, or have had, a great day.
We have really enjoyed spending the past month with you.

Helen, Laura, Jussi, Claire & Cassie

4 Responses to “Day 30 – Looking back – reflecting on your Sober Sprint / MOB

  • Thanks to all of you for an absolutely fabulous month! I’ll be passing your details on regularly… You deserve top rank among intelligent and creative websites dealing with this issue. You really have covered ALL the bases. I’m thrilled that I can go back again and again to the material. Are you going to publish a book?? Thanks again. And blessings on you all.

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    I would recommend this course to anybody who thinks they have a drink problem. I will continue to drink at weekends, but consuming 1 or 2 gins rather than 4 or 5 & a glass of wine or two with dinner or abstinence, the difference is that I am in control of my drinking rather than the other way round.

    Immeasurably I have gained truly good, caring friends, who are still supporting me through emails & social intercourse.
    Thank you so much Club Soda for your insight & help.

    Pauline,

  • Ann Crighton
    6 years ago

    Well I have not had an alcoholic drink since 31 Dec. Cannot say that I have lost weight (the opposite) nor my sleep has been any better but I feel quite proud of myself. It has been almost 14 years since I went without drink for a week (I am an every other day drinker but that will be at least a bottle of wine). I have appreciated the support of Club Soda and although I will be going out to dinner and drinking wine tonight, I hope that I can keep up the habit of not drinking at home.

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    Thank you all for your comments and feedback – I’ve really enjoyed putting the MOB content together, and I’m glad you found it useful, and have benefited from the course. If you ever have any questions in the future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. All the best, Helen.

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