Relearning For Not Drinking – Stop Drinking Alcohol 71 (Transcript)
I’m Kevin O’Hara for alcoholmastery.com. This is Stop Drinking Alcohol 71.
Before we start on the podcast this week which you can find on Thursday on the website, we talked about the three questions. First question was about when you stop drinking, what kind of foods to eat and what kind of things to drink if you’re trying to get rid of the cravings. The second question was did I quit cold turkey or did I go to AA meetings. Third question was how long did it take before I switched walking for drinking.
In the next few weeks, I’m going to try and get some people to interview on the podcast. I have some people in mind and I’ve sent out a few emails. I haven’t got any responses yet, so we’ll see what happens. But if you’ve got anyone that you want to suggest, anyone within reason. I mean Tony Robins or any of those people who are going to want to come on, but maybe not, maybe I should send them an email. I only can say this now. But if you’ve got anyone to suggest at all, any other YouTube’rs or if you want to come on, if you want to share your story and tell people how you’ve got where you are then give us a shout at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.
And in the podcast, we also talked about how to change your environment, things to do to change your environment once you’ve quit, things that are really important. This week on SDA 71, I wanted to talk about relearning and how much you have to relearn really a lot of the things that you’re doing in your life.
One of the things that I really didn’t realize until I did stop drinking was how many gaps there are in your life once you stop drinking, how much of a hole alcohol can leave. And it’s not an all or nothing thing, it’s not black and white by any means.
For instance if you go out for a meal, for instance, where you used to have a drink, there’s a hole within that section, but you’re still there, you’re still having a meal, you’re still with the people that you probably would be with if you were drinking, your family or whatever. The only thing that’s really missing is the alcohol. Sometimes the alcohol can play an exaggerated role mostly in your head. So by switching it out to water or whatever, it’s quite easy to fill the hole. Filling the gaps and relearning stuff is not really as hard as you would think.
A lot of the stuff that you do learn, a lot of the small, little skills, saying no to people, choosing a different drink; when you go into a restaurant for the first time, it is difficult to not say the words and when you come over and the typical thing when you sit down at a restaurant is somebody will come over and say what would you like to drink before you choose on the menu. That’s a difficult moment because you want to choose what you normally would choose.
Everything’s geared up for that, your habit is geared up for that. So to keep that glass of wine down, for me Vino Tinto, that was difficult. That is a difficult path of the process, not because it’s difficult not to choose but it’s because you feel like saying it. It’s like an automatic response and you want to say that because I won’t say it’s like a robot but it’s almost there, you know?
So there’s definitely a lot of relearning that you have to do and that’s really what it’s about is going into old situations and having new ways of doing things, new reactions. If you make a mistake and you ask for a wine when you don’t want to, just say, “I didn’t mean that, I want a water.” There’s no point in feeling anything other than it’s just a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.
You’re going to have to relearn your sleep and have it sort out. Everything about sleeping and going to sleep at night is a sort of routine anyway. You get into this routine of whatever you do before you go to sleep. Everyone has a routine even if they don’t think about it. As a drinker your routine is completely different. Your bedtime routine may start long before you go to your bed, but the part of the routine that helps you to sleep is the alcohol. That’s the missing ingredient, so you have to do something differently.
Your bedtime routine now might involve taking a relaxing shower or going through some relaxation exercises or even yoga and meditation, that kind of thing, just to get you into the frame of mind. When you do go into bed, you don’t have to fight things and keep going through them in your head. The worst thing you can do is say I’m not going to sleep, I’m not going to sleep and just to accept sometimes that you just might not sleep and that’s just it, what can you do. It’s not going to be the end of the world, it’s still going to be there in the morning.
In all fairness, that’s one day that it’s gone, it’s gone and dusted. And it won’t be as bad the next day, it will gradually get better and better. So other things that you have to change are how you view yourself. Well when you were drinking, you might have thought about yourself as being funny, boisterous, the life and soul of the party. The moment you stop drinking, because that’s missing in your life, you might think, “Well I’m just boring now.” But that’s just a perception. You’re reflecting on what you used to be and you’re taking your behavior now I think as a relative, sort of a mark and you can’t do that. You have to really rethink who you are.
I don’t think it’s a great idea to visit bars and pubs for that reason because it just brings you back into the old mentality, it brings you back into the old way of thinking. And there’s so many triggers that are firing off all the time when you are in the bar. I mean you think about it every time you walk into your favorite pub, there’s all this stuff that’s going on in the background.
There’s crickets flying all over the place here. There’s all these stuff going on in the background that is below your consciousness, you know? Cash registers going off, glasses clinking, you can hear the taps, the murmur of the conversation, the TV on. And you don’t really notice any of that stuff. But they’re all triggers, it’s all drinking triggers. So when you go into a bar and you haven’t had a drink and you have no intentions of drinking, then these triggers are firing off all the time.
I recommend it and I admitted about it a long time. I don’t like sitting in bars now unless I’m going in there for a purpose. Bars for me were all about drinking and nothing else. So unless I’m going in there to watch a match which I can turn everything else off and focus on what’s happening on the TV screen, then I don’t go into bars.
And as soon as the match is over, I get out of there and I go somewhere else and I have just as much fun. We just do different things. We tend to go and eat and spend time over a meal. I spend more time sitting now over a meal than I ever did before because before I would always have a few drinks. The routine would be go to the pub first or drink at home first, then go out if we were going for a meal locally. I then go out and sit down for the meal but I’d already be 4 or 5 pints into a meal. So now we arrive at a restaurant and it’s much more relaxed and we spend 2 or 3 hours just sitting there and I have no problem sitting and drinking water and the conversation flows and it’s just really nice.
And of course you remember every minute of it which I never did before. It is all about relearning how to socialize, how to be with other people, how to relearning that you’re not boring, that the situation is boring because you are used to acting and reacting in a different way than you are now. And that’s all it is. It’s a huge stumbling block for some people because they don’t get it, they don’t get that. You have to go through this, you have to relearn this stuff in order to come out the other side.
You’ve got to relearn who you are. You’ve got to relearn these skills about yourself and sometimes it’s difficult and people think, “I’m too old to learn new tricks.” And that’s bullshit. That’s just an old wives’ tale that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. My father is 81 now and he hasn’t drank for the last couple of years. He gave up when he was 79. Some people might say, “Well, he gave up because he had a health scare.” But most of the time, that’s what we all do. There’s none of us that stopped drinking because we’re having such a great time, it’s all because shit is starting to happen. It’s starting to happen in our life.
Understand that there is going to be that period of time in your life, for something s it’s going to take longer, for other things, you’re going to relearn really quickly. The things that you’ll relearn quickly are the likes of spending every evening without drinking and coming home from work and not having a drink, things that you do every day because you do them every day. And the more you do something, the quicker the change will start to happen and the quicker the habit comes in.
So I was talking about habit memories in that term as well because habit memories are something that are associated with things that just don’t happen every day, like Christmas or your birthdays and wedding toasts and they’re still triggers. But because the triggers they’re not a regular part of your life, your mind hasn’t got the opportunity to get used to it yet, so a lot of this relearning just sounds daunting. It sounds like you have to relearn your whole life and you don’t, there’s just certain aspects.
I mean drinking is only one aspect of your life and when you take it, it’s only a small thing. It’s a small thing that’s become embedded in many different parts of your life, but once you break those things down, they’re really only small parts of your life. So the individual elements, a lot of them have to be, you have to relearn how to live your life. And each individual element is only small and very easy to handle, it’s easy to adjust these things. It’s something that you have to do on your own, not only because everyone’s different, everyone’s unique, the things that you have to unlearn and the new things that you have to learn are going to be very personal to you.
But also, the more you do this on your own, the harder or the more stickier it’s going to be, the more firmer your foundation is going to be. I mean at the end of the day, there’s millions of people that quit drinking all the time and there’s nothing wrong with guidance, but the hard work has to be done by yourself. And it’s very, very, very rewarding once you do that. The only advice that I’d give you is don’t look at your learning coping skills.
Coping skills just sounds like you’re just getting through, that you’re going to be okay without alcohol, that’s just not the case at all. And I was just being okay with alcohol and that “okayness” was sinking very rapidly and into places that just scare me now to think about where I was going. So I’m doing things now which I never dreamed I could possibly do, not just because I had more time or more money on my hands but because I’m able to think about those things.
So what you’re learning is the way to craft your life the way you want it, the way to write your own blueprint and the way you want it. I heard somebody talking about this a while ago about goal setting. I’m going to dig into this now just for myself. And I think there’s a part of the learning experience for getting away from alcohol.
If you have goals, then you have something to aim towards whereas if you stop drinking and you don’t have goals, the chances are you’re going to just walk around and you’re going to go around in circles and you’re going to be lost and wondering what to do. And as soon as you’re wondering what to do and you’re bored and you’ve got no strategies, then it’s very easy to go back.
So one of the things I learned about goal setting was to have a blueprint, to set out a blueprint for your life. If you were building anything else, you would have a plan of action where you will step by step, you wouldn’t attempt to build a house for instance without a blueprint.
When you’re trying to fix a car, there’s a step by step process that you need to go through and you have to follow the steps from one to two to three to four. And in progression, you can take one step out, you can take one part of the car before you take another part that’s holding the first part on.
So it’s the same as this. You really need to sit down and plan out what you’re going to be doing for the next 6 months, but also for the next 5 years, and try and get yourself a massive goal. I love the idea of having a massive lifetime goal and something that for me seems to be way above what I’m capable of doing now.
One of my goals in life is to be an expert on alcoholism, to be a world expert on alcoholism and I know that sounds fucking lunatic. I’m a guy who’s nearly 50, who’s just given up the alcohol, and I’m as far away from that as I can be, because I’ve learned so much in the last year and a half. But I’m only a year and half into this, but that is my goal. That’s my long term goal by the time I get to 60 or 65 or 70, I want to be a leading expert on addiction especially when it comes to alcoholism. And I think I can achieve that. And the way you achieve things like that is just to break them down step by step by step and to smaller goals.
One of my first goals was to write a book, and the book is out in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s the first book from a guy like I say a year and a half off the alcohol, and it’s based around the stuff that I’ve learned on my first year. I’m probably going to look back on this book in a year’s time and read it again and cringe. But it’s the first step in a long program of a long process and I’m really looking forward to it. So I’ll let you know when it’s out, it’s gone to the editors now and the book’s actually finished. It’s just going through its final draft. I’ve got a guy doing a cover for me and I’ll just have to make sure it just looks right. And once that’s done, I’ll let you know about it.
I think blueprint your life out as much as you can, down to the tiny details. And if you know what you’re going to do once you quit, if you know that you have a plan for, say, you quit today and you don’t know what you’re going to do when you somebody asks you, “Do you want a drink?” but if you have a plan there, so this is exactly what I’m going to say and I’ve practiced it.
This is what I’m going to do with my evenings, this is what I’m going to do with my weekends. Plan all that out and plan out your future. And take your long term goals as something that you’re aiming towards, a long term aim. And just look at it like that and break it all down into smaller junks and you can do these things.
I love the fact that I’ve got a long term goal now. So anyway, I’ll rub it in. So check out the podcast that will be out on Thursday evening probably by the time we get round to formatting it and stuff. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, then do so, and as soon as the book’s out, I’ll let you know through the newsletter. So if you have any questions, anything you’d like me to cover or if you’re brave enough to come into the podcast for an interview, then do so.
Give us a shout.
And until next time, I’m Kevin O’Hara for Alcohol Mastery. Onwards and upwards.
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Onwards and Upwards!