Five Ways to Stay on Track After Dry July

Congratulations, you’re nearing the end of a month without alcohol! Maybe you found it easier than anticipated, maybe it brought up some uncomfortable moments for you, maybe you slipped up a few times and indulged in ‘just a few sips’ … or more. It can be hard to make the adjustment back to ‘normal’ once the monthly restriction has lifted and there’s no longer the public declaration of ‘I’m not drinking’ and the socially acceptable excuse of Dry July sobriety to hide behind. But don’t panic! Here at Hello Sunday Morning, we’ve prepared five tips to help you stay on track to assess or change your relationship with alcohol after your little hiatus. 

Congratulate yourself 

Well done, you did it! You stuck to a goal and proved to yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. You got to reap the many health benefits to your liver, mental state, waistline and vital organs, from having a break from alcohol. Now it might be tempting to think about ‘rewarding yourself’ … so go ahead we say! But keep in mind that reward doesn’t need to be an alcohol-based one. Buy some new clothes, plan a holiday with your mates, take the kids on a spontaneous day-trip or splurge on a giant box of the finest imported Belgian chocolate truffles money can buy (ok, maybe just me?). 

Make a note of how it felt:

  • To wake up without a hangover
  • To remember everything you did the night before
  • To have that extra cash in your wallet not spent on late night Ubers, expensive rounds at the bar and greasy hangover food
  • To lose a kilo or two
  • To have more time up your sleeve
  • To go to the social event sober … and survive
  • To come home from work and not reach for that glass or bottle of plonk

If you can do it for a month, can you do it for longer? 

Assess your relationship with alcohol

Think about the what, why, when and how of your drinking. How much do you normally drink in a week? Three glasses a day is 21 a week, or more than a thousand a year. And the glasses you pour yourself are probably bigger than the ‘standard drinks’ used to measure health effects and long-term harms. Do you drink because it’s fun and enjoyable? Or because of habit and routine? Or because ‘everyone else around you is’? If you’re drinking to manage stress, anxiety or a bad day, some of the tried and tested tips we recommend at HSM include changing your routine, getting out into nature, taking up meditation or yoga, committing to an exercise routine, and finding other ways to process your thoughts – like journaling or therapy. 

Make some new goals

Now you know you can stick to a goal, set another one! These don’t have to be as strict as giving up alcohol. You might want to find a new hobby, do that thing you’ve been putting off  for a year, learn a language or get your Marie Kondo on and clear the clutter. You’ve already proven to yourself that you can follow through on a goal, so run with the momentum and set a new one to challenge yourself.  

Find your community

Was it easier to give up the booze for a month knowing there were thousands of people around the world simultaneously sharing your journey? Being part of a community of people all on the same path is a really effective way to find support and understanding, and makes it more likely you’ll stick to your goal. If your new goal is to join a gym and get fit – find a gym buddy! If it’s to drink less or moderate your drinking, join our Daybreak community right here. Daybreak is a community of people all supporting each other to change their relationship with alcohol, and all from the convenience of the phone that you’re probably holding right now. 

How did you find Dry July? What got you through the tough moments? Do you have any tips for others to stay on track? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Curbing binge drinking when you’re over 40

The NIAAA defines a binge drinker as someone who consumes more than five standard drinks in one sitting. If every Australian was asked to put their hand up if they know someone who has had this many drinks on a weekend (or if they do themselves), it would probably look like a national Mexican wave.

When we think about binge drinking, often we imagine teenagers or young adults downing pints of beer or spirits, and getting into tricky situations, having to go to hospital, making regrettable decisions and generally being pretty messy. One thing that might surprise you is that, statistically, some groups of older adults are alongside their younger counterparts in being classified as ‘binge drinkers’.

Binge drinking is something that many older adults might be in the habit of doing, either at home with their partners, or while out with friends. Think about barbecues, dinner parties, long lunches … situations where there is lots of alcohol available, no real limits on time, and surrounded by others who are drinking similar quantities.

Drinking to celebrate or ‘cut loose’

Often in these situations it is expected that people will be drinking to get drunk, and drunken behaviour is either tolerated or celebrated – maybe it is part of a bonding experience or a way to relax. Often it is something that we don’t really think of as being unusual or problematic if it is all around us and everyone is doing the same thing. Sometimes it is only when we start to experience the harms of binge drinking, like health issues, mood issues the following day, or consequences from decisions made when drinking, that we might consider making changes.

Binge drinking amongst older adults has been in the spotlight lately, most notably for the fact that as we get older, our bodies respond differently to alcohol and so drinking to excess can have much more significant effects than when we were younger. In addition to this, there are all the other risks that arise when we are drinking to excess. Things like falling over, risky behaviour, drink driving or even getting involved in altercations. Adults who are binge drinking might describe feeling really ashamed about some of the situations they find themselves in, saying things like;

‘I should know better, I’m an adult!’, or ‘I can’t believe I got so bad, I’m really embarrassed’.

As adults we like to feel in control and often have lots of responsibilities and so it can be frightening to find ourselves in situations where we can’t remember what happened, or being told that we behaved in a certain way because of alcohol.

The health effects of binging

Doctors will often advise those over 50 to moderate their alcohol consumption, with an increased risk of all types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disease seen in high-risk drinkers over this age. For us, we see a lot of Daybreak members making the decision to step away from binge drinking around this age. This is due to a number of reasons, including health, mood, and also a desire to socialise in a more moderate and balanced way. Many people actually find that when they cut back on their drinking, social occasions are a lot more manageable (fewer hangovers and consequences) and they will be able to focus on interacting with friends and loved ones, rather than drinking to excess.

If you think you’re at risk of binge drinking, or you fit into the category of someone who is drinking in excess regularly, here are some ideas to start to make changes:

Monitor your drinking for a week – just keep track of how much you drink by taking note on your phone. Consider how much you’d like to be drinking and how much would be reasonable for you to aim for. Consider the situations in which you might be wanting to drink less and the situations where no change is needed.

Try implementing some replacement behaviours – like soda water or even low-alcohol beer or wine, to see if this will help to reduce the amount you are consuming in a session. Even a few glasses of soda water with lime is going to help your body to process alcohol if you are drinking. Often we tend to binge when those around us are drinking heavily, there are no limitations, and we are drinking on an empty stomach, so see if you can address these issues.

Take note of the ‘culture’ in your friendship group – is it around getting drunk together, and if so, what might you like to change about this? Sometimes this can be the biggest challenge – saying no to that extra drink and needing to explain that you are cutting back, and why. Try experimenting with this and some possible reasons you may have for cutting back, including health, or even saying ‘I’m taking a break for a while, to see what it’s like without alcohol’.

Talk to those around you about creating goals– for reducing the amount you are drinking. Discuss with them how much is ‘enough’ and what kind of relationship with alcohol you might like to form. Maybe your partner or friends are also noticing the cumulative effects of alcohol on their bodies and mood. Perhaps consciously changing the drinking culture in your home might help turn things around and give you a boost.

Consider situations where you generally don’t drink as much and look at what helps in that situation – is it knowing you have a limit (e.g. driving), or is it situations where you’ve eaten beforehand, or are with people you know aren’t big drinkers? See if you can use these existing situations to inform future plans. Similarly, consider the situations where you tend to drink heavily, what is happening there? Is there an expectation that you’ll drink, and a situation that supports this (e.g. staying overnight, unlimited alcohol).

Ensure that if you are going to a party or social event, that you have eaten – or are going to eat something to balance the effect of alcohol on your stomach. Many people will experience gastrointestinal issues as a result of drinking on an empty stomach, this means that the alcohol impacts us more quickly, as well as irritating the stomach lining and leading to further health issues.

How to be okay with being alone

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal.
Being alone doesn’t mean you are lonely.  Most of us are constantly surrounded by people, whether you live in an urban environment or if you’re in a relationship, work at a social company, or exist in the digital world of social media. But sometimes we crave time away from everyone, or we may end up in a situation where we are involuntarily spending a lot more time on our own – whether that’s because of a breakup or moving to a new city. It is imperative to learn how to enjoy your own company because like it or not, you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. When you start to feel lonely, it can help to think about all the things you can do with no one else around. You can talk to yourself, you can watch a sad movie and sob your heart out, you can dance in the kitchen naked, you can be as messy and as gross as you like and no one will be there to judge you!  

Get to know yourself

Psychologist and author Wayne Dyer says, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” You might find out that you like yourself a lot. If not, you’ll know why, and by being alone, you give yourself the opportunity to work on it. How can you really know yourself if you have never really spent time with yourself? How can you know how YOU will react to something, how YOU would spend your day, how YOU would process a big decision without the influence and perspective of someone else?

Do things YOU love doing

  Go for a surf, practice yoga, take a long walk, go camping alone, swim in the ocean or cook a delicious meal. Traveling and exploring by yourself, for instance, is one of the best things you can do alone and can be the most rewarding for personal growth. You’re put into situations where you cannot rely on anyone else and you may find yourself out of your comfort zone, or experiencing things you thought you never would without anyone else’s support or opinion or mood to influence your experience. Solitude is also the best time to get things done. You can be the most productive on your own with no distractions, so if you have a project you’ve been wanting to start on, or an idea brewing in the back of your mind, being alone is the perfect time to work on it!

Have a creative project

Creativity is often found in the mists of solitude. Ideas for creative personal projects include:
  • writing music;
  • planting a veggie garden;
  • building furniture;
  • knitting or crocheting a throw or scarf;
  • making scented candles;
  • drawing;
  • painting;
  • scrapbooking.

It’s okay to be reflective and even sad when alone

  It is often a perfect time to be alone when you’re in a mood, as we tend to get irritated and take out how we’re feeling on others. An article on Lifehacker, Why Bad Moods are Good For You, explains that bad moods are actually an essential part of the normal range of moods we regularly experience. “We should recognise they are normal, and even a useful and adaptive part of being human, helping us cope with many everyday situations and challenges. Psychologists who study how our feelings and behaviours have evolved over time maintain all our affective states (such as moods and emotions) have a useful role: they alert us to states of the world we need to respond to.” Reflection is vital for us to be able learn from the past. If we don’t reflect on something negative that happened, we can’t know how to change it, and if we don’t reflect on something great that happened, we are not as satisfied or as grateful as we probably should be. Reflection also allows you to welcome new ideas and thoughts and is critical for self-improvement.

Take a break from social media

  Social media often feeds us this world where everyone is living a ‘perfect’ life, constantly having fun, going out, being social and traveling the world. It’s amazing to be inspired and motivated by these beautiful photos and posts, but it can have you comparing your life to everyone else’s. You may suffer from serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when you see your friends constantly socialising, but the reality is they need their down time too. You can’t say yes to everything and be surrounded by people 24/7, or you won’t have time to reflect, adjust and grow.

Give yourself transition time

Whether you have just had a break up and separated from an ex, moved into a new place by yourself, moved to a new city, a new job or you have come home from a big, life changing adventure, you need to give yourself time to adjust to a new environment, and allow yourself time to grieve the loss of a past time.

Acknowledge the times you crave your own space

  Try to be more aware of the times you are getting irritated with someone or a situation, as this could be a sign you just need to be with you for a little while. Plan something to do alone, whether that is just going out for a walk or sitting in a park reading a good book. It could simply be taking a bath and locking the world out for a bit of breathing space. Acknowledging this feeling of wanting some ‘you’ time is vital to be able to step back from a situation and gain some perspective.