Like most lifestyle changes, giving up alcohol, whether permanently or temporarily, requires a change of mindset, like choosing alcohol-free drinks rather than the alcoholic ones.
Fiona Beckett in her book ‘How to Drink Without Drinking: Celebratory alcohol-free drinks for any time of the day’ explains how people can opt for a more alcohol free lifestyle.
Only you will know whether you’ll find it easier to cut alcohol out completely – even if for a limited period – or just drink on fewer occasions, but it pays to make a plan.
Beckett offers the following tips to help you along your journey:
Set a personal goal
You have to start somewhere, but make it realistic. Two alcohol-free days a week is doable for most of us, most likely after the weekend. Three is better still – preferably in a row.
Do not make up for it on the days you drink alcohol
On some of the days when you are drinking, you might want to reduce the amount you drink to one drink a day, sipped slowly and mindfully rather than gulped unthinkingly.
If you’re trying to cut down, limit yourself to one (modest, not goldfish bowl-sized) glass with dinner or resolve not to drink when alone.
Be aware and honest with yourself about what you’re drinking when you do drink. An app may help you keep on track.
Tell your family and friends
Family should be on your side, but one of the biggest battles you’ll face is friends who keep pressing you to drink, maybe implying that you’ve become a party pooper if you don’t.
Don’t be embarrassed to explain exactly why you’re cutting down – or stopping – making it clear that you’re serious. It may even involve changing your social circle. Find a non-drinking pal to go out with if the pressure’s getting to you – a sobersister (or soberbro).
Do not needlessly put yourself in the way of temptation
On days or periods you are cutting down or cutting out, avoid your usual boozy haunts. Don’t make having a drink the main reason for going out – unless it’s a coffee.
In fact, it may be worth taking the car, which gives you an easy excuse not to drink. If you’re embarking on a longer period of abstinence, clear out the booze from the cupboards and fridge and steer clear of the wine aisle. Stock up with alcohol-free alternatives instead.
BYO (bring your own)
If you’re visiting friends and are not sure if there will be something alcohol-free to drink, take it with you, particularly to a party.
Alcohol-free beers, which look similar to the full-strength version, are an especially good bet as they won’t make you stand out from the crowd. If you’re away for the weekend, take a bottle of an alcohol-free spirit and some tonic to your hosts.
Alcohol-free cocktails are delicious, try them
It’s hard to find a substitute for wine, but alcohol-free cocktails can be mind-blowingly good these days, with many top restaurants offering an impressive selection. I often start the evening with one, whether I’m drinking or not, and end up drinking it with food.
Make Your Own
There’s a real pleasure and satisfaction in making your own drinks. Like home-cooked food, they taste so much better than the shop-bought version and are cheaper, too, making the best of seasonal produce. Make them look as beautiful as they taste and serve them in lovely glasses and jugs. Indulge your senses.
Find another type of drink to get passionate about
Part of the appeal of wine, beer and other drinks like whisky, is the knowledge you accumulate about them – even working through a bucket list of drinks you want to try before you die. Buy you can apply that type of geekery to other drinks, too. Get into tea, get into coffee, get into fermenting – all fascinating, absorbing worlds.
Probably your best friend on your sober days – or months – both on its own and as a chaser for any alcoholic drink you’re drinking. (Don’t drink because you’re thirsty – drink for the taste.) Serve water cool, fresh and flavoured, if you like, with fruit, cucumber or herbs.
Focus on the payoffs
It’s important to see alcohol-free days as an opportunity, not a deprivation. The proverbial glass half full rather than half empty. There are, as you’ll rapidly discover, many advantages, even if you cut down rather than cutting out, including a better quality of sleep, improved concentration, weight loss (unless you binge on cakes instead), more spare cash and, due to the happy lack of hangovers, more productive hours in the day.
You may want to remind yourself of those benefits by writing them down or setting yourself a daily reminder on your phone.
-Adapted from Independent