How I've managed to be 167 days alcohol free

I've known that I needed to go sober for a while and that drinking was holding me back in lots of ways.

To be honest, alcohol was never something that I had a comfortable relationship with.

Since I was a teenager getting drunk has resulted in violent hangovers and sometimes even ending up in the hospital with pancreatitis.

The first time I got drunk was at my cousin's birthday party where my family encouraged me to drink Blue Lagoons (1 part Blue Curacao, 1 part Vodka, 4 parts Lemon juice). 

The next morning while everyone was cleaning up I felt awful, sat in the kitchen I reached for the nearest black bin liner of rubbish to be sick into. 

Only to have my cousin cry as she discovered that the bin liner wasn't full of rubbish, but instead was being used to store her expensive silk party dress. 

I spent the next three days with my head close to a bucket. 

Despite this experience, I kept drinking throughout my teenage years and on into adulthood. 

A career in the Royal Air Force didn't do anything to curb my drinking, and I still suffered greatly from hangovers.

I took a break from alcohol for four years once after another pancreatitis attack and I was told to stop drinking.

Over time though, mounting stress took its toll and I started drinking again.

Slowly at first and then back up to a level that I wasn't comfortable with.

Hitting the second half of my forties, increasing weight and that voice that kept saying you need to stop drinking all contributed to me deciding to take a break from the booze.

Through Acceptance and Commitment Training I understand how to change unhealthy behaviour.

And although there have been stressful and even pleasant times that would have resulted in me reaching for a drink. I've managed to resist the temptation to drink again.

The main emphasis of Acceptance and Commitment Training is to help us accept our emotional experiences and our unhelpful thoughts.

When I've had the urge to pair white wine with a sunny evening, I'm able to sit with my emotions and feelings rather than react.

Often our mind will tell us that we deserve a drink, that it's only one and that we can start again tomorrow with renewed resolve. 

Your mind is just trying to do its job of keeping you from feeling emotional pain. Alcohol does its job of helping us unwind and relax as lots of drugs do. 

But in today's society alcohol is the only drug that you have to justify not using.

Your mind not only fears losing the benefits of alcohol it also fears the social isolation and ridicule that might result in us living alcohol-free.

Stress, anxiety, and social rejection are all pretty unpleasant feelings and if we can avoid them, we will.

Acceptance and Commitment Training helps me become psychological flexible. I'm able to surf out the negative emotions and see my thoughts as only thoughts and not objective reality.

And even though some of these scenarios that my mind creates may be true, they are not helpful in helping me live a healthier lifestyle right now.

After 167 days alcohol-free I can honestly feel and see the difference in my behaviour and physical appearance. 

My skin looks healthier, and I've lost weight even with a phase of craving sugar.

I sleep much better and wake up with a clearer head, and I don't suffer day long hangovers anymore. 

I genuinely feel like I've more energy and motivation and I now outlast others when we go out at night.

Tiredness is easier to overcome when you aren't already drunk with a powerful depressant.

And far from being socially rejected, I'm more able to cope with my social anxiety and engage with others at parties.

Although the urge to drink and the unhelpful drinking thoughts are still there, they only pop up occasionally. 

I've not put any time limits around my break from drinking. 

So often when we are trying to change our behaviour we set unreasonable rigid expectations of ourselves. 

Telling myself that I'm never drinking again sounds too harsh, never is a long time. 

But being compassionate with myself I can just tell my mind I'm taking a break right now to see how it feels.

And rather than putting time limits on how long I'll stay alcohol-free I can keep taking a break moment-by-moment.

When working to change our lives and our behaviour, we often put ourselves under more pressure than we need to.

Our language and what we believe are within our power to change. 

Once you change your language and beliefs about yourself, you can start to affect real behaviour change and personal growth.

If you are taking part in sober October, then I wish you good luck.

And if you are thinking of taking an extended break from alcohol or changing your life and you want some advice on how to achieve your goals.

Then book a free discovery call and I'll help you discover how to keep on track.

Gary BridgemanACT