Drinking is typically a big part of our lives. It’s an ingrained part of our culture. In everything from celebration to stress management, our society touts alcohol as our constant companion. For those of us who decide to live without intoxication, we’re literally going against the norm. When it comes to any big life change like quitting alcohol, preparation can go a long way. In short, we need to prepare to quit drinking so we have the tools we need when the time comes.
“Quitting drinking is hard and taking time with preparations can sustain action especially in the early days of sobriety,” says Tempest Recovery Coach, Anne-Marie Cribbin.
For many of us, quitting drinking might feel like a loss, even if we know that alcohol isn’t helping us anymore. We might feel like we don’t know how to create a life without alcohol, even if we know that alcohol is standing in the way of the life we want to live.
Preparation can help us, Cribbin says. “Taking time to prepare yourself and your environment can help shift your thinking from deprivation to abundance and all the benefits that will come with sobriety.”
Consult with a Doctor
One of the first steps in preparing for sobriety is to consult with your physician. Physical alcohol dependence can result in withdrawal, and for some, quitting cold turkey isn’t a good idea. For others, it’s just a matter of knowing what to expect when you quit drinking.
“Consult a doctor to help decide if quitting or tapering is the best option,” Cribbin says. “Tapering involves a gradual reduction of alcohol intake that can lessen withdrawal symptoms when we are ready to quit.”
Based on how much and with what frequency you drink, how long you’ve been drinking, and why you drank, your doctor can help you decide what your best option is.
Set Up Your Environment
Your environment is a big factor in creating a space where you feel safe and comfortable. When you’re preparing to quit drinking, you want to make sure your space fosters an environment where you can avoid temptation and feel at home.
“Get rid of the alcohol in your house with a pour it down the drain ritual or give it away, Cribbin offers. “Take some time to declutter your favorite room and add a plant or blanket or a scented candle, turning your space into a sanctuary to nurture yourself as you start your sobriety journey can offer comfort and care.”
Part of setting up your environment is also finding substitutes for alcohol and making sure you have activities to pass idle time.
“Stock up on fun beverages like flavored seltzer and a variety of snacks to replace alcohol when you are ready to quit,” Cribbin says. “Also, coming up with some plans for the free time that can magically appear when you ditch the booze. This is a good time to invest in some coloring books and colored pencils, and puzzles. Or, make a list of movies to watch. Get creative!”
Get Clear on Your Intentions
Deciding to quit drinking is a big deal, and it’s a decision that we typically don’t make lightly. There are likely important reasons why you’ve decided to make this choice.
During your preparation period, it’s a good idea to get clear on your intentions for quitting drinking. What do you hope to gain from leaving alcohol behind?
You might spend some time in reflection or journaling about your intentions. This will help you get clear on your “why.”
“Write down all the reasons why you want to quit drinking. Everything is valid,” says Cribbin. “From clearer skin to courage to quit a job to being fully present for a sunset.”
“Keep adding to the list whenever a new reason comes to mind,” she continues. “Recovery is as unique as we are individuals and reading and ‘digesting’ your intentions can have a huge impact in the tough moments. This is something you can come back to over and over again for motivation and also see how far you’ve come.”
A lot of power, comfort, insight, and belonging come from community, and sober community is no exception. When you prepare to quit drinking, seeking out sober support adds value.
You might feel like you can’t join a sober community until you actually stop drinking, but the opposite is true. Communities like Tempest make space for everyone interested in changing their relationship with alcohol, whether they’ve stopped drinking or not. Even in the preparation stages, before you quit drinking, a sober community can provide a wealth of benefits.
“Having safe and compassionate space to express fears, excitement, and ask questions can help you know that you are not alone. Holding space for people and being held in an encouraging space can be transformative.”
Likewise, witnessing how sober people live their lives provides important information that you can draw from for your own experience.
“We practice sobriety within the reality of our lives and that includes when things are celebratory and when things are hard. Witnessing folks navigate life without alcohol by sharing their stories empowers us to do the same.”
Feel Your Feelings
When it comes to change, feelings are a part of the process, and yet, we’re generally taught to bypass them. When it comes to preparing to quit drinking though, allowing yourself the time and space to lean into your feelings is important.
So many of us use drinking as an important and vital coping mechanism in life, so letting it go is a big and life-altering change. Having feelings about that is completely normal.
“It’s normal to feel nervous, unsure, excited, and hopeful all at the same time, says Cribbin. “Coping strategies are rooted in wisdom and letting go of alcohol can feel like letting go of a friend.”
Give yourself some grace through the emotions.
“Learning some grounding exercises like simple breath techniques or attuning to your senses can be helpful during this time of transition.”
By allowing yourself to feel your feelings and working through them rather than running from them, you’re setting up alternative coping mechanisms that will help you deal with life’s circumstances without alcohol.
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As Cribbin says, you have everything you need already to quit drinking, and preparing to do so is a huge first step.
“Know that thinking about quitting drinking is a vital part of the recovery process. You’re doing it! You’re embracing the possibility of a life without alcohol and it is the biggest, bravest work. Preparing to quit can be a beautiful farewell to the numbing effects of alcohol and a step across the threshold to all that awaits you on the other side.”