8 AF weeks in, this is what I’ve learned during what has felt like a semi-miraculous turn around in my life. A traumatic marriage break-up 2 years ago led to a major increase in my drinking, which I used to avoid what had happened. But about 6 months down the line I knew I had to do something about it or I’d continue to spiral downwards. It took another year, and nine months of binges followed by attempts to stop before I found OYNB and I’ve had no blips since then. What made the difference is simple: before OYNB I was fighting alone; with OYNB I could share the experience and be accountable – I found a community of support. At the same time, if I’d found OYNB earlier, I reckon I would still have gone through a process of multiple slips; it may just have helped me move on a bit earlier.
This is what I’ve learned during 56 days of OYNB which I hope may be of some help to those earlier on in the process:
- For the first month, focus on changing the alcohol habit and planning for a challenge; don’t worry about sugar, caffeine, meditation, etc. during this time. Replace alcohol with AF drinks and start to think about your challenge and plan for it so there is something positive on the horizon in your AF life;
- Whenever you wobble, post on OYNB, even if this means you are standing in a supermarket queue with wine in your basket; you will be gently encouraged to put it back on the shelf. If you make it home, you might still pour it down the sink.
- Do Andy’s daily accountability post. This has been my favourite part of OYNB. I read every post every day and I think I’ve posted my AF number and a line or two every day since around Day 5.
- If you slip up and feel depressed and desperate the next day, get straight onto OYNB. You will get a soothing wave of encouragement to pick yourself up and get back to AF-ness. And keep doing this every time until it clicks.
- Around 28 days I became motivated to add other ‘positive lifestyle’ changes to my daily habits. I started a daily 10-15 minute meditation habit with Headspace. Based on recommendations on OYNB, I started doing the ‘6-minute journal’ which I’ve engaged with every day since (I love this routine!). And 6 weeks in I added daily yoga (15-25 minutes) into the mix.
- Don’t try to add all new habits in one go! You are unlikely to have enough mental energy for this. Down the line, I hope to become caffeine-free, sugar-free and am reading about a plant-based diet, but I’ll add these step by step.
- Read the unbelievably inspirational posts by OYNB-ers a year or even two years on. They give you a sense of what is possible in the long-term.
Finally, reading has been a hugely important part of this process. Here’s my take on what to read, when and why:
- Most important of all is reading to change your understanding of what alcohol is and what it does to you. The books by Allen Carr and Jason Vale will help change your mindset towards alcohol and undo years of conditioning. Many people on here also recommend William Porter’s Alcohol Explained.
- Other books combine an understanding of alcohol’s dark arts with a more personal journey which gives a sense of the positive life on the other side: This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and – for me the best book of all – The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Grey (a joy to read).
- If you’re interested in the science of addiction and how people move on from it, read The Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis.
- As I moved beyond the 28-day point, my reading has branched out beyond alcohol to a new future. I’ve just finished Finding Ultra by Rich Roll (great motivation towards a plant-based diet). And I’m now reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I believe will help me replace those other pesky caffeine and sugar habits
I signed up for 90 days but never had any intention of stopping there, so will soon sign up to go on to 365. I’ve joined OYNB+ to learn from a community looking to improve their lives in multiple ways and plan to do the Mastermind in the autumn when I have the time to give it focus.
Alongside all of this, I have started facing up to the reality of separation and divorce. It is not easy but I no longer have bouts of hopelessness about the future. I am currently enjoying a holiday with my 2 children and my parents, and I have more energy for them than at any point in the past two years. And I also hope that I can inspire my children towards developing positive habits as they grow up. Actually, my son is remarkably ‘anti-sugar’ considering the habits of his peers. My daughter is not yet convinced about the benefits of not having sweets!!
Check out One Year No Beer’s challenges here