What do you do with all the alcohol in your house when you stop drinking? What do you do when someone gives you a bottle as a gift? How do you cope with your partner/family drinking and storing alcohol around you?

I remember panicking when I was given a bottle of wine as a gift shortly after I’d quit drinking. I’d done a bit of a clear-out at home. I’d got rid of my “wine shelf”; I’d stocked up on expensive herbal teas and created a “tea-shelf” instead; I’d pushed a couple of half-full bottles of spirits to the back of the shelf, just so I had something to offer people if we were entertaining; I’d bought some non-alcoholic lagers and wines and put them in the fridge and I’d done the same with a nice tonic water selection.

I knew that it would help me to physically see different things in place of where I used to see alcohol. I needed different options rather than a blank space. I did keep a bottle of white wine in the back of the fridge and I did make sure there were a couple of lagers and beers for my partner but I wanted to make the transition into being a non-drinker as easy on myself as possible. I was breaking a habit of three decades so I knew I had to plan and prepare as well as being realistic about it.

My partner (never a big drinker) had been a bit of a hapless side-kick in my drinking “adventures” and I didn’t want him to feel like he had to change any of his habits just because I was changing mine. I decided quite early on that I was still going to buy him drinks, offer him drinks with meals and even pour him drinks. I knew that I was still going to come into close contact with alcohol and that that was okay because I wasn’t going to be drinking it.

I was really consciously concentrating and working at NOT drinking wine and creating new healthier habits when I was given this gift and I momentarily went into a blind panic about it. I smiled and acted grateful and happy (it was a good red wine) and a part of me felt gutted that I was missing out on how that would smell and taste and make me feel. And, I thought, what am I going to do with this wine? It kind of anchored me back into all of the past drinking, shame, hangovers and alcohol-fogged life that I had left behind me. But, I simply put it at the back of the shelf with the spirits and told myself it would make a great gift for the host the next time someone invited us for a meal, or it would be great to be able to offer any guests some decent wine. It sat there for a while and I ended up taking it to my parents’ house one evening and they enjoyed it over dinner.

Here’s the thing: we live in an alcohol-saturated world. We’re surrounded by it. We’re encouraged to drink it. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that spends millions on advertising and pushing the concept that we all need alcohol to have a good time. Just about every social event we attend will expect people to drink. In some parts of whatever country you’re in, it will be normal for young people to binge-drink and pass out on a regular basis. It will be out-of-the ordinary to remain sober and in control.

This is changing and more and more young people are deciding to stay away from alcohol and are having a good time without it, but the reality is, when we get sober, alcohol doesn’t go away. We’ll see it, hear it and smell it wherever we go and we need to anticipate that and plan how we’re going to deal with it.

It’s important to get a balance between making things as easy on yourself as you can when you first stop drinking (doing what you need to do to help you break the habit and create new ones – if that means pouring all the alcohol in your home down the sink, then do it) and being realistic about the fact you are going to come face-to-face with people drinking around you and presenting you with drinks.

You can decide what’s going to make life easier for you. Are you going to get rid of all the alcohol in the house? Are you going to do a ritualised and significant “pouring down the sink” activity? Are you going to keep some bottles for other people to use? Are you going to spend a week away from any risk of coming across any alcoholic drink at all, just to avoid temptation? Or, are you going to keep everything just as it is and simply decide not to drink any of it?

Only you will know what approach works best for you. The one thing that works for everybody is to PLAN. Give plenty of thought to how you’re going to deal with situations where you come face-to-face with alcohol, whether in the home or outside it and you can ensure that you stay strong, you’re not taken by surprise and you will succeed.

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