It's the beginning of a new month and it's still snowy and cold outside. I know the snow is bringing misery to some people in some parts of the world right now but I can't help feeling disappointed that I live in a part of the country where the most we get is a gentle dusting. I have a childlike reaction of joy to snow and would like nothing better than to wake up and open the curtains to find myself deep in a snow-storm. (Of course I realise that the reality of this would soon cause practical problems and am grateful that I don't have to face these but still... would like a few more inches...)
The snow is making me think of a white page, a blank sheet. And how, whatever prints and marks there were yesterday, you get to make a fresh start after fresh snowfall. You get to start again.
When you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and you first stop drinking it's like starting again. It's a fresh start and, in the beginning, it's easy to feel hopeful, motivated and enthusiastic. But what happens when your commitment turns slushy? What happens after a few days or weeks, or even months, when your motivation wanes and, at times, the costs to being sober seem greater than the benefits?
Most people report that they go through an initial period of being determined, focused and hopeful before they hit a slump. It's a bit like opening the curtains and being disappointed with the less-than-picturesque view of melting snow and slush. In that slump the world and your life can seem dull and hopeless without alcohol in it.
So, how do you get over this? What helps you to push through the slump and out the other side to a wonderful view? (Because another wonderful view does appear... whether it's another fresh layer of snow or budding green shoots and colours and spring sunshine).
What gets you through and gives you strength is that you've planned for this. You know it might happen and you have strategies in place already to deal with it. You've also mapped out, drawn out, recorded or written how your world is going to be so much better and different when you're clean and sober. You have worked on a really detailed sense, image or description of all the benefits and gains to you of choosing living life sober over living it with alcohol. Maybe you've even recorded how crap your crappiest moments with alcohol were as a reminder of what you don't want.
You've mentally rehearsed over and over how you're going to slide over any tricky or demotivating patches like a child skidding over a frozen puddle - with ease and a sense of achievement. You've mentally rehearsed how amazing your life is going to be when you're living it confidently and easily sober. And, you can tune into things to help reset your motivation if times get tough.
What also gets you through is having a goal. Something that you're putting energy into and setting yourself small baby-step targets on. Something that isn't anything to do with alcohol. It could be a fitness goal. It could be self-improvement goal. It can be a career goal. It can be any goal you want it to be that your focus and energy goes into instead of into thinking about missing or desiring alcohol. This really helps as a distraction and focus and you can easily turn your attention from thinking about drinking to thinking about what next step you can take toward your goal instead.
By anticipating the slush or the heavy snow drifts, you can equip yourself to deal with them better.
My goal for February is to get some of my articles published on international websites and magasines as a way of attracting more visitors to the Go Get Sober site. And, I'm setting daily and weekly "small-step" actions to make this happen.
For instance, yesterday I wrote an article for Business Insider. Today I'm proof-reading and editing it with a view to sending it off with a pitch. Tomorrow I'm researching another relevant publication I can pitch to. On Monday I'm researching how this publication likes their articles presented and formatted so I can make mine fit their pattern.
I'm keeping each step small and manageable and I'm confident that, by the end of this month, I will have something published. This will make me feel good. It will motivate me to continue and get the next thing published. Even if I haven't had anything published by the end of the month, I will have had some success in that I'll have got lots of practice in writing and pitching articles. I will have learnt loads and will be in an even stronger position for getting something out there the following month. If I've taken every step I can towards my goal and I don't meet it, that's fine. That's success. The important thing is having the goal to focus on and diligently working towards it.
Having a goal that's about you and not about drinking, that you can take small, manageable actions towards each day, gives you a focus, helps to drive you forward and gives you motivation and strength. Each success along the way gives you a sense of achievement, pride and the feel-good factor. And all of this helps keep your motivation intact.
What goal can you set yourself for this month and how can you work small, achievable actions towards it into your daily routines?