a snowy forest scene with sunlight at the end of a tunnel of trees

Preparing in advance

It’s a fabulous sunny morning here in the Andalucian mountains in Spain. The air is clear, the sky is blue and I’m surrounded by space, wildlife and an awe-inspiring landscape.

I feel so lucky. I’m able to appreciate all that’s around me. I feel clean and whole and content.

It wasn’t always like this. I was very messy and my body and mind were full of alcoholic toxins for decades. And, I certainly didn’t appreciate the simple beauty of what was around me (unless I was drunk, in which case it was an exaggerated and distorted appreciation).

I remember one night a few years ago… it had started to snow quite heavily. I was living on the edge of a forest in a part of the UK which didn’t see much snow. I felt excited and childlike as the snow settled and got deeper. I couldn’t just enjoy the snow and the lovely excitement it had stirred up in me. I had to somehow take those positive feelings to the next level by drinking wine and feeling “uninhibited” enough to wrap up and tramp into the snowy forest, wildly swirling around and loving the heightened enjoyment and intensity of the moment. I felt like I needed the wine to REALLY get into the moment and FEEL it properly.

Now, I can do all of that without the wine. It might be a more controlled, and on some occasions, more muted appreciation. But I can get to same level of excitement, enjoyment and uninhibited expression without alcohol.

I’ve been able to do this through using the tools that I’ve built into the Go Get Sober Programme and, particularly in the early days of getting sober, through lots of preparation.

Preparation in advance of a social event. Preparation in advance of an evening in. Preparation in advance of meeting up with friends and family. Preparation in advance of a journey.

And, by preparation, I mean planning how I’m going to deal with triggers and challenges. I mean actually imagining what could happen to throw me off course and catch me by surprise. I mean rehearsing what I’m going to say when people directly question me. I mean rehearsing what drink I’m going to choose. And, I mean mentally rehearsing doing all of this happily sober and in control.

Of course, as time goes by, the need to prepare and plan diminishes. I no longer plan how I’m going to deal with anything because I’m simply a non-drinker. Whatever happens, alcohol doesn’t enter my thoughts. But, when you first stop drinking and are beginning to change your habits and behaviours, it’s really important to practise how you are going to deal with each tricky situation as it comes up. That way, you reduce the chance that you’ll be taken by surprise and slip into automatic and embedded reactions. When you get taken by surprise is when you’re most likely to reach for a drink on automatic pilot.

The Imagine the Difference activity in Module One is a great way of planning and preparing to stay sober in tricky situations. In Module 2, the Disabling the Trigger and What Do I Want To Have Happen? activities are fantastic tools to use to help you prepare for being happily and confidently sober in what might otherwise have been challenging situations.

No matter what the situation, mentally rehearsing (or imagining) sailing your way through it successfully content and sober helps you to navigate it in reality in the way that you want. If you haven’t already used the Imagine the Difference activity, I really recommend you practise using it for any situations you are worried about dealing with sober.

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